Oct 26

A Light In The Dark: A Horror Anthology I Had A Small Hand In

So awhile back, Andy had this hi-larious crazy idea: what if we all put together a horror anthology and sold it on the Kindle store? What a wacky thought!

Anyway, uh, then we did it, and it’s awesome. Click here and buy it. This is a legit book of like 150 pages. There are a lot of random Kindle things up there that are like 12 pages long for 3 bucks? This is 12 short stories, man. This is serious! It’s a book!

I only wrote one of the stories, but I think it turned out pretty well, given I know basically 0 about horror and it’s not really a thing I ever indulge in. I decided to write about the most horrific thing ever: sex and relationships. To be more specific, furry sex and relationships. So that’s terrifying, clearly! But my story is only one of them in there. It’s all pretty good stuff. Check it out.

The word on the street is that we’re going to try to do these on a regular basis with different themes, and just have fun. I certainly hope so. This was a great thing to do, though I admit I didn’t put in as much work as I hoped. I had wanted to edit more, but got bogged down with stress and grading and blah. Andy is the real hero here! That’s why he gets the editor credit, I suppose! Heh.

Anyway, that’s a thing, if you want to check it out. We’d all appreciate it. I have more self-promotion stuff I need to put up here, so look out for me bragging more soon. Later!

Oct 6

Monogamy, Polyamory, but Mostly, Love.

I love you.

Well, okay, sure, I MAY not, but let’s just be honest. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance I do, since you give enough of a shit about me to check this out. So there, take that as you will.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with what the hell love means and where it fits into my life nowadays. As I’m sure I mentioned at some point, I’m kinda in a situation I have never been in ever before. The concept of monogamy was shockingly foreign to me until recently, even though I was in such a relationship. I found myself starting to freak out because I honestly didn’t know how to handle it, and I didn’t know why.

I mean, let’s be honest, Ceton is not getting away. I am fucking keeping him. We are a permanent thing. As I told him the other day, there is basically nobody in the world I can be around constantly and not feel socially drained, at least a little, except him. I honestly never experienced it before he came into my life. So yeah, he’s mine, and I’m glad I’m his, and that’s that. This monogamy thing is something I do want. I know me being with others would bother him, and my life stress has honestly gone down a ton once I gave all that stuff up (though perhaps you couldn’t notice, since I am so good at panicking). It’s all exactly what I want.

But here’s why it was making me freak out: I didn’t know how to love otherwise. Like, the main reason I never considered anything but being poly was the whole idea of passing up on love. I couldn’t handle it. I fucking LOVE too much. Once I started being honest with myself, and who I was, I started realizing I felt deeply for a ton of people! Not all of those feelings were romantic, of course, though some were, and the idea of trying to squash those feelings because I was just being told I was “supposed” to was a distressing idea. I had been told the feelings I had were wrong for years, and I was supposed to feel this way, and that was so fucking wrong and toxic for me it’s hilarious to look back on. So surely turning away love because I was “supposed” to was just as bad, surely. Trying to do so felt like I was devaluing people who were extremely important to me. I couldn’t imagine doing it. I also, just because of where I was in my life, couldn’t imagine expressing love in any way other than a physical way. It just all kinda made sense. It was the only way things could work, really. It was the only way to really and truly be close to a person. Sex terrified me, and still does in a lot of ways, and revealing those sorts of weaknesses is a real expression of love. It broke down so many barriers in a torrent of fear and emotion, and those barriers had to be gone to bed close.

Over time, though, I found myself just kinda cooling it on the physical love, though, on those who weren’t my partner, even without being asked. I wouldn’t admit it to myself, because I couldn’t, but I didn’t really want to. I felt it, in a lot of ways, HAD to be part of these relationships, but I wanted to share that part of me only with this lovely jackal I shared a bed with, who made me feel right and helped me when I didn’t. The problem was, as I said, I didn’t know any other way to show love. Because all my partners from all these years, well, I’m still close to a whole lot of them, and I mean, I call them by names that are sexually charged most of the time in some way, because that’s just what we did. Bedroom nicknames. Fuck, one of my best friends I exclusively call Master, for the exact dom/sub reasons you are thinking. So, you know, how could I still show them I loved them, if I didn’t want that? I didn’t know.

But that was stupid.

Affection isn’t an all or nothing thing. Closeness is not created by genitals touching exclusively. I freaked out about this for weeks, and spent an hour literally flailing around in my psychologist’s office, trying to figure this shit out. And then I did what I should always do, from the very start. I talked to everyone. I explained what I was feeling and how scared I was of hurting them just because I had to be true to my partner. And every single fucking one of them gave me a hug, told me they understood and it was no big deal, and that they’d still be there for me. And in that moment, THAT was love. THAT was love, right there. Hell, the fact that several of them admitted to ALREADY KNOWING, that is love.

It’s not an issue to love. It is NEVER an issue to love. Love everyone, in whatever ways you are comfortable. Love!


Just love.

Sep 23

After Dark, And A Sense Of Belonging

A thing I have started doing is following After Dark accounts on twitter. This has mostly gained me access to a lot of tweets full of pornography, random horny musings and cravings, and pictures of the genitals of people I vaguely know from the internet.

I’m pretty okay with this. I don’t really need to see said pictures of people’s equipment, though I’m glad they’re proud of it and will gladly cheer them on in their endeavors to use it, and most of the porn really isn’t my thing, though quite nice, for what it is. But I mostly haven’t undone this thing I’ve done and gotten it out of my feed because, oddly, it really makes me feel connected to something I kinda felt like I lost.

