Blindspot (i.e. Tattooed Amnesiacs are Awesome)

In my robust imaginary world, someone at NBC is a major SHADOWBANE fan, as evidenced by the recent premiere of a pretty neat show called BLINDSPOT (Monday nights on NBC,, Tuesdays and after on Hulu Plus).

In this show, a heavily tattooed woman (Jaimie Alexander, of Lady Sif fame, who probably should have been Wonder Woman, but meh, comic books) is found naked in a duffel bag in the middle of Times Square, completely devoid of memory (because of some sort of experimental drug, obvs). The tattoos absolutely cover 90% of her body, holding all kinds of symbolism and secret messages. She is basically a shaved head and some psychosis away from being Jack from Mass Effect 2.

Her muscle/procedural memory is still intact, meaning she still has most of her skill points in non-INT based skills. One of her tats is the name of a scruffy/rough FBI Agent’s name positioned very prominently on her upper back (seems like a shame to waste that space). And it quickly turns out that not only can she do really cool things–like speak obscure Chinese dialects (more on that later), martial art with the best in the world (though her build looks unsurprisingly more like that of a model than a gymnast or MMA fighter), and shoot really good (thanks to another, even more scruffy mystery dude)–her tattoos are also instrumental clues in solving and preventing crimes/terrorist attacks. Her name? Jane Doe, at least for now.

For those of you who’ve read DOWNSHADOW and subsequent books, you might recall a certain blue-haired girl who appeared in an alley in Waterdeep, devoid of her memories (because of magic, obvs), whose spells manifest on her body in the form of arcane tattoos that glow blue when used, she can speak in exotic languages that no one else can understand (she’s speaking a lower planes dialect–a devil’s language, if you will–when she first appears, btw). And of course, getting involved with her leads to all sorts of adventures, many of them directly tied to her mysterious amnesia and tattoos.

So . . . this show is pretty much exactly what I want to watch. :)

A couple specific points:

1) Jaimie Alexander is awesome. Seriously, this is a tricky role, from the cultural taboos of that many tattoos to lacking memory of herself to trying to relate to people and to herself, and she plays it really well. Her performance seems to waver constantly between crushing anxiety and trying desperately to be helpful, because if she’s not doing anything, she has to think about her situation. The amnesia/tattoos thing does seem to be a bit of an excuse to get her naked/topless a lot, which is a bit of an eyeroll. But, meh, TV, I suppose. Hopefully there’ll be less as we go forward.

(I only get Myrin naked a couple times–when she’s first discovered in book 1, and once during book 2–which I think is about as many times as I get Kalen naked. But I digress.)

2) Was that Patriarchy for a second there? At one point they discover that Jane Doe has an old tattoo under her current ones, which appears to be some kind of Navy Seal tattoo. The female analyst who discovered this points it out to the female task force leader (whose name escapes me at the moment–I don’t usually know any character names until around 4 episodes in), saying “but we’ve never had a female SEAL,” and the leader says something to the effect of “if we did, do you think we’d broadcast it everywhere?” To which my response was, “well, yeah–I’d like to think the U.S. government would have sufficient self-awareness to realize its massive issues with gender disparity in the armed forces and would proudly highlight a successful female member of such a prestigious group.” It’s especially odd for two women to have that conversation, and not have any sort of reaction to it. Ah, patriarchy, you old subtle dog.

3) Just like in a Vin Diesel movie: From a narrative perspective, if you take a brick of C-4 off into the subway tunnels with 20-30 seconds left to go on the timer, you’re basically gonna die. And that’s what I was expecting–that character would suddenly die, making for a totally unexpected twist in the first episode. It seems extremely unlikely you’ll be able to stash it somewhere and get to cover and not be either killed immediately in the explosion or killed in the resulting cave-in. But ok, fine, I can suspend disbelief that far.

Then again, if you take the C-4 into the tunnel about a 10 second run away (which is probably only 30-50 yards or so), *tear off pieces* of the C-4 to *minimize the explosion* (O.o), narrate to your dubious buddy through your earpiece what you’re doing (you get good reception in the SUBWAY?), then *throw* the C-4 away with 2 seconds left on the timer (hitting what, 20 feet? 30 feet? that’s an awkward shotput), then it explodes, I’m sorry, you’re probably gonna die, from the explosion, shrapnel, cave-in, suffocation, etc. But ok, fine, I can suspend my disbelief even THAT far.

What I cannot suspend my disbelief for is to have the heroic agent then walk out of the dusty but otherwise undamaged subway system, about a minute later, not bruised or burned or covered in dust but still ruggedly handsome, and–when asked if he’s all right in a normal tone of voice–responds immediately and completely normally, like some sort of steely action hero. You’d think his hearing would have been AT LEAST TEMPORARILY impaired. But no.

My question is, if the FBI didn’t know Superman was on the team, why aren’t they a little more freaked out? :)

4) The Devil’s Language: So this sounds like a thing that was made up for the show. The FBI task force at some point receives a bunch of emails written in “an obscure Chinese dialect” that they’re “having trouble” decoding. They dub it the “devil’s language,” which smacks of mystic Orientalism. Fortunately, Jane Doe speaks that language fluently, in addition to comparatively simple Mandarin, making her a key element of the response plan.

The thing is, Wenzhounese is a real thing–a notoriously difficult dialect spoken in China, which was used as a code during WWII because it’s just that difficult to parse. And apparently, viewers in China are pretty pleased by its inclusion in the show. So . . . go NBC? :)

In Summary:

This show has some of the obvious flaws that NBC and other big time TV shows usually do: white action girl syndrome, an iffy grasp of physics, an overwhelmingly white cast (with a couple exceptions), and the sort of break-neck pacing you expect from a procedural thriller. Then again, Jaimie Alexander is awesome and performs this role quite well, the leads have good chemistry, the premise is intriguing, and tattooed ladies need more spotlight.

I’ll keep watching, and I think you should check it out too. :)


Liking Problematic Things

I recently posted an article about feminist criticism (le gasp!), specifically how you can criticize aspects of a thing you like and still like that thing overall, and was immediately hit with the “why are we talking about women in movies? Can’t we just enjoy movies?”, as though feminism isn’t a legitimate critical paradigm or we shouldn’t ever bother with perspectives other than our own.

How about we look at an analogy, and this is for my male friends especially:

There’s an action movie that is part of a billion-dollar industry series and wicked popular. It has an all female cast, except for two dudes–one major, one minor–who never interact and are only there basically to be pretty and occasionally take part in the (admittedly good) action scenes. At one point, the major dude character has a dialogue about how he doesn’t feel manly enough because he’s losing his hair. Also he’s in a kinda-forced romantic subplot with one of the female characters, but he ends up sexually assaulting her (or at least forces her to do something she doesn’t want without her consent) and then she dumps him at the end and heads off to parts unknown.

Women might love this movie as a power-fulfillment fantasy. Men might even love it for its action sequences and the fact that a man at least got to be in it. But is it treating the male voice reasonably and responsibly? Is it being artistically true and sensible? Is it not a sensible target for criticism?

