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The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal Below are 10 entries, after skipping 10 most recent ones in the "The Ferrett" journal:

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May 19th, 2017
09:14 am

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Guest Post: It’s The End Of The Internet As We Know It (But You Can Help Save It)

You folks have probably heard a lot about “Net Neutrality” lately, but you may not be clear on what it is, how it’ll change your Internet life, or what you can do to keep it in place. And to be honest, I’m not qualified to speak about it.

But my friend Paul is.

Paul Goodman (@PaulOverbite) is Senior Legal Counsel on the Telecommunications and Technology Team at The Greenlining Institute – which is to say he’s been on the front lines battling the telecommunications industries for years, and he knows exactly what companies like AT&T would do if people like him weren’t there to stop him.  (Some of the things he’s told me about have been horrifying.)

So I’m gonna ask him to explain Net Neutrality to you through a phenomenal historical metaphor, and have him tell you why all isn’t lost yet even though yesterday’s headlines were indeed bad.

Paul?


Ferrett was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to write a blog post about the importance of net neutrality—the principle that your internet service provider (ISP) can’t control what content you access or devices you use on your broadband connection. As you may have read, on Thursday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiated the process of eliminating the current net neutrality rules. Unfortunately, there was a fair amount of misreporting on the issue, leading to headlines like “Net Neutrality Rules Eliminated” and “FCC Kills Net Neutrality” and “Masked Man Throws Net Neutrality into Vat of Acid, Creating Green-Haired, White-Skinned Madman.”

However, net neutrality isn’t dead yet—but today’s vote was a clear sign that it’s in the Trump administration’s crosshairs.

To really understand the importance of net neutrality, you first need to understand Green Books. Green Books, common in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, were travel guides for African American travelers. These books listed locations where food and lodging were available to African Americans, and, more importantly, listed places where African Americans would be refused service, falsely arrested, or murdered. The Green Books listed huge swaths of the country where there were no services available and where, accordingly, African Americans couldn’t go.

Think about that for a minute. Specifically, consider the enormous amount of power that white people had over black peoples’ lives. If you were black, white people could stop you from travelling to, or through, large parts of the country. So if you were more than a day’s drive away from friendly territory, you couldn’t visit your family. If you were a travelling salesman, there were large parts of your sales territory that you couldn’t visit. If you wanted to go to your state capitol to ask your elected representative for help, you might not be able to—not because you didn’t have the ability or resources, but because white people actively worked to keep you from doing so.

One group of people had control of a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure, and used that control to prevent African Americans from accessing economic, social, and political opportunities.*

Today, we’re facing the same scenario. A small group of broadband providers controls a vital part of our nation’s infrastructure — the national (and international) telecommunications network. That control gives ISPs an enormous amount of power. The Internet is the way that we communicate with our friends and loved ones, find jobs, contact government services, and get information. Net neutrality protections ensure that you, not your ISP, decide how to access the network, what content you view, who you communicate with, and which viewpoints you can express and support.

Under the current net neutrality rules, your broadband provider can’t discriminate against particular Internet content. For example, Comcast owns NBC-Universal. Comcast would prefer that you watch NBC shows, rather than shows from other content providers like HBO, or ABC, or Netflix. Comcast is also an ISP, and has the ability to deliver Internet traffic at different speeds and service quality, so Comcast could deliver NBC content in high-definition, while making videos from HBO look terrible. Net neutrality rules make sure that doesn’t happen.

In 2015, the FCC, which regulates what I call “communications services” and you call “telephone, cable TV, and broadband service,” imposed the most robust net neutrality protections in U.S. history. If you haven’t noticed, since then, we’ve had a few changes in our government. Under new leadership the FCC wants to roll back all of the robust net neutrality protections we’ve come to rely on. In anticipation, ISPs and conservative groups have been sending out a deluge of misinformation and dropping off huge sacks of money at policymakers’ offices.

There’s only one group that can really push back, and that group is us.