I talked awhile ago about how I kinda feel like I’m not part of the furry community any more, and it kinda bums me out. It does, too. It’s a weird thing. But a lot of that furry camaraderie is coming back to me as I read these accounts from furs I kinda know in passing and am now learning tons of super-detailed risque info about. It just kinda affirms me. It makes me feel like part of the group again.

Outside of furry culture (which I was really tempted just to call human culture but goddamn that kinda makes me feel a little insane to say, so I’ll write it out the long way (even though, in my heart, that’s probably what I would call it, I am that crazy, oh no)) things are just so goddamn taboo. It’s kinda unhealthy and stupid, seriously. Like, I showed a video to a class today where a middle-aged lady cracks jokes about how insane sex research has been in the past, and everyone was SUPER uncomfortable. It wasn’t that graphic. No naughty language was used. It was just kinda the idea that someone might think and study things like how different the semen of young men smells to that of old men. That’s just weird, right? But it’s one of those things, in a weird moment, you might wonder, and these scientists just fucking WENT for it, and that’s awesome and funny. We laugh because it’s weird, but we get uncomfortable because it reminds us of the things we wonder about, and we think about, and we want to try but never do. It reminds us of things we are supposed to be embarrassed about. And at the same time, these people just out there tweeting their most fucked up fantasies and talking to others about how to make them weirder or hotter or just flirting with them. They don’t care. They crave what they crave and they celebrate it. That just seems way healthier to me in general. A world in which I can tell my mother “Mom, I need this expensive surgery so I can have tons of hot sloppy sex with the guy I’m in love with without sobbing constantly” is a way better world than the one where I had to try to express that without breaking these taboos, and having the whole talk go badly. A world in which I didn’t nearly have a panic attack wondering if I should share experiences with my ex-girlfriend to make a point to my students because that would mark me as gay or bi seems way better. It’s way better to just be honest with these wants, isn’t it? Furries think so. I’m one of them. It’s super-refreshing to be, at least a little, indulged in that general mentality around me again very blatantly. (I mean, most of my good friends share this view, though they probably wouldn’t explain it this way, but instead in a much less dumb way. This is one of many reasons why I love them.)

It’s also just really refreshing to see someone’s personality on their sleeve like that. When you know someone’s desires, it’s really easy to get a good mental picture of them and know if they’re someone you want to deal with. People’s priorities are outlined or hinted at, seriously, by what they crave. I always felt like I had no problem judging people online, something people always thought was weird and hard to do, and I’ve since realized it’s because I was mostly involved with furs, who just put this stuff out there, and we could part ways amicably, most of the time, before any sort of issue erupted because we just knew. We knew what was up.

But mostly I guess it’s kinda one of those “relive your glory days” things, as lame as that sounds. I love love love love love where my life is now, but it’s very different than the polyamorous life of exploration I used to lead. It was honestly pretty fun, as far as things go. Every day lead to new potential partners and new potential experiences and things to enjoy, which I never would have even imagined without all that. Many of those partners are some of my best friends now. And since I basically figured out what I wanted out of romance and love (which is what I have now, minus some stupid intimacy issues on my part that will get dealt with eventually) and I stopped doing all that, I do have a little bit of loss, as you do with any freedom, even if given up willingly in exchange for something worth so fucking much more. It’s still opportunity gone. It’s sad to close a door, even one that needs to be closed. But seeing these other furs still in that phase, and exploring and loving and doing without restraint to figure it all out (or maybe they have figured it all out, and that’s what they need in life, that’s cool too) is just… it’s awesome. I’m happy for them. I love rooting for them from the sidelines, because I know how well it can all work out, and I want it to work out as well for them as it did for me. It’s the same kinda feeling I get when I see a student really start to click with writing and dive in and really enjoy it. It’s just so awesome! I mean, I’m not going to interfere or anything in anyone’s journey. I’ll help if asked. But it’s just nice to know that some things still work in the world, and that your joys, and the ways you found them, are shared by more. That the things you value are kinda universally good. I dunno, maybe getting enjoyment out of seeing that sort of thing happen makes me old. I’m probably old now. Oh well.

Anyway, I’ll probably keep these accounts on there, and slowly add new ones I find interesting, because of these things. Sure, it now makes checking my phone at work REALLY AWKWARD or whatever, but it’s nice. It’s really nice. Maybe I’m odd for seeing it that way, but fuck, that’s how I see it. No reason to be ashamed.

Aug 14

Amusement Park Polish

As someone who has a sticker of the EPCOT Center symbol on her car, and is slowly filling up her walls with more and more EPCOT stuff, I think we can agree that I am not unbiased in what I am about to write, so we’ll just get that out of the way. But I feel I am that way for a reason, and I want to talk about said reason.

Yesterday, I went to Six Flags St. Louis. I hadn’t been there in years, and it was an interesting and fun time. I rode roller coasters and water slides. What more can you ask for, you know? But man, the whole time I was there, I just felt this feeling of desperation from the park. Like, it didn’t know what it was doing and was just throwing everything at the wall to try to make an extra buck. Ads were literally everywhere, and not for like… things happening in the park, but for candy, movies, hair products, electronic cigarettes… literally anything, posted all over the place. Every ride was plastered with advertisements for The Flash Pass, which was something else you could buy that was AS MUCH AS OR MORE THAN YOUR TICKET that could let you skip lines. It was just kind of gross. I mean, I rode a roller coaster in a coaster car covered in ads for hair gel. It was on the coaster “American Thunder.” I guess the ads are pretty American.

