Linking With a Vengeance

Things have been quiet here for a few days while I’ve been away at a wedding and then polishing up a couple papers to submit to a conference. Now I’ve got more links of interest than I can shake a stick at. I’ll skip the stick-shaking, then, and just try to post a bunch of stuff without much further comment.

First, links of general geeky interest, and then, some more specific stuff about games, comics, and Harry Potter (or rather, Dumbledore).

Nerdy Boston Weekend: Tomorrow, I’m headed to a Beauty and the Geek casting call to do some participant-observation research. I figure the best way to justify my presence there and get a sense of the process is to just try out myself, but it would probably overcomplicate my life if they actually found me interesting. (My guess is they won’t, as I plan to make no secret that I’m there for my own research.) Later in the evening, I’ll be headed to Nerdnite in Jamaica Plain for some more participant-observation. I wanted to just go as an attendee this time around, but I promised that I’d present something next time if they’re still interested and I’m in town again.

A Trip Back in Time: I happened upon an article from a couple years ago by Lev Grossman, Time‘s current “Nerd World” blogger, about how ‘geek’ is becoming mainstream. This led me to a longer interview with Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon, which I remember reading some time ago but wanted to link again.

Our Geeky Military: Via Boing Boing: “New book features US Military emblems, shows the Pentagon is full of D&D geeks and X-Files fans.” The book is titled I Could Tell You but Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World.

Geek Chic: The other day, someone asked me if there is really such a thing as “geek chic.” All I could think to say at the time was that it’s in the Oxford English Dictionary dating back at least as far as the early 1990s (a classic geek answer, if i do say so myself). In case that’s not proof enough, apparently this concept has its own Wikipedia entry separate from the main ‘geek’ entry. That entry includes a picture of Steph the Geek, whom I had never heard of before, but that seemed worth a link.

More Nerdy Writings: I feel the need to update this post with a couple things I just stumbled upon. One is Nerdblurb, which a friend recommended to me (well, its podcasts, anyway). The other is Stephen Fry’s new column at the Guardian, whose inaugural entry is titled Welcome to dork talk” (link via Daring Fireball, sent to me by Dan Moren, with whom I’m sharing a booth at Diesel Cafe in Somerville).


Games Should Not Be Movies: In “Constructing Artificial Emotions” at Gamasutra, Daniel Cook makes the case that video games should skip the script and focus on what they seem to do best. (Link via Kotaku.) This kind of goes in the opposite direction from my own recent postings on games and narrative.

Game Grammar: Another Gamasutra article, “Designing Games,” Brandon Sheffield talks to Raph Koster about “game grammar.” (More on game grammar from a talk Koster gave here.)

Serious, Artsy, Congressy: The Escapist has a whole issue now on interesting game formats, including articles like “Ten Myths About Serious Games,” a piece on video games in art exhibits, and a piece on Fantasy Congress.

RPGs, Sort Of: This review of The Witcher at Eurogamer (link via Kotaku) explains that video game “RPGs” have more to do with the formal properties of early Dungeons & Dragons than with actual “role-playing.” I link to this because people are always asking me what on earth makes a video game an RPG.

Life Without Achievements: One Kotaku writer reflects on how life is better without Xbox Live Achievements: “Jesus, since when was it fun to force yourself to play through parts of a game just to earn yourself an arbitrary point score? Last I remember it was around 1987. We moved on from there for a reason. Because it’s stupid.

Another Sort of Game Review: Hipster, Please! refers us to Little Miss Gamer: “PBC touts Little Miss Gamer as ‘a game review show for everyone,’ but I respectfully disagree. It’s actually more of a game review show for those gamers who are neither Xbox Live douchebags nor Evercrack addicts; it’s a game review show for folks who game for pleasure, as opposed to those who do it for the sake of following the lead of their respective demographics.”


Formerly Known As “The Guide to Comics”: Wizard Magazine is now billing itself as “The #1 Men’s Pop Culture Magazine.” Anyone who has read Wizard will not find this much of a surprise; that’s why Frank Miller famously tore up an issue on stage at the 2001 Harvey Awards, explaining, “Even though this monthly vulgarity . . . [cries] to all the world that we’re as cheap and stupid and trashy as they think we are, we sponsor this assault.” (I wish I could find a full transcript online still.) Nevertheless, Dirk Deppey collects all the surprised responses (search for “fangirls” on that page).