There. I’ve just described what your experience might be like if you were a woman watching Age of Ultron.

The movie’s great. It’s fun, it’s got great stunts and effects, it’s even got some interesting ideas and scenes. It’s part of a major series that is wildly popular and earns Marvel billions every year.

But there’s a discussion to be had about how it treats its female characters. Black Widow has been placed in basically the position of having to represent all women, all the time, because she’s the only significant female voice in the movie. Scarlet Witch and Dr. Cho, while cool, are very minor characters. If there were other female characters presenting other points of view, that would be one thing, but being the sole voice puts a huge amount of pressure on Black Widow, and it’s a legitimate discussion about whether the writing lived up.

Now imagine 90% of movies are this way. Heavily emphasizing the female perspective, reducing the male voice to little more than a few minor characters who are caricatures of traditionally male issues or images. They’re all muscle-bound hunks to ogle or whiny nerds to laugh at. Movie after movie, men are presented in boring, stereotypical ways, hardly ever important to the story, rarely adding anything other than eye candy or comedy relief.

That’s what the movie industry is like for women.

And plenty of women like movies. Plenty of men who are aware of feminist criticism and sensitive to gender issues like movies. And they can still criticize those aspects of them that are wrong, incongruous, unfair, or lacking in artistic honesty.


Wouldn’t it be better if we had equal representation? A diverse group of male characters, a diverse group of female characters, a diverse group of characters from in between on the gender spectrum? Interesting stories from all across, not the same catering to one gender or another?

Have your muscle-bound dudes and your sexy ladies, but also give us the reverse–muscle-bound ladies and sexy dudes. Give us sly, intelligent characters. Give us fully developed characters of all genders. Give us non-heterosexual characters. Give us asexual characters. Give us all kinds of stories. Stop recycling the same outmoded formula–even if we sometimes say “I like it, except…”

The thing is? We’d like better art MORE, and without any exceptions.


Further reading:

The original article, from the AV club:

Feminism, Movies, Reviews

Guide for the Shy Geek: 8 Tips for My Younger Self

UPDATE! Added an eighth tip to pull it all together. :)

So I read an article a few months ago that really hit home, and I just saw it reposted today:

The Plight of the Bitter Nerd: Why so many Awkward, Shy Guys End Up Hating Feminism

Not saying that I agree with everything contained therein, but I saw enough truth there that it really got me thinking about my own life: where I’ve been, how I’ve changed, where I am now, and where I’d like to go.

(And after over a year marked by misogynist rage on the internet, in government, or behind the sights of a handgun, I think some of this needs to be said.)

And maybe some of that might help you, the shy geek/nerd/whatever. Because I’ve been where you are, man, and I know it is ROUGH. But it gets better–it absolutely does. Or at least it *can*, and that’s where you come in. You have more control over your destiny than you think.

Therefore, my 7 Tips for My Younger Self, i.e., the Shy Geek’s Guide to Women, Relationships, and Life.

These aren’t guaranteed to bring you in touch with a wonderful partner with whom you can pursue a fulfilling long-term relationship (LTR), but they will help you open yourself up and expand your potential dating pool. And even if they don’t work at all, I guarantee you that you’ll end up happier and healthier and just better after putting these into practice.

Full disclosure: I am an at least mostly heterosexual, white cis-male in his early thirties who’s been in a 13+ year LTR with a wonderful woman a year older than me, including being married more than half of those years. The below is written from that standpoint and in that paradigm, and it will intentionally use language that assumes the audience of these tips are primarily geeky men-seeking-women. I am not an expert on dating or seduction or relationships–I just know what I’ve done that has worked, and what hasn’t. When it’s worked, it’s worked really damn well. And when I’ve made mistakes, well, here’s your chance to learn from those mistakes.

Also note: I’m not interested in talking down to anyone or pretending that I’m perfect. These are just some things that worked for me, and they might help you too. Not all of them will work all the time–this is only meant to be a toolbox. Use what works.

Without Further Ado

It starts really basic, and that’s pointing out that you are worthy of being valued and loved. Every human being is. You might not think it now, but you will.

That isn’t a “get-out-of-responsibility-free” card, though. Just because you possess the basic qualification of being *able* to be loved doesn’t mean that people will automatically come love you (and especially it doesn’t mean that you should be angry that they don’t). You need to start by valuing yourself–value yourself enough to make your life better.

And here are seven ideas to make that happen.

Let’s start first with an attitude adjustment. #1 is the main thing you need to remember.

1. Nothing you ever do will result in someone *owing* you sex, affection, or love.

I’m sorry (not sorry) to say that life isn’t Zelda, or Super Mario Brothers, or one of the zillion other games we grew up on where if we saved the day, the damsel would fall into our arms and we’d ride off into the sunset. Or if it were Metroid, if we tried really hard and got through the game really fast, a hot chick would take her clothes off for us.


Love cannot be bought or earned or owed or entitled or any of that sh*t. You’re thinking of obligation, and let me tell you, if someone does something for you out of obligation, that’s not what you want. Love is given freely–and believe me, that’s the way you want it.

And by the way, when I said “sorry (not sorry)” that’s because I see non-entitlement as a *good* thing. It isn’t incumbent on us geeky dudes to save the world or fight the villain or accomplish some great quest in order to *earn* a love interest. Love is a give-and-take between two parties, ideally 50/50–you don’t have to do 100% of the work, but rather only half of it.

What sort of work? Read on.

2. Make yourself interesting.

People like to hang around people they find interesting. This might be mutual interests/hobbies/books/movies, this might be compelling stories, this might be a refined sense of humor, this might be passion about a particular issue or subject, or it might be all of the above.

Basically, it’s more likely that women (i.e. a type of person) might take an interest in you if you are interesting. If you’re not interesting, you’re closing yourself off to a lot of potential connections, friendships, and yes, romantic relationships.

What subjects should you pursue in order to make yourself interesting? Well, I suppose that depends on what sort of woman you intend to attract. If you want a girlfriend who’ll go hiking with you, go hiking a lot. Join clubs that are about the outdoors. Plan trips to climb up mountains. Cultivate some stories about hiking trips.

If you want a gamer girlfriend, go to more conventions, play more and more types of games than you’re used to. Hang around with gamers who socialize more. Play different sorts of characters to broaden your experience and perspective and cultivate stories.

Learn a new language. Become a vegetarian. Take up bicycling. Or boxing.

Also, it’s entirely likely that your interests won’t put you in contact with any eligible bachelorettes, but that’s fine. There are plenty of women out there who’d love to pick up a new hobby or are interested in hearing about one. Get out there and do sh*t–it will make you a well rounded fellow and a more interesting person to know. And it’ll probably make you feel better about yourself anyway.

And on that note . . .

3. Stop closing doors–broaden your horizons.

Every door you shut, that’s another section of your potential social connections that you close out.

