I Am Asking For Your Help

Sometimes, I can’t believe I’m doing this.

After almost a month of few updates, lots of stories, reviews and even more review writing on G33kpr0n and for Sequart, I feel as though I haven’t touched base with you guys in a very long time. There are so many things happening now, and while not all of them have been what I expected, or even what I had originally been looking for: most of them are very exciting.

I remember when I used to touch base with all of you a lot more often: when I had time to think and ponder and reflect much more on the past. I had, and I’m sure I will always have enough, past experiences to process but sometimes you just need to … act and continue moving forward. I don’t even need to tell all of you: those of you who have existed in my life before this Blog, who were here at the very beginning, and who followed me for some time now know how far I’ve come.

I feel like a certain man in a blue box who has run almost his whole life–or at least from 2005 to 2013–and finally, soon, he will begin to stop running. I might still have youthful good looks reminiscent of Doctor Eleven but these days I can’t help but feel like The Unknown Doctor. I can relate to him so much more. After a lifetime of running, he decides to go all-out in the Last Great Time War: still doing things in his way and how he feels they should be done, but still doing it in his way.

But I think the title of the episode “A Good Man Goes to War” suits me as well: though it is debatable how good a man I exactly am. Whatever the case, where I was once focused on one or two projects and then wandered around restless and empty, I am literally bombarding myself with multiple writing assignments. Ideas–old and new–are blooming constantly inside of my mind in a way that I never thought possible.

I am writing articles for two magazines. I am working on two Twine games on and off. I am even working on two substantial short stories coming dangerously close to their deadlines. And originally, I endeavoured to keep staying in my home until I got all of this done: but now I am starting to realize that if I do that, I will never get out of here. And life is not leaving me alone. It is harder to remain a hermit now that I am more out there and my friends and loved ones also want my attention.

It seems as though, completely going up against my original metaphor I am actually getting something of a life now. And sometimes I confess, I think to myself that I can’t believe this. I think I wasn’t built for this: for approximating journalism when I was so vehemently against doing so in the past for feeling out of my depth, or delving into scholarship again after promising to stay as far away from it as possible, or daring to write an upcoming article on something truly great and having the gall to think that I have anything new and exciting to say about something like that.

I have times when I’m tired. Every day, I sit in front of this computer and go into a world of music and chatting and writing–constant writing–and putting myself out there. And with every article I finish or come up with or that decides it is important, I have two projects that aren’t finished yet and are so close to those deadlines. And I think to myself: I don’t know if I can do this. I wasn’t built for this. What if I don’t succeed? What if I keep taking down these smaller units and the large ones loom over me? What if I fail?

But as I write this, I look at what I have done and what I am doing. And I realize that despite all the aggravation and fear and outright exhaustion, this is actually one of the happiest times in my life. It is a battle, yes, and in the spirit of video games I keep taking more of opponents down with a growing sense of power but I am tired, and I realize that this game is reality.

And I need your help.

Yes, you. I need your help. It has come to my attention that my current material situation cannot last forever and while I have already planted some potential seeds for the future, I’ve realized that I need to do more. I’ve realized that I can’t do this alone. I never could. In fact, even now I’m not. There are people who have always been there for me: through all of this. And in order to proceed further, I will continue to need you and those of you who have found and like the work that I do.

So here is what I am going to do in my epic battle and I am going to be clear right now. I am going to ask you to Like this post if you are willing to help me. Let me be clear: if you know me, or you’ve just gotten to know me you will know that I won’t ask anything unreasonable from you and I will return the favour in the ways that I am capable.

I will post more details when the time comes, soon, and you can definitely change your minds then and there will be no hard feelings but right now I am more interested to see a show of hands and Likes as to who is willing to help me and believes that I will make something truly special.

I want to take Mythic Bios–and everything I have been making–and expand on it. I want to make it into something that will support me, that will give me more resources to work with in order to make better quality work, and get my name out there to do the same. There are some burdens that I need lifted and some that I need to adopt to get the freedom that I need to continue my work and my life. I suppose I can be even more melodramatic and raise my hand and shout, “Who’s with me!” but really I just want to know who is curious about what I want to do and, besides, I’m comfortable with the fact that I won’t end up like Theon Greyjoy after his speech in the Game of Thrones television series.

Essentially, all of you 1,198 Followers, I want to know if you believe in me and what I am capable of doing: just, as I already said, to see that show of hands. Comments are a bonus too: advice even more so. But right now, all I want are Likes on this one post.

I realize now that I am at the part in the game where I do need to go all-now but, with all of you beside me–physically or in spirit–I would like to see just what over a thousand people are capable of doing: especially something as modest as I am proposing.

It is said that a thousand cats can change reality. I wonder if over a thousand humans can help affect one writer’s life. Think of it as a Challenge for myself and all of you. If not, well, it was a good experiment. Take care, my friends. I love you all and, no matter what, I am now looking forward to what comes after.

Looking Outward

Who Knew that Games Would be a Part of our Future

This is definitely going to be a retrospective article. And yes: it is definitely going to be about video games.

