Blog Archives

Mass Effect Andromeda First Thoughts and Speculations

At E3 this year, EA dropped a new trailer for Mass Effect Andromeda. It doesn’t explain anything, doesn’t show gameplay, and isn’t everything that I’d hoped would be released (by which I mean I want to know everything RIGHT NOW like the impatient petulant child that I am). There were, however, some clues and hints about what’s to come. I need to talk about it, just to keep myself sane, so this is just going to be a scattershot of thoughts and speculation about what’s to come.

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The Members of the Fellowship of the Ring, Ranked

I love The Lord of the Rings more than any other collection of slaughtered tree corpses that have been smashed flat and sliced thin and then stained with runic symbols made from dyes and solvents. You probably knew that already. One day, I was pondering who the most useful members of the Fellowship were, as one does, and decided to write this here post.

So here is the definitive ranking of the members of the Fellowship from the books only, from best to worst. This list is based on the following criteria:

Contribution to the quest relative of power: Gandalf is an immortal spirit with a level of power basically equivalent to Sauron (it’s complicated, I know, since much of the strength of the Dark Lord is tied to Middle-Earth itself, but from a base level, it’s like comparing one Elf to another). Sam is a short fat gardener. One should expect Gandalf to be more useful than Sam, so I try to weigh a character’s potential impact to their actual impact.

Notable achievements during the quest (Pros): pretty self-explanatory.

Bone-headed dumb shit done during the quest (Cons): How badly the character Pippined things up. (Or should it be Pippinned? I feel grammatically it should be Pippinned, but I’m going with Pippined because I like it better.)

Intangibles: The little things the character does that make their impact greater than the sum of their actions that may not be obvious on the surface, which sounds a hell of a lot better than “how I justify ranking someone higher than they might deserve because I am biased in one way or another” which is what this actually factors in.

I will also provide the ranking I would assign if this were based on the movies. Here we go!

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On Cultural and Intellectual Ossification

You can tell that I suck at making titles for things, because the title for this sounds like the worst kind of pointless mumbling and useless commentary about nothing anyone wants to know a goddamn thing about. Of course, I’m keeping it because pointless mumbling and useless commentary is pretty close to what this is about, with extra added drooling navel-gazing just for fun.

Actually, I’m not sure what this is. It’s the usual stream-of-consciousness thing I do, but not about some thing I hate, so it’s less fun.

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More Mass Effect 3 SPOILER Ending Thoughts – The Indoctrination Theory

OK. When it came to the Mass Effect 3 ending, I’d said my piece (spoiled and non-spoiled) and counted to three. I was good, I was finished, I was content. Then I had a brief conversation with a friend yesterday. He’d never played any of the Mass Effect games and wanted some questions answered, so he could put the frothing waves of rage into context. I answered them from my perspective. Then he said something about a theory that was the hot thing on the Intarwebs, something I’d paid zero attention to, a little thing called the Indoctrination Theory. I decided to check into this theory. What I read changed everything.

Essentially, my friend took a stick and jammed it into the anthill of my brain and stirred it all up. The rat bastard.

Oh, and if I haven’t been entirely clear, there are spoilers below the “Read the rest of this entry”. SPOILERS. Spoilers. (spoilers)

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Why I Hate On The Walking Dead So Much

I’ve been asked that question before by friends of mine. They know I love zombies and zombie movies. They know I write books about them. They watch the show and can’t understand why I have such a problem with it. I try to explain, and bits and pieces come out, and after I’ve been asked that question I lie awake at night pondering the answers to that very question. Why on Earth do I, a zombie lover, hate on the Walking Dead so much?

I think, for me, it all has to do with missed potential. This show could be great. It should be great. The zombies are awesome, the effects are great, they have, uh, actors, they have an incredibly popular comic as their source material; there is no reason why a story set in a zombie apocalypse that has good effects should make me so angry. But these writers have figured out a way.  I’m going to try to make this somewhat organized, to keep my thoughts in order. Maybe I’ll learn something from all this, What Not To Do In a Zombie Story. In no particular order, here are some of the things that I think make the show so much worse than it should be.

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My Spoiler-Free Thoughts About the Mass Effect 3 Ending, And Endings in General (Updated)

An angry gamer, via The Gamer’s Paradox.

I finished Mass Effect 3 this weekend. It took me a long time to get there. The game has a ton of content, and I played a lot of multiplayer as well (because playing multiplayer actually makes a difference in your single-player campaign – you don’t need to, but it helps if you aren’t a completionist. I, however, am both, so I played the shit out of the game and it still took me 10 days to play through). I am sad that my first playthrough is over, because I love the game and the series that much, but I’m already into my second playthrough, so that’s OK.