Cultivate a healthy curiosity about the world and about new experiences. Say “yes” more than you say “no.” Meet new people–different kinds of people, from different ethnic backgrounds, religions or non-religions, with different points of view. The more you expose yourself to the unknown, the more you learn, and the more you incorporate into yourself and your own vision.

Above all, don’t be afraid. Fear is what’s going to rise up to stop you from stepping outside your comfort zone. But the journey can’t be done in the confines of your little apartment–you’ve got to open the door, step out onto the porch, and find the road.

The side benefit, of course, of considering other viewpoints is that it makes you yourself more canny and discerning when it comes to truth vs. bullshit. If you want to max out your Sense Motive/Insight skills, you need to question everything, examine multiple opinions and views, and come up with something that works for you. And the first step? Recognizing that people are people, all of them worthy of respect and dignity.

4. Work on Yourself.

No one’s going to love you if you don’t love yourself, and how can you love yourself if your life sucks?

Improve your station in life. Get a better job. Get a better living situation. Save for retirement. Learn how to be responsible with money management.

Fix your sh*t. If you have health issues (physical or mental), get help to fix them. Nerdy types like us have a tendency toward depression and repressed anger issues, and you need to get rid of those. Depression is a chronic mental illness, so find treatments that work for you and use them. (You may not be able to cure yourself of depression–few of us are able to do so–but you can find ways to manage it.)

I was going to say something about attitudes and opinions, but that’s covered in #6, below. :)

(And remember, these things? This list? You’re doing this as much for yourself as for any prospective romantic partner. Even if dealing with your issues and problems doesn’t attract a mate, it will certainly make your life a lot better.)

5. Get Healthier.

No, I don’t mean join a fitness gym and win the next Mr. Universe contest. (Though sure, I won’t stop you if you want to go for that.) I mean make your health a priority. You want someone else to treat your body well? Why don’t you start doing that yourself?

And always remember: health in general is not a sprint but a marathon, and it’s one you’ll be running your whole life. I’m not talking about a crash course to make yourself all better over a few months or a year. This is a lifestyle change: you will need to follow these five sub-steps all the time for the rest of your life. (And don’t worry–it gets easier!)

This has several aspects, in this order of importance:

a) Drink enough water.

I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Drink (and I’m not kidding you) a gallon of water a day. It flushes unhealthy chemicals and helps everything work correctly in there.

I know a dude who literally drinks 2 gallons of water a day. His doctor tells him he has the cleanest system he’s ever seen in any patient ever.

b) Eat better: 90% of health is your diet.

The biggest health threat is the huge amount of sugar, salt, and fat the average American consumes, particularly with nowhere to send all that excess energy. It turns right into fat in your body and leads to all sorts of health maladies. Instead, you should get most of your calories from lean proteins, healthy fats (think nuts, avocados, etc), and vegetables.

Cut down on processed food and eventually eliminate it entirely. If it comes in a can or a plastic bag inside a box? Don’t eat it. Avoid high sugar or salted foods. Stop drinking soda–it’s just highly sugared water. Don’t eat fast food. Period.

Cook for yourself more, and throw in lots of vegetables. No one ever died from eating too many vegetables, and they will help round out your meals. When I started doing this, I ate lots of stir-fries (with good oils, like coconut or well process olive oil, not canola or anything with trans fats) over a big bed of greens–spinach or lettuce, whatever you like. Bell peppers are amazing. Cultivate your tastebuds.

Eat less or leaner kinds of meat (chicken rather than beef rather than pork). You can go full vegetarian or even vegan if that works for you, but start with *reducing* your meat intake. I currently eat meat a couple times a week, and the rest of my protein comes from various vegetable sources. Here’s an article to address the omnipresent “but where do you get your protein?” question.

I’m going to suggest you cut down on the dairy. At first, I thought I couldn’t do it, but the less milk and cheese I consumed, the lighter and more spry I felt, and eventually I’ve 98% given it up, and I’m doing great.

And when you *do* get in a LTR of some kind, eat the things she eats, and share the things you eat. If she eats better than you do, get on her diet. If she doesn’t eat healthy things you’re particularly proud of, encourage her to give them a try. The couple that eats/cooks together, etc.

(Not to mention that if you stop supporting the meat and dairy industries, that’s just sound environmental practice.)

c) Stop it with the drugs.

I’m a big fan of legalization, but not because I partake. I’ve never smoked cigarettes or pipes or weed, I’ve never done drugs, and I’ve only been really drunk a handful of times in my life. This has never been a particular problem for me personally, but it can be for some of us.

A little pot every now and then probably won’t hurt anyone, and the same goes for alcohol (though if you drink and drive, get help before you hurt yourself or someone else). But tobacco will f*ck up your body and is counterproductive to this whole health thing.

Cool it with the caffeine, too. If you drink coffee or soda on a daily basis, you’re probably addicted to caffeine already, and you should really get off it. It can make you moody, mess up your sleep cycle, damage your appetite, and generally impair your health quest. Go with decaf (which is mostly caffeine free) or take up herbal tea.

d) Get enough sleep.

This is really important. Sleep is necessary for your body to regulate itself correctly, and getting too little will lead you to all kinds of problems, primarily metabolic and mental in nature. Also, if you’re exercising and you’re not sleeping, you’re not going to get anything out of it.

If you feel tired in the mornings, go to bed earlier. Don’t medicate with coffee. Try some meditation or reading to quiet your mind before bed. If you have insomnia or other sleep disorders, talk to your doctor.

Most people need 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Get it in.

e) Exercise.

Everyone has a different set of exercises that will work for them, and I’m not a personal trainer, so I can’t ascribe a regimen here. If you can, join a gym and find a trainer you can respect and communicate with. Join a team of people who are working out. Find a few friends or even people you don’t know. Join a running team. Or biking.

Paired with a good diet and all the above things, exercise has the potential to make you look much more appealing, both to yourself and others. It is a long, long road, however–don’t expect much in the way of results over the short term. It might take you years before you see any real difference, depending on how vigorous you are. And if you’re anything like me, you might still see that skinny-fat nerdy kid with no muscle. Body image issues are a good thing to bring up with your therapist–in the interim, just know that people around you *will* notice a difference.

In summary, get healthier. When you are healthier, you will feel better, you’ll have more energy, you’ll seem happier, you will be more attractive, and you’ll be able to do more of those things you’re doing to make yourself interesting (see #2).

6. Educate Yourself.

If your childhood was anything like mine, you grew up exposed to all kinds of harmful messages about women being some sort of alien creature, fundamentally different from you–at once unattainable and seemingly extremely available, just not to you.

I know you’ve been exposed to this attitude, because I see it on TV and in movies all the time. I see it on the Internet all the time. And when I was younger, it was even more prevalent, and there were fewer contradictory voices out there to educate myself. It wasn’t until I broadened my horizons (see #3 above) that I realized how fully and completely I’d been lied to by the media around me all the time.

You probably hold all kinds of incorrect beliefs which are going to get in the way of your social development, and particularly as regards developing a LTR with anyone, much less an intelligent, sensitive woman who’s not going to put up with your crap.

