Monthly Archives: June 2012

From Racheal’s Husband

This is Racheal’s husband,

I just thought I should inform anyone who knows Racheal online, that she passed away this evening in a car accident at the fault of another. Unfortunately this isn’t what I want to be doing right now, I want to be watching King of the Hill and American Dad with her right now on the couch.  But I just thought it was fair for her readers and online friends to know what happened and that she didn’t disappear off the face of the Earth.

She also had plans to go to Seattle to be on a panel at Geek Girl Con and just received a very special gift today that she never got to read. 

 

I’m not sure how to contact you, the person in charge of the panel, so if you will please email me at joaostinson@gmail.com I can give you my phone number and we can speak if need be.

 

 

 

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Breaking Dawn Part 2 will send the wrong message about female characters

The trailer for Breaking Dawn Part 2, or how to make a movie with almost no plot, came out today. Bella Swan continues her quest of perfection by informing audiences that she was born to be a blood-sucking killer. While the trailer doesn’t touch on how suited Bella is to life as a vampire too much, it will surely play a major role in the movie itself. After all, what else are they going to fill the time with? Bella and Edward’s perfectly amazing sex life? The creepiness of Jacob’s imprinting on her daughter?

After Bella has her baby and becomes super vamp, she immediately takes to the lifestyle. She’s not even tempted to rip the jugular vein out of nearby humans! Readers discover that she and Edward have amazing sex and can keep at it because they don’t have to sleep. Reneesme grows at a highly accelerated rate and is incredibly intelligent. As the world’s perfect child, she is constantly held and revered.

On a hunting trip with her daughter and Jacob, the Cullens’ friend Irina sees Reneesme and believes that the girl is an Immortal Child, a small child who is bitten and remains an uncontrollable monster forever. This is a huge mistake in the vampire world. She tells the Vultori and the vampire police squad head out to Washington. The trip takes quite a while for a group of beings with unlimited funds.

During this time, the Cullens drag all their vampire friends to Washington (never mind all those pesky humans that will die) to testify that Reneesme is an Immortal Child. The gathering of people could be handled in a short montage, but viewers probably won’t be so lucky. Many of the vampires have special powers. Suddenly the story is an X-Men crossover. One vampire produces electrical shocks on her skin. Another can manipulate elements. No doubt, there’s one who can control metal somewhere out there.

Eventually the Vultori come. All the vampires—sans Alice and Jasper who ran off to find someone—stand in a line. It would appear the fight is on.

No, it’s not.

Pages after pages of conversation, debate, goodbyes and chatter end the book. Bella shows that she’s Awesome Vampire Number One by extending her mutant power, a mental shield, over everyone. Alice and Jasper show up with guests to say hey, look, Reneesme isn’t dangerous. Here’s a boy just like her!

The Vultori decide that there’s no need to continue their quest. They decide to kill Irina for her wrong information, a death that affects no one but her sisters, and head down to South America to find some man who is impregnating mortal women with his vampire seed.

That’s it. There’s no fight, no confrontation. No one important dies or suffers injury. The book ends with everyone happy and perfect in Washington.

The movie, like the others, will do well opening weekend. The Twilight movies don’t hold the number one spot for long. Word of mouth doesn’t help the series s as it did The Hunger Games. In addition, Bella, Edward and the others are completely forgettable characters in an unmemorable plot.

The problem with the success of the Twilight films is that it further pushes the idea that it’s okay to rejoice a badly crafted female character. Had the series been about a woman who allowed men to define her and manipulate her, and then that woman overcomes the mental and emotional abuse with the offenders seeing some type of punishment, it’d be a different story (if done right). The problem is that Bella is constantly rewarded for being a moldable little brat. She gets everything she wants, she’s treated horribly and it’s shown as an okay lifestyle. None of the characters face any real consequences for their actions.

Women like to read books or watch movies that star other women. While Bella is technically the lead of the series, more attention rests on the shoulders of Edward and Jacob. Without any true character, Bella isn’t relatable. Bella is an outline of a person, ready for the men who want her to fill in the lines.

Touting Bella as a fantastic female character won’t help anyone. Production companies can focus on pointless, silly stories of a man-crazed woman with no personality rather than provide good quality characters. The masses pay for it, so it must fill some craving.

