Recommends: Printing This Out

From the Byron To Buffy Tumblr.

I just... have something in my eye, is all.

RECOMMENDS! What's up, folks?


Ana Mardoll said...

More here.

Silver Adept said...

I finished Bitterblue, and found it a satisfying story and thread wrap-up for that set of books. I'm also going to have to go back and find either the discussion here or look up Hapax's Maiden/Mother/Crone entry and comment on it more fully, now that I have seen all three roles in action.

I saw a GeekMom post that heralded the Reading Rainbow app...which allows you to either purchase the books recommended or get a subscription that allows access to all the books in the app for a fee. This seems counterproductive, as Reading Rainbow was one of the places on television that routinely recommended visiting the public library to get the books on the show. While ebook and audiobook access is still in its infant stages, having some integration with public library delivery platforms in addition to subscription and purchase seems like it would have been better for the app. (

Other than that, the usual for my blog - mostly politics, occasionally something else.

Rainicorn said...

I finally saw Brave, and I have probably a rather unusual take on it: Bear, Bow, And Boy: Queering Pixar's "Brave".

Brin Bellway said...

Oh yeah, I saw that one. Didn't realise it was Byron's, but Byron is a friend of a friend so I guess it makes sense that I came across it.

Hmm, what can I share...*digs through bookmarks*
"The Swan Maiden" is more than a week old, but I don't think anyone's mentioned it yet. (Those of you who signed up through one means or another to be notified when new comments are posted to that Otherkin Fic Fest that happened a while back will probably have seen it already.)

Oh, and fishies! Okay, so the post is about fishies mating, which is kind of neat in a weird way, but also the picture! Look at the one on the right! Isn't he adorable?

chris the cynic said...

I played with a picture of a dragon. I was going to write about the temptation to simply give up and start screaming profanity in general, but the resulting post was only tangentially about that instead having more to do with the situation I find myself in with respect to my family. So the post is here, be warned: me, my family, the temptation to give up and start screaming profanity.

And that would be everything I posted this week if not for Ana. Which was actually the reason for the second of those two posts. (It suddenly hit me how much of my time had been sucked away this week at the same moment I was being informed of how much more would be in the future.)

But Ana does in fact exist so I also have:

Talking Time Travel at the Gas Station - A story fragment incorporating a metaphorical one way street, a literal gas station, a distant state fair, even more distant mountains, and a dog who spends most of the fragment hiding so well you don't know she's there.

The possible beginning of a possible story for the Ghost Anthology which is more or less what it sounds like. Credit also goes to depizan without whom I likely wouldn't have written it yet.

Mech Story - Another beginning for a story which might fit into one of the anthologies, this one I wrote two years ago but never got back to. It's set in a world where it's possible to replace human body parts with machines of a more or less "anything you can do I can do better" variety (if kept in good repair) but the machines are bulky, impossible to hide, considered ugly, and mark you as a member of a class it's legal to discriminate against.

John Magnum said...

Ana I can't think you enough for sharing Boggle.

Lonespark said...

Boggle!!! I love Boggle so.

I've also started working through the exercises for The Mood Gym (I think it's called). Pretty standard Cognitive Behavioral Therapy stuff, but apparently I really love messing around on the internet and ticking boxes and so forth, so its like therapy homework I can't wait to do. LinkedIn and to a certain extent SchoolSpring is kind of like that, too, in marked contrast to most job search activities. (I do enjoy shopping for interview suits...) And I took a teaching certification exam yesterday, and that was kind of fun and fulfilling. Getting to demonstrate knowledge is fun these days.

Lonespark said...

I kind of wish there was a Boggle-like Tumblr where I could get therapy and reassurance from, like, Tenzin and Korra, or Bruce Banner, or something. Maybe there is?

Brin Bellway said...

Oh god, I actually remember reading a post like that from an Ask Bruce Banner blog written in-character. I have no idea where it is except "somewhere on Tumblr", which isn't that helpful.

Randy Kay said...

Awwwwww I looooooove owls, that picture is so cute.

I'm in a pretty good mood, although I've been up since six, am really tired, and had to wear the wrong boots (two sizes too large) all weekend for drill (I'm in the Army). I also forgot my copy of A Separate Peace there, which is unfortunate, as I've been re-reading it to see how I react to it now versus how I did when I was fifteen. But I'm feeling pretty positive about life at the moment regardless.

I tried to come up with something other of substance to say, but there's no more cereal in my bowl, so I'm just going to go find some more food instead.

Lily said...

I'm in the Smoky Mountains, trying to enjoy myself without getting anxious and it's really wonderful here. :)

Rowen said...

This isn't really a "Recommend" but after reading your article on Brave/Hair (Which, btw, a coworker LOVED because she has curly hair. She usually flatirons it, but hates that). Anyway, I started rereading Mercedes Lackey's Vow and Honors, and Kethry's described as having a "nimbus" of amber hair. I believe it's even described as curly. Which is a rather rude awakening, since the artwork for the books makes her look like Sword and Sorcery Barbie. Which also means that most of the fan-art has her with very light blonde sleek hair. (which, is one of my fan art pet peeves. I dislike it when fans just take the same images and just. . . copy and paste isn't the right word, but recreate that ONE artist's vision. I see this a lot in Final Fantasy fan art, and I'm currently (slowly) working on a series of certain major characters done in styles that aren't supposed to be the video game avatar done with pencil)

Ana Mardoll said...

WTFBBQ? Kethry DOES look like "Sword and Sorcerer Barbie" and you say she doesn't in the books? I'ma have to re-read those now. Good catch!

