solarbird: (tracer)

[All dialogue in chevron quotes is translated from the Spanish]
AO3 link

Jack Morrison shook his head, tried to clear it up. Mornings were hard - a lot harder than they used to be, and he didn't know why. He just knew he didn't like it. He'd always been a morning person, even back in the Army.

He did a quick set of forty pushups, quietly, twenty each arm, try to get the ol' blood moving, and it helped. He still felt out of joint, but these days, he always felt a little out of joint. Had ever since the bombing, back in '70. But everybody would feel a little out of joint after that. He didn't even remember how he got out of the complex, but he got out alive - and that's what mattered.

«Morning,» he growled to the small Los Muertos stakeout team in the front room of the small apartment. Araceli waved and Leticia nodded, her combat helmet tipping in his direction as he started some coffee.

«I just made that pot you threw out, gringo», Leticia grunted back at him. «Why you always wasting my good coffee?»

Morrison snorted. «Because I make actual coffee, the kind you drink, not eat.»

«You make tinted water.» She shook her head, but with a little smile. «Americans.»

«Yeah, yeah,» he groused, amicably.

Araceli patted Leticia's shoulder. «Now that the white ghost is awake, I'm taking my turn.»

Leticia nodded. «Get some rest.»

The steamer finished its work, and Morrison drew a cup of the brew. Not bad. Leticia wasn't wrong about it being good coffee. «I'll buy you some more beans later, make up for it. Anything new on our friends outside?»

«Nah, it's all nice and quiet.»

Morrison settled in for the first half of his stakeout shift. He didn't really like working with Los Muertos, but with his history, well, he took what he could get. And Leticia - she had chops. He could respect that. Araceli's just another street rat, no discipline, but Leticia - he could turn her into a proper soldier, if he had time.

«Oh, hey,» she said, «Get out your padd, there's been another show with your old band.»

«What?» growled the former strike commander.

«Something in Vietman? Maybe in China, I forget. There's pictures this time.»

Morrison almost snarled. «Goddamned Lena Oxton and her so-called Overwatch, what the hell does she think she's doing, pretending to run my organisation...» He found a video taken live on the scene, saving a freighter and crew from a large pirate gang operating around the edges of the south China sea, one armed with a strange new weapon that froze everything it touched. They just want that freeze ray back, they don't give a damn about those sailors...

He watched the video, as the self-proclaimed Overwatch jumped in, with good power, if not in the best of order. Oxton wasn't there, he noted, and the resulting mess lived down to the worst of everything he expected out of a band of wannabe heroes with no god damned sense of discipline. Overwhelming power saved it from being a fiasco, but the sloppiness enraged the soldier, in his mind disgracing the name of Overwatch and everything I built...

«Huh?» said Leticia, startled, looking to her right. «Hey, spooky, where'd you go?»

«I'm right here,» he said from her left, where he just barely stopped himself from punching a hole into the wall.

«Fuck, you can be creepy quiet sometimes, you know that?»

«Part of the training.» He sat back down where he should've been, and shook his head. Discipline, soldier, he thought to himself. One mission at a time.

Leticia sulked at the building down the street. How long can it take to prep a shipment of stolen processors, anyway? Hurry the fuck up and move out so we can steal them back from you, she thought. «We've been here three days! I wish these idiots would get going.»

«Me, too» said Jack Morrison, settling down for another day of hurrying up to wait. «Me, too.»

-----

The sniper round flashed by Jack Morrison's ear, nipping flesh, as he ran zig-zag through the warehouse district. God damn that woman, he thought as blood ran down the side of his face, and he spun around, launching a grenade towards the perch he knew she had to have. His reward was another round by his other ear - but it wasn't a good shot. He'd knocked her down, and that confirmed it.

The shipment had been real. The security had been expected. The sniper waiting for them, though - that had been a surprise.

Sprinting to the left and down an alley, the old soldier charged forward and found Leticia, in a zig-zag run from the other direction. «Spooky?!» she shouted, surprised. «You're still alive!? I thought they got you back in the...»

«No time,» he grunted, wiping the blood from his face with a rag from his pocket. «Join up with me. Where's Ara?»

The street fighter looked confused. «I thought she went with you.»

«Didn't see her.»

«Huh... She must've headed north,» Leticia decided. «Taking the long way home. For us, there's a sewer access two blocks ahead my way, if we can make it.»

Morrison spun around. I really could make her a soldier, he thought, and said, «I shook the sniper out of her nest, we have a window. Let's go.»

They ran, dodging between gates and down tiny side paths. Morrison thought he heard a ricochet, but he couldn't be sure, not completely, not until they could see the access down the end of a narrow walkway, when he looked back just in time to see the glint off a scope. «Get down!» he shouted, and dove behind a skip.

Leticia dove beside him, rolling, aikido-like, to his side, as a bullet ricocheted, grazing her arm. «Jesus! Who the hell is shooting at us? The Maras don't have anybody this good!»

«I'm not sure, but I've got a pretty solid guess. How long will it take to get that door open?» Another round, bounced by the shooter off a wall, whizzed behind them. Given a smoother surface to bounce off of, it would've hit.

«No time at all, I broke the lock when we first got here.»

«Smart. I've made her, and she wants me, you're just collateral damage. I'll lay down suppressing fire, you go for the door. Get it open, get inside, then aim where I was aiming, and I'll dive for it.»

The Los Muertos fighter nodded, and bolted, as Jack sent a flurry of bullets towards the sniper. In a single long, jagged sprint, she reached the access door and threw it open, diving inside, then spun around from the shelter and threw a full clip towards the same spot Jack had sprayed with bullets. A moment later, he was beside her, slamming the door shut as a bullet made a large, angry dent directly in front of her eyes.

«Keep your head down,» he said, smirking, «or lose it.»

«Hooooooooooo...» Leticia breathed out, slowly. «How?»

«There's only one sniper in the world that good,» said the soldier. He bolted the door from the inside and broke the mechanism, wedging it in place, as Leticia motioned down one of the access tunnels.

«If she follows us down here, I have a lot of surprises ready. Keep your hand on the left wall, it's important.»

Morrison shook his head, no. «She wouldn't risk a tunnel. Night vision's not so good since I took one of her eyes.»

«Wait, you know her?» Leticia asked, as she led the way through the foul air.

«We're old friends,» came the soldier's voice from the darkening gloom.

«Some friend,» replied the fighter in the darkness, «trying to kill you.»

A snort from the soldier. «She's been trying to kill me for six years. At this point, I think it's her way of flirting with me.»

«You are messed up, Spooky, you know that?»

«You have no idea.»

-----

The MS-13 grunt poked at the body with her rifle. Los Muertos, she thought, from the arm tattoos. I wonder who? She rolled the corpse over, careful to avoid the blood.

"¡No mames!" she exclaimed. A section of the body - the left side of the head and neck, and part of the shoulder - was simply gone, cut cleanly away, as if sliced neatly off a wax sculpture of a woman.

One of the other guards - Samuel - came over to check the corpse. "¿Qué pedo?"

«Hey, Sam,» asked the grunt. «What kind of gun does this?»

solarbird: (tracer)

Widowmaker brought herself in from the cold, one day, exchanging a list of Talon agents for sanctuary, and at first couldn't or wouldn't say why. Her first breakthrough in explaining herself came in a talk with Lena Oxton. Of all people, why her? Tracer tries to figure it out, talking about it with her wife, Emily, over breakfast.

This is not part of the On Overcoming the Fear of Spiders AU. It is... apparently the follow up to a standalone story in a timeline much closer to current known canon as of July 2017, but not including the Doomfist comic. It follows "It is not easy to explain, said the Widowmaker," and I think Emily might get one, too. No, that's a lie; I've already started writing it. Or rather, it's already writing itself. FINE THEN.


"It's not easy to explain," said Lena Oxton, and chewed a bit on her lower lip. "I don't even know what I'm trying to explain."

Emily Oxton - she'd taken Lena's name, something terribly old-fashioned, but she still had biological family, and Lena didn't - gripped her wife's hand at the little two-person table in their small London kitchen. "I don't know why," she said. "You care about her. You care about everybody."

"Heh," the teleporter snorted. "Not everybody."

"Just about everybody," said the aeronautics engineer, booping her wife on the nose. "Don't deny it."

Lena looked down at the remnants of her breakfast, picked up her fork, and smiled a little. "I guess I'll own up to that, but..."

