Let's Play: Stardew Valley | #3 Spring 6 Year 1

Another Stardew Valley video is up! ♡

Let's Play: Stardew Valley | #2 Spring 3 Year 1

Another Stardew Valley video is up! ♡

Open Thread: Cartoon Dog on a Train


If you're like me your reaction is:
 "I know that that dog"
*pause*
"Who is that dog?"
My initial attempt to find out failed, but "famous cartoon dog hat" (no quotes) got the job done.  That is a full length portrait of one Huckleberry Hound in spray paint on a boxcar canvas.

The picture was taken in South Portland, but that was a while ago, so he could be anywhere on the continent by now.

When I am corporate overlord, any unmarked cars on my trains will be treated as free walls.  Maybe I'll even have them park in specially designated places with scaffolding around them so that artists have easy access to the whole canvas, instead of just the parts near the ground.

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We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Let's Play: Stardew Valley | #1 Spring 1 Year 1

My first Let's Play video of Stardew Valley is available!

Narnia: Fierce Women and Cruel Lions

[Narnia Content Note: Misogyny]

Narnia Recap: Polly and Digory have agreed to explore a new world at random.

The Magician's Nephew, Chapter 4: The Bell and The Hammer

When we last left Polly and Digory, they were exploring a castle in which nothing lives (no plants, no ants, nothing) and which never provides a convenient window or parapet for looking out onto the "country [which] lay around the enormous palace" because (I presume) then Lewis would have to make up a description of the landscape of an alien world and he didn't want to.

Instead, we get a monstrous stone fountain with wide-spread wings. I don't know if Lewis intended this, but that would definitely read to my Christian upbringing culture as quasi-demonic and a sign that whoever had lived here had not been "right with Jesus". Good people don't decorate with winged monsters: that much was drilled into me as a child.

Open Thread: Clouds Before Sunset


Taken from the parking lot of Billy's Roast Beef and Seafood.

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We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Film Corner: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Nebula from GOTG2

Now it's time for my favorite show: scrolling Netflix for an hour until I finally decide to rewatch my favorite 15 minutes from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 rather than burning down my impossibly big watch-list.

"In a little cafe, just the other side of the borderrrrr...."

God, I love Nebula so much.

This movie is so good if you take out Peter from all of it, and really all the parts that aren't Mantis or Nebula or Gamora. I have a fan-script for 3 that's basically Michelle Yeoh teaching Mantis, Nebula, and Gamora to be badass girl pirates.

Nebula's FACE when she hot-rigs herself to generate the ship, I would DIE for her. Someone needs to recut this movie into a version which recognizes that Nebula and Mantis are the most important emotional arcs, and the Peter/Yondu/Raccoon/Dad stuff... isn't. (I like Yondu, it's just that I have a whole world of Dad Issue Movies to choose from and far sparser pickings in the field of Murderous Sisters. Like, it's not that the Peter/Dad/Yondu/Raccoon stuff is *bad*, it's not, it's just EXTREMELY WELL-TROD GROUND and over there you have Mantis and Nebula being unique and interesting.)

Ugh, and this movie does the trope I hate MOST: knocking out a girl so she can't have a Big Damn Hero moment. Rocket shooting Gamora so she can't save Peter is just so fucking annoying to me, and sooooo maaaaaaany movies pull that shit. If you can't figure out a way to have a female character not sacrifice herself for her loved one EXCEPT by having a man knock her out for her own good, you don't deserve to write female characters.

I really wish Peter was less toxic because I feel like he *could* be my favorite MCU dude if he were just...............a little different? He's softer-bodied, he's family-oriented, he (sorta) focuses on group dynamics and mother-henning his team, he's got the capacity to avoid toxic masculinity and laugh at himself......and then the writers fling him at Gamora in toxic ways and I want to do a murder. He could be an excellent mother hen / cat herder!!! He doesn't NEED to always be badgering Gamora about the "unspoken thing" until I want her to jam a knife in his tongue. Siiiiiiiiiiigh. So close, so far.

The scene where they crash and Ego lands.