A while ago now, in fact almost at the beginning of the online version of Mythic Bios, I wrote an article simply named How to Turn a Medium into a Genre: 8 to 16-Bit Video Games followed much later by an overview of games I found fascinating in Dreams of Lost Pixels, Hand Eye, and More Video Game Ramblings. You can read these if you haven’t, or again if you’d like to refresh yourself but they aren’t necessary to understand this current post of mine.

I’m an intermittent gamer, I admit it. As I’ve said before, I only play certain games that interest me. I’m not into first-person shooters or sports related games. I don’t even like Grand Theft Auto, though I will admit when I was younger I just loved running people over: take from that what you will. But like many children that grew up in the 1980s, video games were really important to me: as other interactive worlds to delve into instead of doing school work. And it’s really funny how even though I was one of those that always hated it when my parents and other adults called games “a waste of time,” I was that same person that would believe a game could become obsolete when something newer and with “better graphics” came along.

At the same time, I have kept all of my old Nintendo systems and most of my games. It’s that strange paradox: of not taking games seriously, but also recognizing their value at the same time and keeping them as mine. I was even ashamed to admit that there were video games that inspired my earliest stories.

For me, it was after the Super Nintendo era–which as far as I am concerned was Nintendo’s Golden Age–and the early Nintendo 64 when I began to lose interest in video games. There just … seemed to be something missing from those games. At first the novelty of the “new” polygon graphics of the Nintendo 64 and the strange challenge of 3D gameplay made up for a lot. And some games like Mario 64 and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time really caught my eye: even if the controls and the perspectives made me want to scream. I mean, seriously, how many times did any of you make Link try to push a block under a time limit only for him to decide to jump on the block each and every fucking moment!? It’s actually kind of a small miracle I didn’t break my controls out of sheer fury: though I did make Link bash his head into the wall … a lot.

Don’t feel bad. We have all been there.

I felt lost then. I had played the Sid Meier’s Civilization games a while ago and sometimes I went back to them: because, for those who know me, I can’t really resist playing god. But I never found a game, really, that interested me: and it just depressed me to play old games because it reminded me of times that were no longer the present. It wasn’t until my brother and some of his friends started playing old Super Nintendo games–a lot of which I had only seen mentioned in Nintendo Power‘s Epic Center section and never played–that I got back into it. And then I realized we weren’t alone: that we and a few others were not isolated, drunken cases of nostalgia.

It still amazes me–even to this day and knowing a lot better now–that what many adults believed would be frivolous and arbitrary electronic fun that we children would promptly forget about when the next best thing came around, became some of the formative years of our childhood and the cultural references and experiences of our own adulthood. Somehow, as a few of us aged, video games became relevant beyond skipping homework and we became discerning. We pay attention to gameplay mechanics and story lines and ideas in the code of the game. Moreover, there are people who look at the history of video game development and the cultural contexts around them. And these games mean so many different things to different people.

We began to ask questions: questions such as why we had to kill the enemies in a game and what an enemy actually was? Questions of gender assumptions come up and eventually, with people like Anna Anthropy, game designers–having taken what was originally an 8 or 16-bit medium and now a genre due to the advancement and availability of technology–make their own stories (some of them very autobiographical) and use video games to create a narrative around them. And now we are at that place where we even question what a video game actually is and how “cheap games” such as those made with Twine as choose your own adventure text-based games qualify and are more accessible mediums to make games from: to allow someone to put on the skin you make for them.

What is happening with the Indie scene now is almost reminiscent of what occurred with Underground Comix in the 60s and 70s while the Comics Code Authority ruled over the mainstream comics industry. Yes, sometimes the mainstream industry makes some compelling games but a lot of really fascinating artifacts are coming from independent designers and smaller groups.

But more than any of this: I think what really strikes me is that there have been some people who thought of us 80s children as a Lost Generation: of those that had promise, but due to the economy and the changing times never reached it. We were supposedly forgotten and the media and genres we grew up with rendered irrelevant. Our time was supposed to have been a Dark Age and we are all strange, weird artifacts that neither the previous generation nor the ones after us can relate to. I go a lot into this in Paradigms Lost, Paradigms Regained, but the long and short of it is that we didn’t vanish and neither did the things that we like. They became relevant because they were always relevant to us.

And now: everyone knows Super Mario. In-jokes and references to Mortal Kombat and other games are abound. There are whole Let’s Play videos on Youtube that look at old games. And, as I said, new creators are taking those old principles and subverting them with adult understandings. Even I have been caught up in the Twine craze and I like to write about games and make game references in some of my own creative works.

Despite a lot of other things that have happened in my life, when I look at where we are going with all of this–even with some of the delays and the setbacks–it is a good time to be alive and I look forward to seeing where this goes. If anything I only hope that I can play some good vintage games with friends again: one day.

The Moment is Arriving: The New 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Trailer

For seven months, many Doctor Who Fans, including myself, have been waiting impatiently for “The Day of the Doctor.” We had a grandiose hint of a trailer earlier, but not much else. But while today is not “The Day of the Doctor,” it is most certainly the day of the New 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Trailer.  It’s in this trailer that we find out a little more about what is about to go down.

Warning, SPOILERS ahead!  If you’re not caught up on season seven of Doctor Who, you may want to skip this next bit.

