Disappointments and Achievements in the Year 2013

This was the year in which we apparently cancelled, or postponed, the apocalypse.

So I said I was going to make a post before the New Year and here I am. I’ve started this post three times already and I trying to find the best way to continue it.

I suppose I will start off by stating one of my greatest disappointments. After all the fanfare on my part, and the reading, and the note-taking, and the hints, and the story sketches I did not end up sending an entry to The Dark Crystal Author Quest.

The fact is, after all that, I just took on too much. I went as far as writing a crude introduction, far too late, and then I realized that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring the energy and attention to a world that deserved more. So, I’m sorry to everyone who might have been eager to see what I could have brought to the world of Thra but the only things you’ll see now are my story sketches and perhaps the introduction I made when it’s not so fresh. And I also offer my apologies to The Dark Crystal. You deserved better. And you will get it. After spending time on the Community Forums, I know at least that you will get far better than me.

It wasn’t a total loss. I made some friends and acquaintanceships on the Forums, and the task of writing notes and questions to myself about Thra kept me from going insane this summer and onward. That, along with my other story project and this Blog for a time kept me busy and feeling a certain sense of accomplishment roughly ninety percent of the time.

So while I failed my Challenge, I did learn a lot from its failure. For starters, I am never going to work on two major projects at the same time again. The second is that if I do again, I will type up all my notes first and then figure out what to do. The third will be to go out during the more temperate climate to do some writing and not get bogged down by distractions: to give myself a sense of space. In the end, it is one thing to work on a major project and then some minor ones, it is a whole other thing to juggle multiple ones at once. I am no Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman to that regard and even they have had issues with that. Anyone would.

With that unfortunate, but necessary news out of the way I’d like to talk about what I have actually managed to do this year. I went to my first ever Toronto Global Game Jam and made a working board game with some collaborators, and I also attended my first ever 12-Hour Comics Marathon at the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery and completed something there too. I began writing for Sequart and, later, G33kPr0n as well. I got to cover events like the CanZine Ghost Arcade, the first WordPlay Festival, and Bento Miso’s Bit Bazaar Winter Market. I even wrote a review of the first day of the Toronto Afterdark. I wrote an article on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Overture #1. I met Neil Gaiman before that. I’ve tweeted with Amanda Palmer, Anna Anthropy, Christine Love, the Gaming Pixie, I wrote a review of the creative process behind Broodhollow and tweeted a bit with its creator Kris Straub, I travelled all the way to Quebec to meet some friends, and I created my first three Twine stories Level-Up, Haunted, and The Treasure of La-Mulana. I made the acquaintance and friendship of Andrez Bergen and I geek out with Julian Darius sometimes. I began reading the books of Anthony Martignetti and started to see more examples of how to incorporate one’s life with mythology to tell a story.

I’ve probably missed a whole lot of other events, but suffice to say I have been busy. It hasn’t been easy and sometimes I still feel as though I haven’t accomplished nearly enough. I know where I want to go, but I don’t always know how to get there.

But look above. I wasn’t totally useless, not everything was completely futile, and I actually did some very cool things, while I also went to many more. So there is that. I’d say, if I had to sum up 2013, I basically did a whole lot of Work. And I don’t see this coming year being any different.

So I will say right now, goodbye 2013. You had your annoyances and stresses, but we had some challenges together as well. Perhaps we planted something together that will begin to show some fruit by the time of your successor.

As for the rest of you, I will see you all, in some form, during the New Year and hopefully back on track. You know, it’s funny. The parting image that I’m going to leave you with is something that was taken in 2007 by a friend of mine I haven’t really talked with in ages, during a time of great transition in my life. There was so much I didn’t know then and I was only beginning to learn.

It seems that, to this regard, nothing ever really changes.  Until next time, my friends.

Looking Outward

Battle of the Bazaar in Bento Miso’s Winter Market

About three weeks ago, I went to Bento Miso’s Bit Bazaar Winter Market and since then I’ve been trying to focus on what struck me the most. I was made aware of the first Bit Bazaar, the Spring Fair, through the Toronto Comics Arts Festival and its second Comics Vs. Games creative jam and exhibit. It is an opportunity for video game creators, art-makers, and food distributors to sell their wares and have some face-to-face relation with their current and potential fans.

Bento Miso itself is a collaborative work space for independent video game developers, graphic artists, game journalists, start-up businesses, and other individuals and groups. It is also inclusive and it attempts to make itself into a minority, women, and LGBTQ-friendly safe environment. It also functions as a community space and, this year; it was really in full swing. The Bit Bazaar Winter Market covered two floors this time around: with food and drink vendors upstairs with a wide variety of games, and Torontrons and various comics artists, designers, and other exhibitor tables selling various products and awesome samples on the main floor.