"But it's her," said Emily. "The assassin. The one you couldn't stop. The murderer of Mondata."

"Yeah." Lena scowled, and scooped up the last of the beans with the last of the toast, and threw it into her mouth. She swallowed, and continued, "Why... why her? I thought... how can I forgive her that? Why would I forgive her that?" She stared down at her plate. "It's all complicated, and I'm not a complicated person, love. I don't get it and I don't like it."

Emily played around a bit with her bread, mopping up the runny egg yolk with the blackened toast, and smiled. "Why? Seriously?"

Lena tilted her head, as Emily downed the last of her egg, and swallowed, before continuing. "Because something happened to her that she had absolutely no control over and didn't ask for and didn't want, and it changed her even more than the Slipstream changed you. That's why."

Tracer dropped her fork.

"I thought it was obvious," giggled Emily. "Come on, sweet, is that really so hard?"

The Overwatch agent's gape turned into a look of adoration, and she laughed, softly, a couple of times, and had she had just a touch more self-awareness, she'd've recognised it as almost exactly the laugh which had been the Widowmaker's first real thought, but that wasn't the sort of person she was, so she didn't. She leaned forward, putting her forehead against her wife's. "How do you do that?"

"Oh," snorted the redhead, "like you're hard to read?"

Lena closed her eyes. "C'mon, love, I'm not that transparent."

"You are and you know it."

Lena leaned back, and waved her own objections away. "All right, all right..."

Emily refilled both their teacups. "But that's not what's eating at you." She put the pot back down. "It's the other bit."

Lena added sugar and cream, and stirred the mix together. Lena always took sugar and cream. Emily took neither. "Yeah. I... dunno. I dunno if I can deal with it."

"Which?" asked Emily, before taking a quick sip of her second cup. "Help her figure this out - or deal with her at all?"

"T'be honest, a bit a both. I hate her. Or... I did. But I don't. I..." Lena threw up her hands in exasperation, then rested her head on her palms.

"But you don't, now, do you." It was a statement.

"No," agreed Lena, sounding a little ashamed. "And I feel... like I should feel bad about that."

"Do you?"

"A little. I feel like I'm betraying Mondatta's memory. Like I, I, I've just decided I'm fine with all that? But I'm not. Even Zenyatta's not, no matter what he says, and he's a bloody Shambali monk."

"And meanwhile, you can't turn away."

"I can't. I ... I don't even want to. What's wrong with me?"

Emily reached over and took her partner's hands in her own. "Not a single, solitary thing. You're you, and this is the most you thing I can imagine." She stood a little and leaned forward and kissed her wife, gently, on the lips. "You'll help anybody if they want it. I think it's wonderful."

Lena closed her eyes and smiled through the kissing, and after they were done, said, "I love you, you know."

"I got the idea 'bout when we got married." Emily kissed her again, and booped her nose a second time.

Tracer flopped back on her chair dramatically, arms splayed as if knocked back, grinning for a moment. Then her serious expression returned as she leaned forward again. "But what can I do? Why'd she open up to me? I'm not a doc, or even a therapist - I'm a pilot. It's not like I'm some kind of expert."

Emily tipped back into her chair, in turn, and took another sip of her tea. "She's got experts already, though. Maybe what she wants is... I think I was going to say sympathy, but maybe it's not sympathy. The way she latched onto that character in that video game - maybe it's empathy. Maybe... maybe she's learning empathy again."

Tracer hunched down, thought about it hard, and slowly bobbed her head. "That kinda fits, yeah. She's like that game character in one way, who's like me in other ways, and I'm kinda like her... in... life-altering trauma?"

"So, show her empathy, then. Show her she's not alone."

"But she is. I wasn't built, not like her. Nobody else was, 'sfar as we know."

"Maybe not, but - she's latched on to you. Maybe it's the shared trauma. Maybe you're the closest she's got."

"It doesn't seem like much."

"When all you've had is nothing," Emily said, smiling wanly, "...a little can feel like a hell of a lot."

Tracer just hehed.

"She likes you. And you like her, too."

Tracer's frustration came out in her tone, if not her words. "...I guess I do." She put her hands over her head. "I'm a fool."

"I'm fine with that, you know." Emily smiled, taking Tracer's hands off of her head. "Who's the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who marries her?"

Lena laughed, weakly. "Oh god, love, what've I got myself into?"

"As long as it stops you from being in her literal sights? I don't care. I'll take it."

"Woah, what?"

"I'm not selfish, not really, but I'm selfish enough to want you alive more than anything else in the world. If this means there's one less assassin after you, I'm for it." She squeezed her wife's hands tight. "And I don't feel bad about it at all."

Emily leaned back in her chair. "She can even move in here if it'll help stop that."

Tracer laughed, this time, not weakly at all. "Like that'll happen."

Emily giggled. "I know, right?"

The two leaned over and kissed again. "I feel better," said Lena. "Thanks, love."

"Good, 'cause I have to get to work." She got up and grabbed her purse and bag. "See you tonight?"

"Can't wait."

solarbird: (tracer)
prelude
[2076, autumn]

"Why'd you do it, Gabe?"

"Do what?"

"Send those killers to her house."

"Lena, I don't know what you're talking about. Fill me in."

"Why'd you send those idiots after Gérard Lacroix?"

"I didn't! Hell, they weren't even field agents. It never should have happened. Not the way it did, anyway."

"Amélie doesn't know that."

"Amélie should know that, she has the logs. She just doesn't want to."

"Wot? Why not?"

"As long she doesn't know that, there's someone else alive to blame."

"That's shite, Gabriel."

"Is it?"

"It is, and you know it. She blames herself. Always has."

"'Course she does, girl. But she also blames me. I was head of Blackwatch, so she's kinda got a point."

The younger assassin just grunted, a "huh" sort of sound.

"Trust me here, having someone else to blame? It helps."

Venom thought about that, for a moment, sizing up Gabriel Reyes through anger-narrowed eyes.

"I'm not so sure it does."

solarbird: (tracer)

This is not part of the on overcoming the fear of spiders continuity; Lena Oxton is Tracer, not Venom. It is a standalone story, in an AU which is still pretty much canon-compliant as of July 2017. It would be set in late 2077 or early 2078, in universe. [AO3 link]


"It is not easy to explain," said the Widowmaker, looking frustrated, fixated on her game screen and sitting next to Hana Song, who of course had her own pro rig and client.

Widowmaker had said that, not Amélie, and it was very important not to get that wrong. The Widowmaker didn't like it, and if Amélie had an opinion - or was in there at all - she never spoke up.

The blue assassin was playing a shooter game, but not as a sniper - as a melee character, high DPS, fast - not entirely unlike Tracer. She always played the same character. Tracer wasn't sure what that meant; Angela told her not to read too much into it, but she knew that Lena tended to think of it as a good sign anyway. It's still shooting people, but it's shooting people in a different way, and Lena couldn't help but feel a little flattered that if the spider was emulating anyone, it was her.

"I exist," the spider continued, as her character on screen ran across open field between buildings towards some sort of objective. "I am here. I exist by right of existence. I do not wish not to exist." Realising that - she knew, herself - had been a big step for her, one she had managed on her own, one taken before she escaped from her controllers with a surprisingly complete list of Talon embedded agents to exchange for her sanctuary.

"And Talon didn't agree with that, did they." Tracer replied.

"No. I was supposed to be an asset, not a person."

"And Angela doesn't entirely either, does she." It was a statement, not a question.

Widowmaker glanced briefly at Tracer, just with her eyes, just a little surprised, before her focus snapped back to the game. "No. She still thinks I am some folded-up version of her former friend. I am not."

The spider saw that Tracer nodded her agreement. Of all the people here, she thought, only Tracer seems to understand even this much. Perhaps it was the younger woman's experience as a ghost, after the Slipstream accident. Perhaps it was being an Omnic War orphan. Perhaps it was just her nature. The spider didn't know.

Tracer watched the two women game, but really watched Widowmaker think. She's close to something, I can feel it, she thought to herself.

"Is this why you won't let Angela undo any of Talon's work?" Widowmaker had adamantly refused any attempt to reverse any of the physical changes Talon had made, though she tolerated anything she could decide qualified as an "improvement." That included giving her control over her own emotional dampers. Handling that was still a learning process.

"Yes," replied the blue assassin. "I am me. I am not that other woman, even if she was the source for some of my parts. I cannot be her. I do not want to be her."