The scene where she stops them from killing Rocket.

The scene where she shares her plans.

The scene where she generates power for the ship.

Ironically, Thor--the embodiment of godly masculinity--comes off as softer and less toxic (to me) than Peter Quill most of the time. He really does look like he should be emotionally potty-trained by now into basic things like "don't badger the girl into a relationship" and "it's okay to admit being wrong." Whereas... Thor...shows emotions? We see him smile and grin goofily when he sees the Hulk, we see him show fear when facing a haircut, he... has emotional RANGE besides "Dudey McDude".

I also love those little "Whoa." moments Thor has, like when Valkyrie drinks faster than he ever imagined and he just has to stop and admire the spectacle. You just KNOW he and Loki played as valkyries as kids.

I'll be honest that a MAJOR reason I haven't and probably won't watch Infinity War was because I didn't believe they'd do right by Nebula. After her emotional arc in GOTG2, she deserves to be the one who takes down Thanos. It is the most emotionally satisfying conclusion and if she were a boy, the people involved in these stories would *get* that. Sigh.

How does Peter know Thanos again? He's the abusive father of the girl Peter badgered into being his sorta-girlfriend? That's... I don't... *beats head quietly against desk*

If Nebula is the star of Infinity War 2 or whatever, I will happily go see it.

It is SO CLEARLY what GOTG2 is *BUILDING TOWARDS*, even! Nebula and Gamora resolve their differences and team up to take on THEIR universe-ending dad, after Peter takes care of HIS universe-ending dad! This is why I would never be allowed to work on the MCU because I would keep being a bitch about things like "why are we setting this girl up to be Thanos' nemesis if nothing will ever come of it" and "lol, are you joking".

Like, if you KNOW that Nebula isn't going to be allowed to face down Thanos in the epic one-on-one she deserves, GIVE HER SOMETHING ELSE as her driving motivation OR commit to the job and let him kill her. Those are basically your narrative options? Either let her force a confrontation she's not competent to win (and thus loses and dies) or give her literally any other motivation in the world so she can do that instead.

But it's danged annoying because "son faces down evil father" is entrenched as a goddamn movie right of passage but make the son a daughter and all the sudden it's whoa nelly.

Make Luke Skywalker a girl you cowards, etc.

Film Corner: Bird Box


[TW: Ableism]

Alright, BIRD BOX, you get five minutes to make your case for why you exist.

We open with the standard zombie apocalypse broadcast. WE ARE HERE, COME FIND SURVIVORS.

Sandra Bullock is looking me in the face and saying this is gonna feel like forever and it's gonna be hard to stay alert and it's very meta and I'm supposed to chortle and say SANDY YOU'VE NO IDEA HOW RIGHT YOU ARE, IT'S MY BEDTIME. I refuse. I'm as alert as a peckish tiger, BIRD BOX. Your move.

Open Thread: The meeting of true and false


I thought of various names for this, "Where Imitation met reality" for example, and I wasn't really satisfied with any of them, including the one I used as a title.

Apparently fake bricks are a pretty common thing, they don't exactly endure very well, though.

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We often have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  At the moment this is the only one:
   ● Into the Spiderverse

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

March Newsletter (2019)

Holy crap, it's March? I lost all track of time until today. There are reasons for that but they're sad ones and I don't want to dwell on them here. Let's talk fun stuff.

I mentioned in my last newsletter that I'd like to start posting Patreon rewards at the end of the month (4 weeks after the monthly newsletter) because that means the newsletter gets to be "here are all the fun things I'm planning!" rather than a downer "here are all the things I didn't get to..." so let's try this on for size and see how it goes.

Fun Thing #1: Earthside. I really want to finish polishing my Earthside Chapter 1 and get it in a state where I can post it. This is my first real series and I'm struggling with the delicate balance of how much information to give "new arrivals" to the series (so they can read the books in any order) versus how to not bore the regular readers to tears. This has been really an interesting learning process, from a craft perspective!