For example, if you think feminism calls for the downfall of men, you’re wrong. Read this article. And do more research from there.

If you don’t know what “cis” means, read this article. Do more research from there.

This knowledge may or may not come in handy, and your prospective LTR may not care in the slightest, but it’s worth it for the general feeling you should be gathering from this research: that people different from you–women, LGBT people, republicans, etc–are just that, people. They have thoughts and feelings and are worthy of your respect. Use their preferred names and pronouns.

Which leads to my seventh and final tip…

7. Be Nice to People.

Anyone can be nice to someone they desire sexually. That’s literally the lowest level of game you can have in your arsenal. But if you want to be the high charisma, 10th level bard rather than the charisma-dump-stat 1st level barbarian, you’re going to need to up it.

Be nice to people in general, not because you want them to like you or potentially have sex with you, but because it’s the RIGHT THING TO DO.

And for the sake of blessed d20, don’t insult, harass, troll, or threaten people. That’s not even barbarian sh*t. That’s straight up kobold-level game. And it’s embarrassing for you, for me, for geeks everywhere.

Practice being nice to people you don’t immediately find attractive. Say hello, engage them in conversation about their days. I’ll give you a hint, you probably do this with your guy friends all the time. The other people you encounter? They are also people, and you can be nice to them the same way.

Basically, treat everyone with dignity, respect, and a basic level of politeness, and you will find–as if by a 9th level spell previously unfathomed in the PHB–people will start being nice to you in return.  Not all of them, of course–some of them are stuck in barbarian mode–but that’s fine. We all have our own road to walk.

And I’m gonna add an eighth one here:

8) Believe in yourself. Be better–for *you*, not for anyone else.

It might sound like I’ve spent much of this post offering tough feedback, telling you you’re not good enough, etc, etc, but that isn’t true. Every human being has the potential to be great–these are just techniques to unlock it. And the key to all of those is to focus on why you’re working to better yourself: for yourself, not for anyone else.

Because if you have a finite goal–acquiring a romantic partner, running a marathon, looking good at the beach, etc–you will be disappointed. There is no event–no person–no acquisition that will ever complete you. There is no One True Love that you will get with, and it makes your life all better, and if you enter into a relationship expecting someone to make you all better, you’re going to be miserable. That’s too much pressure to put on one person: your magical relationship will fail and you’ll be worse off than when you started.

Nothing external to yourself will give you meaning–it will only help you unlock your own meaning.

What do I mean by this? Work on yourself. Better yourself. Respect yourself. Believe that you can do it, and you will find a way to do it.

Then start respecting others. Recognize that they too are people with their own paths to walk–their own insecurities and weaknesses and fears and hopes and dreams, all of them just as valid and worthy as yours. When you come to view other people as people, regardless of how different they may look or feel or act, you will unlock something deep and good in yourself.

And nothing is as attractive as that inner light.


Here are some warnings and well-wishes.

If you’re a geeky dude, odds are things are going to be tough sometimes in your life. You’re going to want things that seem impossible to achieve for you, but easy for non-geeks. You’re going to get frustrated.

But instead of letting that frustration make you bitter, look at it as a challenge–a reminder from the world to step out of your comfort zone and improve yourself, so that you can master it. Level up your game. Find people who like what you do and hang out with them. Treat people with respect.

The world doesn’t owe anyone anything. All it does is provide us with the opportunities to achieve what we want.

And no doubt you’re going to run across people who are just so charismatic, beautiful, and magnetic that they’re going to make life awkward for you. But what you need to recognize is that this is not something *they* are doing to you, but something that you are doing (unintentionally) to yourself.

If you find yourself tongue-tied around a beautiful woman (still happens to me frequently), try looking at her not as some sort of goddess on a pedestal who deigns to pay attention to you, but as a person just like you–as worthy and capable of respect and wit and banter and affection as any of us. Hopefully, that’ll make it easier.

Good luck, my geeky dude friends. It gets better–but only if you make it so. :)


Further Reading:

Arthur Chu on The Plight of the Bitter Nerd (article linked at the top as well)

Laurie Penny on Nerd Entitlement

Amanda Marcotte on The “Real Oppression” of Having to Learn to Talk to Women

Lindy West on how Misandry isn’t a Thing

Nerdlove’s Gentleman’s Guide to Not Being an Asshole

Feminism, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Equality Heroes and the Inequality Dragon

Here’s a set of questions I see often: Why Feminism? Why #BlackLivesMatter? Why not just Humanism and call it good?

Sometimes, these are rhetorical questions. They’re being asked not because someone wants an answer, but actually because that someone wants to silence the conversation. Bury feminist theories or the concerns about treatment of black people under a “but there are bigger issues!” waterfall.

This blog isn’t about addressing that (which is just kind of a dick move). Rather, it’s about answering the questions when legitimately asked. There are a lot of people out there who believe in social justice and being good to people but balk at the term “Feminist” or “BLM.” Partly this is because the opposition has done such a pervasive job making those terms unpalatable (“Feminazis?” Really. Pathetic . . . but effective), and partly due to a general misunderstanding of the concepts at hand.

Hence, this blog post. And yes, it’s about gaming. :)

So. Why do we need Feminism, when we should all just get along? Humanism, after all, includes equality for women, right? Same with #BlackLivesMatter or a focus on the issues and struggles of trans* people.

Here’s the thing: We all have different classes, and we all have different roles.

If you had a party of fighters, they’d be really good at one thing (fighting), but pretty crappy at other things (dealing with magic barriers, picking locks, healing wounds, etc). That’s why you need a balanced party of people who specialize in different techniques.

In this way, equality activists often specialize, just like any sort of worker in lots of fields. For example, feminists (let’s call them “knights”) specialize in gender issues, particularly women’s rights. Meanwhile black rights activists (BLM supporters, etc, let’s call them “wizards”) specialize in racial issues, particular black rights. And economical equality activists (“priests”) work against corporate control of our destiny and crushing the poor with debt. (Rangers are animal rights activists, obviously. Rogues are probably about police militarization. The metaphor stretches.)

These Equality Heroes may have different classes and they may not always get along, but they’re all working toward the same overall goal: slaying the Inequality Dragon.

Much like their fantasy counterparts, Equality Heroes gravitate toward fields that match their interests and abilities and connections, and usually their own identities (i.e. just like higher strength scores predispose people to become knights, being a woman predisposes one to become a feminist, and higher intelligence scores inspire more wizards like being black inspires more black people to work for racial equality). Once there, they work on disabling the inequality through their particular chosen path.

They do this because the Inequality Dragon is such a huge, sprawling monster that if you try and tackle it all at once, you’d never get anywhere. You have to come at it from different angles. But the end goal is always the same: actual equality.

Just because feminists aren’t aiming directly at the heart of the beast, for example, doesn’t mean they’re not working toward killing it–they’ve just got a bunch of armor to dismantle first. Inequality is a huge boss monster, and we’ve all got to work together to deplete its health.