"I get that, luv," said the Londoner. That part didn't matter to Lena. It was easier, for her, if Amélie was dead, if she was gone, and buried, and this was Widowmaker, another person entirely, just happened to look a lot alike. "Y'know, personally, I like the blue," she said. Makes it easier, she thought.

"You may be the only one, myself aside," replied the spider.

"Hey, n00b," Hana said, "Cover your flank or you're gonna get p0wned."

"Thank you," Widowmaker replied, sweeping left, hitting far more than she missed. D-pad instead of mouse or rifle, she was built for aim.

"Nice shot! For a game controller. You should level up to a real interface."

"Perhaps never," said the assassin.

"Okay," replied the gamer, "don't listen to the professional."

"...point taken," replied the blue woman, as the round ended, with scores D.va 100, bad guys 12, Widowmaker 10.

"I'm outta D.ritos. Want anything?"

"No thank you."

"Just ate, luv, but thanks."

"Be right back!" she said, as she jumped backwards over her chair and headed out to the hallway.

Widowmaker leaned against the rec room's couch, watching the game's idle screen. "I like the character I am playing, more than the game itself. I think that is not too unusual, no?"

"Sure!" Lena answered, encouragingly. "That's why there are fan sites and hangouts and stuff. What do you like about her?"

"This character I play," Widowmaker gestured to the screen, "within the confines of the game, she is a person, like me - no, that is wrong, she is not like me, except in that she was... constructed. It is part of her story. Built, for a purpose. As I was, by Talon."

Built, thought Tracer. "Like Omnics, you mean?"

Widowmaker shook her head, no. "I have thought about it, but I think not. Neither of us are robotic, I do not think it is the same, and I cannot really ask our occasionally resident Shambali master to be sure..."

"Yeaaaaaaaaah," agreed the younger woman. "Probably never."

"I have been told that he says he does not carry a grudge, but I can tell that he carries a grudge, and I do not even blame him." She paused for a moment. "I am far more surprised that you talk to me than that he does not."

Lena bit her upper lip for a moment. "T'be honest, I am too."

Widowmaker hummed a little, a note that signalled her acknowledgment of the situation. "Why do you?"

Lena tilted her head back and forth a little. "...I dunno. That night in King's Row was the second worst of my life. I felt so angry and so betrayed, and I'd've done anything to undo it, but I couldn't. And you couldn't even tell me why."

"I did not know," she replied. "Or care. The question, it struck me as so unimportant, so silly. It was the first time I'd ever laughed. It may have been my first real, unprogrammed... thought."

"I didn't know that," said the Overwatch agent. Her first thought was... laughter? Wow. "But it hurt, then. Still does, a little. Less, now that I know you really aren't Amélie."

"My emotional range is still limited, but... I think I am sad about that."

"Maybe that's why, then. Maybe I can tell. Maybe that's why... somehow, here I am."

The eyes of the woman who had been made from Amélie Lacroix narrowed in thought at those words.

"Winston was built, too, genetically," said Tracer, changing back the subject and realising as she said it that it didn't fit. "But that's really not the same either, innit? He still grew up. You didn't. I think I get it, you just... came online, all at once, didn't you? 'Here I am, ready to kill.'"

The spider's gold eyes flashed to Tracer, but not in anger, as was so usually the case with that look. "Yes," she said, grabbing Tracer's hands. "Yes. I had a purpose, already. And then I had more purpose, that fit with it. No doubts, no hesitation, just purpose. Do you actually understand?"

Lena's heartbeat jumped as the spider grasped her hands, but she didn't let herself flinch, at least not more than with surprise. She touched me, she thought, intentionally. Woah! "I," she gathered her thoughts, "I think I do. I mean, not emotionally, right? I grew up too, and looked for somethin' to do with my life. But... in my head, I kinda get it. A little. You're not there, and then you are, all at once. And you already know why. That's, that's, that's, a kind of perfect, innit? It's..." she groped for the right words, "...flawless."

"Yes," she said, squeezing Lena's hands tightly. "For a reason, and with a purpose, and she," she gestured to her head to the screen, "is like that, and also biological, also for a reason, also for a purpose."

Lena put the rest of the pieces together. "...and nobody else in the whole world is."

The Widowmaker pulled Tracer against her, suddenly, roughly, and put her head on the Overwatch agent's shoulder. Lena could hear the spider breathing and found herself dazed, wrapping her arms around the assassin before she even knew what she was doing, asking only as she did it, softly, "...is this okay? Do you want a hug? 'Cause I can stop..."

"...no. I think I do."

She is so lonely, thought the former test pilot. And she don't even know it. Maybe that's why I don't mind this. She held the cool blue woman carefully in her arms. "Did you lose it, somehow? Your purpose?"

The spider did not say anything.

"Did you stop believing in it? Was that it?"

"It was... I could not stop... thinking. I was perfect, and whole, and content, and I brought exquisite deaths, and then I... and then I laughed, and I was not perfect, and not whole, and not content, and I could not fix it."

"And you miss that purity of purpose."

"So much."

"Would you go back to it?"

"I cannot."

Tracer nodded, and hugged a little tighter, as she said, "Because it's part of being a person. That's why you're here, innit?"

Widowmaker lifted her head from Lena's shoulder, looked her in the eyes, and whispered, "You do know."

Lena Oxton met the spider's gaze, and was not afraid. "This much, yeh. I do."

The spider laughed, just a little. Another thought, all her own. "May I hug you again, later?"

Tracer surprised herself by nodding agreement at once. What am I doing? She... she's who she is. She's built to kill. I can't ignore that. "'Course you can."

"Thank you," she said, and went ahead and did it right then, as well.

I can't ignore what she is, but maybe, Tracer thought, as Hana burst back into the room with grotesque amounts of junk food, ...maybe I can learn to live with it.

solarbird: (pingsearch)
I finally wrote up the design document for Coexistence Alpha. (Link goes directly to an .rtf.) Does this read coherently to people?
solarbird: (Lecturing)
I think it's an appropriate time to remind any actual conservatives out there that the last thing to make Marxism really popular - I mean, actually, legitimately popular - in the US? Fascism.

I mean it. Seriously. Actual fascism - and all it entails - managed to turn a rampaging monster like Stalin into our pal "Uncle Joe." That ... that took a lot.

So when you're thinking about exactly how hard should you hold onto your reflexive alliance with white supremacists and neofascists like Bannon and Milo, think about that history. Think about it real hard.

Because right now, you've got a whole generation of people who have grown up being told that online death and rape threats and doxxing, and systematic harassment, is just something they should deal with. Conservatives have been saying all that is just Free Speech, and embracing the abuse organisers and agreeing that the solution is that women should "just log off." They don't even bother addressing people of colour.

Like you can fucking log off. That's saying, "stop being in society." That's "hide thyself in a nunnery." That's "give in," that's "go die," that's "accept being absolutely without value to us." It's the opposite of an answer - it's support for the abusers.

Meanwhile, at the same time, and in response to this same situation, the so-called "liberal" side of things has been giving fuck and all of a response, with occasional dishwatery tsk-tsk statements and a lot of hand-writing about violating the rights of people who are literally trying to organise ethnic cleansing.

On the other hand, the Marxists were out way in front, talking about this in the context of economic politics, racial politics, and how fascism is the natural end-state of late-stage capitalism. Who is on the ground fighting the fascists? The antifa (anti-fascist) movement, which while not by any means universally Marxist, is generally very left.

When Richard Spencer - who has personally published articles supporting genocide - got oh-so-deservedly punched in the face on camera, who cheered? Everybody who has been targeted - almost all the women and a decent number of men of an entire generation, a lot of women of all generations, and a decent number of other men besides.

And, of these political factions, which said "about FUCKING time DO MORE OF THAT" and who, by contrast, lectured about how you have to have polite and respectful discussion with people who are literally planning your mass murder?

Conservatives, and mainstream liberals, you want a roadmap to actual popular Marxism? Guess what: you don't need a fucking roadmap. You've already built the road.
solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)
Upright Republicans - ones to whom any of the supposed small-government principles ever mattered at all, or, for that matter, one to whom any of the claimed GOP principles ever mattered at all - need to understand that the GOP is no longer their party.

And if they want to take their party back, they need to cause the GOP to lose in 2016. There are times, no matter how much you don't like it, that you need to lose an election to win the future, and when you do that, you need to do it in a clear and visible way.