When last we last saw the Doctor back in “The Name of the Doctor” many truths were revealed. We see Clara Oswin Oswald choose to save The Doctor by jumping into his time-stream in the ruined future version of the TARDIS (his tomb on Trenzalore) and manifest herself into different times of his life. Then we watched The Doctor say goodbye to the virtual psychic image of his wife River Song as he goes to rescue the Clara that he knows, his Clara, that has not yet split off into many lives in different places and different times. The Doctor even manages to finds her.  And then … we see him. We find out that The Doctor’s secret isn’t his original name. It isn’t what he was known by before making a promise to himself and the universe by choosing his moniker. Instead, we are introduced to his real secret, to the person that supposedly broke the promise.

Achievement unlocked. Hidden player-character: The Unknown Doctor.

Now take a look at the actual YouTube page and its about page, you will find this blurb waiting for you:

“The Doctors embark on their greatest adventure in this 50th Anniversary Special: In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion.

All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.
World, are you ready? #SaveTheDay”

Now look at the trailer itself. We already knew that Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor was going to be meeting the epic vainglorious David Tennant’s 10th Doctor for this venture. And we knew that John Hurt’s Unknown Doctor would be working with them: or involved with them as well. But remember this promotional image?

Day of the Doctor

When you see the shattered Dalek carapaces and the march-like stride of The Unknown Doctor, there is already an indication that he was The Doctor that fought in–and ended–the Last Great Time War.  We also got a hint from Steve Moffat that the Last Great Time War would play a role in this season with Clara’s discovery of The History of the Last Great Time War book in “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.” But that aside, look back at the above image. You can also see the golden light behind The Doctor that, while part of the fire, can symbolize two things: Regeneration energy, and the Heart of the TARDIS. And on that note, take a look at the broken wall with the graffiti on at the bottom half of the image’s left side.

I bet many people thought that we were all done with that trans-temporal and spatial psychic meme known fondly as “Bad Wolf.” And just as Bad Wolf is alive and well, so is the other Companion who created, and embodied it, to begin with. It’s no surprise that Rose Tyler is going to be in “The Day of the Doctor.” Rose, who in case you were wondering is my favourite Companion before Martha and Clara, seems to feature relatively prominently in the trailer, especially in one particular scene.

Do you remember The Moment? If you click on that link to the TARDIS Data Core, you will see that it was more than just an event, but a weapon assembled from Doctor Who continuity. We know the Time Lord that assembled and used it, and why. Originally, I know I thought he was alone, that the time lock either kept out any other version of Clara or bound her memories of any possible Time War version into the lock. I also wondered, since The Doctor very clearly suffers from something along the lines of post-traumatic stress syndrome due to the War, if his memories of that time were entirely that clear.

But, as you can see, while Clara may not have been there during The War and the Moment … Rose as Bad Wolf was, and is.

After looking at the new 50th Anniversary Doctor Who trailer, I can honestly say that “The Day of the Doctor” has so many other meanings behind it and that the Moment of November 23 cannot come too soon.

Geronimo.

Life and Identity, Eden and Hell: The Twines of a Gaming Pixie

The following will talk about–and accordingly link to–games of a graphic nature: if you will pardon the unintentional pun. Reader’s–and player’s discretion–is advised. Do not say that you have not been warned.

It was around February when I discovered Gaming Pixie. Less than a month before, in January, I finished Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters and participated in my first–and so far only–Game Jam. After really hearing more about Twine, I began searching for more information on Anna Anthropy’s works and other Twine games.

I’m not sure how I found Gaming Pixie exactly. Perhaps it was through one of her creative YouTube video game reviews, or I found her Pixie’s Sketch Book before or after. I do remember, however, playing one of her only two Twine games at the time: specifically What’s In a Name? Seeing this really personal Choose Your Own Adventure text game really hit home for me the fact that I wanted to make something similar: something that to this very day along with everything else. Then I played her first Twine game–The Choice–and at the time I stopped playing once I got the good ending. It’s strange that I remember the second game more than the first, but even though I could relate to both of them in some way, I really felt more akin to What’s In a Name? and what I felt that Gaming Pixie was attempting to portray.

But I am getting ahead of myself here. Originally, after getting to know Gaming Pixie more, I was only going to write about her game Eden. However, I know feel compelled–in some way–to trace the development of her game-making, and its content even as both continue to evolve.

As I stated before, Gaming Pixie was best known for her own video game reviews. If you click on the above link, you will see an analytical mind that engages with the mechanics of the games she’s plays: accompanied by a sense of wry bemusement, her personal reactions to the game, how she related to it, and her liking to break the Fourth Wall a lot and interpose herself into the games. She rarely, if ever, indulges in profanity (though there are times it seems as though she is coming close, but instead settles for the tongue-in-cheek), and she has a wide assortment of costumes.

A little girl

But in addition to this past, she is also a talented artist–creating many lush and vital comics and storybook-like illustrations–as well designing a really immaculate website or two. By the time I found her, she had more or less transitioned away from reviews, planning to create some comics, then Flash animations, but ultimately choosing the medium of video games to work in: with Twine as her first tool. She had so far created two games: two very personal games.

The Choice: by Gaming Pixie

Her first Twine game, The Choice, is about suicide. You play from the second-person perspective and, after choosing which way you want to die, a part of you attempts to stop you. And that part of you is tenacious. Let me tell you. When I replayed it recently and made a determined choice to kill myself off, that embodied part of me was relentless in asking me whether or not I was sure I wanted to do this.

