Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Thousand Voices, A Thousand Faces

I recently reread The Hobbit, because the world is dark and full of terrors and I needed some good escapism. Of course, once you reread The Hobbit you almost have to go right into The Lord of the Rings, and I'm sure I'll be skimming The Silmarillion again before too long.

What was odd was, I noticed that Barliman Butterbur had started sounding like Rubeus Hagrid in my head.

Yeah, that guy.Which was odd because I'm fairly certain, back when I was a kid, that he didn't sound like Hagrid. But I'm also fairly certain he sounded close. And now I'm reading his lines again, and he doesn't sound like Hagrid. He's a bit higher pitched, and definitely a bit sharper when he speaks. And his cadence is faster, which is fitting for a guy who's run off his feet most of the time.

By the way, Butterbur doesn't sound like this guy:

Or look much like him neither, tell the truth. My Butterbur is a bit younger, a bit redder in the face, more lively overall. He doesn't have the muttonchops, but he does have a mustache I think, with less of a droop. And of course he's wearing a white apron.

Then there's Thorin Oakenshield.

Yeah, not him. My Thorin wears the blue cloak and a tasseled hat, with big gloves and bigger boots. Why gloves and boots? I don't know. His beard and hair are black, but his beard comes to a point and his mustache is slicked with a slight upward curve at the tips. He's about as broad as he is tall, like all the Tolkien dwarfs in my head, except Bombur who starts at broad-and-a-half. And he sounds pretty damn pompous when he speaks, and often ill-tempered - closer to Uther Lightbringer than Richard Armitage's leonine growl.

Movie Thorin is pretty great, and Armitage and the costumer deserve a lot of credit for bringing the character to life. But he's not the guy I see when I'm reading. And I don't see Martin Freeman or Elijah Wood or Sean Astin when I read Lord of the Rings.

Viggo Mortensen has crept into my Aragorn, but the one in my head is clean-shaven and looks younger. You can blame the book cover over on the left for that, it's the one that my local library stocked when I was a kid and reading the books for the first time. My Aragorn has longer hair, though, and a leaner face; but he has a deeper voice than Mortensen, too.

The Legolas on The Two Towers cover remains more my Legolas than Orlando Bloom, and he doesn't have a British accent. John Rhys-Davies has almost entirely replaced the vaguely-formed Gimli I kept in my head, though; mine's certainly not the one on that cover. As for Gollum, for years he was that black nightmarish thing on the old cover of The Hobbit. Now he's largely Movie Gollum, but he goes back to the nightmare whenever his eyes start to glow in the text. His voice is irrevocably Andy Serkis's now, though.

Is Ian McKellan Gandalf? He's crept in, to be sure, but my Gandalf wears big boots and a pointy hat at all times, with bushy intimidating eyebrows and a disapproving face that is not to be trifled with. In all honesty he's probably Sir Astral from Shining Force II - except even that's not right, because my Gandalf's eyebrows are black, and so are his eyes.

My Saruman's the big weirdo of the bunch, though, as he looks nothing like the one in the movie or the one described in the book. Mine has long hair, silver-blonde, and no beard. He's younger where Gandalf is older, smiling where Gandalf is frowning, and the robe of many colors works for him. His voice is soft, melodious, but ugly and hissing when he's unmasked. (My Google-fu is failing me here, but I suppose he's close to Primarch Fulgrim in the face and hair.)

Image via Noldofinve on DeviantArt
All of which is a really roundabout way of pointing out that when you're a writer, everyone is going to view your characters through a lens built out of their own experiences and predispositions. Sometimes that's going to be out of your control: the cover artist might spin a character a certain way, or the reader might skim a descriptive passage too fast and fill in something you didn't intend.

But! If you're consistent with your character's voice and her mannerisms, you can bring the reader closer to your intention. My Butterbur doesn't sound like anyone else's Butterbur, but he's closer than a stranger to the one in the movie. And I suspect everyone's Gandalf sounds at least a bit like Ian McKellan these days.

