We finally watched the rest of Love, Death & Robots, a collection of animated short stories of genre fiction on Netflix. I recently reviewed (and criticized) the earlier episodes here.Continue reading “Mini-Review: Love, Death & Robots (11-18)”
Mini-Review: Love, Death & Robots (1-10)
Love, Death & Robots is a collection of animated short stories (5 to 10 minutes) of genre fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror), just released on Netflix this week.
Since the episodes are so short, it was easy to binge several in one sitting. Over on the dying Google+, I commented that this resulted in watching more male gaze filming than I have allowed myself to in a long time. Here are my spoiler-free mini-reviews for the episodes I have seen. When I say “spoiler-free” I mean that I only give away as much as you have in the episode title and pitch. (Spoilers may be discussed in comments below, however.)Continue reading “Mini-Review: Love, Death & Robots (1-10)”
As Google turns off the lights on Google+, looking for a new place to hang on social media increasingly feels like shopping for clothes. You know how men’s shopping is generally simpler because they just need to make sure they pick the right type, size, and colour, while women also have to deal with unreliable size information, poorly made items, low-quality materials, and whether the damn thing will have pockets? Unlike clothes, social media are not built differently for women; instead, they are built for cis het white tech bros under the pretense that one size fits all.
If he’s in the target demographics, even the most ally of allies can find a replacement home without too much trouble. There are several options and the questions boil down to: “Do they have the feature and interface I find most comfortable?” and “Are a good number of my friends going to be there?”
If you’re a woman and/or from a numbers of marginalized communities (people of colour, of different gender or orientation, disabled, etc.), it’s probably not that simple. And the more your identities differ from peak privilege, the more difficult it is to rebuild a social media network in a new spot. Your privacy, safety, and security are much more threatened, and it’s much more likely to see your friends and peers vanish in the exodus.
On G+, I had built a geek and STEM network of over 400 women, enby, and other people who do not identify as cis men. I’m about to loose at least 85% of it
Two Minutes’ Reflection
Wading for Your Dues
All right, let’s roll up our pant cuffs and put on our rubber boots, we’re going wading in last year’s sludge.
Last year, Mark Diaz Truman posted a reflection on his company blog (Magpie Games) regarding perceived abuse between two sub-communities of gaming, focusing respectively on OSR and story games. A few days later, Mark followed up with a FAQ explaining his position in more detail.
At the time I posted my reactions to these, to the damage that resulted, and to the separate answer Mark had given me. The thing that made me blow my top at the time was this:
I’d love to talk with you more about how this is playing out Sophie. I’d also encourage us all (including me) to look at the effects 3 mo, 6 mo, and a year down the road. This week has been hard, but I believe that many of the conversations I’ve seen have the potential to blossom into something productive. That said, I hear you! And I’m eager to discuss more and listen more.
What angered me was that people who had been hurt by Mark’s posts were essentially told: “Wait another three to twelve months, maybe something good will come out of it and make the harassment your received worth my while.” Continue reading “Two Minutes’ Reflection”
Get Off Your Ass and Stand Up For All
Part of my entertainment last weekend when I was in the hospital was to watch SS-Gruppenführer Milo Yiannopoulos lose traction. First, there were Larry Wilmore and Malcolm Nance telling him what’s what on “Overtime With Bill Maher.” Heads-up: you need to wade through the opening bullshit before you get to the good stuff. Then there was NAMBLA(1) Chair Yiannopoulos’ own recent words finally being acknowledged for once, and finally Laurie Penny’s post-mortem.
But amusing as it was, there was a background to this that infuriated me throughout: the continued treatment of Yiannopoulos and his droogs, and the validation of his odiousness as just what everyone is really thinking. It peeked through in Penny’s reluctant tenderness for “Peter Pan” and the “Lost Boys,” but it was shoved front and centre in Bill Maher’s handling of him.
Milo Y constantly spouts racist, misogynist, ableist, transphobic shit, but the (alt-)Right only flinched when he sounded too much like their idea of gayness. They don’t give a shit about protecting children but they do have a knee-jerk reaction for the Gay Man Preying On Their Sons. BFD, nothing new in the Log Cabin’s closets; but we, the liberals, #TheResistance, we should not normalize any of this. I was appalled to hear Maher join in the denigration and mockery of trans persons rather than tell Milo he’s not edgy — just a narcissist piece of crap that doesn’t deserve to be humoured. Thank you, Larry Wilmore, for taking the burden on yourself.
Meanwhile, the rest of us have to come to grips with the Maher type of liberal, spouting old garbage like it’s 1974 or something. Look at them in the face or in the mirror: the privileged, gated community, comfy, bougie liberals; the not-my-backyard, not-my-problem liberals; the All-Lives-Matter liberals; the white women who voted for trump; the TERFs and the SWERFs; the “race realists”; the I-got-mine-Jack liberals.