And playing The Choice made me also re-examine the perspective I want my games to be from and why. Because, you see, I automatically stated that the game was from my own perspective because of the second-person “you” that the narrative addresses the player from, yet it can also be an attempt to make a player see into the mind or the situation of another person. There is this fine line there. And despite the bleakness in this text-based game, there is hope in it too, and the ornate, story-book illustrative graphics complement it well.

Also, when I was searching through Gaming Pixie’s Sketch Book to get more insight into the game, I also came across a review and link to this really interesting Indie game by Daniel Benmergui called Today I Die: which according to her Sketch Book greatly inspired her to look at the issue of a game being a medium for art and emotional expression. It is a truly brilliant and beautiful game about seizing your life back from depression, and so much more. I wonder if it inspired some of The Choice, but either way I, for one, am really glad that Gaming Pixie’s entry led me there, that I played it and that it gave me a little more insight than I had before.

What's in a Name: by Gaming Pixie

By What’s In a Name? … I think this is where it all begins. While The Choice dealt with a feeling of suicide and either overcoming or giving into it–with an emphasis of the strength of life–this game is about futility. It is that second-person perspective again: except whereas you could argue that the previous game gives you more lee-way in projecting your own identity into the game, this one is very concrete and autobiographical. The character or the perspective is that of a woman who is struggling to understand her bisexual feelings and in a situation where no matter how she reacts to an issue of identity, she always loses: finding herself and her burgeoning sense of self becoming de-legitimized and trapped in a place of pervasive biphobia.

This game must have come at the height or the beginnings of what is called The Twine Revolution, or perhaps there was just a niche that formed there because both Kotaku and The Border House as well as Anna Anthropy made mention of and even reviewed this game. Please look at The Border House’s IF Game of the Day: What’s in a Name? by Gaming Pixie, Patricia Hernandez’s A Game About The Confusion And Difficulties That Come With Being Bisexual and Lana Polansky’s Nameless with regards to how she related to the game’s content for a little more information: but please consider playing the actual game first.

I will admit: when I played that last game I really, really wanted there to be a third option and a “screw you to everyone else because I will live my life the way I want to” ending. The fact is, even though the game was not about me, it touched that place in me, and I’m sure in many of us, where I remember trying to figure things out and having other people and forces tell me what was right: with changes in their treatment towards me if I didn’t comply with their spoken or unspoken views. It is a similar feeling and perhaps, one day, I will go more into it: and you can thank Gaming Pixie–at least in part–for at least reinforcing that possibility.

And then things began to really change. I’d lost track of Gaming Pixie for a while, but by the time I came back I saw that she was working on a much longer and more ambitious Twine. The Twine plot outline chart for Eden is a spider’s web of complex activity for me and I’m amazed that Gaming Pixie could keep track of all of that.

Some Twine source code for Eden. SOME.

[It makes me really think I have my own work cut out for me with my own Twine novel.]

What’s more is that this is the point when her game-making changes. Whereas What’s in a Name? is minimal in terms of graphics and both games are silent, she starts to utilize the royalty-free music of Kevin MacLeod as her soundtrack. In addition, she creates a great many more graphics: lush, colourful, finely lined and utterly beautiful pastel images. One thing I should definitely note here is that she has moved past the short and personal into something larger and far more fictional.

And yet, sexuality and gender play a great role in–and with–Eden. At the beginning of this game, you are asked to choose a name and a gender. You are also asked what your sexual preference is. Unlike The Choice, where you have one or two endings, or What’s in a Name? that is ultimately one ending no matter what you do, Eden has multiple–multiple–endings. It looks at beauty and it examines your morality and just how far you are willing to go to maintain what–and who–you believe in: an element that Soha Kareem, in her Haywire Magazine article Soha Kareem shares four more games made in Twine also points out.

What is even more interesting is that Gaming Pixie has managed to place a lot of randomizing elements into the narrative: so that upon future playthroughs the game and its text do not always react in the same exact way. There is even one ending that happens almost simply by chance.

In a lot of ways, if The Choice is choosing life and What’s in a Name? is a grim coming to terms with one’s identity I feel as though Eden was an answer to What’s in a Name?: that third option that branches out from one persona into so many other choices … so much so that if I had to answer What’s In a Name? as a question, I would reply with Eden. In fact, in one Blog post before she reveals her game, Gaming Pixie goes into further detail on the matter.

Shadow of a Soul

And now, we shift gears from a potential and fragile utopia, into–quite literally–Hell. For Halloween, Gaming Pixie decided to do something different yet again. Shadow of a Soul is a horror game in which you have to make some pretty macabre, and yet strangely erotic, and BDSM-themed choices. It starts off the same way as Eden does: asking what your name is, your gender, and your sexual preference. You can see something of a pattern here: in which your sexuality–particularly bisexuality–has an impact on how you experience both of these text games. However, it is more than that. In addition to an open-ended possibility of a third gender or something beyond binary gender, both games present bisexuality as a valid orientation: and that is a great assertive against the spirits of The Choice and What’s In a Name?