Fortunately, there is a clear and visible way to do that, and the way to do that in 2016 is to vote for Gary Johnson. Gary gets 5%, and it will be an extremely clear message: you can't win without us.

Because right now, at this moment, the GOP is an unrestrained horde of overt racism, anti-semitism, misogyny, and absolutism, it is a party of chaos and strong-man leadership, the opposite of law, the inverse of order. A GOP victory in this condition would be a tremendous loss for all the principles of small and hands-off government. Both parties will be mass rule, and the one least historically aligned against that will have won with that as their standard, and will not turn away for decades, if ever.

The GOP must lose this election, and it must be clear why.

Gary Johnson won't win; the Libertarian party is a joke. I say that as someone who has voted big-L more than not. A lot of people will say, therefore, that you are "throwing away your vote."

That's horseshit. This election, if you're on the small-government side, it's the only way not to throw away your vote, and it's the only shot at not losing the GOP to the mob.

The GOP must lose 2016. Badly. And it must be clear why. Responsible, upright Republicans must vote Gary Johnson in 2016. He won't win - but you will.
solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)
Okay, a lot of people are linking to Brett Arneds's opinion piece on Marketwatch, wherein he "blows [the second amendment] baloney into a million pieces."

I'm not gonna link it, and I'm not even going to argue the merits of gun control. Instead, I'm gonna repost something I posted elsewhere, because this is the exactly sort of thing that starts getting to me about gun control advocacy.

Hamilton was writing about (and directly referencing) Article I, Section 8, and Article II, Section 2, of the then-proposed American Constitution. He was not referencing the second amendment, or any part of the Bill of Rights, because it DID NOT YET EXIST.

Yes, you heard me, AMENDMENT II DID NOT YET EXIST when he wrote this article. It would not even be proposed for ANOTHER YEAR AND A HALF. He cannot have been writing about it.

I mean, read the damn Federalist Paper he linked, if you've been cheering that article. It talks about whether States or the Federal government should control the Militia. It's Federalist No. 29 - "Concerning the Militia."

What's he quoting and paraphrasing? Article I section 8, Article II section 2, not any not-yet-extant Bill of Rights text.

The paper was published Thursday, January 10, 1788.

The fleet of proposed amendments which were winnowed down to become the Bill of Rights were introduced June 8, 1789, 18 months later.

His article is a lie, a lie that relies on you not reading what's linked and not putting dates together and not knowing what you're actually talking about to "prove" something it does not in reality prove.

In this way, the gun control movement has long been exactly as callous towards reality as the fundamentalist movement has been about queers and abortion rights, and is what drove me away from it, because I have had that weapon turned against me my entire life, and I will not have it.

I simply won't.



eta: In response to comments elsewhere: I feel that Arneds is quite intentionally conflating discussions on control of the militia with discussions on the right of individuals to bear arms in the second amendment, and the people forwarding it around are taking that bait with alacrity and doing so quite directly. I believe both points were intentional, which is why I called it a lie, as it was intent to mislead. That's what I was reacting to. No, he never literally states, "Federalist 29 is specifically about the second amendment," but he's sure as hell setting that up.

Quoting myself from elsewhere:
I assert: Arneds's article takes the "collective right" model of interpretation as given. Without that, talking about the ideas over who controls the militia is irrelevant. Do you agree?

If you agree: assuming A (collective right, in this case) to be true, when B (individual right, in this case) and A are mutually exclusive, automatically invalidates B.

However, because the truth of A is assumptive, rather than proven, asserting that A is true proves B is untrue is a falsehood. Or, in this case, because I have seen the rhetorical structure of this article used by fundamentalists with deceptive intent against queers my entire life in their efforts to exterminate me and mine, it is something I read as a lie. Beyond that, I react to it badly, but that doesn't change the structure of the situation.

And that claim above is the claim this article makes; if I assume A, then because if A is true then B is false, therefore I have proven that B is false. That's what the NYDN commentary does, that's what all the people I was responding to in my post collectively have done, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it pisses me off.
solarbird: (pindar-do-pardon-me)
The GOP establishment has actually gone to war against the demi-fascist Mr. Trump now. It's fascinating.

I mean, they've been ramping up. They've been throwing bits of everything at him hoping something might stick. They're quietly telling more vulnerable members of Congress that they won't be punished for distancing themselves from Mr. Trump if we wins the nomination. They've even been blaming everyone else for the monster which is their creation, pulling their usual externalisation/I'm-not-crying-you're-crying projection tricks:

The media, licking its collective chops, cannot wait for the GOP to become the party of racists, misogynists and authoritarians that liberals have always portrayed Republicans to be.
--Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post
But none of that has been working. So now, they're really cranking it up, threatening their rank-and-file with the worst, an out-and-out party split. They're telling everyone, break ranks, endorse Trump, and we will end you. Your career is over at that moment, they're saying, in pretty much those words, and Chris Christie is being made an example of right now. Any other hints of disloyalty will be treated the same.

So now, we're seeing a real party civil war. But the question is - how will the oligarchs weigh in? And on which sides?

It's hard to say. The Koch brothers, for their part, are saying they're staying out of it - which is most certainly a vote of no confidence in the GOP Establishment, even if it's a lie, as I presume it is. If it's not a dodge - they do lie a lot - it's also probably an implication that they think they can have more control with a newer party. (They've tried that before.)

The rest will probably fall down on one side or another in the next couple of weeks. Can't keep track of 'em without a scorecard, getcher programmes right here!

What a spectacle! What a show.

eta: Oh look, they've rebooted Mitt Romney!

eta2: And the LA Times have pulled out one of my favourite words, "inchoate," for their editorial. Excellent, said Mr. Burns.
solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)

Seanan McGuire posted an article today on why you need to leave reviewers alone. Authors Behaving Badly is kind of a perennial lol-topic in reader circles, and a stunning percentage of those stem from authors reacting – badly – to negative reviews.

She has a bunch of good reasons why you don’t engage such reviews, even if they’re just being mean. And all that’s fine. But a couple of people have posted about how hard that is, and I realised there’s something Seanan didn’t say, to wit:

If you’re staring at a negative review and itching to say something, don’t, not just because of all the obvious reasons, but because being reviewed at all – no matter how negatively – is a kind of compliment in and of itself.

Remember that. Even vendetta reviews are compliments, really, because they mean the reviewer thought you were important enough to talk about, even if just to try to take you down.

And leaving aside vendetta reviews – like the Rabids attempt to game Goodreads – a sincere but negative review also means they thought you were worth the actual time they spent. Even if they don’t admit it, the facts on the ground are that you were worth the time they spent actually reading or listening to or watching your thing, and the time they spent writing a review about it.

Remember: no matter how much they may’ve hated whatever they’re hating – and let’s say they hated it a lot – they still cared enough to take the time to write and post a thing about your work. In a world flooded with opportunities to read/watch/listen to/react to material, they listened to yours, and wrote about yours, which means that you’re worth that much to them, at very least.

And it’s not symmetrical. They’ve handed you the big advantage. After all – you’re not writing about them, now, are you? No.

Good. Keep it that way.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (Lecturing)
Over on Facebook, people are getting weird and panicky, and posting various bits of data out of context. They're freaking out more than I think they should about the Baltic Dry Index, in particular, and are starting to do things like quote Superstation 95 as a source. (Pro tip: SUPERSTATION 95 IS NOT A SOURCE. DO NOT QUOTE IT. EVER.*)

Anyway, here's a cross-comparison chart you should consider before panicking about the Baltic Dry Index; it's oil price against BDI. Fuel is a meaningful part of the cost of shipping. Note that the BDI follows (in part) the chart of oil, and oil hasn't been this cheap in a while:



Note further that crude oil imports in North America are at lows not seen in a long time due to domestic production; consider the implications of that on an overbuilt shipping fleet. Note further further that China went off its binge of years-in-advance commodity buying a few years ago and a couple of years ago dropped out of that entirely. Note the effects of that on copper and other important industrial commodities, and the effects of that on the value of shipping any of those things around, and the effects of that on demand for shipping and - therefore - price demand ability of an overbuilt shipping fleet.

Get the picture?

I'm not saying shipping isn't slowing. It is, for all the reasons related above. Earnings are also disappointing this season, and the economy is showing stress. Automobile demand isn't great, for example. But these are secular realities in a commodities slump. This happens. Don't panic.