It does. The books combined romance, supernatural and a female lead. It’s done horribly. The mysticism clouds the issues, as does the romantic “love.” A person who truly loves someone doesn’t control her daily life and decisions.

Had Twilight came out at the same time as The Hunger Games, I have no doubt that the story of Katniss would have squashed Bella’s quest to be an undead plaything. While books exist with good female leads, they’re harder to find than the ones with males as the star. Twilight hit shelves during the wind down of Harry Potter. Readers wanted something different. Twilight became a feature on multiple Harry Potter websites—and not because of Cedric. Twilight gave fans the romance they desired that wasn’t a main player in Harry Potter.

Thankfully, the story of Bella Swan ends this year. She doesn’t need a replacement, even though those are out there and we will certainly hear about them. Her poor story needs buried in the pile of what not to do with female characters in books and movies.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Bella Swan, Twilight

The constant attacks on female gamers need to stop

Over the past few days, the horrible comments on Anita Sarkeesian’s video asking for support for her Kickstarter Project Tropes v. Women in Video Games (warning: the comments are high offensive) have caused various appalled reactions with women and men around the Web. Sarkeesian’s goal is to research hundreds of female game characters and discuss the issues that appear in a video series. She previously discussed the issues in her video series TV Tropes v. Women, looking at the various boxes female characters find themselves in (damsel in distress, straw feminist, ect.).

She posted the video on June 4. As of 6:46 p.m. today, viewers lefts 11,742 comments. The majority of the comments feature horrible, offensive and disrespectful slams at Sarkeesian, women, Jews, homosexuals and others. Sadly, not a single degrading comment on the video is a surprise.

Trash talking is a common part of video games. It doesn’t matter what game it is, if people can talk to one another, insults fly. Listen to some gamers talk about a fight. The term “rape” is often used in addition to racists, sexist or other derogative terms. The use of the word “rape” is never okay to use. Defeating another character is not raping her. Rape is a horrible, forced act that in no way should be used as a term to describe an accomplishment or feat. Many who use these terms would never say such remarks in person. The virtual world creates the idea that a player can be someone else. Unfortunately, the worse side of people appears often.

I’ve been insulted in games. I’ve refused to log onto Vent and TeamSpeak channels because I couldn’t stand the horrible insults throw between not only the various players but at the ones they played against. The types of insults thrown out are so hateful that it’s impossible to ignore them. It doesn’t just bother the group being insulted. I’m not Jewish and it makes me sick to hear a player use a slur.

While some gaming companies do respond when in-game harassment occurs, they aren’t helping the problem enough. A Blizzard employee helped me out when another male character sent constant harassing messages during an instance run in World of Warcraft. I don’t know if the player was punished or what came of it, but the employee seemed to take the issue seriously. The way that these companies feed the problem is with the portrayal of female characters and a lack of screening of in-game chat.

Log into World of Warcraft. One of the loading screens shows a Night Elf with her breasts almost completely exposed. The Night Elf dance looks like something in a person would see in a strip club. Make a character in Star Wars The Old Republic. All the female characters have large breasts and can’t be overweight like the male characters. I remember when I first found out about Tomb Raider. The boys in my class couldn’t get over the fact that Lara Croft ran around with huge breasts. The majority of their conversations about the game discussed her body. There’s not enough action taken against hateful insults. While it’s impossible to catch every incident, more effort can be put into enforcing the cessation of harassment. Some type of system that flags certain terms would make a difference.

It’s not a secret that many women love video games. The negative atmosphere makes it difficult to enjoy the game fully, though. How many great gamers don’t raid with groups or stay out of battleground because of harmful words? How many gamers avoid games that involve conversing with others because of this problem?

The insults on Anita Sarkeesian’s video prove her point repeatedly. The comments are hate speech. If a politician or other public figure said some of the comments written on the page, he would be ostracized. It is not okay to insult women or anyone else. It is not okay to belittle or disregard a female gamer. Players can cheer when they defeat another player in a player versus player setting without saying that they “raped that bitch.” Many of the comments tell Sarkeesian to “go back to the kitchen” or reference that it’s a travesty when “ovaries try to think.” These types of comments reduce women to objects.