I know we’ve all got a lot on our plates lately, and we’re all battling on multiple fronts, but I would really like you to understand that the fight to save net neutrality is critical. Many marginalized groups—people of color, LGBT folks, Muslims, to name just a few—don’t have access to traditional outlets for getting their voices heard. The Internet is often the only tool that we have to communicate, give and receive support, and organize. Without a free and open Internet, we will lose our ability to make our voices heard, share our positions and strategies, and work for real change. We cannot let that happen.

The FCC is currently taking comments on its plan to eliminate net neutrality, so please go here and tell the FCC to keep the existing net neutrality protections in place. Additionally, please reach out to your elected representatives and ask them to keep the Internet open and free—a five-minute phone call might just convince your rep to vote against the repeal.

* –  Incidentally, that discrimination continues today in our telecommunications networks.  Years of business decisions by telecommunications providers about where to build or upgrade their networks have resulted in a disparate impact on communities of color—on the whole, communities of color disproportionately lack access to broadband services, and where those services are available, they are unaffordable and the service quality is terrible.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/581415.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(2 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

May 15th, 2017
10:48 am

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In Which I Debate Whether I Can Recommend Persona 5 To Mishell Baker

So I play videogames for the story, and Persona 5 is the best story I’ve seen in… well, maybe ever.  I used to say that Planescape: Torment was, hands-down, the strongest narrative in videogames – and after playing through ninety hours of Persona, which had almost no slow spots, I may have to replay Torment just to see which is best.

Yet I’m debating recommending Persona to my friend Mishell Baker.

Now, Mishell is obsessed with Dragon Age and Mass Effect – she’s played the games through multiple times so she can hear every line of dialogue.  And we’ve nerded out about videogames on Twitter before, having long conversations about ZOMG THIS CHARACTER and WHAT ABOUT THIS PLOT TWIST – and I want her to play Persona so I can hear her reaction.

And yet Persona’s a little face-punchy.

Which is to say that Persona is, unabashedly, the story of a straight guy.  Which I have zero problem with – I think every type of character deserves a storyline, including straight cis dudes.

But that straightness permeates the game; literally every female character but one is romanceable.  There are a sum total of three LGBT characters in the game, and two of them are joke characters who show up twice to sexually harass one of the straightest guys in the game.  The third is a bartender of fluid but undefined gender, who is presented as a sympathetic, competent character…

But none of the Confidants you interact with – i.e., the people who have storylines – are gay or bisexual, or do they even appear to be aware of the concept.  (One of the main characters clearly has something going on with their sexuality, but nobody mentions this or ever follows up on it.)  Everyone is paired off into M/F boxes, and are all expected to act likewise.

And the game is literally about how society chains you into misery by forcing expectations upon you.  Thematically, you’d almost expect a discussion of someone’s sexuality.  Yet the game itself is overwhelmingly straight to the point where, if aliens learned about humanity from this ninety-hour game, they would not even know that gayness existed.

Here’s the issue:

Persona 5 was so good in everything else it did that you could go for hours before being reminded that oh, yeah, this game has weird issues with LGBT erasure and mockery.  I’d be into it, into it, into it, and oh.  There we are again.

And Mishell writes magnificent books – seriously, try Borderline – that do deal with gay and bisexual characters because that reflects her life.  Like me, she can’t write a book without LGBT characters because LGBT people are her friends and why would she write a book that casually negates their existence?

How would she react to a game that, in a hundred hours filled with deep characters, has gay characters that occupy less than ten minutes of the game?

That’s a syndrome Ann Leckie once likened to going to a great restaurant with awesome food and occasionally the waiters punch LGBT people and women in the face.  The straight guys, who don’t get punched, are like, “What, don’t you care about the quality of food?” and can’t understand why people might want to eat at a restaurant where they’re not tensed for elbow blows.

And Persona 5 is punchy as hell.  It’s a quality storyline that requires some punch-dodging, if you’re gay, because there’s a difference between “A straight guy is the lead character in this story” (which is great) and “A straight viewpoint has nearly eradicated any concept of homosexuality in an otherwise-complex storyline that has beautiful things to say about love and being true to yourself and the costs of standing up to do the right thing” (which isn’t).