Shadow of a Soul has fewer endings and some of the randomization and knowing how many resources you have can mean all the difference between … being in different states. I will not spoil it further than that except to add that it is very hard to win this game: even when the answer stares you right in the face … or if you choose it: just for the, if you will pardon this pun too, hell of it.

It is fascinating to see someone with clear creativity undergoing the transition point between reviewer and artist, then text game-creator, and now going into the realms of programming beyond Twine. So please keep your eye on Gaming Pixie Games: which you can either click on here to view or find on my Blogroll: because Gaming Pixie can obviously explain her process far better than I can and, trust me fellow Clappers, she is one fairy that you should definitely believe in.

Pixie-art

A Man Gets to Make his Monster: Neil Gaiman’s Doctor Who: Nothing O’Clock

Neil Gaiman Doctor Who

Neil Gaiman once wrote, in his short story “Other People” that, “Time is fluid here.” Despite–or even because of–the presence of time-travel in Doctor Who, his words are no less relevant. The creator of Sandman, American Gods, Stardust, Coraline, and a multitude of other comics, novels, short stories and films fulfilled his dream in writing for Doctor Who: twice. First, we got to see his episode “The Doctor’s Wife” in which we experience the horror of a House and meet the TARDIS for the very first time; which was followed much later by “Nightmare in Silver” with a whole other more miniaturized, upgraded, and truly horrifying version of the Cybermen. These achievements, in and of themselves, are impressive and in a lot of ways alter the time-line details of the Whoniverse; which is part and parcel of the entire program really. However, after creating these episodes, Neil Gaiman always expressed the wish to do something else with Doctor Who.  To do more than expanding on its continuity and manipulating its flow of plot and time.

Doctor Who is, when you come down to it, a haphazard construct of science-fiction, comedy, the fantastic, the result of many add-on elements, seeming improvisations, retcons … and horror. Yes, Doctor Who is a monster filled with monsters, and Neil Gaiman has expressed his wish to create an original one of his own. And so it is that on November 21st, two days before “The Day of the Doctor” comes to television and movie screens alike, that a new story will come to another kind of screen: a computer screen to be precise.

It is on November 21st that a man gets to make his monster … on “Nothing O’Clock.”

Doctor Who

At this time, there isn’t much yet to say about the Doctor Who short story “Nothing O’Clock” to apparently be released on its own and included in the Eleventh Doctor: 50th Anniversary ebook anthology: except for a few details. Much in the way that time is fluid in the television program, this story takes place during the first season of Matt Smith’s role as The Doctor: in which he, and a young Amy Pond find themselves in 1984 and also, as Neil Gaiman puts it “somewhere else, a very, very long time ago.”  Then there is also the brief description on Amazon to consider. In any case, sometimes I find that Doctor Who takes on a very fairytale-like quality, especially when you consider that “The Snowmen” Christmas Special began in a similar manner. Yet when Neil Gaiman comes into the mix, the program can again become an outright cautionary tale.  As for the rest of it: all that is known at this time is that there is something called the Kin, and that you should be very, very wary if a man in a rabbit mask comes to your door and asks to buy your house.

Bunny
Beware Bunnies Bearing No Baskets, especially when time travel is involved …

If you would like to hear the man who makes the monster for himself, please check out BlogTor Who. What is also interesting is that The Mary Sue, which claims that the story itself will be published on its own and then released in the e-book anthology, also states that its release date will be on November 23: which differs from the November 21 date displayed on Amazon. I would go by the Amazon date. In any case I rarely ever purchase e-books, but I know, like many others, that this time I am going to make another exception: at the fluid and arbitrary time of “Nothing O’Clock.”

Bill Willingham’s Fables Ends Happily Ever After by Issue #150

Now, if the title of this article doesn’t entail an unreliable narrator, or at least false advertising, I don’t know what will. Nevertheless, you read most of that correctly. Not only is Bill Willingham–the creator of Fables–planning to end the entire series by issue #150, but he is even partially retiring from comics writing: so that he can become more “selective” about the projects he takes on.

Fables is a series that operates on the premise that all characters from Earth’s fairytales, children’s stories, mythologies and legends–such as the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, Prince Charming, Blue Beard, and the Frog Prince–actually existed in other worlds and dimensions collectively referred to as the Homelands before they were driven out by the monstrous Adversary and his Empire. These Fables, as they actually call themselves, are immortal beings forced to hide on Earth in a secret colony in New York known as Fabletown, while the less human and more talking animal versions of these beings must live in a place in the countryside called The Farm so as to avoid being discovered by the human Mundies. Also, depending on the popularity of their stories, some of these Fables are not only immortal, but virtually indestructible.

For a long time, I actually collected the series in their trade paperback incarnations. I remember the first story beginning like a gritty noir detective or murder mystery story, only for the next to become one of political intrigue and revolution, and then the rest expanding outward into interpersonal dynamics, secrets revealed, outright epic warfare, terror, awe, and some really satisfying personal moments. Then Willingham also made Jack of Fables: in which Jack of the Beanstalk and so many other tales are amalgamated into one man who is basically an asshole without any of the charm whose personal quest is to gain more money, prestige, and power for himself. I have to say, it was the first comic that I read with a truly unlikable protagonist whom both I–and the narrative–constantly wanted to see get screwed over.