Why mention this? Well, when you come at feminism with “but men are raped too” or “but in Iran . . .” that doesn’t dismantle feminism–that’s a non-sequitur at best, a straw man at worst. Of course those are awful things, and of course none of us want those things.

(And heck, men being raped is part of the patriarchy, which is the part of the boss that feminism is actively attacking, so that is actually one of their issues. But pointing out that men are raped sometimes does not mean women are not also raped sometimes. And also, it being horrific somewhere else does not mean that what happens over here is ok. Not by a long shot.)

So when you see a video or read a graphic proclaiming “take down of feminism” because it points out that awful things happen to men and why don’t feminists talk about that? Or that we shouldn’t talk about #BlackLivesMatter because police sometimes shoot white people and don’t #AllLivesMatter?

That’s the Inequality Dragon making an attack roll–trying to confuse the issue.

And those people in those videos who are all torn up about things or get emotional? They are trying to manipulate you into helping them silence the conversation, either because they don’t understand what’s going on, or because they *do* and are actively working for the Dragon.

Don’t split the party.

Don’t be a minion of the Inequality Dragon.

Be a Dragon Slayer. :)

Feminism, Gaming, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Philosophy Minor Moment: Belief vs. Principle

I think there’s a difference between a “principle” and a “belief.”
Most of us living today would describe the contents of Mein Kampf, for instance, as a set of “beliefs,” rather than “principles,” though I’m fairly sure the author considered them principles. For Hitler, racial supremacy was a noble quest–his destiny in the world. Or at least, that’s the impression he offered his followers. (I can’t say for sure–I never met the man.)
That’s just an example, btw: Obviously this woman in the news that I’m talking about without naming isn’t at that end of the spectrum–for instance, she doesn’t have the power of a modern, industrial state behind her and hasn’t expressed any wish to hurt anyone. Seeing as her “principle” of discriminating against homosexual couples is rooted in her “beliefs” about what her religion says, I think we can conclude that what she is standing up for is more “belief” than “principle.”
Perhaps what we need is a differential definition. (And I promise, I’m gonna start using geeky metaphorical examples–none of this real world business. I’m a geek, you know?)
PRINCIPLE: A kind of recipe for action
I would suggest that a “principle” is a general view or paradigm of how to live a good life in or otherwise better the world. That it’s good to treating people with respect, for instance, or feed the hungry. They’re general guidelines that influence (not necessarily determine) behavior. Not everyone shares these principles, but I think we can all see that they exist and that some people follow them.
Principles can sometimes get in the way of what we want or otherwise interfere with our lives or those of others. If I live by the principle of “do not steal,” I probably won’t help you rob a convenience store. If I live by a principle of “treat people with respect,” I’m probably going to call you out if you’re a dick to someone online.
Daredevil lives by a principle of “do not kill”: beat, throttle, pound, and otherwise incapacitate foes, but don’t kill them. The Marvel TV show for Daredevil that recently aired is all about testing this principle. Same with Batman, Superman, and most DC heroes, though DD is pretty on the nose all the time.
Principles are active: I think principles always require an action, whether of commission or omission, if they are challenged or otherwise engaged. If someone is being attacked, and you live by a principle of “protect people whenever possible,” you must needs either 1) intervene if you can, thus acting according to that principle, or 2) fail to intervene, thus shaking that principle. You are the arbiter of your own actions and principles–it is not necessarily illegal to fail to adhere to your principles, but it might well cause you psychic distress not to act in accordance with your principles, and/or perhaps even challenge you about having that principle at all.
Principles aren’t necessarily good, though the word has a positive connotation. If it is your principle to discriminate against mutants, for instance, I think we can generally agree that’s a bad thing. Usually when we talk about principles, we mean something good, like cleaving close to one’s beliefs about the world. But what if those beliefs are bad?
BELIEF: A kind of premise
A “belief” is something more specific, without definitive evidence (because then it would be a fact), and often (though not always) controversial. For instance, I might have a “belief” that the sun revolves around the earth or that the earth is flat or that octopi are aliens from the planet Arthopodus. Some beliefs can be confirmed, some cannot–most persistent beliefs defy easy confirmation or dismissal.
Beliefs are harmless in and of themselves–it’s when they’re put into *action* that they can cause trouble. If I were to go around throat-punching everyone who dared claim the earth was round and revolved around the sun, that would be bad–for me, for you, for everyone.
Professor X (of X-Men fame) believes that humans and mutants can live together in peace, while Magneto (of X-Men infamy) believes they cannot. Though each has the same basic motivation: protect mutantkind, their conflicting beliefs drive them to conflict and contrast.
Beliefs are passive: Unlike principles, beliefs do not require an action one way or the other, even if you see them being contradicted, and you can go through life having to expend little or no effort to maintain them. For instance, if you believe mutants are evil, and as a result you stay away from mutants and only see the very biased media coverage of disasters in which they are involved, most of those secondhand interactions will reinforce your belief/bias. Even seeing positive coverage will probably not help–you will expend a small amount of effort to convince yourself it’s a media conspiracy and that the liberally biased media is probably owned by a secret mutant anyway.
In my experience, the most efficient and perhaps only lasting way to change your beliefs about something is to get to know a person, place, or situation for what it really is, contradicting your belief. If you get to know a mutant who turns out to be not evil, that will allow you to step away from that belief.
How Principles and Beliefs interact:
We’ve already seen a little bit of it in my definition of beliefs: that beliefs can shape and influence one’s principles.
Captain America believes in the fundamental goodness of America and its ways. He’s not a “my country, right or wrong” type, but he derives his principles from his belief in Liberty, Freedom, and Responsibility.
Spider-man believes that with great power comes great responsibility, and he has derived a principle of protecting people whenever possible.
Also, multiple people can believe the same thing and have very different principles or vice versa. Daredevil and Kingpin both believe they can and should improve New York City, but they have vastly different methods to do so. Professor X and Magneto have different beliefs but the same basic principle: protect and help mutants.
I’m going to do more thinking on this subject and may update this entry later, but basically, that’s the distinction I see between “beliefs” and “principles.” A belief is just a single assertion about the world, while a principle is a recipe for action.

Top 6 Forgotten Realms movies (to start)

So here are my choices for an initial Forgotten Realms movie, presented in no particular order.

(With the caveat that it’s important for the actual creator to be involved. If WotC is going to try and interpret one of its novels onto the screen without the writer, the result is going to be less than ideal.)

(Though we should probably steer clear of the unfortunate boob window.)

(Though we should probably steer clear of the unfortunate boob window.)

1) AZURE BONDS (Jeff Grubb and Kate Novak): One of the first Realms novels, with intrigue and strong nostalgic value, featuring a cool female protagonist, her dinosaur companion, and a great intro to the Realms. Charlize Theron as Alias.

Such great visuals in this book and a great series!

Such great visuals in this book and a great series!

2) DARKWALKER (based on Darkwalker on Moonshae, Doug Niles): The origin of Realms fiction and a stirring, Arthurian sort of story. Huge Game of Thrones intrigue possibilities. It’s also the first of a series, so you could go on from this (excellent) starting point).