But, you know, I don't know who does the covers for Lackey's books, but I've seen that happen a LOT with her characters. Best example would be "The Sleeping Beauty" which has a raven-haired beauty on the front and the FIRST PAGE describes her with hair like "spun gold". A *major plot point* is that she's not dark-haired enough to slip into the "Snow White" legend. It's like Lackey's artists don't read the books at all. I've always wondered how she feels about that.

Ana Mardoll said...

WTFBBQ? Kethry DOES look like "Sword and Sorcerer Barbie" in the cover art and you say she doesn't in the books? I'ma have to re-read those now (unless I haven't read them already, in which case I need to read them. Sometimes I can't remember with Lackey, since I'm so into the filk that I pick things up that I haven't read.). Good catch!

But, you know, I don't know who does the covers for Lackey's books, but I've seen that happen a LOT with her characters. Best example would be "The Sleeping Beauty" which has a raven-haired beauty on the front and the FIRST PAGE describes her with hair like "spun gold". A *major plot point* is that she's not dark-haired enough to slip into the "Snow White" legend. It's like Lackey's artists don't read the books at all. I've always wondered how she feels about that.

Silver Adept said...

I'd hope she's pretty annoyed by it, and I hope there are less of other writers who are, too, considering it seems like standard publishing house practice to hire an artist and not have them consult or read the cover they're working for, but instead draw based on marketing details. See also: Larbalester, Liar.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ach. Liar was such a mess. I had a black-and-white ARC cover, and I knew the girl was light-skinned, but she was of mixed race, so... It wasn't until I saw the color cover and read up on publishers' insistence on white-washing cover characters that I realized the seriousness of the situation. I'm glad the outcry was enough to fix it.

I've got a story in the Idea Bucket that involves a "Snow White" character with hair as white as snow and skin as black as coal, instead of the usual way around.

Will Wildman said...

My favourite (meaning not favourite) example of this is the early covers for RA Salvatore's series in the Forgotten Realms canon, which centre on the renegade drow or 'dark elf' called Drizzt. Drizzt has literally black skin. It's a vital aspect of his character, because he's part of a highly privileged group (elves) but his colour marks him as from the elves that ruin everything, and the books (to my mind) did a very good job of making that a constant factor - no matter how heroic he is, no matter who his friends are, the first thing everyone thinks when they meet him is 'don't trust the black guy'. (It's not exactly a subtle analysis of the most insidious forms of racism, but this is sword-and-sorcery with a primarily YA geek base. Anything can help.)

So naturally on the first dozen book covers he was illustrated as an ultra-pale guy. Elves are always white, right? Eventually he got updated to brown, and finally black in... possibly as late as 2002? Even his wikipedia page still shows him in a paler shade, though quite dark. The books have never equivocated, but for some reason artists refuse to just make him black.

Ana Mardoll said...

Buh?? My ENTIRE exposure to D&D/Salvatore/etc. has been cultural osmosis from the geeks around me (and some MMO playing) (and some DragonLance novels but we DO NOT TALK ABOUT THAT) (LOL) and even I know automatically that drow are pitch-black.

If I'd been into those books, I would have been furious. Incorrect covers are a serious pet peeve of mine.

Will Wildman said...

Now that Drizzt is his own industry, they've gone back and redone all the old covers with better art, and he is consistently black (not just brown or grey), so future generations won't have to rage as we did. Guessing it would never have happened if he didn't take off, of course, but Salvatore is legitimately good at his job (which is why Drizzt exists in the first place, followed by the tidal wave of heroic drow in noncanon works).

This is part of why I think so much about how to describe characters in-story. It's awkward, because I don't like to be too specific, but I also clearly can't afford to be vague on things like skin colour or else people are going to be picturing General Kamaria (mentally cast as Sophie Okonedo) as Esme Cullen.

Ana Mardoll said...

Agreed, and it's REALLY hard to describe non-Esme Cullen people in terms that aren't Othering or badly connotative. I struggled with a fat protagonist in "Pulchritude" because most fat descriptions do not *sound* neutral, and the ones I did used started to feel like I was belaboring the point.

My next book has a fat Chinese-American protagonist in it. That's going to be a struggle to describe without accidentally Othering her. I've already had to learn, courtesy of a very patient writing partner, that there are differences between "dark black" and "dark brown" skin.

Rowen said...

Silver Adept beat me to it. I have more then a few covers that I've wanted to personally redo. (I LOVE the artwork for Sabriel, but it irks me that in the first few pages she's described as having a bob haircut. and yet the artwork looks like this (which is weird, because the artist got everything else about her outfit right. . .)

Will Wildman said...

It's the belaboring fear that gets me, because people are going to be varyingly resistant to changing their mental images, and the point at which one person finally accepts that a character is mahogany-coloured rather than parchmenty is the point at which another (normal) person is going to feel like every line reads "Leo walked into the room blackfully". Which group do I tailor descriptions for: the reasonable one, or the one that ruins all of the things if mishandled?

TL;DR: Rue.

Ana Mardoll said...

In my books, I try to use physical descriptions of ALL characters wherever I can work them in, so if Leo is walking in blackly, Maisie is coming right behind him whitely.

Collins was unusually sparse on character detail, which was refreshing in a way -- any other YA protagonist with gray eyes would have the reader beaten about the head with references to clouds, stormy seas, and silver -- but did end up with people like me assuming that all the characters looked just like me because I skimped over the single sentences where they, uhm, didn't. *sigh*

Silver Adept said...