Let’s not BE them. Let’s not be this clueless, let’s not insulate ourselves in our little corner of privilege like a bit of blanket allowed by those hogging all the riches and power. Let’s respect human beings as we want to be respected. Let’s fight to protect the rights of women, persons of colour, refugees, children, DREAMers, disabled people, trans persons, Jewish, atheist, Muslim, LGBTQ, and any number of artificial divisions I’m forgetting right now.
Trans persons are not confused: they want to be treated like full human beings, be protected from assault, and have their bodily autonomy respected.
Black people and persons of colour are not reverse-racists: they want to be able to get decent education, employment and housing, their children to have the same chance of surviving a police encounter as if they were white, and a shot at the famed American Dream every once in a goddamn while.
People advocating for marriage equality are not asking for new rights: they just want to form a family on their own terms with the same protections heterosexuals receive under the law, including some simple peace of mind.
Refugees are not terrorists: they’re fleeing terrorism, state-sponsored violence, persecution, famine and other calamities, and they get extensively vetted before they are even allowed a visa.
Immigrants are not rapists and murderers: they’re hard-working people trying to make a better life for themselves and their families in a country that shows them little but contempt but is all too happy to exploit them for cheap labour.
Muslim beliefs are not any more threatening than Catholic, or Baptist, or Latter-Day Saint ones: the Quran speaks words that are dang similar to those of the Bible or the Book of Mormon.
People with disabilities are not a burden, nor are they inspirational: they’re us(2), needing to marshal our strength and use life hacks when it’s not a hip Buzzfeed article.
And cis women do not need need to be protected by the law from trans women — they need to be protected from cis men. Their rights, their autonomy, their safety, their health care, their paycheck need to be protected from greedy old cis men in Congress and in the White House.
What part of this is hard to understand?
(1) National American Milo-Boy Love Association. Return.
(2) I woke up at 2am, remembering this sentence and hating it. It sounds like I’m comparing living with a disability to having a bad day; that’s not what I intended. What I mean is that people with disabilities are ordinary folks like us us, not strange others, and that many of us will deal with disabilities in our own lives at some point; moreover, much of the help required — for example, under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) — is very modest, not the insurmountable barrier some people imagine. Return.
More Medieval Than Thou
I just got my PDF copy of King Arthur Pendragon 5.2 a few weeks ago. I started browsing it — and I do not understand its problem with women.
Yes, yes, Greg Stafford makes efforts to open up character creation a bit for female characters. Look, I’ve been playing Pendragon for thirty years and I have made female characters under every rule set. Incremental change, yeah, that’s great, but still missing the point.
Arthurian romance and the roman courtois genre largely became popular in its time because women read the stories, or had the stories read to them. Fan favourite Thomas Malory came in on the tail end (no pun intended) in the mid-15th century with Le Morte d’Arthur but the really interesting materials were written long before, and among the authors were women. Marie de France was writing Tristan and Iseult stories in the 12th century, Christine de Pisan wrote Le Livre des Faits d’armes et de chevalerie just before Thomas Malory was born.
Ever since its original 1985 edition, King Arthur Pendragon classifies women characters from Arthurian romance into three tiers. Non-player characters include “ordinary women” and “important women.”
“fulfill all non-epic functions without complications. Their anonymous existence is implied or accepted through the feudal world. They remain faceless and nameless. Such women have no individual character sheets; they are all Gamemaster characters. These generally include the unplayed wives of player-knights.”
“have some individuality. They usually have names, or are at least known as the daughters of their fathers. [They] are often widows, mothers of vengeful men, heiresses, or healers of note. They are commonly accused of or found to be using minor magic. They are often among the major Gamemaster characters that will interact directly with the player-knights on a regular basis. They generally do not have complete character sheets.”
Extraordinary women can be player or Gamemaster charaters.
Extraordinary women in Malory include Queen Guenever, the beautiful wife of King Arthur and head of the Courts of Love; Queen Margawse, widow of King Lot, a dabbler in witchcraft and the mother of Sir Gawaine and his brothers; Queen Morgan le Fay, the mistress of Faerie, an enchantress supreme who has a passion for Sir Lancelot, hates Guenever, and plots trouble for her brother, King Arthur; Lady Viviane of the Lake, who gives Arthur his sword, Excalibur, and is killed by Sir Balin; and Lady Nimue of the Lake, guardian of the High King’s court against wicked enchantment, once Merlin is gone.