Really, I have to wonder how much recessions (and impressions thereof) are going to change once we get a generation of people who haven't been looking at an alternate mode of civilisation under a completely different economic system (the Communist bloc), and for whom each recession is not some sort of existential crisis leading to straight to international communism. I'm not even sure the millennials will be able to get past it - this might very well take another generation past that. We'll just have to see.




*: Superstation 95 is, in fact, a front for a white-supremacist revolutionary organisation (Hal Turner's, specifically), heavy on the conspiracy theory. A few days ago, they posted a "story" that got passed around through various blogs and ended up on Zero Hedge unquestioned, claiming that all ocean shipping had stopped. All of it. This was horseshit - even the graphic they posted showed cargo ships en route - but that didn't stop people from taking it at face value. Their goal is destabilisation through fear in order to launch a race war. They also claim to be a New York City radio station; they are not. There is no such license. If they exist at all on the air, it is as a pirate station.
solarbird: (not_in_the_mood)

The Puppies made another attempt to game a system last week, but it fell apart rather hilariously.

The first notice it got was a lot of very negative commentary all at once on a negative review of one of the oberpuppyführer Vox Day’s collections; Lis Carey left a note about it in File 770‘s comments section. And File 770 also found a post about it on Vox’s blog. (Linked via DoNotLink).

Well, it gets dumber from there. Sean O’Hara started poking around, and found that there was a Secret Puppy Goodreads Group*, formed with the explicit intention of gaming the site by bombing “SJW” reviewers and authors with negative reviews and ratings, and uprating all Puppy-affiliated works. The problem is, while it was a limited-access group – well, I’ll hand it to Sean:

Too bad for him the only thing keeping out the SJWs was a challenge question that could be answered with a simple Google search. By Saturday night I had access to the group. I didn’t know what to do — undermine him from the inside, play Serpico and leak screenshots on a piecemeal basis, or save them up for a big reveal. The last one seemed the best way not to get caught until I had a good collection of dirt, and I was strongly leaning in that direction.

But after reading File770’s news roundup yesterday, which included a story about someone being ganged up on by Day and his goons, I decided it might be better to give warning where I could.

Here are a collection of screenshots from that group.

And apparently, while Goodreads is a bit of a mess sometimes, that was simply too much for them, and they banned the whole lot of them, with Vox himself being singled out for permanent lockout.

Vox has, of course, claimed victory. (Also a DoNotLink link.)

It’s kind of sad at this point, really. The problem is that the crazy neighbour is only so funny, because sooner or later, they might just bring in a bunch of friends from out of state and take over a wildlife refuge centre, and then it’s not so much fun anymore.

And since we’re talking Puppies, I might as well point at this takedown by Scott Lynch of John C. Wright’s accusations against Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Worldcon, supported by all witnesses who aren’t John C. Wright. I don’t think anyone outside the reactionary rightist circle has a lot of fucks go give about Mr. Wright – remember, this is the guy who came to my blog threatening to sue me for libel after I quoted him accurately and in context. That’s the kind of reality-disassociated sad muppet he is. But I saw his new post, “Stormbunnies and Crybullies”, responding (quite negatively) to George R. R. Martin’s recent call for winding down this fanwar, and one paragraph stood out:

But I am a forgiving man, jovial and magnanimous. I make the following peace offer: Go your way. Cease to interfere with me and my livelihood, do your work, cease to libel me and meddle with my affairs, withhold your tongue from venom and your works from wickedness, and we shall all get along famously.

Emphasis added.

Don’t write what I don’t like, and we’ll get on fine.

I’m the kind of person he doesn’t want to exist. I’m several kinds of people he doesn’t want to see being written about. (You might recall John as the person who so passionately hated Korra from The Legend of Korra, explicitly and specifically because she’s bi. He’s one of those hate-the-sin love-the-sinners whose idea of “love” is making people like me illegal.)

So if we all just stop writing about uppity women and those horrible queers and faggots – all of whom, as you’ll recall, should be beaten to death with ax-handles and tire irons – we’ll get along just fine.

The only ‘peace’ these guys can imagine is complete and utter submission to them. No wonder they have such a fascination with ISIL and the like; it’s a mirror. So do everything by their rules, on their terms, all the time, and always, always give them exactly what they want and do nothing else, and we’ll be just fine.

Stalin would be proud.

I was thinking about pasting in one of the stop liking what I don’t like memes as an ending for this post, but that doesn’t really work, because that’s just about childish frustration and confusion. This, by contrast, is childish frustration and confusion pupated into man-child quasi-fascism, and I don’t have a properly-fitting caption.

But I might have a good animated gif.


Even Kylo Ren is a more complex character than any of these people.


And I just don’t know where to go with that.

*: eta: The original post is missing. I don’t know why. This was the original link: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/9683209-you-all-owe-me and here is a still-valid Google cache as of 2016/01/05 21:45 Cascadian Standard Time.

 


This is part of a series of posts on the Sad/Rabid Puppy candidate slate-based capture of the Hugo Awards, and resulting fallout.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (Lecturing)

Over on Tumblr, I was asked, in response to an offhand comment:

earlgraytay asked:
Hey, do you want to talk about your GOP theory? I grew up worshipping at the altar of Reagan.

Hoooooooo boy here we go.

Okay, so it’s really not that complicated, but we do need to lay a bunch of groundwork, which is the part that makes it look complicated, so bear with me.

First, you have to remember that there was once a GOP that wasn’t batshit insane. Yes, it’s always had batshit insane hangers-on, but that’s pretty much true for every party. (And in some parties, that’s all there is, Wildrose Party of Alberta, I am looking very pointedly in your direction.)

This was back when one of the big things that defined “Republican party” as separate to the “Democratic party” in the 20th century - back when the GOP was the anti-racist party, before Nixon and the Southern Strategy - was that a democratic government - small “d” - could not legitimately exercise unlimited power. It must be contained, and the best way to do that is through representation, not direct democracy, and by strict observation of constitutional law.

This comes from a variety of sources, and goes back to the American revolution, and was then hammered home by watching the French revolution which followed.

In practical terms, one can obviously talk about this being more seen in the breach than the observation. But it was still more than lip service; it was a legitimate philosophical tenant. The Democrats had thrown much of this idea overboard during the Great Depression, but the GOP held on to it.

Obviously, that shit is over. You see, after Richard M. Nixon lost the 1960 election, he decided that the New Deal alliance that built the mid-century Democratic Party couldn’t be broken unless the Confederacy stopped being a single-party all-Democrat bastion. So he, along with his cohorts, started steering the GOP away from anti-racism and towards coded pro-racism - the Southern Strategy - just as the Democratic Party was being lead in the opposite direction by its northern wing. And it got him elected in 1968.

Now, I realise all that’s all very well known, but I wanted it out there, because this set the groundwork for what happened later.

And that foundation having been laid, let’s skip ahead to the late 1970s and early 1980s - Reagan’s epoch and later.

The Southern Strategy has paid off, Reagan has broken the Democratic stronghold. LBJ’s prediction upon signing the Civil Rights Act - that the Democrats would lose the South for three generations - has effectively come true.

With that has come the beginnings of a cultural shift. Parties are, after all, made up of their constituents, and that culture shapes party culture.

The Democrats had a big enough alliance that Dixie culture was one part of many. You had the socially-very-liberal New Englanders, you had the quasi-Nordic social-democratic and socially-liberal northwest (small but material), you had the unions of the midwest, and so on. The fundamentalist Baptists of the South (and their expatriots in California) were equals amongst peers

That was not so much the case with the GOP. They’d attracted a lot of religious voters, and had done so quite intentionally, in taking on the South; that included a lot of fundamentalists - the size of the party grew substantially.

But those fundamentalists were new to the party, and in the early 1980s, even after working for Reagan, they found themselves not getting what they wanted, and not getting what they felt they’d been promised.

So in response to internal protest, what they were told, and what they believed and acted upon, was that they may have supported the party, but they weren’t of the party. The old GOP was very much turn-based and seniority-based; they needed to get involved in the rank-and-file and work their way up. Not just turn out and vote; start working for the party. They had to join the club, as it were.

So they did. And as the fundamentalist revival took over more and more of the Southern Baptist (and similarly-oriented) denominations, that interlink became more and more toxic.