I think most readers will make their own conceptions, until there's a movie, anyway, and may or may not mentally screen anything that doesn't match their conceptions. So, the amount of description that I'd suggest, as a non-writer, is "enough that they have plenty of opportunities to readjust their mental conception if they notice, but not so much that the anvils start dropping." Which will vary from story to story, of course.

As it turns out for me, I trend to associate characters by action/mental traits rather than physical ones, so I'm more likely to remember Lucy as the one with the healing potion that still believes in Aslan than "youngest child with brown hair and dimpled cheeks". Anne of Green Gables is red-haired because she hates it and complains about it. Frieda has naturally curly hair because she primps about it all the time.

YMMV, of course.

It still seems like a silly/stupid practice to have cover artists not actually have a character description or a consultation with the author about character and setting descriptions before they go a-drawing. I wonder what the reason is for it.

Ana Mardoll said...

I guess they use a lot of stock photography to keep it cheap. I was stunned in the Liar article above at how happy Larbalester was that the second cover was a new model and not stock footage; I just sort of assumed it would *always* be new/custom work.

And then there is this problem: I've found that most indie artists can draw "pretty white girl" great without any problems whatsoever. However, an artist's skill at drawing "pretty white girl" is *not* indicative of their overall skill at drawing, say, "fat black girl" or "old wrinkly man". Who knew. (I'm not an artist, so I didn't.)

Laura G said...

Don't get me started on Octavia Butler. Kind of my Patron Saint of Women of Color in Sci-Fi, but so many older editions of her books have blonde girls on the covers. Even when the protagonist *not being white* is a plot point.

Newer editions are so much better.

Smilodon said...

I'm the same. I find physical descriptions of characters forgettable unless it's a plot/characterization point. (Same for descriptions of scenery, objects etc.) In Ana's book, I remember what the three girls, and what the beast looked like, because it's influential to their characters and thus to the plot. I don't remember at all what anyone else looked like, though I can extapolate a bit from how they treated those four characters.

I've been told most people don't read books this way, though.

Will Wildman said...

I dunno; I'm weird about whose appearances I remember. With my first girlfriend, and with the last girl I dated, I have to put in sustained mental effort (possibly several minutes) to conjure an image of their faces, despite the latter case in particular starting with totally shallow infatuation-at-first-sight. Conversely, I can easily recall the appearance of another person I hung out with for a total of maybe five hours spread across two days last November.

It's often the same with books - at the very least I can usually tag people with hair colours (Hermione's brunette, Ron's a redhead, Harry is an a href="">umbralock) but most characters in my mental worlds wander about with blurry faces, undefined proportions, and vaguely tan skin unless it's clearly stated otherwise.

It's weird when I run up against the opposite views - for example, it's been critically noted in the Left Behind series that Fred Clark runs that we hardly ever get physical descriptions of the main characters, and specifically that Hattie is just summarised as 'drop-dead gorgeous' or something. Like, we have no idea how any of her facial features are constructed or whether she's toweringly tall or petite or whatever. And if someone is supposed to be 'drop-dead gorgeous' then that seems like the only thing you can do, because there's no way you can describe an individual that every single reader is going to think sounds equally and stunningly attractive. But apparently some people think that's inadequate description? It confuses me.

(Although it occurs to me that when told a character is 'drop-dead gorgeous', I don't automatically picture someone according to my preferences, but someone whom I would expect to be tagged as 'beautiful' by popular culture. So that's interesting.)

chris the cynic said...

I'm definitely not big on physical description, of people or things*, but I also see serious problem with describing someone as something like "drop-dead gorgeous" and leaving it at that.

It's like saying someone has dog colored hair. It sort of sounds like a description until you realize that it tells you nothing at all.

Hattie is drop-dead gorgeous with her eye colored eyes and her hair colored hair and her face shaped face and her....

Ideally Hattie being "drop-dead gorgeous" should tell us both about Hattie's physical appearance and the viewpoint character's preferences because unless Hattie is a Vorlon she isn't that way to everyone.

Supposedly human fiction is overflowing with Vorlons, and I can see the problem in that. Because if Hattie really does appear different to everyone as you suggest then we must ask ourselves some serious questions like why the hell she didn't just kick Nicolae's ass. Was he protected by the Shadows or something? Even if he were, we know that she would eventually be willing to die to stop Nicolae, so why didn't she pull a Kosh and do something?

You're talking about giving the character, if not the power of God, at least power akin to one of the gods, and that demands explanation beyond three words two of them hyphenated together.


I don't mind lack of description when it's just lack of description, I'd be a hypocrite if I did, but lack of description so that everyone can magically see a different thing when they look at something, that's the sort of thing that requires something to back it up because it has serious, sometimes theological but more often straight up plot/setting related, implications.


* Exact words forgotten, but hopefully it at least captures the idea of the exchange:

"I can write scenes."
"You mean, like, descriptions?"
"No. No no no. I can't... *looks around* *points at chair across the room* I couldn't even describe that chair. I had one once. *looks at matching couch I'm sitting on* and a couch like this. They're gone now. Though... the couch might still be in my basement."

The chair, for the record, was fairly chair like in a chairy kind of way. The couch was rather couch like. And they matched in that way that matching sets do.

Anyone remember Where Antichrists Come From? Lucifer in that looks like Alison from The Breakfast Club. I examined still pictures, I put a lot of thought into it, I asked for advice, I still couldn't describe her well enough for anyone to get an Alison from The Breakfast Club vibe out of her. I suck at physical description.

