Saturday, December 6, 2014

Shock Totem's bi-weekly Flash Challenge

I've recently taken over running the bi weekly flash challenge on the Shock Totem forum. I've been doing this thing for a couple of years now and have a heck of a fun time doing it. There is something about only having an hour to write that keeps that asshole "you suck!" voice in the back of my head from having time to speak. No time for doubt. No time for worry. just barely enough time to belt out some words. Then I get to read all of the things other people came up with. It's so awesome, i cribbed the idea and use it with a student writing group I run.

You should join in the fun.

Here are the details*:

This Saturday, December 20, at 8 PM EST, we will once again be hosting the bi-weekly flash fiction challenge. The challenge: You have just one hour to write, edit, and post your story. This is a “prompted” challenge, meaning your story must be based on the prompt, which will be revealed just before 8 PM. The challenge takes place here on their forum, so you’ll need an account if you want to participate. Locking this to registered members .

The purpose of the challenge is to force you, the writer, to clear your mind of all distractions and write a complete 1,000-word-or-less story within the allotted time. You’ll have to not only write the story, but also edit it, and then post it by 9 PM EST. 

For those interested, here are the rules:
Unlike the bi-monthly flash fiction contest, the bi-weekly one-hour flash challenge is just for fun. The challenge will be held every other Saturday, officially beginning at exactly 8 PM EST. There are no prizes! And the rules are simple.
1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within one hour, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.
2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.
3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.
4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.
5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and hosts the next contest.
And that’s it. Simple and fun.
Think you can do it? Join the forum and be present this coming Saturday at 8 PM EST. More information can be found on the forum.

*this was mostly copied from Ken Wood's entry on the Shock Totem blog. I just changed some of the wording around to make it look like I am talking for myself.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

An update re: Context.

A few days ago, I posted this about my resignation as a fan from Context Convention, in response to the way the board and some members of the con-comm were dealing with reports of harassment at the con (i.e. not addressing the harassment and blaming the victims). If you've been paying attention to such things, you may have noticed that I was far from alone in this

The good news is that people do, apparently, listen and things may be getting better. According to a followup blog by Steve Saus, the Board has been dissolved and the con is starting over from scratch. I'm not sure what the results will be, but I am at least cautiously optimistic at the moment. 

This is potentially a huge win in what has become a major fight at conventions and will likely have ripples. I'm glad to see this occur, even if I didn't want to see it occur this way to a con I love so dearly. But it needed to.

As a message to any other cons out there that may be watching what has occurred: This is all about trust. We have to be able to trust that we can feel safe at these events. Even though I personally have never experienced any harassment, I need to know that my wife can feel safe, since I really like to share the things I love with her. I also tend to push these convention pretty heavily among the student I work with, but I could not, in good conscience, suggest to a twelve or thirteen year old girl that she attend a convention where she may have to be affected by such behavior. More so, I cannot consider suggesting it to a boy of the same age knowing that how he sees other men treat women will shape his own future actions.

As I said before, this is important.

While I can't say that my trust has been completely returned (it is much easier to maintain trust that to win it back, once lost- another lesson I hope other cons take to heart), steps seem to be going in the right direction.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A fan's resignation from Context

I was going to bitch about Ferguson today. Still might at a later time. There are some things that are pissing me off royally. But then I saw something from a friend that changed my mind.

I could ramble on about my love for the convention, but you can find that throughout the blog. I could rant my anger, but Steve is a tad more eloquent than I and I can’t think of anything to say that he hasn’t. There is a part of me that wants to point out the others who have withdrawn themselves from future Contexts, but that isn’t my place.

I think my time is better spent talking about opportunity. Specifically, the opportunity the members of Convention Committee and the board members of Fanaco have before them. It is still possible to make this right and establish trust among the con-goers. It will be hard to do so, after the way this has been handled thus far, but not impossible. We want to go. We want to have fun and we will gladly give our money to do so, as long as you show us that we can feel safe and secure in doing so.

I want to believe that pride can be put aside in favor of what is quite objectively the right thing to do. That it is possible to acknowledge that this wasn’t handled the correct way and that we can move forward. Then I would be perfectly comfortable coming again next year and continuing to tell everyone I know that they should come along.