There have been several covers, but this is the classic.

There have been several covers, but this is the classic.

3) CRYSTAL SHARD (R.A. Salvatore): The first Drizzt novel and the intro to a much loved and popular series. Salvatore’s work has been a power-house for the Realms for almost thirty years, and seeing his vision on screen would be amazing. You’d have to do the drow right, of course–see below.

This is a fantastic trilogy.

This is a fantastic trilogy.

4) TWILIGHT FALLING (Paul Kemp): The second Erevis Cale novel, kicking off his own trilogy. Shadow’s Witness was very tied into the Sembia series, and I think this makes a good starting point. Intelligent, dark, heroic, powerful. And I’m just going to say it: Idris Elba and Vinnie Jones as Cale and Riven.

Dubious 80s hair on the cover aside, the story is fantastic. :)

Dubious 80s hair on the cover aside, the story is fantastic. :)

5) ELFSHADOW (Elaine Cunningham): We so need Arilyn and Danilo on screen. Great romance, great intrigue, great story, and the kickoff of a sweeping series. Elaine brought us some of the best Realms work over the history of the setting.

So many memories!

So many memories!

6) BALDUR’S GATE (Interplay): I know it’s not a novel, but Baldur’s Gate has wide cultural impact, the nostalgia factor, and it’s general enough that you can tell a sweeping, fun fantasy story with it. Plus it has Minsc, and you know you want to see Vin Diesel as Minsc. :)



You may be surprised that I didn’t include GHOSTWALKER on that list, seeing as I wrote it. And it’s great–High Plains Drifter in the Realms.

But here’s the thing: would it be the best way to introduce the Realms as a cinematic entity? I don’t know. It’s a spin-off side story that would make a great movie but be most effective when the Realms is already established on film.

I mean, look at that cover, right?

I mean, look at that cover, right?

(SHADOWBANE is similar–it’s a series but it shouldn’t be first. I’d want the Realms more established as an entity before we start breaking it apart.)


Drow are tricky to put on the screen. They aren’t black people . . . they just happen to be an entirely evil race with a sinister reputation that live underground and have jet-black skin. The racial implications are all there, and the drow as-is would present an unfortunate picture on screen.

Also, if you put a white actor in blackface, it will destroy your movie, full-stop. Do not do that, Hasbro. (Please Gods and Goddesses, do not!)

The problem, of course, is that no small part of Drizzt’s appeal is that he represents a struggle against racism. In our world, he would be the one black man in a sea of white people, fighting for acceptance and respect. If he has nothing to fight against, that aspect of his character is lost.

I have suggestions for a few small changes to how the drow are portrayed that will alleviate or at least lessen some of the obvious objections:

1) Cast a black actor. Drizzt cannot be a white dude in blackface. The actor cast needs to be a young, promising black actor.

2) Introduce them slowly. In the first Drizzt movie (Crystal Shard), no other drow appear, and Drizzt’s “drow-ness” is basically a non-issue. There’s one moment when he and Wulfgar are in a tavern where people are giving Drizzt the stink-eye, and he explains to Wulfgar that his people are not welcome on the surface world, owing to their reputation for death and destruction. Bar fight ensues, Drizzt refuses to kill a dude, people go away confused at this non-drow-like drow.

3) When drow eventually do show up (which should be at least 3 movies into Drizzt’s story), they are presented as having a range of skin colors, from light white-gray to purple to coal-black. I think one of the main problems with them visually is that they are depicted as monochromatic. If they were less, ahem, “black and white,” it would make them seem less like a stand-in for black people.

This may seem like a retcon (and it is), but I think it’s an acceptable one, particularly if you consider: a) the depictions of drow on the covers of Realms novels have varied widely over the years, b) black skin is really difficult to do effectively on screen, c) there is so much fan art out there on the internet (just google “dark elf” and you’ll see what I mean) that varies the skin color so widely.

What do you think about a Realms movie?


Forgotten Realms, Movies, Uncategorized

Sensible, Fashionable, Protective: Women in Practical Armor

The pre-dawn light flickers across the battle field. The armies line up for titanic conflict. The bold elf commander steps out in front of her troops, raising her blade aloft, the sun gleaming off her exposed midriff. She sounds the warcry and . . .

Ooh, that does not look pleasant.

Ooh, that does not look pleasant.

. . . is cut down by arrows before reaching the enemy.

Why is Practical Armor Needed?

Other than for defending one’s bits, that is.

For many years, fantasy has had an odd relationship with women and armor. I suspect this comes mostly from guys writing fantasy, guys drawing fantasy art, and guys programming fantasy video games. It’s not that guys are intentionally being sexist or weird–it’s that they are asked to create “fantasy” and they create their fantasy, which often includes a lot of sexy females and tough dudes.

But there’s an issue. Maybe it’s the inability to suspend one’s disbelief after a point, maybe it’s considering chafing, or maybe it’s because women have every right to participate in this industry as we do. And they have every right to have heroes and villains that they can look to and see something other than sexualized caricatures created to indulge someone else’s fantasy other than their own. (Ahem!)

For these and many other reasons, I am pleased and honored to contribute a story to the WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR anthology.

Practical Armor? For a female fantasy character? WUT?

Subversive, I know.

This anthology, edited by Gabrielle Harbowy and the legendary Ed Greenwood, published through Evil Girlfriend Media, stars more than a dozen empowered women who are actually sensible about going into battle. They strap on real armor. They tie their hair back. They cover their butts–and those of their companions. They are of various colors and places on the sexuality and gender spectra. They are hack-and-slash heroes in honest-to-goddess protective gear.

From Evil Girlfriend Media--Kickstarting now!

From Evil Girlfriend Media–Kickstarting now!

The incredibly popular kickstarter has already funded, and now it’s a matter of hitting stretch goals and unlocking even more badassitude for the ladies within and for you, dear readers! ($10,000 is the next goal!)

But . . . but BOOBS!

I get it. I was a teenage boy once, too. But you see . . .

Mord Sith cosplay (model TBI)

*Rocking* Mord Sith cosplay (model MordSithCara on deviantart)

She’s covered head to toe, losing NOTHING in the presentation. She is powerful, intimidating, and in touch with herself. Just like a hero (or in this case villain) should be.

And ask yourself this: why does every female character of value to a story have to be measured by how sexy she is?

We talk about male characters as smart, dramatic, bold, strong, tough, sly, charming, witty, crass, or any of a thousand other adjectives.

What do female characters get? Strong and/or sexy.

I want female characters who can be everything a male character can be, and part of that is allowing them to wear things that are measured in dimensions other than sex appeal.

This is what the Women in Practical Armor are.

Can't be awesome without boobplate, you say? Samantha Swords would like a word.

Can’t be awesome without boobplate, you say? Samantha Swords would like a word.

But you’re trying to take my BOOBS!

Well, they aren’t *your* boobs, unless they’re actually attached to you.

