More Wittering on Divine

Posted on December 18, 2018 at 3:25 PM
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Dec 182018

So, gods in fantasy fiction.

In real world mythologies, it’s actually fairly rare (though not unheard of) to have a clearly defined “god of [specific thing].” Most gods were, well, messier. Poseidon, god of the sea, right?

Right. Also earthquakes. And HORSES.

Ares and Athena were both war gods, and while they’re definitely different, it’s not entirely clear where one starts and the other ends, influence-wise. Don’t even get me started on Apollo.

And the Greek pantheon was a lot more formal than some.

I mean, it makes sense. We’re looking back at a mythology that developed over a broad area over hundreds of years. Many of the gods evolved, or started as local/tutelary deities that were eventually more widely adopted.

Fiction, however, tends to be neater than reality, and that includes in its religion and mythology. In most fantasy novels or RPGs, the gods are much more tightly defined. Bobeseus is the god of lawnmowers and gardening tools, and nothing else. And nobody else has dominion over the lawn.

And that, too, makes sense. You want something that readers/players can easily identify with and keep track of. And even on the writer’s side of things, it’s just a lot easier to work with way. Cleaner. More efficient.

I’m curious, then, what you prefer as a reader and/or gamer. Are you good with your fictional deities fitting into neat slots? Or would you rather authors make more of an effort to mimic the chaotic feel of real-world myth, even if it comes at the expense of ease of use or efficiency of storytelling?

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Adding My Voice

Posted on October 25, 2017 at 9:41 PM
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Oct 252017

It’s so easy to think “Well, I’ve cut ties, that’s enough.” But it really isn’t. As these last few weeks have demonstrated, time and again, it’s necessary–and well past time–to speak up about each and every incident.

So this is me, speaking my part.

I’ve been focused primarily on fiction for a long time now, but I still keep a toe in the RPG waters. I’m currently working on The Lost Citadel RPG for Green Ronin (a company about which I cannot say enough good things). I’ve done several articles for ENWorld’s EN5ider, with whom I would happily work again.

And, within the last couple of years, I spearheaded a book of adventures for Frog God/Necromancer.

I didn’t know better at the time. Most of us didn’t.

Many of you already know the story of what happened at PaizoCon this past May. If you don’t, Google PaizoCon and Bill Webb.

In addition to what’s been stated publicly, I’m also aware of other incidents involving Bill and other people. Those incidents are not public knowledge, and I’m not at liberty to discuss them or the people involved, but they’re pretty awful.

I stopped communicating with Bill back in May, and I certainly haven’t sought (and wouldn’t have accepted) any more work from Frog God, even though we’d been talking about doing a 5E conversion of The Doom of Listonshire. But as I said above, cutting ties privately isn’t enough.

I am, therefore, formally and publicly announcing that I will have nothing more to do with Frog God–as a creator or a customer–so long as Bill Webb remains associated with the company.

It’s not much since, as I said, I’m only doing small amounts of RPG work these days anyway. But it’s what I can do.

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Posted on September 25, 2017 at 1:12 PM
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Sep 252017

(Note that I mention several movies, below, to use as examples. I touch on the endings of these particular movies, so watch for spoilers if you haven’t seen them and still plan to: Alien, Life, Drag Me to Hell, Dog Soldiers, Cabin in the Woods).

I find it exceedingly difficult to find new horror to watch/read.

See, my taste in horror runs down some very specific paths. I’m not interested in human-on-human horror, for the most part. Saw, Wolf Creek, any of that. I only tend to like supernatural or sci-fi horror, with a rare few exceptions. Give me It, or zombies, or a xenomorph. Jason only started to interest me after he rose from the dead.

So, okay, narrowing down the field. But there’s still plenty of genre-horror, so why do I have trouble?

It’s because I deeply, deeply dislike hopeless/frustrating endings.

What do I mean by that? I mean any ending where all the protagonists struggles accomplished nothing. Where it’s not only not a happy ending, but basically a nihilistic one.

For some people, that’s the point of horror, and that’s fine. For them. Me? It’s not just that I’m not fond of them, I find them deeply unpleasant on an emotional level.

Drag Me to Hell, for instance. I really enjoyed that movie, right up until the end, where the main character is… Well, it’s in the title. Nothing she did, nothing that happened in the movie, mattered a damn. Or Life. The alien gets to Earth, the final two survivors are about to die either due to the alien or because she’s tumbling helplessly through space, and none of their efforts, none of their struggles, none of the final plan accomplished one. Damn. Thing.

