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On Saturday night, I finally watched the Wonder Woman movie. It’s been highly anticipated in general, both because of Gal Gadot’s short but redeeming performance in last year’s appalling Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but also because of the revolving-door rumors about a WW movie, and its many years in so-called development hell. It took me a long time to become a fan of the character myself, given the nature of creative work on a shared universe like DC Comics’ universe. Writers and artists come and go, each one wanting to leave their mark on the character. With each change in creative teams, you never know what version of your favorite character you’re going to get next. At the end of the day, every fan has their own idea of what Wonder Woman is, or should be.
Fortunately, this is an idea that the movie takes a strong stance on. Wonder Woman is a character full of contradictions. She’s a superhero, a princess, a warrior, a mythological figure and an ambassador for peace, and none of these roles, no matter how conflicting they might seem, can be elided and still remain true to form. An explicitly feminist character from her inception, Wonder Woman was initially conceived as a superheroine who fights evil, “not with fists but with love”. There’s a great deal that might be said about William Moulton Marston and his ideas of gender, and how they gave rise to the Diana we know. Whatever else might be said, though, what persisted is a profile of a heroine combining strengths stereotypically both masculine and feminine.
I love portal fantasies. It’s a wonderfully flexible subgenre that seems to be experiencing a well-deserved revival of interest lately. Some of the best classic children’s books are portal tales, pure escapism at its finest. Rereading them as an adult will have an added subtext, intended or otherwise. The Alice books are particularly noteworthy in this respect.
Portal stories written directly with an adult readership in mind are usually more cynical, or at least, they aim to be more cynical. Whether they succeed is a matter of opinion.
Escape to Princess is a portal fantasy. It’s my story of an adult fantasy, not adult as in “having sex in it” but as in “written to appeal to grown-ups”, and also in the sense of “contains many swear words”. Modern life is full of strains and hardships, and E2P is my small escape, as the title plainly says. It represents a promise that magic and mystery can be a part of your grown-up life if you choose them. While it pokes fun at a few common genre conventions, it’s done affectionately, born of the idea that fantasy can be a necessary component of adulthood.
At the bottom line, E2P is a very simple light-hearted tale. You can play it through in just a few minutes and discover one of four possible endings, all base on your escapist fantasy of choice. Find the edited and updated version of this game on Philome.la where it previously appeared, and on Itch.io.
Lately a lot of writers whose blogs or social media I follow have gotten messages from readers saying that they should “stay out of politics” and stick to writing. Every time see a message like that I think back to all the reviews I’ve read that have described a book as political or politically-themed. I wonder where all these authors are whose work isn’t political. How do you write without writing about politics? It is the thing that structures the very reality around us. Perhaps this seems obvious to me because opting out of political thought hasn’t ever been an option for me.
One of the best things I’ve done as a novice game dev is get involved in game jams. Itch.io’s Finally Finish Something Jam motivated me to finish the alpha of my largest Twine project to date, Wreath of Roses, and submit it for feedback. After that was done I took a short break to focus on short stories, and just as I was wondering what my next project should be, I remembered that March is NaNoRenO.
I’ve blogged about NaNoWriMo before. It’s a month-long challenge to complete a novel draft, which has been running for years and engaged thousands of writers. NaNoRenO takes its inspiration from there, but is a rather more modest affair. The challenge is to create a visual novel or story-driven game, in one month. While some people can work alone to create all the writing, code and art for their game, most people prefer to work in teams and focus on their strengths.
On most work days, I liven up my commute by listening to podcasts. They’re easy to listen to, because I can drift in and out of focus without too much trouble, and put together whatever I miss from context. Listening to audio fiction isn’t so easy. I need to focus on every word, or the thread of the plot is lost, and my enjoyment of the words themselves is lessened. I listen to short fiction on audio only rarely, and then only to very short things, twenty minutes or less. Still, I’ve found some remarkable stories online. These are three of them.
That hilariously short attention span aside, and ignoring for a second that sometimes depression prevents me from focusing on anything interesting, I like listening to short stories on audio on my phone. While waiting for the bus, on my commute, on lunch breaks, on the line at the supermarket… wherever I can squeeze in those twenty minutes of peace.
The game’s full title is Niche: a Genetics Survival Game, and thank Darwin fish for that, because “niche game” is the worst Google search term in history.
Anyhoo. Niche is an eco-bio-something sim that charges the player with raising a pack of vague mammalian critters, collecting food, breeding, fighting off predators, and exploring their surroundings. The game world’s science is a biological grab-bag of sorts. Differently colored tiles represent different “biomes” with different physical characteristics. Each critter has its own genome, where some traits divide to dominant versus recessive, and others mix interestingly, like fur color. A “mutation menu” lets the player pick specific traits to introduce into their newly-bred nichelings, rolling the dice and letting the odds determine the outcome. “Immunity genes” exist to discourage consanguinity. Later in the game’s life cycle, “alpha/beta” status for critters was also introduced.