Silver Adept said...

@Ana - I did not know this, either. The lines are apparently not transitive. I also did not know they usually use stock photography for the models. You would think that for authors you plan on putting serious investment into for marketing and the like that a cover that matches what is in the book would be part of the deal.

@Will - I trend that way, too, upon descriptions of beauty otherwise unadorned - the idea of the magazine model, not what I might personally find to be attractive. I think most people want to see more description because they want to know what the author finds attractive - perhaps for armchair psychology.

And I like the word umbralock. I will have to try and remember it so that I may populate it into the world.

Ana Mardoll said...

I know, right? Using stock photography for cover art is supposed to be the province of us Dirty Indie Authors, ha.

Ana Mardoll said...

Chris, you remind me of the best bits from Douglas Adams' books. I laughed at the chair/couch/matching description.

depizan said...

and vaguely tan skin

And this is why I flail around with lousy descriptions like "darkish" when trying to describe someone who'd be in the Mediterranean or Hispanic skin color range on Earth. The pasty pink folk stole all the appropriate words.

Will Wildman said...

I don't know how to describe anyone's skin tone. Comparisons to wood colours? Birch to maple to cherry to walnut?

depizan said...

I barely know how to describe people, period. I may be a writer, but we're all in trouble if I ever witness a crime. "Well, he was sort of... person shaped. At least I think it was a he..." If you crossed me and Chris, the world would probably vanish in some sort of lack of description black hole.

But in this case I care, both because I really should try to get better at the whole describing people thing and because a friend's response to the character's looks was "Oh, he's kind of dusky, almost Gypsy-ish. You'd expect him to be a bad guy." (Which I'm afraid stalled my brain so badly I didn't have a response beyond the "Bwuh?" look on my face.) If he's dark enough to get that response, I'd rather people didn't imagine him as your average pasty pink person.

Smilodon said...

For Hattie, I would've liked some description, because being "really really attractive" was supposed to be a character trait, not just a physical description. And someone who's naturally attractive is a different kind of person than someone who works really hard for it. As is someone who's a petite blond versus someone who's a tall, muscular woman with wild dark hair. I'm not saying one of those beauties is better, just that which beauty you possess will influence what kind of person you are.

I fail in life at telling people's skin tone - when my wallet was stolen, the police asked me the ethnicity of the person who stole it. I felt like I was echoing Colbert, saying, "I don't see race!" but I really don't, unless "tan enough that it probably was partly her natural skin tone, with really nice eyebrows" is a race now.

I'm going to talk about skin tone. If I'm using the wrong terms (what term is polite changes with time and place) could Ana please edit my post? I can't edit my own posts since I don't have an account.

I'm also pretty uninterested in a character's skin tones, unless it relates to how they see themselves or other characters see them. What I do care about is ethnicity. I expect a very different set of life experiences from an African-American, a white American, a black South African, and a white South African. And I care about how the character is shaped by those experiences, and how it changes their future choices. In Dresden, it's pretty important that Sonya is a black Russian, because his sense of otherness and alientation guided some of his life choices. But it's pretty unimportant in the books that Rawlins is black. I obviously don't mind that Butcher chose an ethnically diverse police force (he probably should have made it a bit more diverse, actually, but Rawlins is a start), but I judge Rawlins as a "good cop who does the right thing, even when he suffers for it", not a "black cop".

depizan said...

I'm replying to you, but please don't take this as directed specifically at you, just that it's a continuation of the conversation.

I'm not quite sure how to respond to the general idea that skin color only matters if it matters in the story or that many readers disregard what color characters are anyway - because I am a pasty pink person and it doesn't seem quite right for me to address the issue. Except, as a writer, I don't feel okay with just writing about fellow pink people, even though I'm writing mostly for my own entertainment and not writing serious fiction at all. And writing in a galaxy with no concept of ethnic groups that relates to Earth ethnic groups or even skin color.

But when a friend who'd likely tell me she's not racist at all has the reaction to a somewhat dark complected character that "you'd expect him to be the bad guy" I can't help feeling like it matters even if it doesn't matter to the plot.

But maybe that just makes me the white person trying to fix everything. Or is just me trying to make up for not saying anything when smacked in the face with ambient racism. I don't know.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think it matters for purposes of normalization. It's one reason why I wish more writers would include QUILTBAG people, even just incidental references to "[female character's] girlfriend", regardless of whether it "matters" to the plot or not. Meeting marginalized people in literature who are treated as "normal" is essential to breaking down barriers.

Where's that Slacktiverse post about Imaginary Friends?

Smilodon said...

Thank you for that clarification - I would have worried that I'd entirely mis-stated what I was trying to say, if I thought that was a response purely to me! I completely agree that making all background characters pink is not the same thing as not giving your background characters race.

I hate the idea that gross physical descriptions are enough to characterize a person. (As opposed to high nuanced descriptions involving how a person carries themself, and how a person crinkles their eyes when they smile.) One of my major reasons for quitting watching Supernatural in the first season was that I was sick of a show where blondes were always good and died, and black-haired girls were always secretly evil, and sometimes died.

Will Wildman said...

"you'd expect him to be the bad guy"

I'm not clear on whether this meant 'he's got darker skin and so in-universe is more likely to be villainous' or 'he's got darker skin and so in a racist culture that's more common among villains'. Both are significant statements, but they reflect very differently on the speaker.