What stands out for me is what the organizers and planners of the Winter Market did this year. Henry Faber, the co-founder of Bento Miso, the game designer Damian Sommer and others created a card game called Battle of the Bazaar. Essentially, what they did was they made forty-five cards (with a forty-sixth one being a rule card) that represented a majority of the exhibitor tables, specifically the main games, comics, creations and foods of the exhibitors and gave them numbers of power and special abilities. The particulars of the rules can be found on Bento Miso’s site, just as Daniel Kaszor of the Financial Post‘s “Post Arcade” goes into more detail on its creation in an interview with Henry Faber himself but what I would like to note is that each of these vendors and exhibitors possessed their cards. In order to get all of them for yourself, you had to go to each of their tables and either get one from them, or trade cards.

It was potentially a very useful tactic when you think about it. In addition to creating cards that embody the works of their exhibitors, as well as displaying the website information of all those involved (kind of like creative contact cards), the cards make up an interesting game, and the collecting of them made for a potential ice-breaker. It is true that you could go to a table near the entrance that sold the entire decks but part of the fun is collecting the cards and interacting with the exhibitors that had them. It definitely made for some interesting conversations of my own. When I wandered upstairs I began playing Apotheon, in a player verses player death-match with ancient Greek black-figure graphics (the kind you would find on pottery) in which you have to throw weapons at your opponent. After my opponent killed me brutally with a pleasant and friendly smile on his face as I barely figured out how to use the controls, I got this awesome looking “Thetis” card from the exhibitor table and it was how I became aware of the cards and eventually figured out what they were about.

I spent a lot of time at the Golden Gear Games table where I played Fate Tectonics: a game where a pretty 16-bit goddess sprite hovers over you as you attempt to build a world out of land pieces and you hope that she won’t strike you down with lightning if you get the puzzle sequences wrong. I actually bought the game in the form of hollowed out Gameboy cartridge USB port, along with some pins, a poster and a delicious brownie. I also went back and forth from that table to trade some cards with them (once I got their “Worldbuilding” card of course). Towards the end of my time there, I saw the software and game developer Alex Bethke who not only helped make Fate Tectonics but also collaborated with Dames Making Games in creating three interactive animated short stories in the form of comics. I even had the opportunity, after briefly speaking with Cecily Carver of Dames Making Games, to converse with Katie Foster on her multimedia game The Disappearance of Emily Butler. It is about a girl that returns to Newfoundland and discovers parts about her past that are more than she bargained for. What is really interesting about this game in development is that it is a point and click adventure that has an interactive comics element, with Foster being one of the Dames in Games that Alex Bethke and Golden Gear Games has created an electronic comic for. All of these interactive comics can be downloaded as the Swipe Comics Anthology Vol. I  app for the IOS: which Katie Foster had on display at her table. It is truly remarkable and as someone who is fascinated in the comics medium and its interaction with video games, it is definitely something I’m going to keep an eye on for the near future.

I traded cards between these the DMG table and Golden Gear Games, making my rounds and finally making it to Christine Love and Nadine Lessio’s Interstellar Selfie Station where I got and traded some cards with her. I’ve written on Christine Love’s games at Mythic Bios and even mentioned her Twine Workshop at the WordPlay Festival that helped me in my own creative endeavors and I was definitely going to meet up with her. Her card is “*Old Mute” and after you use its power, it makes all of your subsequent, future cards have a minus one to their score. If you have played her Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus, you will realize just how appropriate this power truly is.

After passing by many other tables towards the end of the evening, I finally caved in and came to the Pianocade Table to find out what was being soldered and put together there. Basically, I got to play with a Wii Remote that created various sound effects depending on what buttons I pushed and how I swung it. Eventually, I came across Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and Asteroid Base‘s table. I’d seen this game in passing at my first CanZine Festival and I actually had a twitter conversation with Jeannie Faber, another co-founder of Bento Miso and the Event Director of the Bit Bazaar. I was actually looking forward to meeting Jeannie Faber but we never had the opportunity to run into each other and as that table was very busy, I ended up just taking a card.

As the night drew to a close, I’d managed to accumulate forty-one of the forty-five Battle of the Bazaar cards. I didn’t get to converse with everyone, but I now have leisure to look at their information and get a better sense of what their products and wares were about along with what they as individuals or teams actually do.

On the Battle of the Bazaar card “Bento Miso” card, there is this specific description. It states, “At the end of the game, if you haven’t won a round, you win the game.” Three weeks ago now I didn’t get all the cards, do everything I wanted, or even knew what to do but I think as I walked out that night, watching my fellow geeks, couples, groups of friends, and families interact I felt as though I won the Battle of the Bazaar anyway: just by simply being there.

If you are interested, Bento Miso is selling packs of its Battle of the Bazaar cards, but there are only eight decks left for $26 plus $3 dollar shipping so you’d best hurry now. They are definitely cool to have.

Time Travel and Retconning: Revisionism and Reconstructionism in Doctor Who

Just as the New Year is approaching, so is “The Time of the Doctor.”