The Fables universe has a prose novel called Peter & Max, a Cinderella miniseries made by Chris Roberson, an anthology named 1001 Nights of Snowfall, the standalone Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland, an upcoming graphic novel Fairest in All the Land, and a female Fables-centric series aptly titled Fairest. There is even a video game called The Wolf Among Us created by Telltale Games and its “Episode One” in the mythos to consider as well.

To be honest, Willingham could have easily ended the series after the Fables finally defeated the Adversary in the War and Pieces story arc, but Willingham decided to expand the universe past the war stories and look at each of the worlds in the Homelands as well as some of the more … powerful and truly terrifying forces that exist in the Fables universe. After all, fairytales came from oral folktales which were neither sanitary nor pleasant tales. Even the more modern children’s stories were built on a foundation of cautionary darkness. But that all said, to me it isn’t too much of a surprise that Willingham is going to retire the series. After destroying an Empire, he and Mark Buckingham–with the latter’s lush and vibrant illustrative style–have made and portrayed so many worlds and characters in this one creative universe.

The image below is the cover for Fables issue #137: which is apparently scheduled for January 2014, while Fables itself is projected to end in early 2015. And while I admit that I will miss my favourite characters Prince Ambrose and the Black Forest Witch, and like the dark cautionary tales from around the fire Fables may not necessarily have “a happily ever after” for everyone,  it most certainly will be a series that many comics fans will talk and ruminate about for many years to come.

You can read the original story at Comic Book Resources, from the man himself on The Online Home of Bill Willingham, and the Newsrama Interview.

Fables

What Is a Doctor and When Does He Stop Running?

All right, so relatively soon–on November 23rd–we are going to see “The Day of the Doctor”: in which we not only find out why the Eleventh Doctor Regenerates into the Twelfth–which seems a lot less ominous now that the Time Lord Regeneration limit seems arbitrary and limited to the now-defunct Time Lord society–but we will also find out more about The Unknown Doctor.

Or maybe won’t.

I don’t really know what else to say without subscribing to a certain supposition about who this version of The Doctor–played by John Hurt–is supposed to be. So I’m going to subscribe to one of them: mainly that our friend The Unknown Doctor is from the Last Great Time War: the incarnation that utilized The Moment to exterminate both the Daleks and his fellow Time Lords and pretty much save the Universe.

There are some interesting details that could back this up. Aside from the fact that he clearly did something that he regretted, but was ultimately necessary–at least from his perspective–and that he had no choice there is the matter of the fact that Clara wasn’t even with him in this time line. Remember, you Doctor Who fans out there, the Time War was time-locked: keeping certain forces from using, or being propelled by time travel into the battlefield such as it may have been. That is why I think Clara Oswin Oswald never met The Doctor then, or traveled with him: because this field would have, by its very nature, kept her very existence out or destroyed her along with the others: and perhaps removed that knowledge from Clara herself.

But if we operate on the assumption that The Unknown Doctor was the one that either Regenerated during the Great Time War or aged from the Eighth Doctor due to possible time-dilation within the sphere of the time-lock and the sheer horrors of temporal war, it just makes the Eleventh Doctor’s judgment (and those before him) of his previous incarnation–his “secret”–all the more unforgivable.

He not only claims that The Unknown Doctor is not worthy of the moniker–the promise that he and other incarnations of the same man made to the Universe and himself–but that all of his actions, whatever they were, were “not in the name of The Doctor.”

And this is where I take issue with The Doctor’s idea of what a doctor actually is. Despite the fact that the Time Lord has no medical degrees, as far as we know of and perhaps has some haphazard scholarly qualifications (at least by his own people’s standards) from his Time Lord Academy days, he is a healer in that he tries to fix problems and “meddle” in pockets of time that aren’t “fixed.” He sees time, like most Time Lords, as a flowing current with some static and fixed places: like a stream coursing around some pebbles. He likes to re-align things back into, or really into a pattern that makes sense.

But here is the thing. You see, if The Unknown Doctor did develop during the Great Time War, then he knew what was at stake. The Daleks would have exterminated all life in the Universe if they had become the new Lords of Time. The Time Lords themselves decided they were going to ascend into beings of pure energy and obliterate the current Universe to do so. Essentially, both species were–or had become–like mad dogs and any good doctor understands that sometimes the only sane medicine at that point is euthanasia.

Does that mean that he should be proud of it? I don’t think so: though we know that he is not adverse to admitting and even using the fact that he killed both Daleks and Time Lords to his advantage when the situation arises. He has even admitted his role to his Companions to some extent. Perhaps he thinks that his previous incarnation should have tried harder, or should not have been suckered into the War–a war by the very nature of war being a situation where no one really wins–and should have done something different. Or perhaps, Doctor Eleven just hates himself: like his other incarnations tend to do whenever they think back on times that they can’t deal with.

But when it came to it: when it came down to the Daleks destroying all life, the Time Lords obliterating all Creation for their benefit, or giving everyone else in the Universe a chance: there really was no other choice.

The fact is, even though he admits The Unknown Doctor is him but not The Doctor, it’s almost like he is displacing all the blame for something onto this man and trying to forget that he ever existed. The mere fact that this incarnation of him is referred to as The Unknown Doctor speaks volumes about the truth that The Doctor has been running away from the entire time.