Horror doesn’t have to have a happy ending, of course. (Though I disagree with the premise that it can’t. Some of the best horror movies/novels have them.) But you can have a dark ending that’s still not too dark. Dog Soldiers and Alien both have only a single survivor out of a larger group, but that survivor lives because they succeeded in destroying the threat. I’m fine with that. But if they’d gone with one of the earlier ideas for the ending of Alien, with Ripley having her head ripped off and the xenomorph taking control of the ship, sending messages in fake voices? I’d have hated that movie.

Even Cabin in the Woods, with it’s “old gods rising to destroy humanity” ending didn’t bother me, because it still felt like the main characters accomplished something, were able to fight back against the people who put them in this situation. As I said, doesn’t have to be happy, but I don’t do well with useless/hopeless.

And this simply isn’t a question most reviews answer. You can’t read up on a movie, or a novel, and get a sense of whether the ending’s going to fall into my preferences or not. And even if I go searching and find the answer, it comes with much more detailed spoilers I’d rather not see.

So, yeah. If you ever wonder why I don’t watch/read/talk about horror nearly as much as I do other genres, despite the fact that my fantasy usually has a pretty dark element to it? This is why: Because I have trouble finding any that’s not a serious risk of just pissing me off and making me feel like I wasted my time, no matter how well done it might have been.

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“Never Again”

Posted on September 3, 2017 at 4:54 PM
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Sep 032017

Have I just been making false assumptions? Having grown up as a Jew whose grandparents were all Eastern European immigrants, I know that I was educated in the horrors and specifics of the Holocaust more so than your average American child, but I just assumed everyone was taught enough to understand just who and what the Nazis were.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe part of the problem we’re facing today is that many people don’t understand the term. They just think of it as having a nebulous “bad guy” meaning. Or at worst, “somewhat militant racist.”

So I’m going to try this without screaming, just speaking.

The Nazi doctrine has, at its core, not just white supremacy, but the subjugation and annihilation of “lessers.” They don’t just want to be in power, they want to lock away or kill everyone not like them. People of color, queer people, disabled people, Jews, Muslims.

They want to kill us.

And it’s not something that was tacked on to an otherwise harmless ideology. It is a core part of the identity.

And they will do it. It’s not empty threat. Twelve million people were murdered over this ideology (and that’s not even counting the soldiers who died fighting it). Shot. Gassed. Starved. Enslaved. Experimented on. (And that’s not counting the soldiers who died fighting them.)

That is the ideology that the modern Nazis have looked at and said, “I want in on that.” Whether they’re as organized as the original Nazis, whether they have the capability, is irrelevant. This is what they want. This is what they work toward.

And they were nothing more than a bunch of fringe extremists when they first started in Germany, too.

This is what I shout about on social media. This is why I say that you cannot treat them as just another unpleasant political stance. They are a real threat to so many people. They are a clear and present danger.

And you cannot stand back. You cannot remain neutral. This isn’t about Democrat vs. Republican, or Right vs. Left. This is literally about right or wrong. It is one of the few times in your life you’re going to be in a position where there are no shades of gray, where you honestly and truly have the chance to fight genuine evil.

And so many of you are failing to step up, perhaps because you truly don’t understand, or don’t want to believe. But this is what it is. This is where we are.

Even if you are normally a free speech absolutist, their very ideology is an active threat, something that free speech doesn’t accommodate.

Even if you disapprove of what groups like Antifa do to fight them–and let’s be clear, a lot of what you’ve heard about Antifa is exaggerated or outright false, but even if everything negative said about them were true–it is still your duty to deal with the Nazis first, and worry about lesser wrongs after the fact.

You are being manipulated, by Nazis, and by certain Right-wing elements that mistakenly think they have to ally with Nazis, into remaining neutral. Into not taking sides because the other is “just as bad.” They’re not. Nothing is.

In all the confusion and shades of gray of human history, this is one of the few true, genuine, and incontrovertible evils.

And the only way to avoid supporting it is to stand loudly and actively and yes, sometimes maybe even violently, against it.

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Twenty years

Posted on March 9, 2017 at 12:26 AM
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Mar 092017
I’ve only just realized that if you count up all the years that George and I were not romantically involved–both before I ever met her and for the year-and-change we were friends but not a couple…
Well, as of this anniversary, we’ve been married (not just together, but actually married) for for an equal amount of time.
I mean, maybe not exactly–it could be off by a couple of months–but for all practical purposes.
In that time, there have been a lot of ups and downs, some extreme (and I was at fault for more of the downs than I’d like to acknowledge). But we got through them all, in part because George has been inhumanly patient and supportive, and in part because I’ve fought harder for it than I have anything else in my life.
We wouldn’t have made it without a lot of work (and I don’t think I would have made it if we hadn’t), but it was worth every bit of effort. Because things are good, and I only see them getting better. I can barely remember life before her, and can’t even imagine life without her.
I love you, George. Happy anniversary.
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Star What Now?