That’s because - and this is probably the critical factor - not only is one of the key tenants of modern American fundamentalism that there is there no legitimate opposition (because the religious is the personal is the cultural, and the religious opposition is, literally, Satan), but that there is no legitimate middle ground. Compromise is criminal; excessiveness is a requirement.

Dig down a bit, and this comes out of Revelations, 3:15-16, and let’s go with King James because they love it so: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

Cold or hot; there can be no “lukewarm” middle ground; the middle ground is actually worse than Satan.

They’d harp on this constantly. You cannot findJesus except through ever-increasing fervour. And by the early 1990s, this had become a general cultural value - one spoken about openly. I didn’t have to dig for this; they were saying it outright. And then, as is inevitable, the cultural value became a political value, and the last remnants of the old GOP were swept away.

I monitored a lot of fundamentalist radio at the time, listening to the things they said to each other, things not intended for greater-public consumption, transcribing and emailing it around so people would know what the political fundamentalists were saying when they thought it was just amongst themselves. By then, they’d hammer on this explicitly as a political value - a political necessity.

Then, just a few years after that, they added “spiritual warfare,” which was spiritual “armour” you’d don in your mind to be impervious to the temptations of the enemy - the words of the enemy, the thoughts of the enemy, the discussions of the enemy.

That’s when I started sending up warnings to anyone who would listen, because I know how this goes. That didn’t go over any better than my warnings about that little experiment the Pakistani government was running in Afghanistan - but I digress.

And as the fundamentalist population took over the organisational structure, the day-to-day working of the party, this attitude became contagious - first common, then pervasive, taking over the secular members of the party as well. That’s just because humans are social animals - they go along with their friends, on most things. It’s what they do. And that’s the culture which spread.

And now, well, we’re here. You have a Democratic party which only now is beginning to understand the chasm and cultural issues; you have a Republican party which is functionally a fundamentalist movement on whatever axis it chooses to follow, whether that axis is actually “religious” or not, as that has become its cultural core.

Even if the religion part itself went away - if it vanished overnight - the cultural value of unipolar validity, of the intrinsic invalidity of middle ground or compromise and the illegitimacy of any opposition wouldn’t vanish. That isn’t going anywhere peacefully, except through long-term failure, followed by ageing out of the primary population - something that’ll take another decade or three. That doesn’t mean they’ll hold power that whole time; I mean it’ll take at least that long for this cultural phase to fade away to irrelevance.

So, there you go. If you made it all the way through this, congratulations! It’s a lot.

solarbird: (Default)
I've been thinking a little about Anna's post about Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron and about Black Widow as "love interest" and the "monster" comment and Disney/Marvel's rather hideous sexism in merchandising and trying to separate out all those bits and pieces into a coherent thought.

And I've got various things to say about various parts, but I think want to talk about this one tweet. It gets spoilery below here, so consider yourself warned now.

Read more... )
solarbird: (Default)
I continue to be bemused by the ongoing return of vinyl LPs. Another year, another set of gains, in both units and revenue. Data from Statistica:



It matches what I was seeing in an RIAA PDF from earlier this year. Vinyl sales are doing very well, thanks, and are the only ownership segment that's actually rising. Streaming revenue is climbing too, but wow, not enough to make up for all the down segments.


Data again Statistica, this graph Forbes


I think there are a couple of things going on here.

First, the LP surge - yes, of course it's at least partly a fad. That's not durable, and the increase in rate of increase is most probably a warning sign.

But aside from that, I think the rise in LP sales may be related to the LP package being a physical/tangible object that's interesting to have for itself. Certainly, if you're going to pick a CD vs. a vinyl LP as an interesting physical object, the LP wins. Bigger covers, more interesting art possibilities - the whole drill. But...

I wrote a while ago about how the RIAA made music ownership a negative value. I think that's still pretty much true, for digital.

But I don't think that perception ever reached vinyl. Vinyl had been written off by the time the RIAA swung into self-destructive smashy smashy. And I'm wondering if vinyl still caries a weight of ownership that digital no longer does.

I mean, I just had a friend of mine who has never owned a turntable and is the opposite of a hipster say she's thinking of getting one. This shouldn't be ignored.

The downside for the artist, of course, is that LPs are a lot more expensive to make - particularly for indies. And smaller living spaces mean less space for storage of any kind of stuff, including LPs. That's a limiting factor, and while it might become less of one as housing stock rebalances, that rebalancing is a longer cycle, and probably won't come early enough to matter.


or somebody will find a way to make it their job


The second statement I take from these graphics is that the industry - as of 1st half 2014 - is still both sinking and on fire. That Forbes chart shows year-to-year revenue changes in stark numbers - down categories at $-394m (downloads, CS, synchronisation, others) vs. up categories at $+231m (streaming, vinyl) year-to-year.

That's a $163m revenue loss. I certainly don't see how vinyl can staunch that much bleeding. And the streaming revenue gains - while obviously more substantial, and where the industry is betting its future - don't even make up for the drop in paid downloads. They're just cannibalising their own revenue streams.

We're still living in a post-scarcity environment. And there's no rearrangement of desk chairs that can change that fact. Delay the repercussions a little, sure; stop them, no.

Me, I want to release something on Edison cylinder. It can in fact be done; there's a company in the UK doing it. And wow, it's expensive. But if, you know, 20 people want to go in at $50/each for cylinders, I will do it. I will do it in a heartbeat.

No? Yeah, I didn't think so either. XD



This is Part 11 of Music in the Post-Scarcity Environment, a series of essays about, well, what it says on the tin. In the digital era, duplication is essentially free and there are no natural supply constraints which support scarcity, and therefore, prices. What the hell does a recording musician do then?
solarbird: (Default)


A couple of impressions leapt out at me from the Norwescon 38 panel photos posted on Facebook on Friday. It's only a small number of photos - eight pictures, representing seven panels. One of those panels was one of my nwcMUSIC panels; "What the Frak is Filk?" if I remember correctly.

First, let's get one big thing said up front; I don't want to make undue guesses about race, but at least in photos, this looks like Mighty Whitey Incorporated. That's a problem.

But also, let's talk about this:

        men          women      recognisably gender-variant
         1             0                   0
         3             1                   0
         5             0                   0
         3             0                   0
         2             2                   0 **
         1             2                   0
         0             1                   0
     -------------------------------------------
        15             6                   0

**: One of mine; I actively work to gender-balance nwcMUSIC panels.


Now, I work this con. I've worked it for years. I know the last couple of heads of programming. I know they're trying not to do this - moreover, they're trying specifically not to do this. And Programming Head has told me that the list of attending pros and performers actually is roughly equal. So in reality: they aren't doing this.

And yet, despite all those facts, here are the numbers we see represented in these photos:

Excluding single-person panels (one reading, one workshop):
          Male panelists: 14
          Female panelists: 5
          Women are 26.3% of panelists.

Including single-person panels:
          Male panelists: 15
          Female panelists: 6
          Women are 28.6% of panelists

Multiperson panels, majority male: 3
Multiperson panels, majority women: 1
Panels gender-balanced: 1
          Women are a majority in 20% of panels;
          Men are a majority in 60%.

In majority-female panels, 33% of panelists are men.
In majority-male panels, 8% of panelists are women.

Excluding single-person presentations/workshops:
          Panels without men: 0
          Panels without women: 2

Including single-person:
          Panels without men: 1
          Panels without women: 3


Sure, it's a small number of photos, of a small number of panels. But it's what's posted. It's what's online right now.

And remember all those things I've talked about, how 17% women is representationally balanced and 33% women is seen as kind of being 'mostly women'? Well...

Again, and I really want to stress this, these are not representative. But that's kind of the point: they aren't representative, but you can't tell that from the photos. The reality doesn't show up here.

What does show up here are the choices made about which panels to photograph and which photographs to post. From a record-of-events standpoint, a perceived history standpoint, those choices override the reality.

And that's called erasure. Not in a big way; in a very small way, in fact. A grain of sand, striking a mural on a wall. But one grain of oh so many.

I do not believe or even suspect for a second that the photographers or the social media group did this shifting on purpose. I truly, genuinely, do not. Do not go after them.

But the numbers say that it happened nonetheless. I didn't go looking for it; it leapt out at me, and then I did the numbers to see whether I was making it up. I wasn't. And so it proceeds.

This comes in a context. I was just reading about studies showing that two and three year old children play with gender-assigned toys when adults are around, but that they play freely across toy gender boundaries when they think adults aren't watching.