But now, after looking at John Hurt turn around with an old, haunted and very sad expression on his face that belies him being the villainous Valeyard or something else–perhaps serving as the guardian against any psychic vestige of the Time War infecting the reality outside of the time-lock (which The Doctor may have jeopardized by delving into paradox itself by going into his time-stream) and with the credits under him proclaiming him to be what the Eleventh Doctor says he is not, The Doctor himself–having crossed into his own time-stream–has to face what and who he has been trying to escape from and finally be forced to do what he has been fearing the most.

To stop running.

Why Do You Write These Strong Women Characters?

It’s amazing how one person can answer the same question more than once. It’s even more amazing how many times someone has to repeat themselves before they get to the point where they reply to the same question with multiple choice answers.  Joss Whedon–the creator of Buffy, Angel, and the Avengers film– is always asked, time and again, “Why do you write these strong women characters?” I’m not going to recap everything that he has already said. Whedon has more than done his part in answering this question and if you would like to see his responses, please watch the video linked above. Instead, I’m going to do something else.

I am going to answer this question.

Why do you write these strong women characters? This question can be modified further. For instance, the question could also be “Why do you write about strong women characters?” or “Why do you like writing about strong women characters?” or better yet, “Why do you like writing these strong women characters and why is this so important?” But now I am just being annoying in the gadfly Socratic way: answering a question with other questions. So let me give you an answer without a question mark punctuating it for a while. Women are a part of our world. They are half of the global human population. They are a part of us. They are us.

At the same time, women have different experiences. And for the longest time, even to this day and probably beyond it, the default setting in many cultures has always focused on men: on male desire, conflict, and experience: which is very one-sided. Frankly, there is a whole other segment of the global population that is also born with self-awareness, desire, wants, dreams, fears, flaws, thoughts, feelings, and something to say: and there is a lot that can be written, created, made, and said about that. And then you add the rest of it: the discrimination, the stereotyping, the impossible and contradictory cultural and societal standards, the hurting, and the imposed silences–the ones that people impose from the outside and the one that people create inside themselves out of genuine mortal and spiritual fear–where every day is more often than not an unwanted comment, a gesture, a touch, a violation, and ridicule that eats up your metaphorical life-bar faster than if you were Samus Aran in lava or acid baths, and then ask a different question.

Where do you see the inspiration for these strong women characters?

My own answer is that I see and hear about them everywhere and more is never too many.

So why am I talking about all of this? Why am I rehashing what should be old ground and said much better than me by people better than me? I am a writer. I write fiction and non-fiction. I am also male. So is Joss Whedon, but I am not Joss Whedon. I am nowhere near as established or even as cognizant. When this video was first linked to me, I hesitated. Who am I to talk about writing strong women characters? I have tried. Sometimes, I even think I succeeded, while other times I’ve realized I still need to improve to that regard: both as a creator and as a human being. Whedon says something in his speech about how a strong female protagonist can help a man express a part of himself that he might not be comfortable looking at from any other perspective. And I have to admit: I am not entirely sure what he means by that and yet it’s definitely something that can be explored further and it should be. I want to write strong women characters. I want to identify and acknowledge and put into words the strong female personalities from my own life and do them justice: to show that they have power, courage and humanity, and that, as Whedon put it, there are men who respect, acknowledge, and love those elements.

If someone asked me, again, why I like to write strong women characters I would say that I would like to write weak female characters, angry female characters, sad female characters, intelligent female characters and the whole wide gamut of female characters because, in the end, the ultimate secret here is that female characters are people: and people are interesting to write about and explore.

This all being said and hopefully done, and even more hopefully made into a redundant discussion one day that will continue to go on regardless, if someone kept badgering me about why (if and when I get to this point in the future) I write strong women characters, I would just stare them in the face and ask them the following question.

Why not?

Feel free to click on the following link to the entirety of Joss Whedon’s Equality Now Speech. Also, if you do, notice how they are talking about the “upcoming Wonder Woman movie.” This video was uploaded in 2006 and this film has still not been made. That is definitely one strong female character that I want to see.

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A Ghost Arcade In A Festival of Zines and Underground Culture

On October 20, I attended the 2013 Canzine Festival of Zines and Underground Culture at the Bathurst Culture, Arts, Media and Education Centre: an event presented and covered by Broken Pencil Magazine. And here is where a little more background information is order. A zine is usually a self-published work of original or “borrowed” text with images that are usually printed and arranged from photocopied material (though sometimes they are hand-drawn as well), while “underground culture” can generally be seen as an umbrella term for art, politics, philosophies, Do-It-Yourself crafts and games that focus on topics generally not given the same attention by “mainstream culture” such as many of the above including fanfiction, sexuality, and ephemera.

Remember the word ephemera: because it’s integral to the idea behind the Ghost Arcade.