Persona 5’s story is beautiful, and glorious, and meticulously thought out.  But to Mishell, who does speak out on LBGT issues a lot?

I don’t know how much it would punch her in the gay rights.  I think it’d hit her a lot harder than it did me.  It might change the game from “A beautiful story” to “A weird alt-history where people like her friends don’t exist.”

And it wouldn’t have been that difficult to alter Persona 5.  One gay friend might have done it – hell, fandom’s pretty much decided he’s gay anyway, might as well have made a statement within the game.  One conversation about someone investigating their sexuality.  One acknowledgement that all male teenagers might have other urges than to go after the hot blonde with the killer body (or maybe that one female character also wants that hot blonde).

It would not have changed the central story one whit, and yet it would have avoided throwing punches.

Which is a shame.  Because that small omission is the difference between me thrusting Persona 5 out to everyone I know, going, “HERE PLAY THIS OH MY GOD” and “I really loved this, and I think with some qualifiers, you might too.”  It’s that difference between mindless, squeeing fanboying and a work I have to ponder whether I can recommend.

As it is, I think Mishell might very well like it regardless.  If she reads this article, she’s at least braced for it.  She might be able to boot up Persona 5 and go, “Okay, yeah, I know we’re not getting that, but I can compensate for the rest.”  Or she might decide not to play the game because, sometimes, getting that disappointed when the rest is that good is somehow worse.

And I think, again, that it wouldn’t have taken much to be inclusive.  I don’t think a talking to a few gay or bi characters in-depth would have ruined it for straight guys, or at least straight guys who aren’t ragingly homophobic.   I don’t think you would have had to change much of the dialogue, even.

But there it is: Persona 5 is a great game.  So much that I can froth out a thousand words on it.  I recommend it highly.  I think it’s brilliant.

I just wish I could say “It’s brilliant” instead of “It’s brilliant, but.”

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/581123.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(1 shout of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

May 11th, 2017
12:08 pm

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You Can’t Talk About It. Not Really.

I’m at the peak of my Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I’m mired in suicidal depression. Texts from people I love are going unanswered, my work output is pathetic, and I’m damaging the relationships I have.

I wish I had the skill to express what it’s like to you, living through this time of year. But then again I don’t.

See, if I was better, I could write a flourishing emotional essay describing What It’s Like To Be Mentally Ill, with the same detail that sometimes I describe What It’s Like To Be In Love, and give people a taste of what it’s like to realize that your brain sometimes just gives out on you like a bum knee. If I was healthier, I could write it up in a way that you got it.

And it’d probably get me hospitalized.

I get bitter. I do. Because whenever someone says, “You can talk to me,” I know that’s not true. That’s what my illness takes away from me. Thirty years of talking has taught me that I can’t be honest with anyone, sometimes not even my own therapists. Because if I reveal the suicidal ideation I’ve dealt with for decades, that can land me in a stint in the hospital, which could cost me my job, which would, not surprisingly, not make me better mental healthwise.

People say “You can talk to me.” Yet the profound truth about chemical depression is that it’s boring, and talking doesn’t necessarily cure it. Sometimes talking accentuates all the worst parts of your life, revealing this sagging weakness in your foundations makes you seem more pathetic with every word, and you come out of it feeling worse.

And that’s bad, because when people say “You can talk to me,” what they often mean is “I want to be your hero.” They don’t mean to, but they’re often looking for that shot of pride at having Helped A Sad Person Overcome Their Trauma, to be the star of their own movie, and when they talk to you for two hours and you’re actually worse off then they quietly think you’re no fun to be around and they start quietly distancing themselves.

The number of people who can sit in a dark hole with you and simply hold your hand are rare. Most people want to see you improve in real time, or they’re going to step away.

You may say you’re the exception. Most people say they’re the exception. But there are terminally ill people in hospitals who are terribly lonely because people tell themselves they’re the exception but quietly find excuses not to be with a dying person who needs them but isn’t going to get better.