That's how ingrained this is, that's how deep it runs, and how early. Two-year-olds get it. You don't need conscious sexism, or even adult- or teen-acquired sexism. It's taught so early that the erasure is unconscious and automatic.

But still taught. Not instinctive, as the shift in playing habits shows. Taught. And learned.

Echoed from Crime and the Blog of Evil.

solarbird: (gypsy mst3k)
Let's talk about ZARDOZ.

No, really. I mean it. ZARDOZ. More-infamous-than-famous John Boorman 1970s SF movie, a miscast Sean Connery, a wardrobe director presumably still on the run from Fashion Interpol, a giant flying stone head, ZARDOZ.

I've seen ZARDOZ a few times, as a bad film fan. And like most everyone who sees it, I laughed like a hyena. But... after seeing it a couple of times, I began to realise that underneath a lot of garbage... it's not that bad a film. Yes, the wardrobe designer committed a great many sins; the decision to throw Sean Connery into safety-orange bandoliers certainly makes a statement, and that statement is, "you cannot stop laughing at Sean Connery in safety-orange bandoliers." And yes, even aside from that, there's a lot of 70s bullshit floating around.

But underneath all that, there are some interesting sciffy concepts being played with here, many but not all having to do with a society of immortals who survived the apocalypse but were forced to watch it and can't deal with the combination of survivor's guilt and boredom, and, along the way, what they then do with the survivors around them.

You can start to pick out that there's a plan, in other words - both by characters and director - and you can start to pick at some of the weird philosophy being thrown around. There's still a lot of affectation, and the ending is pretty incoherent, but you can see the bones of something in that wreckage.

Then Minion Paul dug out this, and gave it to me:


That's not Paul's hand


My immediate reaction, of course, was laughter. Of course ZARDOZ had a novelisation, all those terrible movies had terrible novels. And curiosity got the best of me.

Now, ZARDOZ was an original story for film. John Boorman has the story and screenplay credits. But the book in my hands wasn't a novelisation of that screenplay. It actually went the other way around. John Boorman explained it, in his author's note; in 1972, he had a story idea, and he set out to write a screenplay around it. What came out was basically a novel, and not a screenplay. A short novel, yes, but nonetheless, pretty much a novel, one that he then adapted to film.

And this is that novel, put into proper novel form, with the help of co-writer Bill Stair. This is the idea, the story they were trying to film.

And this novel, while strange... works. More than that, it falls right into place in the history of the SF, coming between Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars before it and Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang after it, and it's got ideas which are clear contemporaries to elements of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress before it and, I would argue, Singularity concepts from much later. ZARDOZ the novel plays with all the concepts you can dig out of the film, but much more effectively - thoughts on orthodoxy and closed systems and the necessary incompatibility of dissent in such systems, and the ennui and rage of unchanging eternity, and more.

But there are parts, both thematic and mechanical, that didn't make it to the film - at least, not recoverably, not that I can see. Pieces that set the story into context, and in doing so, make it coherent.

An example of mechanics: in the film, there are several "vortex" areas, homes to the Immortals, all protected from the desolation of the unstated apocalypse which one can reasonably presume to be nuclear war, surrounded by the desolation outside. But the assemblage of technologies seems strange and nonsensical - a giant floating stone head, a force shield, massive computing capabilities, but they're growing and harvesting food mostly by hand, but there's psyonics apparently, and they're immortal (via very Cylon-like reincarnation) but can't reproduce despite massive medical knowledge, and they're all meditation freaks and you can go on trial for disharmonious psychic vibrations, and on and on and on.

It comes across in the film as bad worldbuilding hindered by 70s woo. But in the novel, you know why all these elements are present, and you're given a greater whole.

The vortexes were made from technology developed for sublight interstellar colonisation ships. Some of these ships even launched, before the end; these vortexes are built from the ones which didn't.

Antigravity drive for propulsion and for shuttles, reused for the stone head. Radiation and large-kinetics energy shields needed in outer space, used instead to keep out nuclear weapons radiation, intruders, and conventional bombs. Neural interfaces in every crew member, mentally connecting them to each other and their omnipresent computing devices, forming the Tabernacle - the massive distributed network AI needed to run such a vessel. Centuries of learning to grow plants and crops in a variety of terrible conditions, manually but with genetic manipulation at your fingertips, to jumpstart a compatible biosphere on a terraformable planet. Reincarnation to enable a long enough life to get you there across hundreds of years of travel and the dangers of deep space. Meditation and mental discipline exercises to survive the trip with sanity intact. Massive cultural records on call for social needs, and, of course, plenty of duties for everyone to keep boredom at bay. But stuck, instead, on a ruined Earth, with nowhere to go...

...or is there? But now I'm teasing you.

And thematically, ZARDOZ the novel plays with still more ideas, ideas that aren't so easy or even possible to dig out in cinema in this context - like the failure of the various the 60s and early 70s movements to achieve that kind of next-level-of-consciousness enlightenment that both the Soviets (via the New Soviet Man) in the East and the hippie and related movements in the West were trying to achieve, right about the time Hunter S. Thompson and Dennis Hopper were writing and filming about those failures as well.

And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil... we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave... so now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

-- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas



And just when you think the story's thematics are getting a little too deep into weird sexual politics and flirtations with misogyny, the story spins around and calls some of its own characters out on all of that, saying, effectively, it knows, it knows, it knows that this is part of the problem, but it doesn't know how to fix it.

Just like the Eternals couldn't quite figure out how to achieve their ideas about enlightenment, either. But they know, they know, they have an idea what might need to change, not to achieve that hypothetical next level that was so part of the era's milieu, but how to make it possible to achieve. And maybe there's a way for that, too - but they don't know how to get there...

...but maybe Zed does. Somewhere, in his bones. Again, I tease - or do I?

The ending... well, it's utterly unfilmable. I mean that in the sense that the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey is unfilmable - sure, you can set up a camera and show what's going on in physical space all you want to, but without external text, it's going to make exactly zero sense. We actually get a bunch of chunks of it on screen in the film, but the viewer has very little idea what it means in the narrative.

The film of 2001: A Space Odyssey works despite having these problems, because you had the visual genius of Stanley Kubrick at work, and he delivered a psychedelic fireworks show unlike anyone had ever seen. And while he couldn't - and didn't - deliver the text, he could and did deliver the sense of emotional confusion, horror, and resolution that's carried through the end of the novel. The text is lost, but the emotional impact remains. Genius.

The ending of ZARDOZ isn't that clean; the emotions are less clear and the ideas honestly more complicated. And while John Boorman's a good director, he's no visual genius, let alone one on the level of Kubrick, and he gave himself less physicality to work with in key ways. So sure, you can film Sean Connery as Zed sitting at a table looking at a rock crystal for a while, but somehow, that lacks the visual punch of the great transit Arthur C. Clarke gave Kubrick for 2001.

Alternatively, you could try to go into Zed's head, and try to film the real action of the story, some of which is sort of tried and sort of transported into realspace, but with the most important character in those scenes - the Tabernacle itself, taking an active role as a sapient character - functionally removed from the film, that fails too, presumably because Boorman simply couldn't figure out how to make that work. And I can't fault him for that, either, because I don't know how you would. I can come up with a dozen terrible ideas - some of which I've seen tried - and few to no good ones. I'm a musician, Jim, not a director.

All of which gets back to how it's just unfilmable. Oh, they tried. A lot of the physical action of the ending, the unimportant but still shootable parts, that's there. It's just that without a greater context - and without the Tabernacle character itself - half of what's going on is lost, and the other half makes little to no sense. Particularly not the final set of scenes in the stone head, the ones which evoked such confusion in reviewers and audiences alike. Everyone gets it wrong, and it's not their fault, because the material you need to get it right simply isn't there to get.

But it's all there, in the novel.

In the end, ZARDOZ is still a mess of a film. It just is. Boorman and crew tried something they couldn't hope to pull off, and, predictably, failed. And no, that's not actually a parallel to the story - I almost wish it were, it'd make a nice sting on the end of this post. But I'd be lying if I said it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I have so much more respect for what they were trying to do now. It seems quite delusional, if you sit down and watch ZARDOZ the movie, once, without trying to dig out all the pieces you shouldn't have to need to dig out, to contemplate an unironic respect for that mess. But I can see what they wanted to do, and why they tried.