Before I could finish, though, I’d heard enough about the ending to make me concerned. No one spoiled it for me, thank goodness, but even though I made a great effort to avoid hearing anything at all about became impossible. What I heard, though, wasn’t about anything game-specific; rather, what managed to get past my filters was loud enough to make it unavoidable.

That’s what’ll happen when a huge fanbase goes out of their ever-lovin’ minds.

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Write What You Feel

(Disclaimer: like all my blog posts, this was written off the top of my head. I have no idea if it makes sense. In all actuality, I should put this disclaimer before everything I write.)

One of the first pieces of advice every aspiring writer gets, shortly after the obligatory “Show, don’t tell”, is this: “Write What You Know”. It’s good advice, in a way. Writing what you know allows you to bring depth and experience to a subject and makes your words ring true to a reader’s ear. If you’re a lawyer, chances are you can make courtroom drama and backstage legal wranglings seem like a peek into a world few get an accurate glimpse into. This can help make your story a lot more gripping and interesting. It also leads to some really shallow stories.

Take John Grisham. I’ve read his stuff before, back in the day when I was in high school. The whole lawyerly angle was cool and neat and nifty, especially since I was fifteen. As the years went by, though, I became acutely aware that, while the legal angles seemed perfectly plausible, the characters didn’t. Everyone looked and acted like cardboard cutouts or archetypical stock characters from every cop show since Dragnet. Identifying with characters is a huge part of investing in a story, and it’s not easy to feel empathy for a mannequin. A lot of authors follow this same path. The ex-cop with the crime stories. The doctor with the medical dramas. Most of these have all the heart and soul of a Wal-Mart holiday display.

But the best ones, the ones that resonate, aren’t just about what the author knows. They are about what the author feels.

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Oh, Just Publish the Fucking Thing Already

This post is likely to be a minority view. It certainly goes against a lot of conventional wisdom. But it’s a viewpoint, maybe worthy of consideration, maybe not. Your mileage may etc etc.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how other writers go through the process of putting words onto paper (both virtual and actual). Some of it is about how they write, what they listen to, their favorite chair. Other parts are about how they either plan to or already market their work. The rest of the time, though, it’s all about The Rest of It. The publishing aspect. Critiques. Discussions. Edits. The birth process from Unpublished to Published. The messy, bloody, screaming struggle to bring something into the world that fills you with joy and wonder, and eventually, the panicky thought what the fuck do I do now?

I want to talk about that part.

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I Am The World’s Worst Writer And I Totally Suck

I go through crippling periods of self-doubt when it comes to my writing.  Luckily, at the moment, I am not in one of those trenches of despair where every word I type including “Sincerely, Aravan” looks ungainly and wrong.  Bad word choice.  Probably spelled wrong even though there isn’t another way to spell it.  Tone is flat, metaphors lame, characters boring, setting insipid, point pointless, and everything I’ve ever written should probably just be gathered and burned so I can crawl into the supply closet of some abandoned factory somewhere and never have to reveal my stupid face to the world.

Other days, I feel even worse.

If you’re a writer, or have ever written, or ever plan on writing so much as an email in the future, then I hope you go through this feeling of utter self-loathing several times in your life.  Why?  Because I am a small bitter person who takes some measure of meager self-satisfaction from the joint suffering of others and will take whatever mean-spirited path I need to in order to make myself feel better.  But also because I think it makes you a better writer in the long run. Read the rest of this entry

The Horror of the Mundane

Much horror fiction involves some sort of supernatural agency visiting despair, terror, and suffering on the living.  Most of the rest features depraved mortals whose love of torture and sadism borders on the fantastic.  It’s cathartic for the reader and writer both, letting the fear and worry and stress that builds up during the course of everyday humdrum human existence relieve the pressure.  Stephen King’s Danse Macabre does an excellent job exploring horror in this light – if you like horror at all, you should read it; it’s fun, funny, and informative – and talks about some of the everyday anxiety that ends up being expressed through popular movies and books.  For example, he posits that the reason The Amityville Horror was such a success when it was first released is that it hit a nerve among people going through the financial instability of the inflation-crazy 1970’s (what if your house was haunted and you couldn’t sell it?  The horror!).  He also talks about the 1950’s era of giant bug movies (fear of living in the Nuclear Age) and alien invasions (fear of the Soviet Union).  Basically, it forms a road map of national anxiety as expressed in horror films and books up to the early 1980’s.  The book came to mind after this morning. Read the rest of this entry