Are they any characters you hear or see in a non-traditional way?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fallout 4 Just Won My Heart

I've been playing Fallout 4 intermittently (read: at night, after bedtime, if the house is clean) since it came out. Up until tonight my verdict was "not bad, better than Fallout 3", which I never really got into. V.A.T.S. combat is fun until it goes on too long, the world is a hoot, Dogmeat sank into the ground like fucking Artax a few times but I'm sure there's a patch coming.

But then tonight happened.

I'm looking for a detective. I find the building he's been stashed in, and I go through killing miscellaneous assholes. And I keep going. And keep going. A bit too long, honestly, but point is I find the guy and I get back out. I manage to talk down the kidnappers (after failing the first Charisma check - thanks quicksave), and we get out, away, Scott free into the night...

except Swan spawns.

This is Swan.

What the hell is Swan? I have no idea. It had nothing to do with the mission or anything else that was happening. I just know it came out of nowhere in the dead of night and started clubbing me to death.

Was I prepared for that? Hell no. I'd just been through an entire dungeon! No Stimpaks for me! No power armor! And I'm still early in the game without much to my name except a Cryolator my pal Dogmeat busted out of a safe for me. Good dog!

So I throw the Cryolator on, start running, and fire. First time I've used the gun. It lets out a puff of what I assume is cold air and causes... let's say 2% damage to the Swan. Laughable damage, I've given him an ice cream headache. Damn it Dogmeat!

Whatever, I don't have better guns. I just run around and keep firing and try to dodge the Swan's hits, which I fail at.

Screenshots stolen from Google results for "Fallout 4 Swan".
I don't have health items so I just scarf radioactive meat as fast as I can. Fuck the rads. I try V.A.T.S. but there's hardly any point, it doesn't make a difference to the damage I'm causing. I'm near death but, somehow, he is too. At least he's around 30% health. I jump into my menu for more instafood and see I've got a drug called Jet. Slows time down for 10 seconds. I jack myself up, unpause, and start firing the Cryolator as fast as I can as the bludgeon comes for my head in super slow motion...

And the Swan dies. At the literal last second the Swan keels over. I get a fancy gun and some other gear I can't even process, I'm so high on adrenaline.

I find the detective smoking in an alley, somehow restrain myself from grabbing him and shaking him screaming "Where were you?!", finish the rescue mission, and call it a night. No way I'm topping that.

Bloodborne was the last game that gave me a rush like this fight. It was totally unexpected, brutal, but it was fair and it was winnable and I won, damn it. If Fallout 4 keeps delivering moments like this I'm in 'til the end.

Roll on into the wasteland! Bring on the next super mutant! Oh God it's got a nuke wait

Friday, November 13, 2015

Let's Talk About Failure

failure, n.
1. lack of success.
2. the omission of expected or required action.

I am told that writing is hard. I read, often, that a lot of writers can't make a living wage, that they never get their work published, that they give up on their writing aspirations. That they fail.

Let's unpack that.

The first definition of failure is lack of success. If you define "success" as "making enough money to rival Stephen King", then yes, a lot of writers fail. Almost all of them, in fact.

If you define it as "making enough money to live on", then again, a lot of writers fail. But a lot of writers have second jobs, too.

If you define success as "getting published regularly", once more, a lot of writers fail. We live in a world of limited markets. We also live in a world of unprecedented self-publishing opportunities.

If you define success as "getting published once", or "making a bit of money"... a lot of writers will fail here too. But it's a lot less than the ones who failed to be Stephen King.

If you define success as "I wrote something someone else enjoyed reading", then you're looking at less failures still. Parents count here, by the way.

And if you define success as "I wrote something and enjoyed it", well, I'm sure some people manage to fail here. And at this level there's absolutely no shame in that. Go do something that does make you happy, friend.

Then there's definition two, lack of action. For writers that means missing the deadline. Not finishing the story. Giving up entirely.

Those are the dangerous fail states. They are also all curable. You can ask for an extension on the deadline, you can finish the story (or start one you like better - I know, but sometimes it is necessary), you can put the pen down for a few years and then pick it back up.

About the only way I can think of to permanently, irrevocably fail as a writer is to die before your ambitions, whatever they are, are fulfilled. And sometimes even that isn't enough. From The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, published posthumously:

"I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me!

When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?"

Anne Frank was definitely a writer, and she wrote something great, even if she didn't live to see the achievement.

