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It's that time again - time to take a look at the reader feedback over the last few weeks with another Emails from the Edge, still containing no actual emails.
Unfortunately, I also have some regrettable administrivia that needs to be dealt with first:
This column was brought back around a year ago through a partnership between myself and The Escapist - The Escapist would provide hosting (which was good, as this is where my Garwulf's Corner readership is), and the payment for the column would come directly from my readers via a Patreon. The idea was that we would run the column for a few months and see if the Patreon could reach a critical mass that would allow it to continue.
For the first two or three months, there were small but steady gains on the Patreon side, averaging around one new patron per installment. However, after that it plateaued, and in the last three or four months the revenue from the Patreon has been decreasing. At the same time, a long dry spell on the corporate/legal side of my professional writing career has come to an end, and on the pop culture side I've been picked up as a feature writer for CG Magazine. So, the time I have for work that I'm not invoicing somebody for has become quite scarce. And, with at least two fiction projects far behind schedule (one of which is The Eternity Quartet), and one or two other new projects that I want to get started on, I can no longer justify running the column at this time.
The next block of six installments is written, and will be appearing here at The Escapist as usual. However, barring a sudden influx of patrons to the Patreon, it will be the last block of columns, at least for the time being, and Garwulf #57 - a feedback installment - will be the final installment of this run of Garwulf's Corner.
That said, on to our regularly scheduled Emails from the Edge.
Since it wasn't one of the regular installments, I hadn't originally planned to start with the "Note from Garwulf about Hainly from Mass Effect Andromeda," but the reader feedback was so good that it just had to be shared - so here we go. Seth Carter wrote:
From a non-trans standpoint, the dialogue makes no sense. The character came 600 years and a galaxy away to get their fresh start... and immediately tells people their old identity that they're trying to discard? It'd be like if the Redguard hiding out in Whiterun in that early Skyrim quest just outed her identity to everyone who walks into the bar.
Trans folks all over the place have written as to how the character behaves in a bizarre way, which makes it seems like it was written with basically no consultation or experience with an actual trans person.
They could be assuming this future has dropped some of those stigmas and taboos, but that seems odd that it would carry on the stigmas that would prompt the Hainly to need a fresh start. Or potentially the stigma against referencing a dead name is not quite as widely embraced as the vocal decriers say, but there doesn't seem to be much dissent anywhere to credit that.
Synigma suggested that the comparison I made between what it was like to be Jewish in my grandparents' time and to be transgender today might not quite work:
Here is the difference between you being Jewish and Hainly being Trans: You are currently Jewish, Hainly is not currently transitioning. It is a subtle difference functionally but it is there. Your religious affiliation can have ramifications such that they might actually come up in casual conversation, ie restrictions on how you can eat, prayers and other rituals that need to be performed. If you just ARE a woman, what effects does it have on your current life that you used to be a man? It really only makes sense to bring it up when your history comes up.
So if they wanted Hainly to feel more genuine, she should have talked about how excited she was to start her new life in a new galaxy but include a slip of the tongue or word something slightly off. Just enough that Ryder asks what she means, then if they player selects the conversation option to ask about it, she could elaborate that she transitioned and just wanted to get away from her old life.
She may not be ashamed of her old life but she's here for a reason and it feels more natural to make the player ask instead of just throwing it out there.
If they tied this AI to our lives in some meaningful way maybe it would have landed better. Maybe compare each new planet to each new day we have or teach us to find the joy in the little things we do. Maybe take it the other way, a statement on how pointless our struggle is; an unimportant cog in a cold meaningless universe that might not even exist. I get leaving it up to the player to glean their own meaning, but at least ask the question, is it a universe of possibilities or just an inky black void of mostly nothingness?
The underlying philosophy of the simulation theory did not go without comment, however. On Facebook, Gustavo Alckmin disagreed, that the simulation hypothesis reintroduced mysticism to science:
God is mystical, because we have never seen a god, we have never seen the origination of an universe, and we can't study either in a laboratory. We do know computers, we know what computers can do, we know simulated realities, we can study simulated realities in a laboratory using the aforementioned computers, so to compare them to the god hypothesis is ludicrous.
Seeing the Rebels as a real force fighting a dirty war against a truly formidable oppressor gives so much gravitas to the rest of the franchise.
An aside comment on the film, which is so much more complex in its machinations than any of the other films, is that I would love a Director's Cut that adds a good 30 minutes of time to grow the relationships we have, and between, its key actors.
Darth Rosenberg, however, had mixed feelings about the movie:
I think [The Force Awakens] was the film the entire franchise desperately needed, and Rogue One was- I dunno, a very interesting and superficially engaging tone-poem/proof-of-concept... I love it for its grit and tone, something I never thought I'd see in a SW film. I also feel it's by far the best photographed entry in the entire series (the SW world has never looked so good, or so convincingly real).
[...]What hurts Rogue One is its entirely inessential plot and the lack of characterisation, and so its contextualisation of the original film is tricky to admire.
Garwulf #46, "Double Standard," sparked an animated discussion about sexism and casting in the movies and television nuanced enough to make it difficult to pick a few reader comments representing "for" and "against." ObsidianJones wrote:
Media is all about short hand. The lowest common denominator. This lead actor is the one you want to root for because as you can clearly see, he possesses all of the attributes we take on a primal level to denote leadership: Strong jaw, imposing presence, good skin (so he must be able to feed himself properly). The romantic lead will make a suitable partner due to her youth and beauty, which would make good offspring.
You want it done? Stop going to summer blockbusters. Stop reinforcing the idea that we don't care about story, just give us explosions and/or and suitable leads that our reptilian minds tells us should mate. Until we challenge story tellers and say we aren't going to accept their simple crap any more, they'll serve up even more simple crap and expect us to eat it with a smile on our faces.