There’s a lot of exceptions to those exceptions.

And if you do find someone who can sit in a dark hole with you, your thoughts are corrosive and insulting. Because you question everything they do. Your self-loathing is secretly attacking their reasons for being here, every time you tell them how worthless you feel you’re also informing them that really, they either are stupid for showing up or deluded or both, and enduring that subtle abuse is its own skill, and a debatable one.

And then, as noted, uncorking someone’s depression can be fucking terrifying if they’ve seen you as a mostly functional human being. Talking is walking them backstage, saying, “I know you thought this was a beautiful show, but the truth is this furniture is fake and this wall collapses if you push hard and the makeup looks cheap close up.”

They rarely say, “Oh, wow, you did a good job with what you had.”

They just see the gaps, and decide this show has to be fixed. Because if you tell someone, “Yeah, I’ve considered killing myself two or three times a week my entire life,” and explain that there are days you don’t drive because of your concern that you’ll yank the wheel to one side and destroy yourself, their reaction is not to go “That’s how life is for this person, they’ve fought this for decades” but rather “JESUS THAT WOULD TERRIFY ME LET’S CHANGE THIS PERSON NOW” and again, if you tell the wrong person about these continual sadnesses, you wind up being flagged a danger to yourself and hauled away.

There are a few people I do talk to about things, when I get really depressed. But I don’t talk to them about it often. Because I know that sharing this unending wail of torment I’m in will corrode friendships, and I need friendships, and the issue with being as mentally ill as I am is that the survival technique is to conceal portions of myself to protect the people I love from my madness.

Because I don’t want my mental illness. And I don’t want to inflict it upon others unless I have to.

So I conserve discussing my depression until I really need to, because otherwise I won’t have anyone to discuss it with. And whenever I say that, people are like, “Oh, if you had real friends…” and my response is, “Maybe you have a nice, happy disorder that you can open up to your friends about, and that’s a lovely fucking place for you to live, but don’t you dare dismiss my friendships because your disorder is people-friendly.”

Mine isn’t. Mine is toxic. And even talking about my mental illness this much – this is the light version, people – inspires people to come out of the woodwork and tell me that I need to cheer up, that I don’t understand how friendship works, I just need to find the right people and all will be well.

And what I’m asking you to examine is your need for the Hollywood friendship – the one where you have a chat with your buddies and they get better and you get to be the hero.

Maybe that’s a disorder of its own.

Maybe that’s not helping.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/581037.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(10 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

May 10th, 2017
09:47 am

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Want Me To Teach A Workshop? Here’s How You Do It!

People kept asking me what classes I taught, so I made a list and put it on my website.  If you want me to come to your town and run some sort of poly workshop, that list summarizes what I got for ya.  (And if I have the class notes public, they’re listed there too.)

I should note that I have a vague recollection of someone from Fet emailing me to ask if I would teach for them, but I cannot find it in my mail.  It may have been spam-trapped.  If you haven’t heard from me lately, please ask again.

If you don’t want me to teach a workshop in your town, then keep on doing what you’re doing. Chances are good I won’t show up spontaneously to teach in your living room.  But I can’t promise anything.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/580754.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(1 shout of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

May 5th, 2017
10:28 am

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“Why Do We Need Unisex Bathrooms?”

A guy asked this about a convention where several boy/girl bathrooms were temporarily repurposed into unisex bathrooms. (Not all of them – you could still find your standard male/female pooping places if you were uncomfortable.)

And I’ve been thinking about that question. “Why do we need unisex bathrooms?”

Because the answer is blazingly simple if you’ve attended Penguicon: look around that convention’s room parties, and you’ll see a fair number of genderqueer and trans and cross-dressing attendees. Some of them go to conventions specifically to have a weekend where they can relax and present as whatever gender they choose and not get hassled about it.

Going to the bathroom and deciding which box to check is, presumably, a buzzkill for these people on an otherwise-supportive weekend. Hence the unisex bathrooms.

But that’s not the question the guy was asking.