On top of that, the park was split into thematic areas. Well, it was in theory. Very few of the attractions had to do with the thematic areas at all. What does the previously-named “Tony Hawk’s Big Spin” and now “Pandemonium” have to do with Britannia, a Robin-Hood Themed Area? At least the big coaster in that area, The Boss, has some attempt to make it blend in to those surroundings, with a big archway that kinda fits the era it’s trying to put you in, but The Boss still doesn’t fit the theme as a title, and the coaster goes over a go-kart track. You know, like the go-karts Robin Hood and his merry men rode around on. The Studio Backlot area was all Tim Burton Batman themed (but nowhere near the DC Superhero area, starring Scooby Doo, your favorite DC Superhero, of course) except for The Ninja, and Panda Express, and things that have little to do with being a WB Studio Backlot. The music all over the park was this really crazy collection of hits a little out of date, really old songs, and strange selections from the 90’s.

The only area that really had a theme was Hurricane Harbor, which actually did a fairly good job. There were plaques telling the history of the harbor, and everything had fairly thematic names. But, of course, you could see Batman: The Ride from anywhere in Hurricane Harbor, looming over the whole thing, or the parking lot it was next to, so you could never really get too immersed.

Disney spoils me, I guess. Even when they go and build a “thrill ride” because something needs a thrill ride, they think hard about where it’s going to go and how it’s going to fit in there. They build an impressive mountain landscape and surrounding features for Expedition: Everest. They come up with the idea of teaching about aerodynamics and other vehicle-related science by letting you make your own car in Test Track. They build a gigantic mountain mine surrounded by all kinds of neat things in New Fantasyland. The most “just thrown in there” ride I experienced at Disney World during my last trip was the Primeval Whirl, but that was 100% by design, since it is placed inside of the thrown-together amusement park area of Dino-Rama. It was evoking that kind of feel.

Similarly, all the “ads” in Disney World are classy. They’re simply sponsorships. Sure, you exit Spaceship Earth into basically an advertisement for Siemens nowadays, but it’s done in a smart way, with games explaining how communication technology will continue to advance society in the future. It ties in to Spaceship Earth. It doesn’t feel out of place or gross.

It really just seems like Six Flags should stop half-assing it, I guess. If you aren’t going to go all the way to immerse me, it really just ends up being more terrible than if you hadn’t tried at all. Not trying to would be preferable. I went to Cedar Point a long time ago, and that is a place full of coasters. It has no themeing and no pretense. It’s just coasters. And it doesn’t invoke the same “this place is a mess” feelings because of it, you know? Six Flags should just tear down the rest of their themeing and just have a coaster park. Sure, still have the Looney Tunes and DC heroes and all that, but just get rid of the premise, you know? It would probably serve them well.

Aug 1

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On the Whim of a Coin Flip for 7/25/2013

After a long caravan journey, our heroes finally reach the mage town of Horizon, home of the Archmage and hiding place of Project Baal’s Throne. Glyff thanks them profusely for their hard work, and gives them a little bonus for the lengths they went to to help his caravan. He also says they’re welcome to ride with him any time: in a week he’s heading to the Golden Citadel, if they want in. Our heroes do not commit, for they have work to do.

Their first stop is the hideout of Sylvia Highstack. Using Murdock’s memory of maps of the city, they find the address, but oddly, find nobody home. It’s an empty building. They do find a Wheel of Fortune card on the table, one from Sylvia’s deck, which gives Murdock a little shock when he picks it up. Nimrod looks around the room for signs of the conspiracy, and finds one part of the strange wall that just isn’t normal. Eventually our heroes turn the small slat in the wall, creating a staircase down to Sylvia’s secret lab and war room.

Syliva seems surprised to see them, but tells them of the situation. He and her crack team of two other elvish magic users have narrowed down the location of Baal’s Throne to one of two of the Archmage’s many many secret labs. Heathcliff excuses himself for a moment, and quickly deals with that problem with a quick coin flip, finding the location. Sylvia is very doubtful of Heathcliff’s sudden knowledge, not knowing about the coin, but eventually gives up fighting with it as the party pushes on her that it’s the right choice. The other problem is that each secret lab is surrounded by a magical locking spell that keeps everyone not enchanted by high officials in the Archmage’s organization from getting in. Sylvia and her team are trying to reverse engineer the enchantment to allow access, but it’s been slow going. It may take something like kidnapping an official to really figure it out fast, but that would give away their presence very quickly.

Unsure of what to do, the team decides to scout out the location, deep in the Dire Wood, in the morning, and gets some rest. Before bedding down, though, Murdock goes and buys a large amount of dynamite from a dwarven trader. Can’t have too many explosives when you’re trying to break into a lab and destroy a magical artifact, right?

While sleeping, Zardy has a vision, thanks to his cursed sword. The Blue speaks to him, and gives him a task: retrieve the Silver Key, a magical item lost long ago by his clan, to help some machination of The Yellow. The key, Zardy is told, can open any lock, magical or mundane. Zardy wakes up with a magical item to find the key, a ring called The Eye of the Blue, which lets him see the magical threads around him and will somehow help him find the beast in the Dire Wood that has a piece of the key in its stomach. The other half of the key is apparently the contents of the Falconcats chest Zardy already has. He doesn’t have much knowledge of magic, though, so he’s unsure of how to use the ring effectively.