Fun Thing #2: Vallis (Fire Mage WIP). I really want to try to re-draft Vallis so that we have some new chapters which slot in before chapter 1. (This will mean radically re-doing all the following chapters, yay!) I think a big problem here is that I take too seriously the Vonnegut advice to "start as close to the end as possible". You do actually need to take time to introduce the world and characters, I think, before you fling a crisis at their faces like a custard pie.

Fun Thing #3: Stardew Valley! I have some Let's Plays which will be going up on Patreon and eventually on YouTube and I am very excited about that! I've never LP'd Stardew Valley before because I was afraid I'd be a very boring commentator, but I think I'll be able to strike a nice balance between "interesting babble" and "soothing white noise" for people who want to fall asleep to my videos.

Fun Thing #4: Deconstructions. I have a new Magician's Nephew post I'm working on which will go up on Patreon first, and I'd link to post reposts of my old Narnia work...somewhere. Maybe I'll post teasers with links up on Patreon that link to the larger blog post on my website? Sort of an In Case You Missed It? That way, the ensuing comments aren't split across multiple pages.

Remember: It's a new month, which means new paper books for the $25 patrons and new bookmarks for the $5 patrons! If I don't have your address, send me a message on the internal system or email me at AnaMardoll at gmail dot com. I love sending ya'll things!

Thank you all so much again for being here with me and sticking with me through thick and thin. Oh! I might be officially divorced by the end of this month!

Transcending Flesh: Magical Potions and Gender Belts

Note: This was previously published on my Patreon.

a pink and blue sky with a radio tower

This essay is one in a series which focuses on writing gender in science fiction and fantasy settings that provide body modification options beyond our current level of technology. Note that you can download this collection of essays from my website here.

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Transcending Flesh:
Gender and Body Diversity in Futuristic and Fantastical Settings


Essay #9: Magical Potions and Gender Belts (a Dungeon Master's Guide)

So you're a dungeon master (or a story teller or a game master or just a cool cat with a gaming screen) and you have a player who wants to play a trans character in your world. You want to be sensitive to their needs and the needs of their character so, surprise!, you give them a magical body transformation potion in their inventory at game start and now they never need to face bigotry or adversity again. Well done you, right?

Well, maybe.

Some players want their escape into a fantasy world to not be marred by the same bigotry they face on a day-to-day basis. Other players want their time in your fantasy world to allow them to explore bigotry in a safe setting. The key to being a good dungeon master to your players is to talk to them about what they're hoping to experience and accomplish with their character. It's also important to understand what your limits are as the creator of this world, and where your comfort levels lie.

One solution I've found is to craft a world which does not have systemic bigotry against trans people, but wherein small subcultures such as families or small towns or religious groupings may have pockets of prejudice. That way, Yolanda can play xer trans character over in the main plot without having to experience bigotry, but Zanadar can play ner trans character over here in a side-plot and work through bigotry with the power of persuasion or charisma or fireballs to the face. (Whatever floats your and the Zanster's boat, really!)

I will also make body modification spells, potions, and wearables available as part of the setting, but players can decide whether they want their character to start with those items already in their possession or whether they want their character to work towards those items as a goal. One player decided that her belt of gender confirmation had been pawned prior to game start because she was strapped for cash. This gave her a chance to work through dysphoria while understanding that a solution was still available to her once her character had earned enough money on the main plot quest.

What I absolutely will not do is make a world in which bigotry is pervasive and unavoidable, and players have to accept that in order to play. Nor will I make a setting in which there are no options, either mundane or magical, to allow them to transition. Every society I know of has had pockets of "safe" folks who accepted trans people among them, and had transition options of some kind available to people who needed them. Why would I craft a setting which doesn't include these parts of the human experience? Why would I make a game where people have to agree to let me hurt them in order for them to play?

Be a responsible dungeon master by talking with your players, understanding their goals, and minimizing the harm they will have to endure in order to play your game. Find out if they want to experience bigotry and, if so, what kinds and how much. Work out exactly what you're willing to portray, since you will be playing the villains--you're allowed to have boundaries, too! Respect yourself and your players as you create an enjoyable experience together.

Writings: The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin (Part 6)

Previously posted on my Patreon.