I am all for cheesecake on occasion (particularly with strawberries), but it should be the exception, rather than the rule. There are female fantasy characters out there who don’t wear much (here’s looking at you, Red Sonja!*), and sometimes that makes sense. Armor slows you down. It’s hot and heavy, and can wear you out before the fight even begins. And some women feel empowered to be wearing what they’re wearing. That’s fine. Those would be legitimate exceptions.

I encourage people to wear what they want–so long as they’re the ones making that choice. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But there *is* something wrong when that’s ALL you see. When the vast majority of female characters in our art look more like pornstars than heroes. Some women, sure, but all of them? What are we saying about women, when we view them all as sexual objects like that?

And there *is* something wrong (worse!) with a *legion of dudes* designing female fantasy characters in chainmail bikinis or leather halter tops or platemail that leaves the vital organs exposed. And then putting them into compromising, kinky, sexualized positions. And giving them orgasm faces all the time. (Ahem.)

It’s weird. It’s creepy. It’s sexist. And it’s giving the fantasy industry a bad name.

Yeah, RS’s chainmail bikini is a bit silly, but you should read this comic anyway, because Gail Simone is *awesome.*

So please, join me–and the many, many others who have already done so–in supporting WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR.



*In the case of Red Sonja, Simone’s run feels like reclaiming the right of a woman to wear what she wants, without it being some dude’s warrior sex fantasy. Simone gets into Sonya’s head more than anyone, and when Sonja says she wears what she wants, it’s the first time I’ve ever actually felt cool with it. Sonja is making her own choice, and that’s key.

Announcements, Characters, Combat, Feminism, Kickstarter, Small Press, Social Justice, Writing

World of Ruin: On Race and Privilege

First, a check: I myself am a SWCM (straight white cis-man), though I try to use my powers (i.e. privilege) for good. :)

Privilege. That’s a BIG deal in real life, and it’s a big deal in my World of Ruin series. It extends through wealth, age, race, orientation, and gender identity, and operates in important supporting ways in my books and stories about the WoR.

Let’s talk about race first, which is the most obvious operation of privilege in the series, and it’ll dovetail from there.

Sort of pale and wasp-ish, but the hood leaves a lot to the imagination.

Sort of pale and wasp-ish, but the hood leaves a lot to the imagination.


First, it’s important to note that the World of Ruin doesn’t have ethnic groups that line up exactly with real world ethnic groups. But race is definitely an issue in my series, through the common social commentary lens of examining things through allegory and analogy. Humans don’t all look the same in my world, and there’s quite a bit of racism, mostly between two major ethnic groups, the Winterborn and the Summerblood.

The Winterborn hail from the Tar Vangr in the northern part of the world (not a surprise) and its environs. They tend to be pale and dark haired with have delicate, vaguely Asian features. They have a reputation for being harsh, humorless, and very caught up in questions of honor and duty. As a people, they tend to be more egalitarian regarding gender roles, sexuality, and gender identity. (More on that later.) Regel the Frostburn, star of SHADOW OF THE WINTER KING (SotWK), is winterborn through and through.

The people of the southern city Luether and its environs are known as Summerblood. They have very dark skin, bold features, and tend to have red or brown hair. They have a reputation for being temperamental, impulsive, energetic, and sensual/passionate–think of how Shakespeare’s work views those hotheaded Italians. While our earth has people who look kind of like Tar Vangryur winterborn, we don’t have a lot of examples of people who look like what I imagine Luethaar to look like. Scarlet red is not a particularly popular hair dye choice for dark skinned people these days, but that’s the concept. Summerblood culture tends toward heternormativity, especially among its rulers: the more powerful and important you are, the more pressure you face to marry the opposite sex and procreate. (More on that later.) The Blood Ravalis (that is, Demetrus, Lan, and Garin, among others) are all summerblood. (You see a lot of Luetharr culture in book 2, SHIELD OF THE SUMMER PRINCE [SotSP]).

Generally, the two races don’t mix very well, but are forced to clash in numerous situations. Twenty years before SotWK, a substantial body of rulers and courtiers from Luether settled in Tar Vangr, where they have spent the next two decades mingling and struggling over their varying cultural expectations. The Tar Vangryur police force/army has been integrated somewhat in recent years, though loyalties are still usually strictly divided along racial lines. At this point, twenty years after it was taken over by barbarians, Luether as a city does not welcome Tar Vangryur or anyone with white skin, and the vicious rulers of that place consider such interlopers spies at best.

I wanted to touch briefly on Ovelia Dracaris, the female lead in the books, who is a mixed race person–half northern “winterborn,” half southern “summerblood.” She has deep bronze skin, burning red hair, and hazel eyes. This puts her in the unique position of being basically between the two major ethnic groups, opening her up to hate from both sides, which each tend to see traits of the other in her. She has a powerful temper but is able to control her sharp impulses through a healthy dose of cold reason. I don’t want to go too deeply into it, but she’s basically the best of both worlds. She’s awesome, and she’s the star of “King’s Shield,” which is included in WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR (which is currently running a Kickstarter!).


I’m just going to lay all my knives on the table (i.e. be honest about it): Tar Vangyr is the best place in the World of Ruin to be, particularly if you aren’t a straight person, and I did that intentionally. I’m not saying the Vangryur are the best (though they’re much better than the alternative, see below), but I did want to present them as the “generally good” kingdom, constantly under siege by the forces of evil. And so it’s no surprise that they’re fairly open as regards sex, sexuality, orientation, and identification.

Men and women are considered equals, and there is no traditional “man’s work” or “woman’s work.” Kings and queens are of equal value and power in Tar Vangr’s history, and its founding hero was a woman (in practical armor, no less!). Usually Tar Vangr is ruled by only a single monarch, who usually has at least one breeding partner of the opposite sex for the purpose of heirs, this may or may not be an actual consort. Sometimes a King declares a consort to be a Queen (or a Queen names a consort King) but it’s not required and there’s no stigma either way–it’s merely a question of succession. Marriage is generally not a thing in the north (most Winterborn consider the concept similar to slavery–another summerblood import), polyamorous relationships are quite common, and sex isn’t invested with the same hang-ups as elsewhere in the WoR or in our world.

Here’s a neat thing: Tar Vangryur don’t generally receive names at birth. Usually only *nobles* have birth names–mostly for posterity–and they are encouraged to gain new names as they grow. Names are given in recognition of deeds or significant events, sometimes by the person in question or by someone in a perceived position of authority (kinda like nicknames). A Tar Vangryur person might have multiple names, but usually a given person earns only one or two.

The whole system is a little bit oppressive, sure, and the implications of someone else naming you for what they perceive as worthwhile is a little weird. (Which is intentional, by the way.) But the big pay-off is this next part:

Tar Vangryur children (as is implied in “King’s Shield”) are not ascribed a gender at birth. They are referred to as “the child” or sometimes “my child” and the default pronoun for them is “their/they.” A child does not have a gender until it decides what gender it wants to present. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not, but whatever the child eventually goes with, that’s what the child is considered. And some people choose to present no gender, and that’s cool too. Native winterborn and particularly citizens of the mage-city Tar Vangr basically never misgender anyone–it is considered the height of rudeness to do so. They’re so accustomed to gender fluidity that they can usually tell, and when in doubt, they will ask. (This comes up briefly in SotWK in a conversation on a skyship in the middle of the book, but to say more about it would be a spoiler.)