Time of The Doctor

I’ve come out of hiatus again, essentially, because this is another thought that just won’t leave me alone. After I was exposed to Julian Darius of Sequart’s distinctions between Revisionism and Reconstructionism with regards to comics, I applied it to my article In a Different Place, a Different Time: Revision and Reconstruction in Comics Without Superheroes? Of course, I should have realized it was not going to end there.

I mean, come on: I already mentioned space and time in the aforementioned article’s title. And after a while of gestation and trying to stave it off, I knew what was going to happen. I was going to provide the distinctions of Revisionism and Reconstructionism, taken from Julian Darius, the latter term apparently coined from Kurt Busiek, to the development of the Doctor Who series. Let’s face it: this was just going to happen and, if we’re going to be honest with each other, it probably has in no so many words and in ways that have been covered far more exhaustively than I am going to be.

So let’s get to the point and quote River Song, as I tend to with a lot of the Doctor Who articles I’ve written, to say, “Spoilers.”

This is really going to be a brief case of looking at parallels between the development of the superhero comics genre and Doctor Who. Like the early comics versions of Batman, Superman and others, The Doctor as a character starts off as a relatively morally ambiguous character: someone who isn’t necessarily evil, but not always good. Certainly, they all have the power to impose their will on others whom they don’t agree with, or are quite willing to let someone destroy themselves as opposed to interceding on their behalf. The Doctor himself, in his very first incarnation was more than willing to abandon people to their deaths if they became “inconvenient” to his or his granddaughter’s own survival.

And this was in the 1960s. Superhero comics themselves, especially the ones I mentioned, existed from the 30s onward: from that Golden Age period where superheroes were still trying to get past their “might is right” mentality to reveal at least some of the heroism that we recognize. The Doctor, however, had an even more interesting challenge: in that he was a character in a science-fiction program that drew on a tradition of science-fiction programs and stories. He wasn’t exactly a hero then and never quite fit that mould well. He and his Companions were more explorers and, as such, the program was one of exploration that bordered on a weird sort of horror: the kind of horror that, well, basically came from the spectacle of science-fiction B movies, comics, and pulp stories before it. Even the early Doctor Who episodes, from I’m given to understand, have a very pulp and serial feel to them: with constantly interrelated chains if episodes making a story followed by standalone episodes and “monsters of the week.”

Of course, things changed for both superhero comics and Whoniverse respectively. It was the Comics Code Authority that greatly white-washed many of the darker elements away from superhero adventures. Some of them simply didn’t survive and became silly caricatures of their original selves. This wasn’t always the case and some stories managed to be told well even in the midst of not being able to question authority-figures among other things. Towards the sixties, however, there were many campy and downright silly elements amongst this genre of comics: particularly with regards to Batman and such.

Doctor Who, which started in the sixties, always had an element of the uncanny and the weird in itself. It also had elements of camp and strange, tangential adventures. For some time, the BBC had a low budget so they basically had to utilize B movie props and effects to make their monsters and their stories. And The Doctor himself became a lot more of a swashbuckling character or archetype: embodying different ideals but becoming somehow more human as time went on. The humanization of The Doctor, which began with his Companions from his early days, contributed to this and probably in no small part due to the fact that the program began as a children’s show.

But just as there were so many disparate elements and strangeness in the Silver Age of superhero comics, this was definitely the case with the original Doctor Who series. What is interesting to consider with regards to Doctor Who however is that many “silly costumes and props and styles” have become iconic in themselves and even popular in a vintage, classic, nostalgic sort of way among fans. The books and audio dramas also helped to expand many of these elements and add more to the quantum branch of reality that was the Whoniverse.

It was in the 1980s that things began to change for superhero comics. This was when Revisionism came into play. Writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller asked themselves the question of what a superhero would be like, with the powers and abilities they possessed, in a realistic situation. They were also mindful of the pessimism, cynicism, and fear around in this particular time period and wondered how the hero would function in such a world: and what they would do to that world. This is the period in which the superhero really got dissected. Writers in this time and onward seemed to draw on the ancient classical designations of “hero”: of a person of spectacular power and skill that bordered on, or were totally amoral, to reshape the heroes of the 30s and 60s. This allowed much in the way of character development and the creation of truly epic story-lines. Of course, the danger was also created: that the dark grittiness of Revisionism would become a form onto itself and not a vessel to tell a carefully thought out story. Darkness for darkness’ sake, as it were.

With Doctor Who, I argue that its Revisionism came in 2005 with the beginning of the new series. After a gap from 1989, and television movie in 1996, The Doctor returned in 2005 under a very different premise from his earlier adventures. It is almost like producer and screenwriter Russell T. Davies created his own Crisis on Infinite Earths and destroyed much of the quantum and tangential branches of the old Whoniverse in order to create a very centralized, dark, and Byronic reality: as though he and others believed that the only way the program could survive would be to “mature” into this new spirit. It is as though they expected viewers to want something less silly and more “realistic.”