Until then, I cannot attend future iterations of Context and that makes me very sad.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Super nano writing month

Welcome to November, friends and neighbors. That time of year while we are supposed to grow out facial follicles and sprout words like a garden drowning in miracle grow.

I know myself well enough to be very doubtful when it comes to the possibility of creating a novel, but I've decided to push myself harder than I am used to doing. Just to see if I can do it. At this past year's Context, a very simple challenge was issued to me by someone who would hear nothing of my whining about lack of writing.

Write 250 words a day.

Hell, I thought, that's easy enough. So easy that I never got around to doing it. Now I am and I have been reasonably successful. So far, I am sitting at roughly 2700 words written this month. If I keep it up, I'll have at least 7500 words written by the end of the month. Paltry compared to those of you kicking out more than that in the course of a work week, but a milestone of dedication for me.

So, if you are a friend or even an acquaintance, feel free to ask me where the hell my 250 is any time you see me this month. I need to keep my ass in gear.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Some good news and significantly less bitching.

The world has been more than a bit shitty to me and mine as of late. While I know that existence tends to do that from time to time and am completely aware of the fact that, at this very moment, there is some child somewhere in the world dying slowly in pain and terror from an inoperable tumor, that information does fuck all to help me feel better. World’s smallest violin and all. But, sometimes really awesome things happen, too.

For instance, I have reached a few of my publishing goals over the course of this last month by sharing TOC space with some of my literary heroes.

Case in point one:

Jamais Vu, issue three. Wherein I dissect some concerns I have with the events of Shaun of the Dead, proving how erudite and entertaining I am. But, lo, who else do ye spy on that cover? Why I do believe that is Harlan Ellison, public asshole and wordsmith extraordinaire without whom Science Fiction would not be where it is today. I may swoon. And what-ho, thar be Piccirilli, whom you might recognize from how firmly I swing from yon testicles. I’ve also been reading Steve Resnic Tem for years and have been getting quite into Damien Angelica Walters. Matt Betts, if you happen to read this, I see why you’ve been telling me to read Stephanie Wytovich so much. That mermaid poem kicked my ass.

If you are going to buy a copy (which you should because DID YOU SEE THOSE PEOPLE I LISTED ABOVE?), I highly recommend buying a physical copy. Honestly, the physical/e-book divide means jack squat, but Paul Anderson really did go all out in making sure this makes for something special. From the matte cover to the interior art to the craft of the layout, it really is worth spending the few extra bucks.

Case in point two:

wherein I have a poem someone once told me made them itchy. It is also pretty cool and likely worth the $9 by itself. But, again, peep the TOC (which is, admittedly, tough to get at through the amazon site) and you will see Marge Simon nestled among the folds therein. Yes, the Marge Simon who contributed to the Stoker winning Four Elements (with Linda Addison, Charlee Jacob and Rain Graves) and well as Vectors (with Charlee Jacob as well). Vectors has been one of the single most influential works of poetry for me and now I have my words in proximity to hers. Also, Dora Badger’s “The Worms Crawl in” and Montilee Stormer’s “Between” are pure gold. This one is pretty fun.

Finally, thanks to a little help from the Little Red Reviewer herself, I have been contacted by someone at Orbit and will be receiving a review copy of Mira Grant’s new Parasitology book. Fuck yes.

So, crap will still keep happening. I will be deeply in debt the rest of my life. Things getting better seems like a very relative bit of phrasing. But I have an amazing wife to whom I have now been married for ten years. I have friends without whom I would probably be curled up in a corner weeping and shuddering. And these silly little grotesque thoughts of mine keep creeping further out into the world.

I’ll take it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Because you make my brain ouch

Dammit, people. Seriously. You’re actually dragging me into this with your stupidity? Fuck!

So, I tried to keep my only mention of the Gamergate bullshit to what people were trying to say was the heart of the argument. At least when they weren’t graphically threatening rape, personal violence and attempting to financially cripple people by shutting down their websites. Because, dammit, this is about integrity.