He used “we,” but he meant “he.” As in, “Why do I need a unisex bathroom?” And being a cis dude who dresses like a dude, he didn’t see any need for them. As such, he concluded the convention was doing stupid things for stupid reasons.

Which was a stupid conclusion, alas.

Because this addled man’s affected with a sad disease that can strike at anyone, but tends to afflict straight cis men: They have forgotten the difference between “we” and “me.”

I personally don’t need unisex bathrooms either. But when I ask the question, “Why do we need unisex bathrooms?”, I am capable of looking around to more than my experience and doing the elementary deduction work required to uncover why. Sometimes I even ask other people than myself and the people who look like me.

Why do we need unisex bathrooms? Because not everyone’s you, dude. I have never once attended a panel discussing gun safety or libertarian philosophy, but if someone asked me the question, “Why do we need those panels?” you bet your bippie I’d pull my head out of my neon-rimmed ass and look around to other people before answering the question.

Solipsism’s a helluva drug.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/580542.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(7 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

April 28th, 2017
09:30 am

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How Not To Fight The Murder Zombies.

So the murder zombies are in your town again, ripping limbs from torsos. Everyone knows the best way to survive the murder zombie onslaught is to hide in a closet.

But humans react to murder zombies in funny ways, even when they’re not being personally devoured by the zombies’ hoof-hard teeth.

See, because “hiding in a closet” is the best way of riding it out when the murder zombie herd comes ravaging through town, you’ll have people who get really good at hiding in closets.

With each Culling they survive, these people will become increasingly cocky about their closet-hiding techniques.

Eventually, they’ll start making fun of people who don’t know how to hide in a closet properly. Complaints about the way the murder-zombies ate your child will be met with a sneering, “I guess somebody didn’t have their closet ready.”

And the end result will be, unbelievably, people who have more scorn for zombie victims than they do a hatred for the murder-zombies who want to tear them to shreds.

Yet that’s not the weirdest thing. The *weirdest* thing is that these expert closet-hiders genuinely come to think they’re fighting the murder-zombies by teaching these hiding techniques. “See, if you starve them, maybe they won’t murder so much,” the closet-hiders say.

But that’s not actually fighting the murder-zombies. That’s just surviving the murder-zombies. At best, the murder-zombies might slaughter the people in the next town over – but the expert closet-hiders think that’s just great, because at this point anyone who gets eaten by the murder-zombies is so stupid they deserve to die.

They think they’re fighting the murder-zombies, but in a way they’re actually very much aligned with the murder-zombies.

Whereas the truth is this: hiding in a closet is a useful skill to learn, and you probably need to learn it. But reducing the murder-zombie hordes to mere nuisances will take more than one person. You need an entire town to rise up, grab guns from the burning houses of those who have fallen, the mobilization of thousands of people so their response is not “Shit, murder-zombies, better prep my hiding-from-murder-zombie camouflage techniques” but “Sound the alarms, get the pitchforks, let’s make sure these murder-zombies don’t hurt another person!”

You need an organization to fight the horde, man. One man (or woman) can’t stop the undead stampede. One man (or woman) might as well just hide in the closet.

But the problem is this: that expert closet-hider is mocking the people who want to go out and fight (“What, don’t you have a closet?”), and telling everyone that the people who died deserved their deaths. And yes, maybe some of the people who died were unwise in some of their decisions. We might need a couple of staunch closets until we can recoup enough resources to take the fight to the murder-zombie larvae in their terrifying butchernest, and if you want to lead a respectful class on “Closet Hiding 101” then okay, sure, it can help.

Yet when you spend more energy denigrating the victims than you do saying, “*Of course* the murder-zombies are an evil necrotic horde who deserve no sympathy,” then you’re sapping the town’s efforts to rise up, man. We need to get out and shine sunlight on the necromancer’s cursed butchernest jewel and dissolve this murder-zombie horde after all – and your reliance on “BUILD A STURDIER CLOSET” just makes us all live in increasingly smaller closets.

So, you know, survive the zombies. Nothing wrong with that.