So writers, don't worry about failure. It's not as common as you think, and it's probably not happening to you.

All your other worries are fair game, though. Like your word count. Hi NaNoWriMo, I hate you so much this year!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tales of Vault 867 - Part Twelve

Well well well! It looks like the Raiders are finally coming up with some new strategies. Perhaps they'll finally become the legitimate threat they've always meant to be.

Or not.

Apparently they thought sending a stand-up comedian to the door to beg for his life would get us to open ourselves up for another raid. Which, unfortunately, it did, because my Dwellers are idiots. Fortunately so are the Raiders, and we were able to get the doors sealed again in time.

Fortunately the "comedian" turned out to be just another Wasteland lunatic, but one with an advanced understanding of water purification and our processing equipment. Ever since he got here we've had much fewer incidents with flammable molerats in the drinking water.

Unfortunately he couldn't do anything about the highly-flammable intoxicants Scumbag Owens has been storing in his hab block. It's amazing how fast full-term pregnant women can run when properly motivated.

I set up an education block in the lower levels in an attempt to raise the average I.Q. in the Vault. Our teaching staff... leaves something to be desired.

In spite of these setbacks, we've actually seen a pretty large uptick in Dwellers coming in from the Wasteland. I assume Terry's attempts to recruit for his traitor armies have just spread the word about what a well-run organization we are.

Naturally I've had them all quarantined and subjected to interrogation. The Traitor hasn't put in an appearance in months, and I'm confident his evil has finally been put to rest.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Celebrating Konami?! FemSnake For The Win

Back when Assassin's Creed: Unity was coming out I wrote a backhanded defense of the developers for not putting playable female characters in the multiplayer mode. My point was that, because of the way the game was designed, it would be a hell of a lot harder to implement a playable female character than it was in the old AC games that did have them.

Well, time has passed and Hideo Kojima sure showed me. Brianna Wu has a great write-up, but the TL;DR is that you can play as FemSnake in Metal Gear Solid 5.

FemSnake Blonde.
From the aforementioned write-up:

"She’s a prisoner you rescue on a mission, but you do get to play almost every mission as her. She can be your protagonist, and is included in many of the cutscenes. She runs Mother Base. She commands the game’s soldiers. She is fully voiced, and her acting is even more menacing than Kiefer Sutherland’s."

This is basically what I said Ubisoft would have to do to put a playable female character in Unity, and I stand by my assertion that it's a hell of a lot of work. (Kojima even has an advantage in that Big Boss/Kiefer Sutherland is practically mute throughout the whole game. Less voice acting!) But I also said it was totally doable, and Metal Gear Solid V has gone and proved it. They've also allowed you to play as different races by the same method, male and female. Hats off to Kojima and, yes, Konami for doing the right thing.

I should note that there are a few hoops you have to jump through to do this, namely actually finding a female character and extracting her to add to your Mother Base combat unit. At around the halfway point in the game I've found six female characters out of almost 600 soldiers, so yeah, this is difficult. (Extracting a female prisoner is actually worth a Playstation trophy, but I'm 99% sure I've run across at least one female soldier as well.) Also my FemSnake, a.k.a. Laughing Wallaby, sounds like a total psychopath when she pets D. Dog, but that's not that much different from Boss I guess.

You can also customize D. Dog. I've made him as Corgi as possible.
(Tangent: why the hell can't I put Quiet in something modest? You released female DLC costumes that are only usable by 1/100 of your soldiers and don't go on Quiet. Come on Konami.)

As for Ubisoft... well, Unity was a glitchy disaster at launch so, yes, their resource and time problems were real. Poor bastard developers. Happily Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, just out, is by all accounts a superior game and features a choice of male or female protagonist, so they've put one in the "win" column. Here's hoping they keep it up.

"Damn it D. Dog."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Tales of Vault 867 - Part Eleven

Another day, another attempt by High Traitor Terry to take over the Vault. Fortunately our brave Dwellers were able to see the threat off with minimal losses.

I'm honestly having trouble figuring out why Terry bothers with this anymore. What can he possibly throw at us besides more Wasteland trash?