The next day, the party goes into the woods and scouts. They attempt to disguise themselves as apprentice wizards on a training exercise, to some effect. They find the lab, a strange shack guarded by a bored wizard, but cannot get near. Unsure what else to do, Zardy tells the party the short version of his task from the Blue, hoping the key could help them get inside. Still, though, he’s unable to make sense of what the Eye lets him see, and they decide to head back, and talk to the Elvish woman back at the war room that Heathcliff had been seducing, Elena Collins. Elena can’t get the ring to work for her, as it’s bonded to Zardy, but through conversations with her, a plan is finally hit upon: look at the chest where Zardy’s piece of key is, and follow the strands from it to its partner.

Using this new plan, they soon stumble upon the lair of the horrific disfigured chimera beast that has the other piece of the key. The party creates a distraction while Murdock climbs atop the cave and drops dynamite right onto the beast’s head, weakening it as the battle starts. The party fights hard, even through the many tough attacks the chimera’s three heads dish out. Heathcliff has some serious problems hitting the beast, being more likely to hit his friends with his Deadly Hellchord. Still, when the beast is weakened, Heathcliff still manages, somehow, to deal the killing blow. Can nothing stop The Wonderheart?

After the battle, Zardy cuts into the beast and pulls out the other piece of the key. When brought near the Falconcats chest, it pops open, and the key is restored. With this, our party should be able to get into the secret lab! But what awaits them within? And what is The Yellow planning to do with the key when he comes to get it? Questions abound, but our brave party prepares to go onward!

Jul 25

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On the Whim of a Coin Flip for 7/18/2013

Gathering their power, our heroes crush some butterflies and naked butterfly ladies. The Ballad of the Wonderheart is sung proudly over the fight, and everyone does their part to easily dispatch their opponents, using their new Level 2 abilities. After the job is done, the townspeople are extremely grateful, and celebrate by throwing a feast with plenty of caterpillar meat for everyone!

During the feast, the party is approached by a strange man selling questionable magical runes. Looking at one another, the party decides not to partake. The man shrugs, and says they know where to find him if they change their mind.

As Glyff gets the horses fixed, Nimrod spends his time preaching to the people, who never really had a religious figure talk at them before, about the wonders and flatness of Slyce. Murdock holes up in the town hall and reads some boring town records and farmer’s almanacs to add to his memory banks. Zardy sleeps off his drunk of butterfly ale. Heathcliff, however, remembers the request from his beloved, and talks to the mayor to try to find information to stop these attacks once and for all. The mayor is a simple man, like his simple town, and doesn’t really know much, but he shares some rumors, which Heathcliff gathers the team to follow up on. He first checks on Don Frumple, the town dick. Frumple is not cooperative to an interview, locking himself in his shack and screaming at the party. Heathcliff uses his Magical Seduction to get to the bottom of the situation. It seems that Frumple was the first hit by the angels, and became extremely paranoid. He offers little information other than a neighbor doing some sort of construction at night. He’s not the culprit.

Not about to be discouraged, Heathcliff then heads out to the house of Francis Maraquette, a relatively wealthy farmer who has not been hit yet by the angels. There are rumors that he used to be a cleric. However, he greets the party happily, and lets them search his house. Nimrod and Murdock do manage to find some robes of Kyte hidden among the belongings in his attic, though! Francis gets quite scared at this, and doesn’t know what to do. Murdock calms him down as a fellow man of god, and has a private word with him, where he learns that Francis was holding the robes for his girlfriend, Lily Veilscythe, so she wouldn’t get in any trouble. Murdock thanks him for his honesty, and the party heads to Lily’s house.

When they get there, nobody is home. They look through her house, but find nothing out of the ordinary. They decide to stake out the house, and when things get dark, lights appear in the house, though nobody has entered it. Knocking on the door, Lily is now there. Murdock pulls her aside, and, though she is extremely nervous, tells her that he agrees with her fight against the Demontouched and the Diabloist, but asks that she wait a few days to resume her attacks, until they’re out of town. He promises no harm will come to her if she does so. Shivering with fear, Lily agrees. Murdock comes out of the house and says that he’s negotiated peacefully, and Lily will no longer attack the townspeople. Everyone seems satisfied with this, except Heathcliff, who writes a letter to the mayor, giving it to him in secret and telling him only to open it if the attacks resume. The letter names the culprit, so that the town may do something about it.

With the trouble in Tilltram dealt with (for now) our heroes reboard the caravan with its newly healed horses, and head out towards Horizon once more.

Jul 24

Transitioning is Power

My friend Aaron linked to this thing on the internets, written by one Samantha Allen. (What is up with Thought Catalog becoming a thing recently, by the way? Random thought.) 7 Ways to be a Trans Ally, it says. It’s a solid article. If it’s the sort of thing you’re wondering about, or just trying to wrap your head around, by all means read it! It’s good!

It struck me weird, and it took me awhile to figure out why.

Number 6 on the list just… bothers me. It’s a bad metaphor, at least in my case. I don’t think it works, and I think it paints a negative picture to some extent, by accident, by trying to explain things in an easy to grok way. Allow me to quote so we’re all on the same page.