So there was a Time War, the Last Great Time War, that seemed to have obliterated many loose-ends (and cause no small heap of trouble in the loose-ends that did, in fact, continue to exist for the Universe) and leave a Doctor that was more gaunt, more lonely, and far angrier than many of his other incarnations before him. The children’s show origins of program seemed to have been burned away by rage, an attempt at a more serious tone, singular purpose, and Revisionism.

Even the inclusion of David Tennant as the next Doctor, who was a marked contrast to the sullen leather jacket-wearing Doctor who somehow began to lighten up a bit towards the end, only accentuated this kind of Miltonian grandiosity. He might as well, in a ridiculously sublime way, have been an angel from Milton’s Paradise Lost sailing through a perfect clockwork Universe skewed by Original Sin, or perhaps as a far livelier Virgil figure in a kind of Dante’s Inferno of wonders. When Steven Moffat took over as producer and the Matt Smith incarnation of The Doctor came in, the youngest depiction there has ever been (he is about my age), the dark elements were beginning to wear a little thin.

But there is something truly wonderful that was forming with Doctor Who, and its spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Smith Adventures. Despite the darkness and the angst of The Doctor being “the last Time Lord,” there has been a great depiction of wonders. I’m not just talking about the more advanced CGI or sophisticated props and costuming provided to the program. I’m also talking about its embrace of diversity: about its inclusion of different cultures, race and even sexual orientations. And it doesn’t seem to display them as novelties but as givens. As science-fiction that, by its very nature, encompasses the future and its possible sensibilities in addition to all of space and time it is extremely encouraging to see. It might have something to do with the fact that Russell T. Davies is gay himself and wanted to include diversity, but there is also the fact that Doctor Who is the longest running science-fiction show in existence and it changes with the times and the attitudes in each era in which it finds itself.

https://i2.wp.com/static3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130505044335/tardis/images/c/c6/Lizard_Woman_From_The_Dawn_Of_Time_And_Wife.jpg

But the sense of wonder that is, in the words of the program’s first producer Verity Lambert, “C.S. Lewis meets H.G. Wells meets Father Christmas,” is so much older than this and it wins out over the darkness every time. It is similar to the sense of nobility and kindness from Superman or the sure sense of justice from Batman. You can also call that sense of wonder hope.

By the time of Steve Moffat, whose episodes are strong in a self-contained short story fashion but whose overall structure begins to unravel the strong Miltonian clockwork of Davies with plot holes, much in the way that the Cracks in Time began to appear, or how the Weeping Angels feed off of temporal rifts and die from paradox-poisoning (which is ironic when you consider how Moffat created them in the first place and that his stories have many plot-holes), you may be witnessing a change beginning to happen. From 2005 and onward, most of Doctor Who has taken place on Earth or has focused almost solely on humans and has maintained a relatively linear story line and premise.

But then Moffat did something. By 1995, Julian Darius argues that Revisionism in comics began to change. Writers such as Grant Morrison began to look back on superhero comics before Revisionism and draw on the idealism and hope of those periods. They took the character-writing and plot development of Revisionism and combined it with the light-heartedness of heroes against the darkness. They, arguably, contributed to the creation of Reconstructionism.

And Morrison himself was known to have really liked the strange and wacky DC elements that existed before what he considered to be a cynical Crisis plot: perhaps much in the way that some of The Doctor’s fans might view his present “gritty and realistic” situation.

Now look back at Steve Moffat. In “The Day of the Doctor” he took the premise of The Doctor having destroyed the Time Lords and, in a typical time-travelling fashion, changed and retconned time. He had The Doctor and his previous incarnations save Gallifrey. Now The Doctor has to go and find it. In one stroke, however it was executed, Moffat eliminated the heart of The Doctor’s modern angst. And in the next episode, in the Christmas Special “The Time of the Doctor” we are going to see him fall to his lowest as he is apparently on his “last incarnation” and is going to die. But we know that isn’t going to happen. We know he will survive. We know there will be a new Doctor.

And perhaps, just perhaps, this is Moffat’s attempt to apply Reconstructionism to Doctor Who. Certainly the inclusion of Tom Baker, the former Fourth Doctor that represented The Doctor’s kindliness, affability and wisdom, into “The Day of the Doctor”–representing what could be another future incarnation of the Time Lord–can be interpreted as a sign of that return to some the weird, and wacky adventures that possess no small amount of hope.

But whatever the case, we are going to see Peter Capaldi as an older, but perhaps wilder Doctor: someone who is not a soldier, a traumatized war veteran, a hero with an anguished dream, or a lonely boy but an adventurer and traveler. He is going to look for where he put Gallifrey. He is going to go out again. Perhaps he might even leave Earth in all time lines and we can see how the rest of the Universe has been doing, how other worlds and newer beings live, and how he will interact with them. Maybe after all the time that Davies has reforged the content of the program it will open up back into larger vistas beyond just Earth and the human.