Nurb suggested that the double standard was perhaps a bit more complicated than I had presented it:
But it's only considered a double-standard because so many women find older men attractive. Sean Connery and Harrison Ford were considered extremely sexy into their 60's just to name a couple examples off the top of my head.
I think this has more to do with how many people are wired because it's always been this way, even before visual mediums of TV and Film. Of course there's exceptions to the rule.
But the final word goes to Thaluikhain, who pointed out that when I wrote about Bond movie casting, I had fallen into the very same double standard that I was talking about:
You are defending casting young women on the basis that they have to cast beautiful ones. That is, older ones just aren't attractive. Now, I don't mean that as an attack, the idea that (female) beauty requires youth is one we are constantly bludgeoned over the head with, but there definitely is an unfortunate implication to what you said there.
(Also, many thanks to Thaluikhain, who correctly remembered the Roger Moore story that I spent around an hour trying - unsuccessfully - to chase down before sending this installment in.)
Garwulf #47, "Diablo Nostalgia Train Now Boarding, Platform Three," provoked nostalgia, but not a lot of discussion. Grouchy Imp recalled:
Whenever I think of Diablo it's always to the soundtrack of REM's Out of Time album. I bought both game and album on the same day and so as such was experiencing them at the same time, and to this day I can't listen to songs like Low, Half a World Away or Country Feedback without immediately being transported back to sitting in my first flat, slogging my way through just one more level of the Catacombs instead of actually studying for my A-levels.
SlumlordThanatos had a suggestion for Blizzard:
Now what Diablo really needs is a new expansion. Reaper of Souls came out three years ago, and while they've added a ton of new content since then, I could stand to have some more of the old classes back. The Amazon, or the Druid are the first two to come to mind; the upcoming Necromancer seems neat as well.
Diablo III has long since been overdue for an expansion, and the Necromancer just seems like Blizzard trying to salvage some content from a canceled expansion.
Garwulf #48, "Wagon Train to the Stars, Redux," did not provoke the discussion I had expected. Instead, a number of readers raised a concern about the new series being behind a paywall (for those who are concerned: Star Trek Discovery will also be airing on cable television in Canada, as well as being on Netflix in other countries, although I do not know if this will include Netflix in the United States), with some, such as KissingSunlight, rather skeptical about whether a new Star Trek was needed, or even had anywhere left to go story-wise. There was, however, at least some cautious optimism, such as this post from xxobot:
I'm not entirely convinced that there is nowhere to go. There are plenty of unexplored (at least in televised media) angles to the Star Trek universe that could be interesting if the right writer got a hold of it.
What I am is sceptical of is that said writer will actually get their hands on it - or at the very least being able to maintain enough control over the subject matter.
Ugicywapih wondered whether humanity really does have a future:
One of the simpler explanations for Fermi's Paradox is that intelligent life tends to (perhaps even invariably) self-annihilate. Consider technological progress - it's not just a linear process of advancing the total of human knowledge and developing new applications for it, it also includes proliferation of existing technology. Given how far we still appear to be, technologically, from being able to create self-sustainable offworld colonies and how nuclear disarmament programs have been by and large aimed solely at curbing the growth of existing nuclear powers' arsenal, it would seem we'll be facing a period, perhaps an extended one, where most of the world's countries have the capability to end it before our existence as a species is secured through the abovementioned offworld colony. And all it would take would be one nutter rising to power in a country with thermonuclear capabilities and sufficiently lax safeguards (or having said nutter abuse their political position to circumvent any safeguards and seize full power, as authoritarian leaders are wont to do).
On the other hand, Synigma disagreed with the premise that things are all that bad right now in the first place:
...by most measurable standards life is better now than ever before. Crime rates are down, life expediencies are up, and we have access to technology the likes of which you couldn't even describe to someone 20 years ago without them laughing in your face. I have watched, over my 30+ year life, as acceptance in general has expanded, and we have known peace in a way the world has never had before.
Don't get me wrong, I see what you're talking about with the perceived resurgence in racism and general xenophobia... but is life really worse for anyone than it was 20-30 years ago? Do you really believe that people are being more racist than they were before or are we just shining a closer spotlight on it?
Humans are a difficult bunch. If you tell them what to do they will go out of their way to not do that thing. So the more we try to force people to be tolerant the less tolerant they will be. If there has been a resurgence in racism then it's because people have started doing it just to go against the grain.
I...take issue that being representative of D&D means only those comedy campaigns that we all have played. I like to tell good stories and be in them. I'm not ashamed to say I like to play D&D seriously more often than just cracking some beers and patting all my friends on the back for coming up with some absurd joke for -every- single obstacle that comes along their path. And ridiculous overblown critical misses and...the list goes on. We do play D&D for more than that, some of us.
On the forums, Breywood suggested that:
The Hollywood versions failed because they tried too hard in all the wrong areas and not enough in the right ones. Setting and backstory were okay. Characters were bad and several parts of their quest seemed to have been thought as "that would be cool" but for lack of a better word were just too cheesy for what they were trying to accomplish: having an epic adventure movie based on a Tolkien-ish world with magic and elves and character classes (oh my!) without all of its backstory.
And that's it for this installment of Emails from the Edge. In the next (and probably final...at least for now) block, we're going to take a look at video game hype gone bad, explore the merits of novels about schoolkids murdering each other, have a heart-to-heart with the internet as a whole, and more.
Robert B. Marks is the author of Diablo: Demonsbane, The EverQuest Companion, and Garwulf's Corner. His newest book, An Odyssey into Video Games and Pop Culture, is available in print and Kindle formats. He also has a Livejournal and is on Facebook
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