All attempts to kill sterilize discourage the fecundity of Scumbag Owens have failed. I'm starting to suspect the man intends to replace my benevolent dictatorship oversight with a patriarchal tyranny. If so, he should probably start treating his partners a little better. Jesus, Owens.

The Ninja spy remains among the cafeteria staff. He has made a friend, thus confirming that he's not simply a delusion brought on by isolation. So that's a load off.

Down below, we're dealing with yet more molerat outbreaks. I've assigned some of the Dwellers to do nothing but clear them out, before they eat our entire food store. To their credit they're approaching the new job with a positive attitude.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Triple D! The Democratic Debate Drinking Game

DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER!!! This drinking game has not been tested and is based on random things happening on live TV, which means following these rules could easily KILL YOU STONE DEAD. (I am not playing because I have children and a wife who would prefer me to be sober. Which may not stop me from taking a shot if I watch too much of tonight's debate.)

This is intended to be tongue-in-cheek (more like... guidelines than actual rules), and anyone drinking during tonight's debate should do so responsibly. As in, don't drink the goddamn rum with the hula girl on the label. That shit sneaks up on you.

Anywho, here are the not-rules:

Take A Drink Every Time:

- Hillary Clinton's email server or Benghazi is mentioned.

- Martin O'Malley brings up his record as Governor.

- Bernie Sanders says "Wall Street" or "income inequality".

- You remember that Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffee are there.

- Someone makes a joke about Trump or the House.

- One of the moderators has to prompt a candidate to actually answer the question.

Take A Shot If:

- Hillary Clinton throws someone under the bus over her email server or Benghazi.

- Martin O'Malley brings up his record as Mayor.

- Bernie Sanders screws up an answer on race or gun control.

- Someone addresses anything Jim Webb or Lincoln Chaffee say.

- Lawrence Lessig is mentioned.

- Anderson Cooper cracks up or storms out.

Kill The Bottle If:

- Anyone attacks President Obama.

- Hillary Clinton fires any of her campaign staff on Wednesday.

- Martin O'Malley chews out Debbie Wasserman Schultz by name.

- Bernie Sanders announces he's going to play The Most Dangerous Game with the heads of Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

- Jim Webb or Lincoln Chaffee walk out.

- Lawrence Lessig comes on stage.

- Joe Biden comes on stage.

- Elizabeth Warren comes on stage.

- Bill Clinton comes on stage. (Just hugging Hillary doesn't count.)

- Don Lemon gets trolled by Internet questioners on air.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Puppy

"Kept you waiting, huh?"
I've been playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain lately. I expect I'm going to keep playing Metal Gear Solid V for quite some time. It's a very large open-world game, which is a game type I've only gone gaga for once (and that was Assassin's Creed 2). I got into Far Cry 3 for a bit too, but petered out sometime near the halfway mark once things got a little... repetitive (climb tower, clear out bases, skin something, repeat). It's a problem that's kept me from enjoying any Grand Theft Auto game, the rest of the Assassin's Creed series, and MMOs in general (once I got the Warcraft monkey off my back.)

I'm still in the early game, so this might change, but Metal Gear Solid V has a couple features that raise it over most open world games for me. First, you can go back and play through earlier missions to clear side objectives you're pretty much guaranteed to miss the first time through. Second, the missions are discrete little games within the game, which means I can drop in to do one without getting lost wandering the Afghani wasteland for hours looking for plants. (Or I can do that too.) Third, the game adapts to your play strategy, so if you get comfortable headshotting guards, they'll start wearing helmets to force you to change up your style. Fourth, there is a crazy amount of different ways to do each mission, from pure stealth to crazy gun nut to full-scale army invasion to cardboard box surfing.

That all adds up to a game I'm unlikely to get bored of anytime soon, because I'll be playing it in short sips and I'm not likely to keep doing the same thing over and over again. That's important for something that'll probably take me sixty hours to finish.

Fourth, there is a puppy. This is his heartwarming story.

* * *

Kazuhira "Kaz" Miller: Boss, this is the Fulton extraction system. You can use it to recruit soldiers and... did you just drug a dog and tie it to the balloon?

K: Boss? You just brought a wild dog onto our top-secret military base. Care to explain that?

Big Boss: PUPPY!!1!

K: Boss, it's been living in an Afghani war zone-

B: Hello puppy! Hello!