There is just one last Battle of Trenzalore, a Regeneration rule to work around, and then perhaps the potential for some reconstruction, for something new, for something old, and for something new again. Either way, I look forward to the journey.

Boys and Toys Franchising Make For Better Superhero Cartoons?

I’m not going to say anything new. In fact, there is nothing within the conversation between Kevin Smith and Paul Dini that is even remotely new. Paul Dini is the producer and writer of Batman: The Animated Series, and Tiny Toon Adventures as well as a script contributor to Animaniacs, Freakazoid, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited among other cartoon programs that many of us grew up with (myself included) and shaped our formative geek interests for all the years to come.

So for him to basically state that superhero cartoon executives have been cancelling story-driven programs with three-dimensional characters of both genders for the sake of merchandising toys to young boys is just… it’s not surprising.  But it is infuriating.

According to an excerpt of the transcript between Smith and Dini on Lauren Davis’ i09 article Paul Dini: Superhero cartoon execs don’t want largely female audiences, instead of taking advantage of an opportunity created by particular cartoon programs that attract not only young boys and girls, but adult audiences, and diversifying their merchandise these executives apparently are “uncomfortable” with taking a chance on something so “uncertain” and want to fall back on their mainstays of boys and toys and more simplistic programs.

The sad thing is, logically it makes sense from a market and industry perspective. The industry, in this case the superhero industry encompassing comics, toys, television shows and commercial products, cares less about story and inclusivity and more about steady, tried, tested and true income-making. From the perspective of this particular mindset, diversifying or attempting to add new products to something that already “works” would be tantamount to taking risks or placing bets on a chance that may not pan out. It is so much easier to appeal to a common denominator, to older and more entrenched social stereotypes and biases, than it is to attempt to make something new or innovative and hope that you can find, or develop, a large enough audience to keep making you the same amount of income that is expected of you.

This narrow perspective has been around for a very long time and while it definitely has a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, with an added “there’s no need to reinvent the wheel” that seems to serve businesses well, there are two matters to consider. First of all, this isn’t good business sense. The fact of the matter is that there is a substantial audience of boys and girls out there that want good stories and characters to relate to. By ignoring this audience, not only do these executives and the companies they manage lose out on potential pay-offs, but eventually the work they produce will become one-dimensional and stagnant: to the point where they will be so interchangeable with other shows that no one will bother watching them, never mind purchase any products they have to offer. Of course, I could be both underestimating and overestimating the situation. There are always collectors and an individual can be trained over time to accept a great deal of limiting circumstances.

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And this leads to my second point.  The industry is a business and despite the wonder of creation and art that many of us appreciate, it will always see it as a commodity: one that either has the potential to make money, or doesn’t. It is the culture of the audience, of the customers, our culture, that is the issue. Many of the programs that Dini helped create and worked on originated in the nineties all the way into the mid-early aughts. Perhaps it is just nostalgia on my part, but an attitude with regards to gender and how it was depicted in the programming of that time slowly began to change into whatever it is now. I’m sure there are many theories about this, and I know that even the 90s were not perfect with regards to how they represented gender equality. You can even argue that this determining factor in how many toys can be sold to boys existed even then and perhaps had something of a role in the end of the cartoons that existed back in the day. To be honest, I don’t really know.

But I will say is this, the possibility that executives of superhero cartoons cancel or pass up on shows because it is easier to fall back on long-held and largely unexamined prejudices, that boys given vapid programming are easier to sell a certain set of toys to, that girls don’t or can’t buy the same toys as boys, that you can’t make something more creative to make them into life-long fans and buy your products is just plain laziness, and it is a complacency that has been in our cultural attitudes for some time. The fact that this is a factor that determines our creativity, its expression and what we teach our children is not only laziness, it is even more plainly ridiculous.

There is always this debate as to whether or not the media influences us, or if we influence it. This is an issue that obviously applies to more than just the cartoon superhero industry (certainly the comics and film industries have their own tendencies to override creativity and innovation for a sense of surer profit) but I would like to think that we as geeks, nerds, or what have-you can somehow influence the media to give us the quality that we want for ourselves and our children. I obviously don’t know the how of it, but I think what it all comes down to is the very thing that is lacking, or even discouraged by certain forces in this world.

It’s called imagination. And not attempting to reinvent the wheel, in this case, could grind the former into dust. You can do better than this. We can do better.

This whole article is just stating the obvious. I just wish I didn’t have to do that. For more on Kevin Smith’s and Paul Dini’s discussion, listen to the entire podcast at SModcast Fat Man On Batman #052: Paul Dini: Shadow of the Shadow of the Bat.

 

 

The Treasure of La-Mulana

So I have been stabbing my Mythic Bios notebook with my golden pen, but for one brief moment I am going to re-materialize back from the ether to leave you with something. I made this, my third Twine story, a little while ago after watching Deceased Crab play through both the original and the remake of La-Mulana.