The comments also show that the word feminist is grossly misunderstood. A feminist wants equality, not superiority. Feminists are not trying to squash men into subservient beings or take away their jobs. I want to be able to play a video game without reading sexist insults or be able to find a good book series featuring a good female character without searching for hours online only to find that the woman becomes a stereotype. The sad fact is that the people who do make such horrific statements and have these beliefs hold far too much power over the market.

Check out Anita Sarkeesian Tropes videos and her Kickstarter project Tropes v. Women in Video Games to find out more information about the ways the media stereotypes women, the project’s status and other information.

Leave a comment

Filed under female geekdom, feminism, Gaming, MMORPG, Star Wars The Old Republic, World of Warcraft

Talking Tahiri Veila

Being raised by Tuskan Raiders and being shaped by the Yuuzhan Vong should make for a compelling character. Unfortunately, for Tahiri Veila, she’s cast into role of the pining lover, moldable apprentice and slave to her desires. As likeable as Tahiri is, the unfitting uses of her character threaten her position on the list of female heroes in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Tahiri began her role in the EU as friend to a reluctant Anakin Solo. Orphaned and raised by Tusken Raiders, she has a vastly different background than her best friend. Tahiri and Anakin during the Junior Jedi Knights books act as children their ages often do as they go through their many adventures. She’s bright, bubbly and intelligent.

Tahiri pops up again during the New Jedi Order first in James Luceno’s Agents of Chaos II: Eclipse in a minor role. When the Yuuzhan Vong attack Yavin IV during Edge of Victory: Conquest by Greg Keyes, Tahiri doesn’t accompany most of the other students. Naïve about how the Vong truly are and feeling stifled by her age, Tahiri stays behind to fight alongside Anakin. Instead of the glorious adventure she envisions, she ends up captured by Shapers.

The shaping of Tahiri is one of the most horrifying and interesting events in the EU. The Vong Shapers have no qualms with eradicating Tahiri by replacing her with memories of another. They treat her as a science experiment, a game. The extent of the damage Master Shaper Mezhan Kwaad and Nen Yim inflict on Tahiri when they inserted the Riina Kwaad identity into the young Jedi trainee’s mind comes forth the strongest during the Force Heretic trilogy. While readers saw some of the effects before those, it’s only then does she have to fight the conflicting parts of her mind.

Tahiri and Anakin’s relationship turns from friendship to love during this time. It was short-lived, however, when Anakin died on Myrkr. Tahiri refused to kiss Anakin, telling him that he needed to return to receive it. It’s a common request seen in movies and books that the hero often fulfils, yet in this case, it adds another layer to the tragedy of Anakin’s death for Tahiri.

Tahiri appears to be recovering somewhat during her mission to Coruscant with Luke, Mara and several others including former Wraith Kell Tainer. Though subdued, Tahiri successfully contributed to the mission, especially when dealing with Lord Nyax. In addition, “Aunt Tahiri” and Kell’s interactions provide much-needed comic relief.

When Riina’s personality attempts to take control of Tahiri, she is forced to retreat into her mind to battle to deal with her two parts. She eventually merges the two and becomes a new mix of Riina and Tahiri. She’s harder, rougher, yet still maintains some of Tahiri’s brightness. It’s somewhat off-putting at first, but it makes sense with what has happened to her. During The Final Prophecy, Tahiri’s characterization continues to strengthen.

When the Killik crisis occurred, Tahiri became a Joiner. Despite that she suffered from depression from the loss of Anakin and that the Yuuzhan Vong part of her was known for blind devotion, Tahiri as a Joiner didn’t make much sense. Here was a woman who’d undergone a transformation into a more mentally sound person. She’d had her mind invaded once. It’d be logical for her to create some type of metal barriers against that happening again and be alert to it. This change would take time to become comfortable with, but it wasn’t as if Tahiri spent those five years on Zonoma Sekot in constant combat. She’d have time to recover. A world so rich in life and the Force seems like ideal healing grounds.