It’s telling that we read this discussion for women’s characters but not men. It illustrates the fundamental thinking: characters are male by default, women are variants. After all, wouldn’t the three tiers — ordinary, important, and extraordinary — apply to male characters?
Moreover, the examples of extraordinary women provided in this discussion are restricted by the filter. The tales that Malory mined also offer Enide from Erec et Enide (Chrétien de Troyes) / Gereint ac Enid (Welsh romances); Iseult/Isolde the Fair, she of Tristan’s longings; Dandrane, Percival’s sister and herself a quester (Perlesvaus); Queen Ygerne/Igraine, Arthur’s mother; Laudine the Lady of the Fountain, and her clever maid Lunete; Olwen, daughter of the giant Ysbaddaden Pencawr; etc. — none of which get airtime in KAP 5.2.
(By the way, the original romances also include a few persons of colour, men and women.)
Finally, we have substantial numbers of women among scholars of the Arthurian cycle (e.g., Fanni Bogdanow, Jill M. Roberts, Christine Ferlampin-Acher, Emma Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz) and among modern-day novelists who based new tales on the legendary characters (e.g., Marion Zimmer Bradley, Kim Iverson Headlee, Patricia Kennealy, Debra Kemp, Gillian Bradshaw.)
My point is, women were a key audience for the source material, were represented among the earliest writers we know of, were present as active characters in the tales, and have since spent a lot of time, effort, talent, study, and ink over these stories. Why is it so hard for a game writer who has been at it for over thirty years himself to notice all these women? To notice that women want to write, read, GM, and play Arthurian romances, not as quest objects or rewards, or as eternal support characters, but as protagonists?
Yes, I know an effort was made. I can’t but notice it since I am graciously told:
Generate a female knight exactly the same way you would a male knight. In the real world, women are statistically smaller and weaker than men by about 15%, but female knights should be allowed to use the same Attributes for men to generate female characters. […]
Oh, thank you, Good Sir! I will be allowed to play my 6th century knight in 15th century armour à la Malory and not be hosed by the game rules for playing a woman? Thank you, thank you!
And then the section goes on to inform us that female knights should be called “Sir”, not “Lady” or “Dame” because that’s something entirely different. Really! I assume that Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, at whose court author Marie de France sat, was called “sir” when she rode in armour with the Second Crusade?
[See also examples in http://www.tor.com/2017/02/23/five-amazing-women-warriors-of-the-middle-ages/]
Pendragon 5.2 does not in fact prevent you from playing a woman knight, nor add stat penalties. It’s just sanctimonious in a “We really should penalize you, but we’re so nice,” begrudging kind of way; and erases important female characters and authors from its discussion.
Greg Stafford answers a straw(wo)man version of the issue in his short essay “This is a Sexist Setting.” However, he phrases it as if the setting had an objective external existence and he was its defender. It’s important here to be clear on what “the setting” is. Are we talking about:
- The fictional setting of the entire body of writing that is classified as Arthurian romance, from Taliesin to Sir Thomas Malory?
- The historical context the stories are purportedly set in, around a late 5th century/early 6th century warlord?
- The historical setting at the time the stories were told and written, primarily from the 10th through 15th centuries?
- The fictional setting strictly as represented by Malory — who wrote at the end of the Arthurian romance period of peak popularity and furthest from the era it covers?
- The fictional setting as presented in the various editions of the King Arthur Pendragon role-playing game, from 1985 through 2016?
My complaint is that showing women as full and empowered characters in Arthurian romance should not be an afterthought, but a key piece.
I’m tired, exhausted of the backhanded gifts, the grudging concessions, the caveats, the faux “realism,” the obliviousness to the existing, long-standing participation and contribution of women. Why are you trying to open the door as little as possible rather than throwing them wide open? Why do you not see the ample precedent you have in and around the source material to justify erring on the side of openness?
Come at me, 2017
As you might have guessed, the last several weeks have been harder on my morale than my body. The last stretch of the American presidential election was hugely stress-inducing, and the results were soul-crushing. I know my friends know what I’m talking about, I heard it in their words and read it in their posts. Except for the most upbeat of topics — my gaming group, Thanksgiving, and the good progress in my treatment — I have been unable to write anything in over eight weeks. I keep thinking of words in my head, it’s all there, but I’ve been unable to put them down in writing.
Two months ago, I was cautiously optimistic. I thought we would probably get a weak Clinton victory, then some incremental building on the cautious progress made under the Obama administration; against this backdrop, I was expecting to focus a lot of energy on my geek communities, and particularly the gaming community, as I returned to health.