I'm increasingly aware of the difference between skin colour and ethnicity and nationality and etc, and I'm aware that while I can add superficial diversity easily, I still tend to write people of very similar culture. Which is something to look into in terms of my skills. But regardless of that, when I introduce Dr Bateman (the leading cosmic-radiation particle physicist) in my last NaNo, I don't think it's meaningless to say that she's black and there's the fringe of an afro sticking out from under her safety helmet. Not because I've worked out that her race or ethnicity plays an integral part in her characterisation and is therefore necessary, but because I'm guessing when I say 'Dr Bateman, the leading cosmic-radiation particle physicist' most people's mental images aren't of black women with an impressive halo of frizz, and I see no reason why that should be so.

TL;DR - I think mental typecasting is a thing and any notch taken out of that is a good notch, even if it's somewhat arbitrary.

depizan said...

Oh good. I didn't want it to seem like I was jumping on you. Just spinning off from what you and others had said.

And, ouch, that's some massive fail on Supernatural's part, even if it was completely accidental.

depizan said...

I'm not clear on whether this meant 'he's got darker skin and so in-universe is more likely to be villainous' or 'he's got darker skin and so in a racist culture that's more common among villains'. Both are significant statements, but they reflect very differently on the speaker.

It can't be the first, the universe in question is filled with very white villains* (and occasionally alien villains). I'd like to think it was the second, but I was too busy going "BZUH?" to get clarification. It was one of those completely out-of-nowhere statements. But whether she meant that "darker skinned people usually get cast as villains" or "I've absorbed so much stuff with darker skinned people as villains that I automatically associate the two," it was a very large mallet of "Skin color of characters matters" to me.

*There might be some darker skinned villains, somewhere, but none are coming to mind. The universe in question is Star Wars (counting EU, though more specifically SW:TOR).

Will Wildman said...

Hmm - yeah, for all of the questionable implications of Dark Side Makes You Ugly, at least it only goes pale. Oh, wait, no, Evil Albinos is a thing too, isn't it? Dammit.

I'm trying to think of exceptions, but Star Wars casts are just so white by default that I have trouble thinking of non-pale characters, let alone villains. TOR was reasonably good at NPC diversity, all things considered. (My Jedi Sentinel has kind of a southeast Asian look. This is remarkably uncommon in the galaxy, it seems.)

Ana Mardoll said...

There's the Darth Maul race, where evil turns you from tan and blue to black and red...

Will Wildman said...

Well, not exactly - you can be a good red/black zabrak or an evil tan zabrak. The cultural split is along political lines, wherein we are suddenly introduced to the tan zabraks just in time to learn that they joined the Republic while the red/black zabraks joined the Empire. The WTF comes in when considering that the makers decided just letting established red/black zabraks be on both sides of the divide wasn't good enough, and that they needed to invent less-visually-alarming people to fill out the Blue Team.

Developer 1: Zabraks are really popular, but people will expect them to be Imperial, like Darth Maul.
Developer 2: Well, we could let them be on both sides, like humans, thus suggesting that there is at least one nonhuman species in the galaxy whose essential nature can't be determined by looking at them.
D1: Hmm... interesting idea...
D2: Wait, I just got another one!
D1: Hit me with it.
D2: Completely superfluous in-universe racism implying out-of-universe racial essentialism!
D1: Yes.

Ana Mardoll said...

Whoops me. I thought KOTOR 2 had your Zabrak companion turn black when evil. Thank you.

Also, that was epic. LOLSOB.

Ana Mardoll said...

Well, maybe it did. Am I seeing this wrong?

Posting on cell phone, so image clarity is an issue.

Will Wildman said...

Ah, I didn't know about Bao-Dur - from the looks of it, he gets new red/black tattoos if he goes darkside, but his skin tone itself doesn't change from his basic tan.

I feel slightly better learning that the non-red/black zabraks weren't invented to join the Republic in TOR, but not at all better that the makers still apparently decided to have the zabraks form a racial schism just in time for the war. Ugh.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, I cannot look at Atton Rand without wanting to cry at the waste of potential his character represents. His back story is epic, but that game is such a mess.

Ana Mardoll said...

I guess so. Except the changes are supposed to happen without the character really noticing it, this is a Plot Point, and you'd think he'd notice getting a tattoo.

But the game, as previously mentioned, is a bit of a mess. Sigh.

Smilodon said...

Depizan: To be fair to Supernatural, I heard it got better as it went on. I had given up on it by then, but many of my friends say good things about the later sessions.

Also, to echo Will, I often say things along the lines of "Oh look, a black man in a horror flick. Look who's going to die second, as soon as the premarital sex teens bite it." Which is a way of stating the priorities of Hollywood, not my personal priorities. I can't judge your friend, but that's a not awful version of their statement? (I find it really, really creepy and awful and moralistic that the formula is usually true. I love Day of the Dead so much for messing with the formula.)

Will: Being a lady scientist myself, I find it hard to believe that being a woman doesn't influence Dr. Bateman's character at some level. I'm not black, so I can't speak to that, but the gender of a scientist definately affects that person. Not always in bad ways. But - a simple example - almost everyone in my field above the age of 50 is a man, and at least two thirds of my field under the age of thirty is women. And this affects who holds different kinds of power in scientific conversations. But - all that aside - I'm delighted that you cast a woman as a brilliant scientist. Because that's cool.

depizan said...

Star Wars casts are just so white by default that I have trouble thinking of non-pale characters

Movie-wise, I can come up with four: Lando Calrissian, Bail Organa, Mace Windu, and Captain Panaka (otherwise known as guy from Naboo whose name I had to look up). All good guys, which is something, I guess. But the movies lean steeply white and male. (Hint: If your movie series has more movies than persons of color or women, you're probably doing something wrong.)