Neither the novel nor the film truly succeed; certainly not alone, not even taken as a package. The film's a mess, the novel has pacing problems, it dumps ideas at you for you to develop rather than doing it in the story, characterisation isn't entirely sold, you need to do a lot of reading for content because huge chunks of material are thrown at you in toss-away clauses, there are some really dated psychological assertions, and some of the ideas you're expected to buy are problematic at best.

But the novel gives you enough to see it. You can see what they tried to do, what they wanted to achieve, and where they failed. And with the right kind of eyes, you can in fact see past that high-water mark, past that place where the creative wave broke and rolled back, and see the masterpiece they could not deliver.

I just wish they could've figured out how to get there.

Echoed from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Our new neo-Celtic fantasy novel soundtrack album is on special for blog readers only!

solarbird: (korra-excited)

Well, it’s 2015, and I’m writing this as the fireworks are still going off around me and downtown; I didn’t go, I’ve been too busy working on all the tune parts for the live Bone Walker release party/concert at Conflikt at the end of the month.

It’s hard work, too. I have a little secret that isn’t very secret: I am not a natural tunes player, and, this being the trad album, there’re a lot of tunes in it. They were by far the most difficult part of the album, and they’ll be the most difficult thing to perform live, and even though I’ll be kind of miked down a bit on mandolin, I still need to get it right.

Seriously, though; rhythm parts: 10 minutes to learn. Melody on flute: maybe 20. Sung parts: 10-15 minutes, and I’ll make new parts. Tunes: weeks. No idea why. It’s such an outlier that Anna has incorporated it into the Free Court universe, in the background, as part of the way magic works; traditional Irish tunes and the Sidhe magics don’t get along, and that’s on purpose.

But I’ll manage, I always do.

Perhaps coincidentally, the Space Needle is currently fireworking Newfoundland colours. I’m not even making that up. Newfoundland Liberation Army, represent.

I’ve seen people say that 2014 flew by; not for me. For me it felt kind of endless; 2013 seems so long ago. 2014 certainly had some personal lows; two more rounds of eye surgery, including – hopefully – the last one; way too much hanging out at home (recovering) and studio (recording). But it had highs, too – the most successful nwcMUSIC to date, actually finishing the Bone Walker project (preorder OK!) and y’know what, I’m going to say it again:

Korrasami is canon and nothing hurts.

No, seriously, see… here’s yet another level of it. There’s this longstanding trope of having queer couples who end up dead, or in tragedy. I mean, sure, mostly we don’t exist, but if we do: tragedy or death. Not cake or death; tragedy or death. We get one or the other, and sometimes both. Mercedes Lackey did it, for example; big three-book queer love story; one ends up dead, and gets reincarnated (without memories), so he can fall back in love with the survivor… who then dies. Tragedy and death twice in one trilogy! It’s amazing.

Similarly, as much as I love Revolutionary Girl Utena, it did it too, more or less. Maybe Utena still exists; maybe Anthy will find Utena; we don’t know. (In the manga, she doesn’t, but the anime is different in many ways.) At the time, I was really angry about it, because it hit that same trope after teasing us with better; even though she’s not dead (or so it’s implied), they’re still ending apart, as stories say you must, if you’re queer.

Elfquest, too. Dart’s boyfriend Shushen? Introduced and dead in two issues. Boom.

Basically, as a rule, queers don’t get to go off into the sunset together, in fiction. That’s historically not for us. For us: tragedy and/or separation, often through death.

Until now.

I can’t overstate how much that changes the world. It may not seem like much to people who are used to having it. But in a desert, even a teacup’s worth becomes an ocean of water. And for that, I can forgive a lot about 2014.

We face 2015 with a whole new world. Gear up, everybody – let’s see what it brings.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (korra-excited)

I saw a comment on Tumblr that this Korrasami ending was the ending we all wanted, but that we weren't emotionally ready for it. I think they're on to something; we did all want it, but we weren't ready for it, because we didn't think it could happen - it was our impossibility.

But suddenly it actually happened, and the world changed, and we're all in a kind of shock from the emotional unreadiness. It's the best kind of emotional unreadiness, perhaps, but unreadiness nonetheless.

I think that comment reveals a lot about why so many of us are reacting not just so strongly, but over so many days. We weren't ready for this; we couldn't be, because it was impossible. And all these many days of reaction are us emotionally processing that the world is suddenly new. Particularly for the adult fans, we're... catching up. We're playing forward this emotional release from all the years ago when all the straight kids got this sort of thing but we didn't, reeling it out to whatever point our adult lives are in now. That takes time. It may take a lot of time for some of us; it's as if a lot of very old metaphorical/emotional logjams across the many people of the fandom have been blown clear, and it's all cascading downstream.

The poison wasn't just in Korra; it was in a lot of us, too.

solarbird: (korra-excited)

Not much going on at the Lair tonight; we’ve been binge-watching Book 1 of Legend of Korra, now that the Korrasami Is Canon after-parties are in full swing.

And, y’know, even as a very happy Korrasami shipper, I really gotta say two things. One: Bolin and Korra were kind of adorable together. They really were. I’d kind of forgot that, and it’s a lot of fun watching that all happen again. Sure, they’re better as drinking buddies, but that’s still adorable.

And two: I’m sorry, but Korra and Mako were terrible for each other. They just were. I thought that at the time, and I think it again in rewatch. They bring out the worst in each other – and the people around them, except for Asami – all the damn time. And I’m not even blaming Mako. The dynamic is just kind of toxic. They spark off each other, sure, but seriously, these sparks set the wrong kind of fire.

Also, I don’t care whether they said they weren’t writing it in book one, you add a little blush tone on Korra when Asami is all over her after the tournament semifinals in “The Spirit of Competition,” and that would be our first hint. Not Book 3. Book one.

Korra shys from spiritual and emotional issues and wants to charge in with everything. Korra’s and Tenzin’s frustrations they haven’t yet dealt with. Mako and Korra making a bad kind of fire. Korra and Asami’s then-crackship being not such a reach. Benders and non-benders being so out of balance – with our Avatar quite atypically later falling in love with a non-bending technologist.

Which all comes back to the theory that I had that Book 1 would be better in retrospect. Specifically, as Books 3 and 4 have progressed, I’ve had the thought that the characters in Book 1 and how they work with (and against) each other would make more sense in the complete context.

Knowing the destination, all of these mixed emotional signals came over time to form a prelude, carrying a set of themes which came to be addressed in both general, and specifics, over time. Again and again, this whole series has been about dealing with the scars of the past – revisiting political scars of our world, and personal psychological scars of characters.

I like Book 1 much better after having read The Promise, which tells us more about how Aang’s life progressed in certain key emotional ways after the end of The Last Airbender. Korra is dealing with Aang’s issues, too. I like Book 1 much better after finding out more about the Gaang’s kids in general, and how the traumatising dangers and adventures of their childhood affected their parenting and children, and how their issues were addressed in Books 2-4, where we learned about all that history. I like Book 1 better knowing better that each year’s Big Problem was an interpretation of one or another political extremism of the last century, instead of just skimming an idea for cheap drama.

I like Book 1 better knowing that the bad-dynamics relationship did fail, and that the failure was handled maturely and well by those involved. And I like Book 1 better knowing that the accidental relationship everybody joked about but which just seemed to flow given even a hint of a chance came true.

JMS on Babylon 5 used to call this “holographic storytelling.” This is where episodes of the past would become more relevant and revealing later, in the future. Ivanova gave Talia her water during a Series 1 interrogation. Korra thanked Asami – rather tenderly – for the chance to keep playing. Both were seeds.

I think it was more of a strength in B5 than here, truth be told. But I am very happy that Book 1 is made better by Books 2-4 – not “fixed,” not “retconned,” but explained and in a way that mades a whole. I just wish it had been a little more palatable before all that. Sure, it’s great that it came together and became wonderful. But it would’ve been even more lovely had – to paraphrase Tenzin – the ride not been quite so bumpy. Not for the characters, but for us.

Even so – goddamn I am glad I stayed along for the whole ride.

This was supposed to go out earlier, but for some reason did not. But if you have celebrate a holiday today, I hope you enjoy it. If you celebrated one last week, I hope it went well; if you will be celebrating one in a few days, or one in a couple of weeks, well, I hope it goes wonderfully. Me, I got my present. Korrasami is canon, and, at least for now, nothing hurts. :D

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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