K: Boss, can I please-

B: Who's a good puppy? You are! You are!

K: Boss I'm not kidding, that thing probably has rabies-

B: *squeals* Aww, puppy kisses!

Revolver Ocelot: Er, Boss?


K: Sigh... Ocelot, get the dog a room and its shots.

B: Wait, what? You can't hold my puppy! You shock people's testicles for kicks!


K: Great, good, we're done. Can we get back to DID YOU JUST TIE A GODDAMN BEAR TO THE BALLOON

Thursday, September 10, 2015

September 10th, 2015

I did end up getting my son back to bed last night... it just didn't last. He woke up again around 12:30 or so and that was it.

I'm going to start keeping a wireless keyboard in his room. If he's going to use me as a bed, I'm going to use him as a writing surface. Fair's fair.

Today I Wrote:

Nada. Today was busy on pretty much every level.

Today I Read:

Two solid links today. One is a blog post called Writing Begins With Forgiveness. It's basically a post explaining that everyone has a different writing process, and you shouldn't feel bad if yours doesn't include writing every day. For me... yeah, that's a nice thought. Not sure I'll ever quite internalize it though.

The other is a post on keeping Facebook from mining your data. It's written for sex workers but applies to anyone who cares about their privacy. I'm a CISSP and I didn't realize how many ways Facebook was tracking me, so I consider this a must-read.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

August 24th to September 9th

Well so much for daily updates!

In all honesty my life at work and at home has been hectic, with high-priority projects and sick children to deal with. Also my two-year-old has learned about "DeeBeeDees" and won't stop demanding to watch Frozen or The Neverending Story on a daily basis. He can be distracted, but not for long.

By the way, remember when Disney published high-octane nightmare fuel for the kiddies? Yeah. Check out Lorenzo by Mike Gabriel on the latest Disney short DVD. Freaking Evil the Cat, man!

That ain't right.

...And now it's 11 at night and my son is asleep on my lap. He won't let me put him down. He wakes up and screams if I do. This has been going on for weeks and it's starting to hurt me. I don't know what to do so I'm blogging. Eventually I'll give up on my bed and sleep the best I can in a chair with him. And he wins again.

Is he scared? Is it a wet diaper? Is this normal? Does this shit stop?


Today I Wrote:

I did manage a few more pages of Gorgon porn, along with two (three? four? Oh wow, five!) more updates to my Vault log series, which you can check out on the shiny new Tales of Vault 867 page of this very blog. I have wrapped up the actual gameplay and I'm just working out how best to bring the series to a close (read: as ludicrously as possible).

Today I Played:

I've been gushing over Until Dawn recently on Twitter and it deserves every word of praise it gets. I may do a blog on it later, but TL;DR version: if you have access to a Playstation 4 and you have any interest in horror, writing, or both, this is the must-play game of the year. Do not look up anything about it until you've gotten through the game once. It's short and it is worth your time to do it blind once.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tales of Vault 867 - Part Ten

A fine rhetorical question! But as it turns out we have an actual answer. Meet our newest Vault resident:

You probably can't see him because he's a freaking ninja.

I have no idea who he is or why he's in the Vault. I've ordered him removed five times now, and every time he vanishes until I call off the Dwellers. And then he tends the cafeteria.

Since he's a blatantly obvious spy for Number One Traitor Terry I've decided to let him do whatever he's planning on doing. As long as I know that he knows that I know what he's up to, I have the upper hand. (Right? Note to self: double check my grammar before I log this.)

In other news the incessant baby boom continues.

I am giving long thought to lifting the ban on mole rat pets in hopes of sterilizing some of these morons. What part of "limited resources" do they not understand?

Number One Traitor sent more Raiders to attack the perfection of our Vault. His pitiful forces will never succeed in overthrowing my reign!

Groovy Gary led the defense and acquitted himself with honor. He will not be sterilized. Intentionally.

Which is more than I can say for Scumbag Owens. Enough with the damn roofies already!

As a side project, Doctor Adreno managed to capture a Radroach for study.

Apparently at some point she decided the best course of action was to use gene therapy to create a fire-breathing Radroach. Given what happened next I can't even be bothered to ask what the point of that was.