But, yeah, TOR did a much better job of having women and persons of color in the galaxy. Much better. (The villains still lean pasty, which may be just as well. Though Dark Side bleaching raises unfortunate questions there.)

Also, I totally meant to mention how awesome it is that you've got a black woman scientist in your story. That is very awesome.

depizan said...

I feel slightly better learning that the non-red/black zabraks weren't invented to join the Republic in TOR, but not at all better that the makers still apparently decided to have the zabraks form a racial schism just in time for the war. Ugh.

I think there were some in the Clone Wars series (which is a whole other ball of WTF most of the time) at least in passing, though I could be wrong. I did spend much of my watching time facepalming and headdesking; I could've hallucinated them.

Not that that helps with the racial schism, of course. And I still find the red/black zabraks more interesting looking. I don't know why they couldn't have just had zabraks (skin color your choice) on both sides.

depizan said...

Yeah, she may well have been commenting on typical casting choices, but it was so out of left field it stuck in my mind. (The fact that Star Wars may well have no dark skinned bad guys at all probably didn't help.)

I'm not a horror fan, but I can't help thinking it would be great to have the black man and the premarital sex teens be the survivors in a horror movie. Or maybe that's exactly what Day of the Dead did. Like I said, not a horror fan.

chris the cynic said...

Pretty sure that the reason that Star Wars is so low on dark skinned bad guys is that the Empire is modeled, quite openly, on the Nazis.

That's why when Thrawn was introduced the entire galaxy went, "Wait what?! This fits into racial purity how?" and then the explanation was, "No, the Emperor was just as much of a racist as you always thought, Thrawn is just so damn awesome that Hitler decided it was worth having a general of color just this once."

Will Wildman said...

My mother is a physical chemist, so I've had an excellent example all my life of a woman in male-dominated scientific field, and I'd definitely be keeping that in mind if I were writing about her in a professional capacity. In the context of my story, she's only been scientisting for a few pages when the anarchist terrorists burst in and implement their plan to turn the experimental power station into an impenetrably-force-fielded fortress. Because that's the kind of book it is. The scientist in question is also 90% likely to be an Iron-Man-style powered-armor superhero, unless I get a very different idea within the next few pages.

At this point I've just been semirandomly assigning demographics for so long that the cast feels almost improbably diverse. I'm not sure there is an able-bodied straight white dude until you get down to the tertiary characters. (The secondary protagonist might be assumed such, but I'm pretty sure he's asexual.) I fear on occasion that someone would look at the cast and say it tokenism on steroids, but I really can't imagine changing any of them.

Also, I think there's something of a counter-tradition in zombie movies that a black character has a much greater life expectancy than standard for horror. But maybe that's just an artifact of the few I've seen.

depizan said...

Huh, well, if we're counting non-humans (at least of the near human variety), I suppose the movies do have one more person of color - Darth Maul.* (If we're using the character's skin color, that is. I'm pretty sure he was played by a white guy.) Zabraks are about the same darkness as Chiss.

But I'm not that comfortable with counting non-humans, mostly because movie makers and other creators have a bad habit of going: "We've got [insert color outside of the human spectrum] people, we can't be racist!" The response to that is usually not good. For good reason. *points up*

On the other hand, having the movie Imperials all be white does underline the Nazi parallel. Even if the movies and EU mainly go the Fantastic Racism route.

(I still think that TOR's Empire comes off more British Empire led by an Evil religious cult, since they "include" non-humans in a way that seems parallel British treatment of "lesser races." My assumption is that the creators wanted a slightly different Imperial vibe - and the ability to include non-humans - and took inspiration from the accents.)

*I invariably try to spell that M-a-l-l. I'm not sure what that says. Freudian slip regarding my dislike of shopping, most likely.

chris the cynic said...

To be clear, I was pointing to the Empire as Nazis model as the reason for a lack of human villains of color.

Thrawn needed the big reaction because if even members of your own species slightly different from you are considered too different to be allowed in the club, a member of a different species having the second highest rank in the club needs to set off some serious WTF bells in universe for it to be believable.

depizan said...

A black woman scientist/powered-armor superhero? DO want.

I also like the idea of an extremely diverse cast. When I stop messing about with fanfic, I have ideas.

But, for the moment, writing and trying to practice a few things in my writing take priority, hence the fanfic. Hey, I spent a decade not writing. I will take any and all inspiration and run with it. Even if the inspiration is "turn some of my SW:TOR characters into the A-Team in space." An A-Team that, if you count only my characters*, does not actually include any straight white dudes.

*As opposed to the companion characters the game gives you.

depizan said...

Very true.

Though the galaxy is nearly as short on human heroes of color. I mean, four? Four? Across six movies? And one of them minor enough I had to look up his name?

(The movies are just as bad with women heroes. I count..three? Leia, Padme, Mon Mothma. There are Padme's bodyguards/body doubles, but I can't find names and can't remember if any are named on screen. And Aunt Beru. And Bail's wife. Hm, maybe we should just be happy that all the guys of color get to be heroic. I've depressed myself.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I don't even know who Mon Mothma is, and that's not a good sign. Is that the girl Jedi what gets killed by clones?

*Googles* Oh. The politician gal with all of a few lines. *sigh*

depizan said...

Oh, yeah, there are a few female Jedi we see killed in Revenge of the Sith. Woo!