Before my transition, I felt like Superman. Because the world perceived me as a white man, I could go anywhere and do anything. No catcalls, no harassment, no awkwardness. I could move through my day like a knife cutting through butter. But now it feels like I’m taking daily doses of kryptonite alongside my regimen of estrogen. Tasks that were once effortless now feel like immovable boulders blocking my path.

“What’s happening to me?” I’ll ask myself and, if I’m feeling playful, I’ll stare down at my hands in disbelief to more fully embody the pathos of the freshly powerless superhero. “I used to be able to buy groceries without needing a pep talk!”

While I might have fallen from grace, you, my cisgender ally, can still be my superhero in so many situations. While I work on my female voice, you can manage difficult customer service interactions for me. You can prepare a server to use appropriate pronouns by saying, “I’ll have a beer and she’ll have a…” See how that works? Clever, right?

Take me to the bathroom with you. Please. It’s scary alone. Shield me from stares. Yell at people who are rude and correct people who use the wrong words. Realize that you’re like a god to me and use your powers for good.

Personal story time.
I remember the first time I saw myself in a mirror.
For years and years and years, I had avoided looking in mirrors. You would not believe the extent to which I dodged looking in mirrors. I would unlock my car strictly by feel so I would not accidentally see my reflection in the car window. I would literally run past the mirrored pillars at the store where I was working, so I wouldn’t catch a glance at myself, or walk backwards into position to do my job. I just had to kinda trust that my hair and stuff looked alright. I pretty sure it didn’t, most of the time, and that’s saying something, seeing as I still have wild crazy lady hair.
But on that faithful day, I dressed up as myself, for the first time. I had to look in a mirror. And I looked. And I didn’t cringe. I didn’t immediately turn away. I didn’t cry. I honestly didn’t look all that different. But suddenly, that thing in the mirror was me. It was me. It was a miracle in my eyes. I could see myself in the mirror.
I knew two things in that moment. The first was that I was doing the right thing, transitioning. Any lingering doubts? Immediately gone. The second was that I realized I no longer felt trapped, for the first time in my life.
My entire life, I felt powerless. I was on a train track, a theme park ride, that I did not want to be on. There was a destination I was going to that I hated. I did not want to be that man. I knew I was not that or any other man. But I could do nothing about it. I did the things I was told I was supposed to, for the most part. The little things I did to try to not feel so trapped, so on rails, I was constantly hassled about. I had no power in my life. I starved myself for a year, basically, to try to assert some sort of power. But even that wasn’t working. I felt doomed. Even the accomplishments I managed to make during that time, like my first college degree, were meaningless to me. They were things I did because I had to, not because I owned them. To this day, I don’t feel like that first degree was any kind of accomplishment.
In that moment, looking in that mirror, I stopped that ride, and got off, and I could, for the first time, do anything. ANYTHING. I had never done things like think about the future before, or think about what I wanted to do for a living, or who I wanted to spend my life with, really. Not seriously. I had no choice in those matters until that point. But now I could make those decisions. Now I had all the power. I had the power, not anyone else.

When Allen compares transitioning to changing from a superhero to someone who needs saving, I just can’t disagree enough. I have the power now to live my life, and to stand up for myself, that I honestly never had before. I never had more power than until I started transitioning, and to paint transitioning as something that weakens you just seems wrong, both for that reason, and for the precedent that sets. It reminds me of conversations I had with internet creeps back in the day who, when I told them I was going to transition, gave me shit about the idea that I would give up male privilege (not in those words, of course, but that was basically the short version of those awkward conversations). They said I was crazy to make myself weak like that.
Don’t get me wrong, I am often extremely nervous about the things she talks about being nervous about. These situations can be super scary, though over time, it’s stopped being quite as constant a source of fear, though it does pop up once and awhile. I’ve also been in many situations where someone has “saved” me like she talks about. The first time I really truly went out in public dressed, I remember the huge relief I felt when my sister-in-law dropped the proper pronoun immediately to the waitress so I would not be nervous. I could not thank her enough for that. But just because I appreciate help does not make me weak. I would have ordered my burger and lemonade just fine without her help. Maybe I would have gotten a little frustrated, or a little more nervous, but I would have had and enjoyed my burger out with my sister-in-law and brother. In the end, I have to navigate these situations. I mean, it’s my life. And if you want to help me, you know I’m going to thank you for it. But if I’m alone, I’m not going to sit there and tremble and wish someone would come in and save me. I did that for years, and only by breaking myself of that habit did I turn my life around. No, I’m not going to sit there. I’m going to get stuff done. I’m going to correct people, I’m going to get out of situations that upset me, and I’m going to live my life no matter how people might react. I have the power to do that now. I didn’t before.

Allen did great with her article. As Aaron said, it’s super hard to be a spokesperson for a huge, crazy diverse group, and I think she did a fine job. The metaphor I have issue with really does hammer home to those who may not understand quite how much it is appreciated how much it is appreciated. Because it really, really, really, really is, especially to someone just starting out. It can make an awful time better and keep a great time from getting a little less great. But man, where is that new-found confidence and happiness she talks about earlier in that paragraph? It just kinda disappears. And that’s a shame.