Just don’t forget that survival is very different from changing the landscape so zombie-survival is no longer necessary.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/580119.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(8 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

April 27th, 2017
09:56 am

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For Fuck’s Sake, They’re At It Again. Call Now.

So I’d hoped the Republicans would grow up after being trounced in their first attempt at repealing/replacing Obamacare.  I’d legitimately love it if Republicans said, “People are being bankrupted by out-of-control health costs, and health care is complicated – why don’t we take some time to get the law right and come up with something America doesn’t hate?”

Instead, natch, they’re trying to ram through a hasty bill that’s even worse than the last one.  They may vote as early tomorrow.

Which is why you have to call your Representatives now.  And here’s how you stop do that:

CALL, DO NOT EMAIL.
Politicians can ignore emails the way you do. They can’t ignore calls. Their staffers have to take the calls, which means their staff doesn’t get anything done while they’re handling calls, which means the Senator is far more likely to hear about how the office is slowing to a crawl because the ACA issue is jamming the lines.

Last time, my super-conservative rep changed his mind on the repeal/replace from “YEAH LET’S DO IT” to “Uh, maybe?” because the calls were literally running 20 to 1 in favor of keeping Obamacare around.

SAY YOU’RE A VOTER FROM YOUR TOWN.
Let them know you’re local. Don’t bother calling if you’re not a potential voter. You do not have to give your name, though you can if you want; they may ask you for your zip code.  You may wish to force them to take your name to ensure they got your message.

HAVE A SCRIPT READY, IF YOU’RE SOCIALLY AWKWARD LIKE ME.
A good script is something like:

1) I’m disappointed that there’s a rush to shove through even worse health care legislation;
2) Please do not repeal the ACA without a strong replacement;
3) If you have a preexisting condition or the ACA has helped your life in some way, talk about that and make it personal how your life (or the life of someone you love) depends on this;
4) I will not vote for any Representative who helps repeal the ACA without a strong replacement, either in the primary or the general election.

You’re free to go on, if you like, but be polite. They kind of have to listen. In my experience, they’ll generally say they’ll pass the message onto the Representative, and hang up. But if you want to be that person who the office groans when they have to handle them – that polite-but-firm person who will be heard – then hey! You can contribute to the office gossip that people are really concerned about this ACA issue, which is good in politics.

CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE, NOT YOUR SENATOR.
That means you have to make a maximum of one call, which will take ten minutes max. (Unless your Representative’s line is already clogged, in which case, keep calling.)

You can generally look up your senator by using Who Is My Representative, but if not you’ll find a phone number on their website. Calling the local number is generally viewed to be slightly better.

And here’s the trick: If you’re a conservative who’s opposed to mandating that insurers must be able to insure people with preexisting conditions (for some weird reason), flip the script and call as well. This is a republic, and you deserve to have your voice heard.

That said, there was a ridiculous idea last time that the ACA repeal only failed because it wasn’t conservative enough.  That wasn’t true.  The reason it failed was most because tacking to the right to appeal to the hard-core conservatives cost them more votes in the center, and trying to appeal to everyone made their base splinter.

So calling to register your complaint actually does work.  We’re not guaranteed, of course; the Republicans are desperate, trying to shove through a law they wrote in less than a month that nobody’s even fully read (as opposed to the ACA, which was introduced in July 2009 and voted on in March 2010 after heavy debate).  They may manage it.

But if they do manage to replace the ACA with something that literally punishes those with preexisting conditions (and that could easily be you, even if you’re healthy now!), let it not be because you didn’t try.  Make the call today.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/580015.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(4 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

April 26th, 2017
10:18 am

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Needed: Beta Reader For Maintenancepunk Novel.

Last night,  I finished the first draft of my maintenancepunk novel – which is like cyberpunk, except you spend way more time troubleshooting device conflicts and field-stripping your cyberlimbs.

I’m looking for about seven to ten people to beta-read for me and give me feedback. (Why seven to ten?  Because I’d like four to five people, and generally I find that you hit about 60% on getting beta readers to get back to you in time.)