The EU is better, at least. The movies... *shakes head*

Yeah, I'll be over here playing in SW:TOR-verse where there are women and people of color. Sometimes even women of color! I love Star Wars (for sometimes unfathomable reasons) but it's got some major issues, especially in the movies.

Ana Mardoll said...

Are they all smexy? The Twilek Jedi comes from The Planet of Dancing Slaves. The feminine character on the Cloning World is slender and sweet. All the human women are conventionally attractive.

I love Star Wars too. I guess because there's still nothing quite like it for me. But yeah.

depizan said...

In TOR? Eh, well, there are older women here and there (though you can't play one), which is nice. The head Jedi is a woman, with more emphasis (at least in my opinion) on her competence and Jedi-ness than her looks. I mean, as usual, there's more variety in what the guys look like (and you can play as an ugly guy, while I wouldn't call any of the female faces even plain), but for a game it's not doing too badly. There's the - again typical - problem that the "fat" body type for women player characters is more "slightly chubby" while the male player characters come in more-or-less actually fat. (Still strikes me as a bit linebackery, though.)

As far as personalities go, I'd say the female NPCs come in nearly as large a variety (or, maybe as large a variety) as the male NPCs. Hell, one of the neutral-to-evil female NPCs is a type you'd expect to be male (military officer who makes some...questionable... decisions).

Where I think TOR runs into problems is with the romancible companions, since a lot of the ones male PCs can romance should be off limits due to power issues (I may argue that Jedi not being able to love is weird at best, but dating your Padawan should be a no-no. A very large no-no.) and some of the ones female PCs can romance are... where to even begin? There's Corso, the dippy sexist farmboy who wants to take care of your female smuggler and protect her from the big scary galaxy. *eyeroll* There's a guy who apparently made a hologram to sexually harass (I haven't gotten to that companion yet - it's a Jedi Consular one). There's a guy who gets demoted and placed under your command who you have to win over to even have him be pleasant to you, but, hey, if you do, you can romance him! (Except, again, chain of command! Trooper companion.) Yeah, I have a lot of issues with the romancible companions in SW:TOR. Starting with the fact that only the smuggler and bounty hunter have crews that don't involve real chains of command. (Maybe, arguably, the agent, since Imperial Intelligence seems short on command structure.) Romancing subordinates is not okay, guys. Especially as so many of the subordinates act like, well, subordinates.

Ana Mardoll said...

There's the - again typical - problem that the "fat" body type for women player characters is more "slightly chubby" while the male player characters come in more-or-less actually fat.

LOTRO is like that too. The fat boy hobbits have tummies; the fat girl hobbits look like Lane Bryant models (i.e., "proportionally" fat).

Romancing subordinates is not okay, guys.

This is a very good point. At least in Dragon Age, pretty much all your companions had thrown in with you willingly and could leave if you angered them enough. Except Zevran, I guess. Who I feel uncomfortable romancing because he's a captive assassin and you could (theoretically. Not in-game mechanics-wise, I don't think.) kill him at any time, so there's a huge balance of power issue there.

One of the reasons why I like Atton Rand so much as a Totally Wasted Interesting Character is that he's been trained to assassinate Jedi. But you don't know this. So in order to encourage you, Jedi, to stay OUT of his mind, he broadcasts a deliberate and constant stream of lust at your character so that she'll shut him out as much as possible. But if your character takes that as encouragement to pursue a relationship, she's in for a bit of a shocker that the whole thing was at least partially an act.

THAT is interesting to me, for a LOT of different world-building reasons. But it's pretty much totally wasted in-game. Sigh. Maybe time to get out the fan fic pens...

Will Wildman said...

There's a guy who gets demoted and placed under your command who you have to win over to even have him be pleasant to you, but, hey, if you do, you can romance him! (Except, again, chain of command! Trooper companion.)

That was an interesting thing for me. (I'm not far in to the story, but I have deep affection for my Trooper because she's voiced by Jennifer Hale, who is amazing.) I decided that my Trooper's lightside-favouring attitude would be "Why do people keep talking to me about things that aren't my job? Okay, yes, I will now go solve all of your problems for you, immediately and flawlessly, if you will stop talking. Thank you. Glory to the Republic or whatever." I wasn't wild about my former-commander-now-subordinate, and looked forward to replacing him (with my second companion, also a female trooper, whose personality guaranteed that we will be BFFs).

And then I found out that he was a romance option, and it got weird, because I was permanently aware of him following me, just a couple of steps behind, staring at my back. Aware that, code-wise, he was interested in my trooper despite their hierarchy rollercoaster. I couldn't not work with him, because the game is balanced around keeping a companion and he was the only one available. I was surprised by how uncomfortable this made me, given that it's a game and the situation bears no similarity to any of my experiences.

Will Wildman said...

I feel I should clarify: my Trooper got bored with people explaining their life stories or begging for generosity - those things aren't relevant to her job as Republic special forces, which is "Make things better for people". She would far prefer it if quest NPCs could just prepare clipboards in advance with filled-out templates:

Greetings, honored Trooper. My name is _________ZOLTA___ and I am a Republic citizen. My life would be greatly improved if you would please (check all that apply):
[_] Locate the building/equipment/ancient artifact (circle all that apply) called _______
[_] Recover my lost _____ from the desert/swamp/lake/fortified military base (circle all that apply)
[X] Slay _1_ of the following: __BOUNTY_HUNTER_CALLED_GWAHAI____
[_] Scavenge for ___ number of ____________
[X] Rescue my __BROTHER__, named __PHOR__, who was last seen at the location of __INSIDE_GWAHAI'S_SHIP___
Thank you and glory to the Republic.