There are tons of problems in the world that trans* people have to deal with. Goodness yes, there are. But we face them because we’re willing to in return for that strength we gain from actually being ourselves, strength everyone gets from being willing to accept themselves, good and bad. Maybe being trans* is a bigger thing to accept than most. I don’t know. But doing that is where the strength to make life awesome comes from.
There’s this movie, Mumford. I watched it at random once when it was airing on Comedy Central or something, and I don’t remember much, but one thing really stuck in my brain about it. In it, the main character is pretending to be a psychologist, but still trying to help people. And one of his patients is just super unhappy with his life, and he describes his fantasies, and he is not in them. A stand-in for him is there, who is nothing like himself. The fake psychologist, talking about him, says, “I just want to make him the star of his own fantasies, you know?” That was me, before. The true me was in my head, but that wasn’t who I was. Now it is. Now I star in my own fantasies. Now I make them come true. That’s power.

Jul 23

Here Is One Of Probably Millions Of Rants About What Bothers Me About The Castle Doctrine.

Jason Rohrer is a guy who I’m glad exists, overall. He’s just one of those insane visionary types, and you can’t help but respect his single vision and urge to create art. Many of those attempts work (Passage is pretty good, and I’ve heard great things about Diamond Trust of London, though I have not played it). Some of them don’t, really (Remember Sleep is Death? Oh man). With The Castle Doctrine, he’s kind of on his way to another failure.

I’m sure I’m not the only person writing about this. People were already complaining the moment he announced it. But I recently read an interview with him about the game on Rock Paper Shotgun, and I am just overwhelmed at how much he himself is not seeing what he’s doing and how ineffective, at best, and offensive, at worst, it is. I’ll let others ramble on about how he’s creating a world where all women are literally objects worth money, a treasure that must be protected with no free will, because that’s certainly there. There is so much he has said about this game that is just offensive. I just want to talk about how it certainly sounds like he’s not even accomplishing what he’s trying to do.

If you read the Rock Paper Shotgun interview, you’ll see him repeating one thing over and over. He wants you to care. He wants you to care about your house, your family, he wants you to care. He wants you to invest emotion into his game. He wants you to care about it! It doesn’t work without that!

I think it’s very possible to care about his game. I think the themes he is going for, of being scared, of wanting to feel secure, and of never knowing if you are or not, are very universal themes that could speak volumes and be really reflected in a game of the general sort he’s putting forward. I think I could really get into that. But the game is created to make it as hard to care as possible.

In the game, you are male, and you have a family that consists of a wife, a son, and a daughter. These characters are randomly generated and randomly named. You have no control over them. You have to protect them by building traps. If your wife dies, you lose half your money, so you best keep her alive, but there’s no gameplay reason to keep the kids alive, so, you know. Do what you will with them. Maybe they can be bait. You can also buy dogs to protect your house. They’ll probably be shot, then just you can just buy another, why not?

I’m not a male. My family does not consist of a wife, a son, and a daughter. The number of potential players who fit that description are relatively low. Even if you’re the male part of a married straight couple with two kids, one girl and one boy, the characters in the game are not going to resemble your family in any way. They’re just virtual doodads. They’re bragging rights. “My kids aren’t dead in the game yet, I’m good at this game.” That’s all it is. Rohrer sees this, and his solution was to make the wife simply be a method of keeping some of your money. So now you care about her as a person even less, since she’s simply your cash personified. Awesome.

Anyone who has played a game like the recent XCOM: Enemy Unknown knows the value of assigning people in your life to people in the game. It means more when that soldier you named after your best friend bites it, because you aren’t getting him back. Perhaps it’s not a TON of investment, but it is way more than if he was just a random dude with a random name, since that investment is probably 0, maybe a little more if he’s leveled up a few times. There’s extra agony to it, losing this monument to a relationship you find important, you know?

If Rohrer wants me to care about this virtual family, I should be able to make it like my real family, which consists of an awesome male partner and a puppy dog. I should be able to customize them to make them, and myself, look close to our real counterparts, at least as far as the graphics allow. Then I care a bit more. Then coming home and seeing the dead pixel body of my dog, Mr. Q, on the ground from where he tried to protect my house means something. Fuck, I got a pang of sadness just picturing that just now. NOW it’s important to protect the house. Now I’m invested. Roll me up a random family, and they are just stats to show my skill, and nothing more.

Rohrer claims that making the game work this way would ruin his artistic vision. He compares it to movies. Let me quote what he said.

Well yeah, but then it wouldn’t be my personal art. It would just be this pandering product. This is a game that’s from my perspective, just like in Passage the main character is me. So you don’t get to play as the girl, because I’m not a girl. Just like if you go to see the movie Memento, no-one walks out of that saying ‘why isn’t there a version of this where there’s a girl with memory problems?’ It’s the personal statement of the director who is making this and telling the story, and you don’t even question it, but for some reason in games we question it, because we’re so much stuck into the role of this character.

This is such a nonsense defense I don’t know where to begin.

In Passage, you’re playing through a linear narrative. You can change the outcome, unlike a movie, but like a movie, you’re telling a linear story. You’re telling one person’s story. As such, it’s cool to be in someone else’s shoes, and see someone else’s story. You’re on a train track to the end. It’s expected. What’s more, in a movie especially, this main character is, well, a character. It’s not a player avatar. It’s a complete person with hopes, dreams, and goals, and we see that throughout scripted scenes. Someone has crafted a person for us to engage our minds with. Even in Passage, it’s clear this character is not you. I mean, I don’t have any desire to open treasure boxes. Most people don’t. He’s a particular person. He’s a character, even if not a deeply fleshed out one.