This game … for something I have never played and probably never will because I neither have the patience nor the hand-eye coordination, got into my head: into that mythic space that permeates my very being. La-Mulana is an adventurer-archaeology game created by the game company NIGORO and filled with puzzles, riddles, deathtraps, insanity, lore, and vintage video game goodness. It is a fun, but notoriously hard game. But the world and story that NIGORO created got into my mind so much, and so badly, that I went online at one point and looked for fanfiction based on it.

It was there, online, that I found madamluna’s long slow collision and Bones. It was the first story, a Twine narrative itself, and the news that there would be a sequel to the game itself that cinched it for me.

So now: to business. What you are looking at here is a homage–a fanfic–to a game I’ve only seen on Let’s Plays, written in Twine. Basically in addition to this being my third Twine story, this is my first polished Twine fanfic to an awesome and insane game. So while I might not be a “real” fan of the game, in that I haven’t played it, I hope you can all accept me as one in spirit if nothing else.

In other news, I am still hard at work and I plan to make a New Year’s post of some kind. I hope you enjoyed this surprise and impromptu post of mine. I hope to return relatively soon. But, since you have all been very good readers I now leave you with my modest attempt at a homage, at something that will probably be completely debunked and repudiated by the actual sequel to La-Mulana itself. It is a story with events meant to bridge the gap between the two games. So such, please remember that there are Major Spoilers. I hope you will take this in the spirit that it is given.

So good night, fellow explorers, and allow me to leave you all with The Treasure of La-Mulana.

La-Mulana

The Dark Crystal Director’s Cut

For those of you that have watched Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, consider this premise:  Think about a world with three suns, strange hybrid creatures, the last of the mouse-eared diminutive Gelfling, the gentle urRu (or the Mystics) and the cruel and twisted Skeksis actually being two parts of the same race, and the heart of that whole world being a crystal with a chip that has turned it dark. Now picture this entire story being told with very little explanation and, in one species’ case, very little speech in the way that approximates English.

This is what “The Dark Crystal Director’s Cut” is supposed to be.  Apparently Christopher Orgeron, a long-time Jim Henson enthusiast, experimental film-lover, and a fan of the film, tracked down a copy of the workprint (the rough version of a motion picture created during the process of editing) on a torrent and proceeded to edit, splice together, and painstakingly restore scenes from the workprint and The Dark Crystal into an approximation of the original director’s cut that was rejected by its test audiences so many years ago.  Think about it, the result of those rejections and subsequent editing to clarify the film’s story line made all the difference between The Dark Crystal being an obscure experimental film, and becoming a cult-classic for a broader theatre going audience.  It is a fine line indeed.

It is almost as much of a fine line to state that Orgeron’s work is actually The Dark Crystal Director’s Cut. He apparently based it off of the workprint as much as possible, but even he seems to admit that there are places that he needs to smooth over and things were lost in the translation, as it were, from the rough black and white production quality film of the workprint itself. I’ve watched the film that was released on DVD and this cut and there are very few differences between them, but the ones that exist are very clear. Aside from the fact that there is more footage of certain events, there is a lot less silliness as well.  The narration of the released film version at the beginning doesn’t exist and the Skeksis are not speaking English but, rather, their own language of Skexish. The fact that the Skeksis are only speaking their language makes them a lot creepier, though their general mannerisms show through all too well.

The black and white workprint scenes inserted into the cut are a little confusing in and of themselves and sometimes the sound quality wavers. Still, as Orgeron states in his interview with Mental Floss, this version or interpretation of the film throws you right into the “extraterrestrial” quality of Thra and the story and there is something very elemental about finding yourself as an audience and with little warning being in a whole other world.

It is uncertain how long “The Dark Crystal Director’s Cut” will be available on YouTube or anywhere else for that matter before the Henson Company weighs in on its existence, but it is intriguing to look at and it definitely gives you a look into the processes that shaped this film. It’s ironic. The original cut was said to have been rejected because of its lack of appeal to a broader audience and yet the cut that did make it, the film many of us all know and love, has become obscure on its own way over time compared to the rest of Henson’s Muppets work and even Labyrinth.  Yet it is an interesting time. The Dark Crystal Author Quest is quickly drawing to a close, still looking for a new writer to add more to Thra’s universe, and then this fan’s work comes up to give us even more insight: especially when you consider that there seems to have been more footage and fewer transitions in the dreamfasting sequence between Jen and Kira … letting you see a lot more about their lives before what will become their quest.

It would seem that the film’s adage still holds true when you come to it. Everything is connected.

Dark Crystal

Going Deeper Into Myth, Farewell For Now

A long time ago now, as I always like to say, Mythic Bios started out as a series of private notebooks where I wrote down story sketches and some short stories as well. So I hope you will forgive the following hyperbole and metaphors as I give you some news.