Moving past the Joiner kerfuffle, Tahiri’s characterization takes a major hit when she joins Jacen. Jacen manipulates Tahiri’s remaining feelings for Anakin to draw her into his trap. When it comes to dabbling in the Dark Side, Tahiri lacks the finesse of other Sith. While her fall to the dark side can be understood given the history, it’s the revelation during her trial for the murder of Gilad Pellaeon in Fate of the Jedi Allies by Christie Golden that Tahiri and Jacen were physically “involved” that does more damage to her—and her Sith Master. Tahiri pining after Anakin and then sleeping with his older brother is simply uncomfortable. It takes Star Wars to a place that it doesn’t turn to. In addition, it adds nothing to the story but sputtering by fans. The final verdict in her trial would have been the same without that particular development.

Tahiri returns to her role as a hero in Troy Denning’s Fate of the Jedi Apocalypse. She fought one of Abeloth’s forms with the help of Boba Fett. The alliance, if it can be called such, between such vastly different characters worked well. Tahiri also fights alongside the Jedi in the Temple towards the end of the book. In both cases, she shows the Tahiri unseen for years. She’s an assertive, decisive woman capable of holding her own in most situations.

Tahiri is yet another female character in the Expanded Universe whose potential is repeatedly misused. She’s stuffed into the box of the lost love and self-pity. While she received closure during Allies, I’m not convinced that the Anakin card won’t play again in her future. No one wants to see a depressed, wallowing Tahiri.

Tahiri’s destiny links with Anakin long after his death. Rather than force her to stay tied down to a ghost, let her move forward. She can still have fond memories of him without them dragging down her spirit. The relationship is a part of her, but shouldn’t define her entire life. Aaron Allston sent her in the right direction during Conviction and Troy Denning pushed it farther along with the events of Apocalypse. It’d be a terrible loss if Tahiri faded into the background.

3 Comments

Filed under Allston, Anakin Solo, Expanded Universe, Fate of the Jedi, female characters, FotJ, Jacen Solo, NJO, Star Wars, SWEU, Tahiri, Troy Denning

Timothy Zahn’s Scoundrels full cover revealed

Image

On the back, from left to right, Paul Youll drew Kell Tainer, Winter Celchu, Zerba Cher’dak and Bink Kitik. The cover is eye-catching and looks different than other covers. Perhaps the appearance will help sway those who are unsure about the book.

Scoundrels comes out Dec. 16.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scoundrels, SWEU, Uncategorized, Zahn

SWTOR: Character transfers June 12, Patch 1.3 announced

Those curious about Star Wars The Old Republic can play for free—up to level 15—in July. Depending on how fast a player levels and what quests he completes, he should end somewhere near the end of the second world. Some may end up with their ships.

Let’s be honest. BioWare/EA needs to do something to bring players back to the game. Even though I cancelled my subscription, I have some times left so I logged on last night. I played the smuggler over on Hoth for a few hours. While playing, I remembered why I enjoyed the game. Then I went to the fleet to complete Chapter 2 of the story and amount of people on the fleet reminded me why I quit. Four. Four people and all four were in my guild.

Character server transfers are supposed to start June 12. Thankfully, BW and EA planned so people can’t pick a server that they think will contain a high population.

From SWTOR.com:

Therefore, we made the decision to strictly limit the initial phase of the Character Transfer Service to only allow transfers from selected groups of origin servers (where you’re moving a character from) to selected individual destination servers (where you choose to move a character to) based on the player populations of the origin and destination servers. In some cases, a large number of origin servers will be eligible to move to a single destination server. In others, very few origin servers will be transferring to existing high population destination servers. Remember, the goal here is to push almost every destination server to an active population that’s higher.

While the transfers are the immediate concern, additional content is also an issue. At E3, fans received details about patch 1.3: Allies. Features include a group finder feature, new unlockables for the Legacy system (including using a speeder at level 10) and adaptive gear among other things. With the transfers, people should be able to play Flashpoints, Warzones and Operations. Being able to play the content could make a huge difference in the number of players that stick with the game.

My decision to resubscribe lies in the success of character transfers. I need to be able to join a PVP or Flashpoint without sitting around for an hour. As I’ve said before, the game is fun, but it needs people there. A huge content update would help, but content doesn’t do any good if no one is around to play it. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope that the transfers do start on June 12.

Leave a comment

Filed under Star Wars, Star Wars The Old Republic, SWTOR

Origins: Aaron Allston talks “Mood and Style”

Imagine if Jacen Solo sounded like a character from one of Jane Austen’s novels.