Comics Can Be Successful: Tom Spurgeon sums up recent developments in webcomics business models. Also: an ironic link with the text “Hooray! Comics finally saved!” to an article on the 30 Days of Night film adaptation, which “takes graphic novel films out of the fan-boy ghetto” Also: “Essentially, 30 Days of Night is a hit-and-miss step in a direction that opens the possibility for audiences who don’t eat smelly nachos and live in their parents’ rumpus rooms to enjoy the movie as well.”

Color in Comics: One of the papers I just submitted to a conference had a paragraph or two on experimental uses of color in comics, which made it the least discussed formal technique of the paper. Fortunately, Derik A. Badman has me covered in Panel & Pictures: Changing Colors.


In Brief: Yes, I need a whole category for links related to J.K. Rowling’s announcement (or rather, explosive, offhand comment) that she “always thought of” Dumbledore as gay. The story was broken by Potter fan site The Leaky Cauldron, where the news about Dumbledore shares a headline with some other characters’ marriage plans.

On “Geeks Gone Wild”: The most extensive single-story write-up I’ve seen so far has been from Bay Windows, “New England’s Largest GLBT Newspaper.” It discusses Rowling’s possible motives and general reaction, both positive and negative.

On Surprises and Disappointment: Lev Grossman isn’t too surprised. John Cloud laments, “Why couldn’t he tell us himself?”

On Authorial Authority: Jason Mittell questions what it means for Rowling to keep making addenda to the series after its completion: “The press & blogs I’ve read seem to be treating it as a statement of fact – it’s Rowling’s fictional world, and thus her statements are canonical. … But something changes once a series is complete.” Neil Gaiman, meanwhile, explains that authors know plenty about their characters that they just don’t have the space or the inclination to share with you.

And the Rest: The revelation about Dumbledore’s implied sexuality has made one man regret his tattoo. Also, this whole situation reminds me of how some exhibit claims to have proven that Superman is Jewish, as if he were a real man and not the product of many writers over the course of decades.

My brief response: Of all the fictional characters that I’ve ever seen interpreted as gay from media I’m very familiar with myself, only two have struck me as making a lot of sense within the source material rather than willful reinterpretation to satisfy the interests of the reader. These are Dumbledore, and Leon Kennedy from Resident Evil 4. Also, despite protests that Dumbledore should have said this himself in the pages of the series, I don’t find it so far outside the realm of believability (aside from the wizardry part) that a gay guy who had been in love with a Hitler-like figure and who goes on to head a boarding school for children in the late 20th century might have kept his sexual preferences to himself.

6 thoughts on “Linking With a Vengeance

  1. I don’t find it so far outside the realm of believability … might have kept his sexual preferences to himself.

    Seriously. If he had come out he totally would have been voted out by the board of directors or whatever.

  2. Are you watching “The Guild?” It’s an interesting little comedy about the real lives of WoWers. The lead actress/writer is (IIRC) a gamer, so it’s really a fan-oriented production.

  3. Here ya go – full transcript + link:

    Thank you. It’s kinda hard to be cranky at a pace that’s not manic [laughter]. Most of the reason I get cranky is when perfectly sensible people act in perfectly stupid ways. Like in comics, like right now. I’m talking about how comics people relate to the rest of the world. It’s really strange. It’s really weird. It doesn’t make any sense. Think of it like, we know we need a lot from the rest of the world. We’re trying to be really good. We’re showing our sunny best to the doorstep. We bring flowers and presents and ring the doorbell and then we run like hell. We got issues, the kind we can’t stuff into a mylar snug. Is it a love/hate relationship or is it a lust/fear relationship? I don’t know. We’re confused. We’re sending more mixed signals than the Florida electorate. Just listen to us.