I’ve been working on the Mythic Bios Blog for over a year now. It started from a great pit in my life and it’s kept me sane in a sea of chaos for about that same amount of time. I knew when I took on work at G33kPr0n and, to some extent, Sequart before it that I would have some challenges on my hands in writing for all three of them. At one point, I even toyed with the idea of cutting down my posts on Mythic Bios from two a week to one.

But now the insanity is different, and I have to do something different, at least for the time being.

I find that for the first time in over a year, I am going to be taking a break from Mythic Bios, to go back to my Mythic Bios. There is a story that I am writing right now that people are depending on. If it was just the other magazines and Mythic Bios, I could handle that but this story requires much of my attention.

So what is happening is that, with my special golden pen that I rarely use, that was in fact a graduation present for my Master’s Convocation, I am writing out this story by hand in the last Mythic Bios notebook that I have, until now, neglected for the computer screen. In order to accomplish my goal, I have gone back to the basics: to the very beginning.

It isn’t just that, of course. Life has been happening with me at a very accelerated rate compared to the slow molasses of earlier times and while this story is my top priority–with my Dark Crystal story following right after it–I find that right now I need to write less about life and actually start living some of it.

I’m not going to be completely gone. In this day and age it is simply impossible for me not to be entirely on the Internet. I will be continuing to write a few G33kPr0n articles and an article that I am really proud of is going to be published on Sequart in an instalment of three parts separated over three weeks. I may even take some time to do a quick update and let all of you know about my article.

But here are the facts. I’ve been really late making posts on here for the past few weeks. I mean, this in itself is already a weekend post and I’m not entirely sure how many of you are going to see this. I’ve learned a lot through this Blog and the challenges I’ve posed myself. I even made a great many friends and shown many of my old friends and contacts just what it is I can do beyond merely talking about my stories and my writing. I intend to continue to do so and make posts far more eloquent than the one that preceded this.

It pains me, and I am not doing this lightly, but I have priorities and hopefully when the first priority is finished I will have something to be proud of, and something to tell all of you. In the meantime, you will have plenty of reading material to tide you over here. I have no illusions that everyone has read everything on this Blog, and to those people who are my new readers, you will have a lot of entries to slog through … or anything that piques your interests. You can even look at my G33kPr0n and Sequart works, if you’d like.

I’m glad you have followed me this far. During the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who I felt like I was The War Doctor, constantly in battle and hardly letting myself rest or even feeling the inclination to rest unless I had to pass out for a time.

But now, right now, I realize that the real war is already underway and unlike the wars of our world in which nobody wins, I hope that in this one there will only be one victor and that, in the end, you will be looking at him. I’d like to think that a good writer goes to war.

I will be back relatively soon, my friends. Take care. And, in the meantime, back to my notebook.

Looking Outward

The Work Continues and a Peek at Coming Attractions

Yesterday, I was going to post up an article that I already made but then I started to think about I feel that everybody deserves something fresh.

The obligatory zombie reference aside, this time of year is generally harder for me. I mean, winter probably has a seasonal affect on everyone and makes them want to sleep more but more recently I’ve been lucky to wake up in the early afternoon never mind what can be considered morning. I mean, I am up in the morning technically, but I generally haven’t slept before then.

It hasn’t been solely due to procrastination or depression however. If there is one thing I have been consistently this past while, it has been busy. I’ve been experimenting more directly with Twine now and after two experiments, there is another one that I would like to implement sometime soon.

For my next trick, I want to make a story with Headings that you can Rewind to, and selectable options that will determine what endings you will get. I envision a few game-overs, one “normal ending,” and one “true ending.” I have been looking at some tutorials, though I am concerned that I will be going closer into the realm of programming or, at the very least, the kind of “user-accessible” programming that was available in Civilization II: Fantastic Worlds. Twine may well be a gateway drug back into the Hell Temple of coding for me. But I do have help and all I need to keep track of time.

And I have to watch time very carefully. I have a story that I need to write, a Dark Crystal entry that needs to appear, an article that needs to be edited, and … another article that I want to write on Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston: on one aspect of his life in particular. I am wondering how much material will exist out there on the latter and when I will have a chance to look at this.

But I also know that I have priorities. This entry is a short one, but it’s good because it will serve as a reminder for what I am doing and what I plan to do. I will be back soon and, hopefully, sooner this time. 🙂

I Don’t Want to Go: An Adventure in Space and Time

There will be spoilers.

While Doctor Who has always been about traveling through time, it’s in Mark Gatniss’ docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time that we find ourselves at the point where it all began.

But just like the program itself, An Adventure in Space and Time neither begins nor continues in a completely linear fashion. The film starts off with William Hartnell, played by David Bradley, contemplating a blue police box in front of him, in his car in the night as a policeman asks him what he’s doing there. Hartnell looks far and away as the events of the film, from 1966 to 1963 and back again, unfold on the original TARDIS console’s counter display.