Then I read a largely well written and decently thought outarticle that complained about gamers being referred to as scum. And now I have that in my brain.

Let’s get a little something straight here: you are not scum because you are passionate about games. Anybody who says that is an asshole. I’m also pretty sure that the days of that occurring are pretty well dead and gone. Even hack comics have figured out that fucking everyone loves videogames just as much as fucking everyone loves Batman and “geek” means fuck-all as an insult anymore.

However, if you are using your passion as an excuse to degrade or attack people because they have the temerity to say something about the problems they see in the culture of gaming, then you are scum. If you take that to the extreme of stalking and threatening people because you are too damn cowardly to admit that there is no actual reason left in your argument, the you are a piece of human offal that needs to be scraped from the boot of society.

If you are being a dick and someone calls you on being a dick, that is not bullying any more than it is bullying to call someone a racist for complaining about “them damn niggers and spics ruining my neighborhood”. That is merely someone doing their civic duty in reminding you that we, as a people, do not accept behavior of that kind. And if your response is to try to strong arm people into shutting up with threats of physical violence or the use of force as applied through the intertoobs, then I suggest you make use of a dictionary. And maybe read up on your literary terms while you are at it.

I get that you don’t like that people are changing your cozy little home, the place you used to be able to cuddle up in and feel safe from the outsiders that made you feel sad and small. But you are holding on to the wrong parts of memory.

These were adventures that pulled us in and wrapped themselves around us, engaging us in ways that simply weren’t possible through other forms of storytelling. Often, they were as childish as we were, but they matured just as we did. Spreading out into broad, varies swaths of experience that was no longer quite second hand.

And you little, small minded pieces of shit are trying to ruin that.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Gamergate thing and Proof of Videogames as a Viable Art Form

Really, people. This is an issue to you. Okay, let’s do this. And no, I don’t really give a shit whether or not someone fucked someone else for a good review. Maybe I would care if someone was doing that for book reviews, but only in the case that it may benefit me. Let’s stick to the “SJW’s are ruining games” argument.

I like games. I’m not a huge gamer and would probably be called a poseur by those who consider themselves such. I don’t care. I enjoy them. It’s another way to experience a narrative that allows me to see the world in new and exciting ways. And kill stuff. I fully admit to enjoying digitally killing digital stuff as much as I enjoy verbally killing imaginary stuff on paper. But there are times that the killing stuff turns into honest to goodness world-view changing experiences and that is goddamn awesome in every fucking way imaginable. Holy shit is that sweet.

Here’s the problem I have with people having a problem with videogames being used to advance or even discuss any sort of social idea or agenda: That is what art does. It comments on the human condition. You may agree with the commentary. You may disagree with the commentary. That doesn’t matter as long as it gets you to engage in some level with the ideas at work.

The same damn people that have been screaming that their beloved videogames are not simply junkfood entertainment churning the brains of the masses, but honest to goodness art are now yelling that videogames should just be junkfood entertainment and nothing more. Excuse me while I growl for a moment. I had a great time with Katamari Damacy because rolling around a ball to pick stuff up was more fun than I had any reason to believe. I respect the hell out of Manhunt because, by the end, the gamer is forced to acknowledge that the horrific bastard forcing people to brutally kill each other for their entertainment is, in fact, themself (even if I suck too much at stealth games to actually be able to play it). FTL got me invested in beings I couldn’t even see minor representations of*. It is entirely possible for these things to occur in the same universe without physics collapsing all around us while Azathoth pipes Aqualung.

There’s a part of me that thinks referring to them as “manipulatable media” instead of games would possibly end this argument over what constitutes something these people should be reviewing as a “game”. However, if that would honestly make a difference for you, you should probably hide in a cave before you infuriate me more.

All the same, there is a good side to all of this. The fact that people are arguing over it proves beyond doubt that we’ve made it. If you can argue about the validity of intrinsic commentary folded within the confines of an art form, then it is definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, honest-to-goodness Art. Suck that, Roger Ebert.

*yes, with the possible exception of FTL, I cited horridly outdated games. I already admitted to not being a "real gamer" whatever the fuck that means. Feel free to mock me if you wish.