    “Excuse me? Rest of the world? [pause] Please notice us. Please notice us. Way over here, the guy with the bad haircut, that’s me. Excuse me, rest of the world? Please… don’t notice us. You might censor us. Please. Please. I’ll censor myself so thoroughly it’ll make your head spin. I’ll be vewy vewy qwiet. Excuse me, rest of the world? Please give me Hollywood money [laughter]. Just a little bit of it. Just a little of what you’ve got would mean so much to me. Excuse me, rest of the world, once you’ve had your way with me. Once you’re… done with that, you don’t have to leave a note or anything. But please don’t laugh at me.”

    Mixed signals is damn confusing. Still and all, we live here and we better figure out what the hell we’re doing. The Direct Market is about as hale and hearty as a beached whale and Marvel Comics has spent the last few years muttering to itself and pushing around a shopping cart [laughter]. So failing to look for new readers and new venues would be eight kinds of stupid, we gotta shop around. Two questions then: What do we want from whom? And what do we have to offer?

    First off, then, [scornfully] “the rest of the world.” It’s really sad that so many of us call it “the outside world.” Sadder, worse yet, is that we call it “the real world.” If it’s real, then what are we, fake? So having established that we are not a laboratory experiment or an incredible simulation, let’s postulate that the very large part of the world that is unconcerned with comic books is not an alien planet. We’re part of it, it’s our world too. So what do we want from it? Let’s just think clearly, what do we want from this world? More readers? Well, absolutely. Money? Sure. With money just make sure that you read the fine print, keep your eye out for two terms, “perpetual license” and “your first born.” And don’t drop the soap [laughter].

    What else? Respect. Mass market acceptance. Well, with that, kinda like a gerbil being dropped into a Cuisinart, it gets a little dicey. After all, there’s a reason they call it the mass market. It’s massive. It’s fat, it’s big, and it’s dumb as a post. You see, it all gets down to mouths. Not brains, not heart, not soul, just mouths. It all gets down to food. This will make sense soon, I promise.

    People who call our culture a consumer culture are on the right track, but they don’t go nearly far enough. Ours is a devouring culture. Our choices of words are revealing, look at how even in our own field the creative work is called “product.” It’s just product. Look at how artists, writers, brain surgeons, and pig farmers are all lumped together under the term “provider.” If she saves your life on the operating table, she’s a provider. If he flips your burger, he’s a provider. Would you likewise lump together Walt Whitman, Michelangelo, and Rosie O’Donnell as content providers? [Laughter.]

    Product. From Denny’s to McDonalds to Texaco to Exxon, the mass market makes one preeminent demand of its product and that demand is that it be consistent. You wanna know what you’re gonna get. No challenges, no surprises, a cheeseburger in Boise must taste and look exactly like a cheeseburger in Seattle. Everything has gotta be easy to swallow. Everything has gotta be the same every time, no challenges, no surprises. Of all of the homogenous products ingested equally today, the most uniquely predictable is entertainment. Vast media entertainment. Hollywood. Swimming pools, movie stars [laughter]. And don’t get me wrong, working in Hollywood can be a gas. It’s a fun business, a glamorous business, a sexy business. But the operative word here is business. You must never forget that when you’re dealing with these folks. It’s business, it’s always business. You’ll meet lovely people, sweet people, even honest people, really. I’ve met [pause] two [laughter]. The honest people are the ones telling you that you’re as disposable as used cat litter and just as valued. Endure the happy talk, but be aware that it’s friendship when they want free work out of you and it’s just business when they turn around and fire your sorry butt. Expect to be fired, it is an axiom in Hollywood. You’ll hear it from any veteran screenwriter between bitter sips of whisky at Musso and Frank’s, you will be rewritten. It’s not becaus anybody’s being particularly malicious, most of the time anyway, and it isn’t necessarily because what you write sucks. It’s the money, honey.

    Comic books cost, what, about two grand to publish? That isn’t even a tip for a caterer. The stakes are so high, they paralyze the mind here. They need so many butts in so many seats that they can’t afford to annoy, offend, or confuse anybody, ever. Product has got to be safe, dependable. No challenges, no surprises. You wanna know what you’re gonna get. It’s a pleasant and ruthless business, Hollywood is. So when they come calling, and they will come calling—these days movie options are falling across our field like pieces of the Hindenberg—when Hollywood comes calling play it smart. If you want to play the game, stay smart. And never forget that you hold the only card that counts: ideas. Stay smart, don’t be snowed. They’ve got all the money in the universe. They’ve got offices the size of football fields, they’ve got gorgeous trophy wives, and they’re so awfully busy that they’re chatting in a cel phone and watching dailies when you’re trying to talk to them. And they even refer to really famous people by their first names. But they’re running a little dry when it comes to ideas.