Posted on December 18, 2016 at 6:40 PM
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Dec 182016
Wait, are there seriously rumors of a Luke Skywalker-based prequel?  8-O
The entire point of Luke’s story was that he was a nobody farmer to whom nothing of any real importance had ever happened. It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche he was designed specifically to embody.
I’m not even enthused about the idea of the Han Solo prequel, and at least we know he had some stuff happen to him prior to the first movie.
Disney, you’ve been fairly on-point so far, but you’re at serious risk of dropping the ball. These standalone movies should be used to explore characters and facets of the universe we haven’t seen, not to retread characters whose biggest stories have already been told.  :-|
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Conceptual fandom

Posted on August 1, 2016 at 1:09 AM
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Aug 012016

Do any of you ever find yourself realizing that you’re a fan of something conceptually, but not practically?

What I mean is, for instance, a conversation about horror movies at ArmadilloCon eventually turned to Pinhead and the Hellraiser movies. And I found myself putting into words something I’d thought about but hadn’t seriously considered, which is this:

I’m a big fan of the CONCEPT of Pinhead and the Cenobites (particularly in their original conception, before they just became run-of-the-mill demons in a Judeo-Christian hell). I think there’s an enormous amount of cool story and mood potential behind them, and I’d love to see it explored.

Yet I’m not actually a fan of any of their appearances. I didn’t much care for THE HELLBOUND HEART novella, and while I’ve enjoyed many aspects of the Hellraiser movies (especially scenes and segments and ideas from the first two), I’ve never actually enjoyed a single Hellraiser movie AS a complete movie.

The same is true of Lovecraft. I love Lovecraftian horror. I’ve used it in some of my work, and I sometimes go out looking for it. But I’m not really fond of Lovecraft’s own work. I find him a mediocre writer, and although I’ve read almost his entire library, I can only remember a handful of stories well enough to talk about them.

Or, for a different sort of example, exploration-based sandbox D&D campaigns. I find the potential stories and ideas enticing in the abstract, but I’ve never played in such a campaign that didn’t bore me, and I’ve had to quit every time I’ve tried to run one because I was very much not enjoying it.

Is this just me? Or do any of you guys–I’m especially, but not exclusively, curious about other creatives–find yourselves in the same sort of boat?

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Apr 232016

Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of people online champion the idea of Marvel somehow regaining the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties from Fox, so they can incorporate them into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I’m fine with that, where the FF are concerned, but as for the X-Men… Well…

I don’t want Marvel to get them back.

No, that’s not accurate. I’d be fine with Marvel getting them back if they kept them separate. What I do not want is mutants in the MCU.

Yes, it’d be cool to see Logan and Cap meet in WWII, Beast banter with Spider-man, all of that. But the concept of the mutants, as a hated minority, as a metaphor for PoC or gays or other marginalized groups? That just works better if they’re the only super-beings out there; and on the flip side, in the MCU, where everyone’s power has thus far has a source, the alien-blooded Inhumans are a more thematic fit.

(Yes, I’ve heard the arguments to the contrary. Some are even solid. I nevertheless feel that mixing mutants with other superhumans dilutes the “mutant as other” narrative.)

Plus, frankly, the MCU is already getting crowded. It can’t handle as many characters as the comics can.

I now step back so that you may yell and scream and throw tomatoes in polite disagreement. ;-)

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A bit of advice

Posted on January 15, 2016 at 12:58 AM
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Jan 152016

Okay, folks. The Dungeon Master’s Guild market/license for D&D stuff is a great opportunity and a lot of fun. I get why so many of you are eager to get material up there ASAP. But I hope you’ll accept a bit of free advice from someone who’s both a fan and a professional.


You need to know how to put a sentence together, and you need to have your work read over by other people who know how to put a sentence together. I promise you–promise–that if you have obvious typos or overtly poor grammar in your product description, a lot of people are never going to even look at the product itself, let alone spend any money on it. There are many people who have already lost me as a potential customer based on a single sentence of their product entry, because it was so poorly written that I don’t trust them to be able to deliver a usable product.

Take your time and do it right.

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Happy Halloween!

Posted on November 1, 2015 at 1:28 AM
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Nov 012015

For the first time in a couple of years, we decided to put some effort into Halloween. So, I present Rasputin, from Hellboy.

Okay, so I’m no Karel Roden, but I think it’s not too shabby, all things considered.  :-D














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