That sounds like a vastly more efficient system to her.

Ana Mardoll said...


Ana Mardoll said...

One of my irks with LOTRO is that I want the quest givers to give me ALL their quests at once. I'm vaguely aware that the QGs think their quests are linked (Artifact 1 informs me that you must return to the Ruins in search of Artifact 2!), but I don't, deep down inside, believe them.

chris the cynic said...

Vastly more efficient, but also has the potential to be depersonifying (is that the equivalent of dehumanizing?) which could lead toward seeing those in need of help as little more than broken objects clearly unforgivably responsible for their own predicament, and the dark side/tea party lies that way.

And this is the part where I link to Elizabeth Warren, but I have a problem, how much are you willing to watch?

Can I get five minutes out of you? If so, click here. Be warned it's about why people file for bankruptcy and it may very well make you cry.

Reducing to a set of check-boxes is a good way to quickly learn what needs to be done, but if that's all there ever is then you lose the person-element. The stories matter on a psychological level in aggregate.

So, in other words, proposed last question:

In your own words, why do you require a trooper's assistance at this time. Trooper could look at the data above and quickly do what needs doing, but if there were a tendency towards forgetting the importance of the people behind the tasks, the information would be there.

Will Wildman said...

This is an excellent point for systems overall - I think the character I'm talking about would be far more hesitant to actually support such a template for standard use, but for herself, she is 100% certain that she would never not do everything she could to help people in need, because (again) that is her job. This level of certainty is probably a critical vulnerability - it'll be interesting to see where it takes her, both in-game and in her head.

Your proposed final question could definitely be a good safeguard.

I can't watch the video at the moment, but will endeavour to do so later.

depizan said...

At least in Dragon Age, pretty much all your companions had thrown in with you willingly and could leave if you angered them enough.

For whatever reason (that it's an MMO, probably), they decided that companions were permanent in SW:TOR, which leads to some brain hurty things*, but in story the Smuggler and Bounty Hunter companions are there by choice. There's an element of thrown in with you willingly to most of the companions (The first Trooper companion and the first Agent companion aside - both are explicitly assigned to you), but given that chains of command make it official, it's still uncomfortably "don't romance your underlings, people!" to me.

I keep feeling uncomfortably like I'm getting an insight into the favorite fantasy of one of the game designers/writers or something. I'd much rather they found ways to have companions throw in with all of the classes and not have it officialized by any kind of leadership.

Of course, with Jedi and Sith, there's still an inherent power imbalance there, unless we're talking about a Force using companion. And, given that most of those are apprentice/padawans...

* A number of classes get just flat out incompatible companions: The Trooper eventually gets a companion who should, by all rights be tossed out of the millitary (or into a military prison), one of the Jedi classes gets a Sith companion who keeps trying to turn them to the Dark Side, the Sith Warrior gets a companion who betrays them, etc...

Hell, the Agent's first companion is an amoral, homicidal, anarchistic woman who's left a string of betrayed people and employers (and dead bodies) across the galaxy. While I can buy her hanging out with an equally amoral and homicidal Agent, I don't find it in character at all for her to stick with my Light Sider Agent. Especially once I got to companion missions and started screwing up her evil plans instead of assorted Imperial evil plans. While I do imagine he sleeps with his door locked (and possibly furnature shoved in front of it), that doesn't explain why she doesn't shoot him in the back and go do her own thing.

depizan said...

Kind of spinning off of that, in head canon, it's running around helping the people that the Republic keeps ignoring/abandoning that made my Smuggler progressively a nicer person. She went from "Why're you asking me? Do I look official to you? Oh fine. *mutter grumble*" to "Damn it, why're the only people I want to work for the one's without money!?" to "Sure, I'll help you. Somebody's got to."

Will Wildman said...

I'm also disappointed that we don't get the option to reject companions. I mean, to a degree, they are necessary to the core story and arguably have to stick around, but there is no conceivably reason that Skadge is still alive after bullying his way onto my Bounty Hunter's ship. He's sadistic, so Mako and Blizz hate him; he's honorless, so Torian hates him; he's dangerous and reckless, so Gault hates him; and my BH hates him for all of those reasons. We would jettison him into hyperspace at the first opportunity. My headcanon is that the NPC labelled 'Skadge' on my deck is the fluffy mannequin we commissioned from the Plush Worlds later, in case we need a decoy for something.

depizan said...

I knew I forgot one of the problem companions!

I wish they'd set things up differently, so that we could reject companions (or they, us). It doesn't really feel Star Warsy to be stuck with completely incompatible teammates. Clueless Corso is one thing (though he'd be illogical as a companion to an Evil Smuggler), but actively awful companions are something else entirely.

Though, really, there's two different problems with the current set up. You have companions who are fine (from player standpoint - like the traitor on the Sith Warrior's team or even Kaliyo), but who's continued presence makes no in-character sense. And then you have the companions you should never be forced to pick up.

Kaliyo's story bits should - if you're Light Side - end with her pulling something and ditching you. (At
least IMO.) It would be entertaining, it would be in-character. And a Sith Warrior (especially a Dark Sider) should have the in-character option of killing their traitor. (I know why Bioware doesn't let them, but still.)

As for the Trooper companion who belongs in prison, Skadge, and other companions who make no sense from word one, you should have some other option rather than being stuck with them. (I realize Kali should, logically, be in this category, but most people find her entertainingly wrong rather than "get this evil person off my ship!" wrong. Not sure why that is.)

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