I’m giving special preference this time to military folks and gun nuts, because this is a novel written by a pansy-ass civilian about a veteran in future combat, and I am positive I’ve gotten the details laughably wrong.

Now.  If you’re saying “Let me do it, I’m really good at proofreading,” alas, I shall pass.  Assuming I sell it to a publisher, we’ll have professional copyeditors and proofreaders sniffing this sucker like a hound dog.  Flagging misspelled words and grammatical errors is a distraction from the overall point of “Did this book deliver an emotional cyberpunch?”

No, what I want are the sorts of people who can explain four separate things, each cogently:

•         The things that confuse you (“Why would $character do that?” or “Wait, cyberlimbs shouldn’t be able to do that?”)
•         The things that throw you out of the story (“Character wouldn’t do THAT!” or “Factually, that’s so wrong!”)
•         The things that give you ass-creep (“I got bored here”)
•         All the things that make you pump the fist (“This moment was truly awesome, and unless I tell you how awesome it is, you might cut this part out in edits”)

So if you think you can do all that in five weeks, do me a favor and email me at theferrett@theferrett.com with the header “FERRETT, I WOULD LIKE TO BETA-READ YOUR MAINTENANCEPUNK.”  This service comes with the great reward of being name-checked in the acknowledgements, if this eventually sells.  I may get filled up on people, but if I do, I’ll put you on the list for the next revision, if there is one – I’ll need to give this one two more drafts in the next four months.

(And if you have beta-read for me before and are asking, “Ferrett, why didn’t you ask me directly?”, kindly remember that I am shy and dislike bothering people.  If you’ve got the time and want to volunteer for another go-round, pitch in!)

(Also note: I’ve not been blogging much on my main blog because, well, I’m still deciding what to do about LiveJournal’s recent TOS change, and moving away from LJ involves some technical preparation I hain’t had time for.  If you’re on LJ, well, consider bookmarking my main site.)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/579711.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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April 11th, 2017
09:50 am

[Link]

How Mass Effect Transforms Repetition Into Emotion Through Storytelling.

From a gameplay perspective, every one of Mass Effect’s missions is cut-and-copied:

  • You travel to a location where:
  • You fight a group of alien beings, OR:
  • You search for a place where you can press a button.

If you’re super-lucky, sometimes you combine the two!  You press a button, and then fight people!  Or when the fighting is done, you get to look for a button!

The excitement never ends in Mass Effect.

The only thing that stops Mass Effect from being endlessly repetitive is the narrative wrapper.  Quite literally, “story” is the sole difference between missions – and, largely, it works.   Because let’s say the three missions are:

  • An innocent girl has wandered out into the desert and been kidnapped by slavers.
  • An evil scientist is formulating a new plague, and you must track him down to his lab to stop him.
  • Mysterious monsters have awakened and are threatening a small frontier town.

All three of those missions are perfectly identical gamewise – you go to a set location and kill alien beings.  Yet the feel for each of them is subtly different solely because of who you talked to in order to get the mission!

Furthermore, your emotional reward is often skewed by the mission.  Let’s say that you chose “an innocent girl has been kidnapped by slavers” mission.  You find out when you get there that the slavers have turned her into a monstrous techno-beast, and you must kill her.  From a gameplay perspective, hey, you fought another monster and got your XP for finishing the mission.  It’s the exact same procedure as every other mission.  But chances are you now feel bad.  Maybe you’re more willing to take on missions destroying these slavers.

What fascinates me is that how these games become pure storytelling.  They are literally the most inexpensive way of making the game better!  I mean, BioWare could have spent money on setpiece battles – places where you’re battling on a plummeting airbase, or the rain makes visibility dim and the ground slippery, or created unique enemies for each location.

Yet instead, they resorted to a trick literally as old as cavemen.  We used to sit around fires and, with nothing more than a voice, tell crazy stories about the gods.  Story is the cheapest entertainment we have, because our imaginations will fill in so many details.