Before watching this docudrama, I didn’t know much about how Doctor Who was made beyond some very superficial details.  We see Verity Lambert attempt to function, and gain recognition as a producer in an “old-boys’ dominated field. She finds solidarity with the British-Indian director Waris Hussein as he faces a background of racial discrimination. I will also admit that I did wonder why BBC executive producer Sydney Newman didn’t have a British accent and seemed to sound more American than anything else, until I realized at the end of the movie that he came from Canada.

It was also very fascinating to watch the development of Doctor Who: from the rudimentary production arrangements, the pioneering of certain forms of cameras to deal with the program, and all that difference between a character called “Dr. Who” and The Doctor. “Dr. Who” is a character that Newman envisions, and Lambert and Hussein sell to William Hartnell who is tired of playing soldier and “tough-guy” roles but he is not The Doctor as of yet.

As for William Hartnell himself, he is portrayed as both a cantankerous old man with a bit of a temper and a lack of patience towards stagehands and, at one point his own granddaughter, but at the same time he is a friend to his co-actors, emotionally attached to Verity Lambert, and always seeking the role of the old man with the twinkle in his eye.

His “Dr. Who” is at first gruff and cold to a point where it both bothers Newman and himself. Perhaps some of this dissatisfaction comes initially from his hesitation in attempting to portray a children’s show’s protagonist. After a career of playing soldiers and authorities, attempting to become a children’s hero might have seemed a considerable stretch to him. Yet An Adventure in Space and Time makes it more than that.  It shows a man in poor health, in his mid-fifties wanting to do something more and different, to no longer be type-cast while at the same time trying to keep up with a hectic television actor’s schedule and his own professional standards. For instance, it really bothers Hartnell that the scenery of the TARDIS doesn’t even exist yet when he is rehearsing his lines in the studio and it takes a special kind of iron-willed effort on Verity Lambert’s part to make sure that the TARDIS and its console room happens.

But once the console room happens, we see that transition from “Dr. Who” into The Doctor, even if the producers and staff still refer to him as the former. I will admit it is still hard for me at times to look at David Bradley as William Hartnell, or at least with regards to his voice as the First Doctor. Hartnell has a higher voice that, while deep, has a trill at the end of his sentences that Bradley doesn’t seem to master.  It could also be, based on what is left of the First Doctor’s episodes that his put-on voice sounds different on the audio at the time. It might also be that David Bradley’s previous roles like Argus Filch from Harry Potter and Walder Frey in Game of Thrones has biased me against him.  However, what he may not completely capture in sound, he definitely expresses in spirit and presence.  I suppose the difficulty here, at least for me, is that you have to remember that this is the story of the program’s production and William Hartnell’s role in it. This is the story of Doctor Who, not just William Hartnell, nor the character of The Doctor.

Nevertheless, the docudrama makes it abundantly clear just how close this whole argument came to becoming a moot point. From the bad conditions of their studio and its sprinkler system, to a lack of scenery, as well as Lambert’s authority being questioned and challenged, their first episode airing on the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and even Newman’s old insistence that Doctor Who be a show without “robots or bug-eyed monsters,” there were many instances where this program could have ended after the very first episode: becoming just another obscure, failed, black and white science-fiction oddity.

As the film progresses, we also get to see the development of the early Doctor Who fandom and Hartnell’s growing love for being The Doctor. He even interacts with children in the role off-screen and seems to enjoy it. But this docudrama is not ordinary. It isn’t linear or solely based in reality as we know it. Before it becomes too prosaic, there are at least three moments that hit me directly in the heart as a Doctor Who fan and went beyond my expectations. The first is that point when, after Hartnell is told about the concept of Regeneration (making so that, indeed, no one is irreplaceable and completing the idea of The Doctor as opposed to “Dr. Who”) he breaks down and begins to cry, saying, “I don’t want to go.” It makes me honestly wonder if Hartnell actually said this in real life and if in 2010 one Russell T. Davies wrote it into “The End of Time” for one David Tennant.

The second moment that got me was the realization that Hartnell actually knew, perhaps more than the new generation of production crewmen and staff, how to make the prop of the TARDIS console work. And then, there was the last moment which I am not going to spoil. You should definitely watch this film. I will say,  however, that in that one fourth-wall breaking moment at the end Hartnell realizes that The Doctor will continue long after his successor Patrick Troughton and that even though it is fan-service, it’s fan-service of the most beautiful kind.

Not too long ago, in “The Day of the Doctor” we Whovians discovered the existence of an incarnation of The Doctor that sacrificed his name to become a soldier. Two days before the 50th Anniversary episode we are reintroduced to a man who was tired of playing soldiers and wanted to portray something different, to a show that became something more and with many great people behind it created a legacy, one that doesn’t want to go, and one that is still with us even now.

CORRECTION: John F. Kennedy’s assassination happened one day before “An Unearthly Child” premiered, not on the same day.