As I mentioned above, Luethaar society is not nearly as open or progressive in this regard. Men are supposed to be tough and active, women demure and passive (you know, kind of like a lot of our real world socialization). The Blood Ravalis is *particularly* sharp in its condemnation of anyone going outside the accepted narrative. There’s a little breathing room when one is lower class, but at the top, it is considered a sin against your people to have homosexual inclinations, regardless of whether you also breed.

This comes up partially in how Lan treats women throughout SotWK (including Ovelia), and then again in a big way in SotSP when Ovelia has to navigate Luethaar society and also in regard to Garin, who is gay. Like *majorly* gay. He’s not closeted, no–he knows who he is and he romances who he likes, as the dashing rebel leader trying to reclaim his city from the barbarians running it into the ground–but he is completely and utterly unable to be open about it around his family. Not only is he under substantial personal pressure, but also he dreads that coming out would doom his cause: how can he unite Luether against its oppressors if he isn’t one of them, who belongs to the same understanding of reality that they have? This is a big deal, particularly in book 2.

(A side note: Ovelia, whom I mentioned above, may be a daughter of both nations, but she was raised almost exclusively in the northern city of Tar Vangyr by her ex-pat summerblood father Norlest in the household of his best friend [with benefits] Orbrin Denerre, the Winter King. As such, her cultural identity is mostly Tar Vangryur, and she evinces many of the same attitudes toward sex and sexuality. She is also definitely *not* straight, as I think becomes fairly clear not too far in SotWK, and is *very clear* in SotSP. And in “King’s Shield,” my story in WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR . . )

Did I mention this Kickstarter? Go back it!


Those are the big ones, but I also deal with wealth, age (most of my heroes are in their late 30s, if not late 40s or 50s–none of this “farm boy destined to save the world” business!), and disability in a pretty significant way in the books. I can’t talk about at least one of those without spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that–at least until SotSP comes out (hopefully by Spring 2016!) and we can all see what happens.

Until then, may Ruin’s gaze fall from you,


P.S. “SotWK” is pronounced “sot-wiki” and “SotSP” is pronounced “sots-pee.” Just in case you wanted to get the lingo. :)

Kickstarter, Shadow of the Winter King, Shield of the Summer Prince, Social Justice, Uncategorized, World of Ruin, Writing

Brief Post-Mortem: GenCon 2015

Well, GenCon is over, and it was a great success!

The second edition of my home-brewed Mass Effect RPG went over really well: I ran three sessions that were very well-received. I told people not to talk about it too much online, because then I might be nominated for an ENnie, and no one wants that. :)

My brain apparently loved it so much that it has now conceived an entire Mass Effect campaign hook, which I hope to run in part for my friends back home. So there’s *that* keeping me from my writing deadlines. :)

Two panels at the Writer’s Symposium, both about writing good lead characters, and a read/critique session that went very well. It’s good to see the program growing by leaps and bounds!

The Women in the Realms seminar had a huge turnout–more women in the room than ever before–and the pins (one a composite of Selune, Shar, and Mystra’s symbols, the other a non-datestamped Harper pin) are really fantastic. The male organizers (including myself) spent the first hour and a half just not talking at all, and let Erin Evans and Jaleigh Johnson take the show. Because that’s what this seminar was all about: the female voice in the Realms.

The seminar very quickly became about “diversity in the Realms,” which was awesome. We spent the last half of the seminar taking questions and talking about all things Realmsy, you know, like Candlekeep would normally do. One highlight was all the costumes late on a Saturday, including a fully outfitted adventuring party, whose equipment was all based on actual art in the books, as well as two young women who came as Farideh and Havilar and basically made Erin’s head explode. :)

Note: We’re currently discussing the theme for next year’s seminar, so any suggestions would be welcome. I want something villainous. I’d also like us to make Zhentarim pins, so we can run a GenCon-wide Harpers vs. Zhents game, ala the Assassins game. :)

I played Malcolm Reynolds in a Firefly RPG session that will live in infamy: Jayne (as played by Jaym Gates) got it in his head to betray the crew, which he did successfully, and despite all the entertaining deception I tried to pull as the Captain, the complications were just too much. I ended up the session zip-tied, half-nekkid, locked in the cockpit of Serenity, just struggling to activate the ship (Wash screaming in my ear “It’s the big red button! Push the big red button!” and I just couldn’t button), then trying and failing three times to get out of my cuffs. I eventually rolled a survival check to avoid a mental break and failed, so I started chewing my arm off. :)

I got a chance to wander the hall a couple times, mostly to visit friends at the Author and Artist Alleys, but also to buy some things. I picked up a copy of the fantastic hardcover Dragon Age RPG from Green Ronin, which I’m looking forward to running for my peeps here in Seattle. I also bought a present for my wife: Fairytale Gloom, which I think she’ll really enjoy.

A couple personal shout-outs:

One to Eric Menge, with whom I may or may not be working on a semi-secret project. His webcomic, SNOW BY NIGHT, was very popular at Artist’s Alley, and if you have any interest in fantasy comics on the web, I highly recommend it. I also got to meet Steph Stober, who is awesome.

Another to Claudio Pozas, my good friend and roomie this year, a Brazilian artist well known for his work on D&D and fantasy in general. I picked up two prints he created of my characters A-Girl and Lady Vengeance, and his work is just fantastic.

The Women in Practical Armor kickstarter launched out of GenCon, and it’s a roaring success! Back it today!

That’s what I’ve got. Back to work. :)



Conventions, Dragon Age, Feminism, Forgotten Realms, Game Design, Gaming, GenCon, Mass Effect RPG, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Mass Effect at GenCon 2015!

Sorry to spring this on everyone last minute, but that’s just how I roll/role sometimes. :)

What I’m doing right now is creating pregens for people to use in my Mass Effect game. If you’re in either of sessions (Thursday or Friday morning), please let me know on Facebook (@erik.s.debie), Twitter (#erikscottdebie), or email (erikscottdebie AT yahoo DOT com) if you have any particular preferences for what character you’d like to play. First come, first served, and if you don’t express a preference, I can’t guarantee that character will be around to be used.

(Not like last year when I had EVERYONE.)

I currently have two Shepards (though only one at a time), Liara, Garrus, and Tali. I was thinking of making Miranda, Jacob, and Mordin next, but I’ll happily take requests.

I think this version of the game will be much better than last year, which was fun but bogged down easily. This should be faster and more user-friendly.


Copyright (c) Zenin Amit (Deviantart)

Copyright (c) Zenin Amit (Deviantart)

Conventions, Game Design, Gaming, GenCon, Mass Effect, Mass Effect RPG