And BioWare, in a cost-saving mechanism, uses story to make the same “go here, kill things” quest into a hundred different emotional shades.  Because sometimes you’re going there to kill things because your friend is in trouble.  Sometimes you’re going there to kill things to get to the treasure.  Sometimes you’re going there to kill things for revenge against those evil slavers.

Without that story, nobody would play Mass Effect.  Other games that focus more on gameplay do the actual gaming better – I’m told that Overwatch has practically no story, but Blizzard has focused on making the game deep and rewarding for those who invest hours into it.  Not so with Mass Effect, alas; I’m now a 57th-level tech, and I’ve been using the same three powers to sleepwalk my way through battles for at least 30 levels.  (Overload, Incinerate, Remnant VI.)  There is zero need to change up my tactics, or indeed, to learn any new ones.

And let’s be honest: Mass Effect Andromeda is one of the weakest BioWare games because you don’t even get to make any choices that matter to the story.  In previous Dragon Age and Mass Effect games, you could make decisions that alienated your teammates to the point where some of them would no longer work with you.  Your decisions determined who among your companions lived or died, and who ruled which empire, and which species survived.  ME:A, alas, has minimized that influence to the point where literally everything you say to your companions will make them love you more – if you’re snarky, they love snark!  If you’re a romantic adventurer, they love adventuring!  There’s now no decisions that will lead to you being unloved by all (which is, I think, why Mass Effect 2 is BioWare’s high point).

But even stripped of choice within the larger story setting, I play these repetitive missions because, well, BioWare’s always got a new story twist to make me go, “Okay, what happens?”  As does Bethesda.  I think the reason I’m drawn to these games is because essentially, you take away the story and there is no game worth playing.

Every mission has me as a writer going, “Oh.  That’s another spin you can put on an identical set of events.”  Mass Effect is all about shading, all about nuance, all about that wrapper we put on the same old grind to liven it up.

Stripped bare, Mass Effect: Andromeda might not be a good game.  But it’s a good example of the power of storytelling.  And while I wish we had a new BioWare game that combined the two effectively, it’s proof that tons of people will prioritize storytelling over game play any day.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/579492.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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April 10th, 2017
11:03 am

[Link]

My Class Notes From The Jealousy Class I Teach, And Also My Breakups Class

After I presented at Kinky Kollege a weekend ago, I had some people asking for my class notes on my presentations.  I’m a little leery on that, because my notes are sketchy – they’re not detailed notes, more like waypoints to remind me to hit all the topics I wanted to cover.

However, a lot of these cryptic class notes are referencing essays I’ve written in the past – and so I went through and linked to those essays, so you can read more in-depth if you’d like.  This isn’t quite the in-depth seminar experience I give when I’m yammering before a crowd – but if you’re looking for a cluster of Ferrett-thoughts on a topic, well, here they are.

Jealousy Is Not A Crime: Troubleshooting Broken Polyamory
If you’re dating multiple people, bumps will occur, sure as death and taxes. The question is, how do you figure out what’s wrong… and how do you repair the faults so that you emerge stronger and saner? Kinktastic writer Ferrett Steinmetz will lead a discussion about how to fight fairly, how to be respectful to all the people in your poly web, and tout the merits of a solid set of dealbreakers.

Class Notes for Jealousy Is Not A Crime

You Don’t Perform Surgery With A Butter Knife: Holding Safe, Sane Breakups
One thing’s guaranteed in every poly community: eventually, you’re going to run into your exes. And as such, learning how to break up responsibly becomes of paramount importance – you don’t have to adore them any more, but you should be able to at least function in the same spaces. So how do you call it off with a minimum of drama, even when people are trashing you in public?

Class Notes for Safe, Sane Breakups

As a reminder, in addition to these I also teach the following classes:

  • How to Fight Fairly
  • Ten Perilous Poly Patterns
  • Wet With Words: Writing Erotica
  • Burninating the Peasants: Fireplay 101

If you’d like me to teach at your event, feel free to contact me at theferrett@theferrett.com – I usually ask for travel/hotel fees, and a small stipend.  But if my schedule’s free, I’m happy to come teach wherever I’m wanted.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/579283.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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