In The Castle Doctrine, there is no character. It’s a massively multiplayer game. Everyone is making their own houses, their own way, by Rohrer’s own design. There is not a set arc. It does not reflect Rohrer’s actual reality in any way, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that the dude I am in this game is a particular person, since every player in this multiplayer game is him, any more than when I pick the Marcus Fenix skin in Gears of War, I don’t truly believe I’m playing the one and only Marcus, and nobody else is him, since tons of other people are playing as him online at that exact moment. The only character that exists in The Castle Doctrine is the character I put into it, and I’m not going to invest in those avatars without reason. Rohrer is actively discouraging me from investing with his game design. There is a reason I name every character in every game I play that lets me enter a name Alexis (or Alex if I can’t be a lady for some reason). It’s because then I’m more invested. I build that character up with skills I would want. I make them my own. I invest in them, and try to shape them into me, or a much cooler version of me who can throw fireballs.

Rohrer is right. He can make any game he wants, any way he wants. He doesn’t have to have a female playable character. He doesn’t have to let the player be gay or whatever they might want. He has that power as designer of the game. But by making these decisions, he’s not protecting himself from pandering. He’s protecting himself from success at his goal: conveying those feelings of being scared for his family and wanting to protect them. Without investment in what is going on besides being the best at the game, those feelings are not going to be felt by the player. If art can’t transfer those feelings, the type that can’t be explained in text and can’t be spoken, then it’s not very good art. Rohrer is not making very good art with The Castle Doctrine. It’s a shame, and maybe the end result will prove me wrong. But from what he’s saying, I kind of doubt it.

Jul 18

This is a rant about being a furry that may not mean anything to you.

I got this book in the mail. It’s that Furoticon book I ordered like… years ago? At least 3 years ago. It’s really weird. Like… the cover is just… awful. As a non-artist that has put together acceptable cover art for physical books, it just looks cheap and self-publish-y. They even had this like… preview I got years ago, and it’s cover looks WAY better. Still not great, but way better. Why didn’t they use that one? I don’t even know. It’s also a porn novel with pictures, but none of the pictures are pornographic. I have no idea.

It’s an amazing thing, and I think it’s awesome. I think it’s awesome that someone wanted to make a porn book to tie in to a porn card game and wanted it to be so good that they were still working on it THREE YEARS LATER and they actually got it made and it’s actually here, in my paws. I think that’s amazing. I’m going to read it, and I have my doubts about the writing quality. I might be surprised, but either way, I love that this exists, and I’m sure I’ll have fun reading it.

What I don’t love is how serious it takes itself, by it’s very existence.

I heard that this furry porn card game was at Origins. Origins! Like, I’m not going to say that they can’t go to Origins, because that would be dumb. But they’re trying to run a business, and apparently a furry con was going on ACROSS TOWN. Where are you going to make the most sales, dudes? Where are people going to come to your tournaments? Seriously. Why would a normal, non-furry gamer care about a product where every card has furry porn art on it? I really don’t know.

But I feel like the reason they made that decision is because they’re taking themselves too seriously.

Like, okay, I will be the FIRST to extoll the benefits, virtues, and awesomeness of furry culture. It’s a fun, sex-positive, completely accepting atmosphere that honestly has a lot to do with why I’m a pretty good person in a pretty good place with a fucking awesome significant other. I still label myself a furry because it is a part of me, and I’m not about to run from it. I love every messed up, sick part of it, even if it’s not my thing. I love that there’s a place for it to exist, and I love that it tends to, on the whole, collect open-minded, fun-loving people I like being around.

But it’s really silly.

Like, if someone were to, for some reason, ask me my species, I would say I was a foxbunny. I am also prepared to explain that I am but 1/4th rabbit, and why that is, and that it only really shows in my ears and maybe my tail if you look hard enough. I can tell you who of my relatives are what species, and why.

That’s really silly. And I love it. But it’s silly. Like, if you were to follow up your question with “That’s weird. You’re a human.” I would agree. But it’s more fun to be a foxbunny. It’s more fun to be silly.

It’s fun to be a furry because you get to embrace silly, insane things, and it’s okay. You can let your imagination run wild, and come up with the most mundane or the most fucked up fantasies in the world, and other furries will just nod, and go “okay, sure,” and move on. I knew a furry whose fetish was removing someone’s still-beating heart and listening to it, pressed up against his ear. I knew a furry who would only have sex with balloons. Nobody batted an eye at this. They went, “Cool,” and went on as per normal. I love that. I love that acceptance. But you can’t say that those fetishes aren’t silly. You really can’t.

We all have that crazy, silly side. Furries just know how to let it out. The problem is, they then set that as the new baseline. This is the new serious. This is what to care about. When you do that, you’re totally out of sync with everything. And that creates issues. That creates what few problems people see with the furry community.

When you double down on something being serious that isn’t, trying to make it more important than it is, you build barriers. You shelter yourself. You’re doing the opposite of embracing that furry inside you: you’re denying who you are, and saying you have something to be embarrassed about. By fighting, oftentimes you are doing way more harm than good.