Then the world changed. I’m still not ready to unpack this event, but the result is that people previously known as “Gamergators,” “MRAs,” “pissing booth warriors” and “some racist trolls in the bottom drawer of the Internet” now feel emboldened to take their assholiness for a stroll in real space. Suddenly, it’s not just in a few compartments of our lives that we can meet with acts of hatred from people we don’t even know. After what most of us considered a shitty year, 2017 looks like it will be even worse. I met January 1st more downcast and apprehensive than I ever have in my life.
My backlog of writing is not helped by the fact that I feel I will be discussing many unpleasant topics this year. Indeed, in late October and early November before I sank into depression, I was planning to start writing a series tackling some of the successes, failures, and possible paths forward for diversity in tabletop gaming and related geeky pursuits. I feel this is more needed now than ever, but I don’t know how much justice I will be able to do to the topics.
Nevertheless, I can’t just roll over and play dead. It’s not the first time I have dealt with depression, and I will deal with it this time again. In fact, I was hit by a wave at about the same time the year before, when my kind and benevolent employer unilaterally cut my hours and stripped me of my benefits. You know what got me out of the ditch? Cancer. That’s right, sometimes it’s not an improvement in circumstances that serves as the ladder to climb out of a hole, but a disaster you have to respond to. And 2017 looks to be quite the disaster, so I might as well hold on to that to climb.
Happy New Year, folks. Me, I take pride in the fact that I managed to write this post without too much profanity.
Thanks all around
Yes, it’s that time once again in the U.S.A., Thanksgiving and sharing your gratitude. It was not difficult to find things to be thankful for, but it was difficult to write about them; 2016 was a very sucky year from the global level to the personal level. Nonetheless, I have things I’m very grateful for.
Thanks, Obama — actually, that’s Thanks, Mr. President, and I’m thankful for that. You have been a smart, compassionate, dignified, eloquent, funny president for eight years and I will miss you so much.
And thanks, Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker. You encouraged us to be our better selves during this depressing, mind-boggling year of election campaigning.
Thanks, people of good will and honest mind who have fought, and plan to keep fighting, the return of fascism around the world.
Thanks to my husband Edmund who had a year of waiting on me hand and foot. I know this was rough and I assure you that I never forgot, in the midst of my own problems, what you were going through.
Thanks to my family — my mother, siblings, extended family who also had their own sorrows this year. I know you were worried about me, and hated that I was so far from you in a country known for its terrifying health care system. I hope I kept you informed enough to reassure you.
Thanks, my friends close and far, including many wonderful people I have never met face-to-face! Thank you for the encouragements, the help navigating bureaucracies, the cute animal pictures, the interesting discussions, the sage advice, the thoughtful gifts, and the simple fact that you cared.
Thanks, Valentine, Ubaid and Phantom, my three felinotherapists. You take good care of me.
In which direction lies progress?
I have not forgotten that I promised to go back over the “Two Minutes Hate” issue for the three-month assessment of its impact onto the tabletop role-playing community, and particularly the parts of the community centering on indie and small-press games. Since I started the assessment, I have tallied responses from a variety of threads online, and discussed with and interviewed many people closely involved with and/or affected by the events.
In short, based the evidence I collated I believe that after three months (I’ll get back to this in a moment), the impacts of “Two Minutes Hate” and its follow-up FAQ have been more negative than positive, and that the negative impacts are disproportionately felt by a few people who were already on the receiving end for frequent online abuse. The post failed to clearly convey Mark’s intended message and caused harm both directly and indirectly to people singled out as examples. I see the following as key errors:Continue reading “In which direction lies progress?”
Did we see progress?
Trigger warning: Online harassment in the tabletop role-playing community.
In late July, Mark Diaz Truman posted a reflection on his company blog (Magpie Games) about a perceived conflict in tabletop role-playing sub-communities, followed by a FAQ a few days later. I gave my own opinion back then when Mark asked, in response to my disagreement:
I’d also encourage us all (including me) to look at the effects 3 mo, 6 mo, and a year down the road.
It’s time to check in on the effects of the post after three months. Mark concluded his posts with:
I want to inspire conversation and self-reflection, and I believe that people have engaged in productive discussions both online and offline as a result of the post.
If you have been following the various conversations that Mark’s thoughts sparked, if you have some familiarity with the tabletop role-playing community and particularly with the subsets Mark focused on, OSR and story games, what if anything did you observe? For example:
- Do you feel this has affected the way you post? If so, how?
- Are any voices more frequently heard since these posts? Or less frequently?
- Has the tone of community influencers changed in any relevant way?
- Have certain frequent or prominent discussions changed in tone, style, or frequency?
If you can cite data, like Jessica Price and Jason Corley did last time, extra special thanks.
Credits: Illustration is called “Depression Hurts“, by Inkin Oddity; released under Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.