CanZine 2013

I already feel as though I am doing the Canzine Event–which spans the cities of both Toronto and Vancouver–very little justice in my above description. For me, that word ephemera is what comes into play: transitory material and supplements that do not always survive the light of another day. The truth is that I wanted to cover this Event for G33kpr0n. I wanted to talk about how important it is, and focus on some of the glimmering gems that I found among the newspaper-like quality of zines, the Robert Crumb Underground Comix-like drawings, Game of Thrones colouring books (with presumably wide lines for lots and lots of red), abstract Nuit Blanche-worthy art, erotic Choose Your Own Adventure Books, the presence of the Toronto Comics Art Festival, vendors with small tiny cautionary stories about loving someone who does not love you back, chocolate-chip cookies, and so much–oh so much–irony. It’s like a 21st century Portobello Road of sass, cuteness, and the just plain weird: but at the same time it’s also a community where friends can meet, eat $10 vegetarian meals and even make a profit or so as a vendor in a laid-back atmosphere of general good will. But this is a very generalized description and there isn’t very much that I can add beyond it.

Instead, all I can focus on is the Ghost Arcade and how, in my mind, it ties everything–and all of this–together.

I actually heard of it online first and knew that Broken Pencil had specifically gone out of their way to ask Skot Deeming (aka mrghosty) to bring the Ghost Arcade to the Festival: as if it hadn’t already been there … at least outside of its spirit. Skot is an artist, curator, researcher and doctoral student at Concordia University as well as a curator for Team Vector and co-director for its Vector: Game and Art Convergence symposium: which is appropriate given that Skot himself examines how video games influence culture and create various hacker subcultures. This focus determines the Ghost Arcade and, in some ways, draws on the very spirit of the Canzine Festival.

It was the first room I went into as I entered the festival. I didn’t know what to expect and I admit: I was surprised. The room’s blinds were drawn and there were devices with pieces of paper under them. The items ranged from PlayStation Portables, to Gameboys, all the way to miniature laptops. I will also admit that, at first, I was disappointed. Here I was expecting to find game cabinets like the Torontrons painted in white or ethereal colours with strange and unusual pixilated games from a lost time. But I looked at the games themselves and their descriptions within the dim light of the room and the screens that still glowed.

And this is where the power of the Ghost Arcade began to exert itself on my mind. I found a prototype hack of Resident Evil 2–known as Resident Evil 1.5–and a NES or Famicom version of Final Fantasy VII on a hand-held device. There was Somario: which was a game featuring Mario with all of Sonic the Hedgehog’s running and spinning moves. There was also the strange and arcane Polybius game that supposedly drove people insane from a singular black arcade cabinet in the 1980s: in which you as the player must align the environment around you so that your ship–which you can’t move–can shoot the targets properly and not get destroyed in the process. In addition, there was a Marvel Vs. Capcom remix game: a hacked game that plays Michael Jackson’s songs in lieu of the original programmed soundtrack, a Nintendo 64 controller reprogrammed and modified to play games as its own entity–in much the same way H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West experimented on dead body parts to make them into singular and independent creatures–and a Pokemon Black game inspired by the creepypasta of the same name: another Internet urban legend made manifest by the will of its hacker-fans.

Ghost Arcade Polybius

Polybius at Ghost Arcade. Do you feel the madness? Photo credit: Skot Deeming.

Did I also mention that at least one Nintendo game was on a PSP and there were just as many hardware modifications as there were software alterations? This is only part of the point that Skot Deeming is trying to illustrate–a perspective that Anna Anthropy in her book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters also shares–in which video games have evolved from being products of an industry to narratives that inspired many childhoods from the late 70s onward the point of being appropriated by hackers acting as programmers, artists, and storytellers. Zines themselves are also historically known as being part of the punk subculture: in which–in addition to punk and grunge music of the late 80s to 90s–zines, remixes, and other counter-culture or DIY artifacts were–and are–crafted. What I’m trying to illustrate is that all of this is tied together: that Skot partially looks at how some of us as players have taken something that was once a consumer product–something considered ephemeral and made for short-term fun–and made it into something beyond the nostalgia factor: made it into something new.

But Skot goes further than that. The Ghost Arcade–in which he curates all these games and customizes their strange bare-bones Frankensteinian hardware–is a one-day event that displays games that not only should have been short-lived and brushed away in the daylight, but also should never have existed at all. And yet they do:  just like ghosts are reported to be. And now, think about what a Ghost Arcade is. An arcade is defined as a succession of arches supported by columns that sometimes enclose a particular space. But what happens when these arches are ideas and the columns are the stuff of daydreams and nightmares made manifest in pixels and old newspaper?

And that, in the end, is what the Ghost Arcade represents to me. It symbolizes the very soul of the Canzine Festival: a one-day market and celebration of media that can easily be modified and thrown away, but whose ideas continue to linger on and find new life in places beyond traditionally established organizations. They exist in unique goings on. They get recycled and modified. They exist in people and every-day individuals.

It’s strange how things come together. A little while ago, I examined the origins of a Slovenian art and music 1980s movement known as FV Disko on my Mythic Bios: and not only did they have punk, DYI, collage, pastiche, and experimental influences but they also used photocopiers and appropriated technology from older authority structures and industrial products to make new art. And after attending the Festival this weekend, I can see where social change and art interlap and it’s just as autumnal, fleeting, modest, and beautiful as an exchange and a celebration of Geeks and ghosts. In fact, and as far as I am concerned, life itself can be defined a Ghost Arcade.

If you are interested in knowing more about Skot Deeming’s Ghost Arcade, please feel free to read his Blog on the subject: in which he describes the importance of saving transitory and ethereal human experiences in pixels far better than I ever could.