There are groups that need to fight. These are groups that had no choice in something that they are, and don’t deserve mistreatment. They have to fight because there is no other way. They have to in order to stop being stepped on, and get the rights they deserve. Hell, because the furry community is so awesome, many, many furs from these groups are a part of it. But we furries chose to be furries. (I suppose some otherkin types might consider it otherwise, but I feel most would agree with me if they’re being honest.) We may get made fun of from time to time, and that’s shitty, to be sure. Yes, it should be otherwise. But fuck, have some perspective. By elevating this to that level, you make yourself seem idiotic. It is clearly not a fight on the same level. It is dumb to have it that way.

You don’t get acceptance for things on this level from fighting with people. You get accepted by not having to guard yourself, because there’s no reason to. Someone says being a furry is fucked up? Some thing you like is weird and terrible? You shrug. You say, yeah, but it’s a lot of fun. You aren’t hurting anyone. You have nothing to hide. You’re someone having a good time with friends also having a good time. That confidence sends the right signal. Screaming does not. Hiding your passions and your fun under a barrel in your room also sends the wrong signal. Who gives a shit about what other people think, anyway? If you cared, why did you become a furry in the first place, you know? You’re a furry to chase your dreams and fantasies, to whatever extreme they might be. Who cares what others think?

They say that, after those horrible Fifty Shades books came out, sales on rope acceptable for bondage skyrocketed. Because suddenly, here was something mainstream, with BDSM (of the tame variety, from what I hear, to be fair), that showed it was okay to want to try that. Suddenly, it was more accepted, and not because a bunch of people went out of the streets with their slaves and yelled at people who looked at them funny. Here’s something that people actually saw, that treated it as no big deal, and suddenly it was. A choice, a fantasy, accepted because it has nothing to hide. It’s something your mom could read. I know my mom did. My mom read about the kind of weird stuff I do in my bedroom! Weird, but cool. Maybe that’s a bad example, but I feel like that’s what I’m talking about. It becomes “normal” because it’s treated that way. That’s all it takes. You fight for rights taken from you, legal, etc. You scream and rant about those. But being accepted, well, you just treat it as already that way, and thus, it eventually is.

I feel pushed out of the furry community nowadays. I don’t really want to be. But I don’t have the energy to take it seriously. I don’t have time to spend role-playing with awesome furs for hours every night anymore. And because I can’t really insert myself into that serious narrative any more, I feel like I’m pushed against. Maybe it’s all in my head. Maybe not. But it makes me sad, because I still love all that stuff that drew me in in the first place. I love it. But because I can’t treat it as the be-all-end-all of my existence, I feel like I’m out of the club. I find I know a lot of people who “used to be a furry” who probably got out for similar reasons, at least in some small part. I also know some furs that are in deep, and say things like they’re worried about having no non-furry friends, because they just have this feeling that they’re drinking the kool-aid, and becoming part of this overly serious world, and forgetting the fun that got them there in the first place. All that really sucks.

Furries, be your awesome selves. Seriously. Be as far from vanilla as you can be, and enjoy the shit out of it. But just realize that, when someone looks at what you’re doing, and calls it weird, or silly, accept it, at the same time as you accept that’s why it’s so great. Life is better when you don’t take yourself so seriously, because deep down, every person on the face of this earth is weird as fuck. That’s not the agreed on baseline, nor should it be, really, because if it was, it wouldn’t be so fun, would it? Have fun.

Jul 18

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On the Whim of a Coin Flip for 7/11/2013

Taking up arms against the dandy band of rogues lead by Richard Hemmingsworth, Gentleman Thief, our heroes jump into battle in order to protect their mechanical friend, Murdock. Murdock takes quite a beating as the enemies gang up on him, trying to deactivate him. Glyff Searclaw, however, helps out, showing how he got his name by mowing through scores of crossbowmen with flaming claws, and a few strong hits from everyone, with a little help from the Ballad of the Wonderheart, manages to subdue the gang. Richard, however, teleports away with a smoke bomb trick, living to fight another day. Should Murdock be wary of this future threat?

Glyff then shares bad news with the party: the raid on the caravan has injured most of the horses, making continuing on a problem. He could heal the horses back to pulling strength if he had access to the supplies, but unfortunately, the closest town is that of Tilltram, a town he normally avoids. He tells the party to be wary as they slowly limp towards the town for help.

It turns out Glyff is wary of the town because it is filled with Demontouched, changed humans with horns and red skin, marked by the Diabloist. As soon as Heathcliff learns this is why Glyff is wary, he gets confident, promising Glyff he can work out something. However, all the townspeople are afraid of the group, especially Murdock and Nimrod, who radiate holy energy. Realizing he needs to help his group get in good with these people after Glyff’s attempts to negotiate help just result in people running away from him, Heathcliff plays a powerful hymn of the Diabloist, helping to gain favor with the townsfolk and greatly disturbing Murdock, wondering what exactly he has gotten himself into in his quest with this potential revelation. Once the town warms up more, Heathcliff gets a secret letter from his beloved, the Diabloist, who details that this town has been under attack by horrifying winds, and if Heathcliff could be a dear and deal with that, she would make it worth his time.

Talking to the townspeople about the attacks, they sound bad, but it gets worse as everyone hears a scream. An attack is on! Murdock uses his data banks to determine that the these are angels of Kyte, God of Winds and Change. Trying to negotiate with them, Murdock and Nimrod do not get far. They seem to be very simple creatures, only programmed to do a very specific task, which is destroy the crops of the people of Tilltram! They’re not messengers who can negotiate and listen to reason. As the winds get worse, our heroes look to each other, and pull their weapons. They must put a stop to this!