That didn’t settle well with me either. Fortunately, that’s a problem editing can fix.

At his Mood and Style seminar at Origins Game Fair on Friday, Aaron Allston cited this example from his career when discussing “style chameleons.” A writer becomes a style chameleon when his writing style matches or resembles another author’s style. This usually happens when a writer reads a book with a strong style and then goes to write.

Copying another author’s style doesn’t work. No one wants to be that person who sounds like a bad Mark Twain or Michael Stackpole. Emulating another writer stifles writing.

Everyone falls into this trap. I asked Allston after the panel how he fights back. His solution? Read a “palate cleanser,” a novel where the author uses a transparent prose.

“A transparent prose doesn’t call attention to itself,” Allston stated. Particular phrases, wording and other quirks with the words themselves shouldn’t draw attention away from the story. The goal is to use a transparent prose.

Allston offered a variety of techniques for good quality writing. Start with strong writing. That doesn’t mean action-packed writing. One of the key parts of strong writing is to avoid the clutter. As stated by many writers, show, don’t tell. Allston used an example stating, “I was sad” versus “lip trembling.” The latter provides a clear picture to the reader and conveys the emotion of the scene clearer.

This rule relates to the whole passive/active voice issue that plagues journalists everywhere. Passive voice (the use of “to be” verbs), slows down writing. Pick up any textbook. It contains sentence after sentence of passive voice. While there are times to use “to be” verbs, relying on them too much will stilt writing. Allston also recommended that writers avoid the present participle.

One common temptation when writing is to increase the word count for the sake of it. Focusing on word count can become an enemy. Adding in unnecessary adjective and adverbs may add pages, but it’s boring and kills style. Allston recommended keeping paragraphs short unless necessary and avoiding long sentences. He cited that 12 words is the length for human retention.

Descriptions can harm an author’s style. It’s easy to tell someone that she should feel scared, but that doesn’t create terror. Allston used the rather graphic example of how his back felt during a plane ride (I’ll spare the squeamish of the details). Instead of saying that she was dizzy, say she felt as if the room were spinning around her.

Perhaps it’s because I have to use he said/she said when I write articles, but I cannot stand adding in those two words unless there’s no other alternative. Dialogue attribution is a must and one of Allston’s points about strong writing. The easiest form of dialogue attribution appears during a conversation between two people. All the writer needs is a mention of who talks every four or five statements. Instead of saying he said/she said, or other euphemisms, use descriptions of what the person’s doing.

Tracy pointed to the crates against the wall. “It’s in one of those.”

Use particular word choices in dialogue to establish character and provide attribution, Allston said. He used the example of writing a character using particular Southern phrases he spoke. As he was the only one in the scene who spoke that way, readers knew who was talking without direct attribution.

One way to establish mood in a story is through structure. Allston said that shorter paragraphs could tense a reader up without him realizing why he feels that way. The ways details come forth to the reader also affect the mood of a scene. If the reader knows that the killer stands outside the kitchen door with an axe moments before the main character, it creates dread, suspense and tension, for example. If the killer pops out without the reader knowing he was there, it creates surprise and fear.

Allston listed multiple examples of how dialogue can establish mood. Two characters using banter while running from danger removes some of the nervousness from the scene. I can’t help but think of the way Gary Ross used Caesar Flickerman during The Hunger Games movie. Flickerman provided commentary during the Games, making it appear more like a sporting event than a gruesome fight to the death. During the clip of a past Games when he discusses how thrilling the moment is when a tribute realizes he is the victor removes the horror of watching one child beat another one to death with a brick. It captures the way that Capitol and its citizens view the Hunger Games. His words change the mood of the scene to horror at how casual the Games appear to Capitol.

Allston not only gave tips of how to establish your own mood and style, but also described what happens when a writer makes mistakes. He’s advice is to write first, edit later. Editing is when it’s time to take out present participles, rewrite “to be” sentences and fix other style problems.

One aspect of Allston’s seminars that I appreciated was how frank he was. There was no sugarcoating, no softening of the blow. This especially came into his Ruining Your Career Before it Gets Started seminar. More on that one later. The best advice isn’t dragged down by fluff and pageantry.

Just like strong writing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Allston, Origins2012, writing