    That’s not exactly right, they’ve got ideas, they got bags of ideas. There are very talented minds in Hollywood and lots of them, and there are people who work very hard and aspire to bring fine ideas to fruition. There’s even a tiny handful who’ve achieved something really wonderful, but God, so much of it ends up as roadkill. It’s the money, honey. The money and the fear, they’re close personal friends. There’s another close personal friend who happens to be his boss and he’ll fire your close, personal friend the instant your project doesn’t look that sure. The sure thing. Safe. Consistent. Predictable. Easy to swallow. So even when ideas are generated in Hollywood, they might as well be submitted to the Teleban Arts Council [laughter].

    And here we are. We’re just ripe for the picking; we’re just bursting with fresh ideas. We must look like a pinata to those folks, and they’re certainly treating us like one. Give it a whack, break the sucker open and see what falls out. These ideas that we’ve got, it’s not that we’re smarter than Hollywood—well, yeah, we’re smarter than Hollywood—but it’s not that. It’s that in comics we can take an idea the distance without running up the national debt. Our ideas don’t need to go through that abortion clinic they call “the development process.” We’ve got what they want because they can’t make it happen. We have to know this, we have to be aware of this. So if you’re gonna do business with Hollywood, never think of yourself as a second class citizen.

    Stay smart, stand tall and steel yourself. Get ready. Know that one of three things is gonna happen. Thing #1: Your creation will be translated to a work of utter genius. It will make millions and millions and millions of dollars and Gwynneth Paltrow will call you seven times a day and Jennifer Lopez will drape herself all over you as you accept your Oscar for best picture. Thing #2: You’ll make some pretty good money, but that creation that you took all that time writing and drawing will be remembered for all time as one really crapo movie. Thing #3 is where things get really depressing. Thing #3 is where your creation is consigned to the elephant’s graveyard. The elephant’s graveyard is what I call a certain set of shelves that just about every development executive seems to have. These are shelves piled high with dead screenplays. I know this sounds strange, I’ve seen a lot of them. I don’t know why they display these unproduced, unloved, God forsaken scripts from movies that never got made all stacked like cord wood, but they do. And it’s weird. Stay smart. Get it in writing. Don’t put your baby on the block unless you’re ready to see her sold and stand tall. If they talk to you, they want what you’ve got. Nobody’s doing anybody any favors out there.

    And keep this in mind, if you lie down with dogs, you get fleas. If you lie down with tapeworms, you get [holds up a copy of Wizard] tapeworms [laughter]. I feel that’s over Hollywood. That’s the only reason publishers kow-tow over this rag, this bible written by Satan. Hollywood executives are notoriously poor readers. And they really are. Why do you think they hire people called “readers?” [Laughter]. Duh. Readers. Those are wanna be writers who provide coverage and that’s a term you’ve gotta love. Coverage. I mean we’re talking about scripts, not the damned Gulf War. These envious wanna-be writers provide coverage for executives who don’t read much. And get this, they’re proud of not reading. One TV guy I met, full of hyperactive disdain, he sniped at me, “I don’t read comic books. I read scripts.” You’re lost pal.

    They don’t read comic books, they read Wizard Magazine! Or at least the publishers think they do. Either way the result is the same. For all the disgust you’ll hear about Wizard and its shoddy practices when you talk to publishers and marketing folks—and I have yet to hear a single good word from anybody about this thing that ought to come on a roll—for all of that, the publishers kow-tow. Even though this tree killer here regularly cheapens and poisons our field. Aesthetically and ethically, they grovel.

    Even though this monthly vulgarity [rips off front cover] reinforces all the prejudice people hold about comics [rips out pages] they cry to all the world that we’re as cheap and stupid and trashy as they think we are, we sponsor this assault. We pay for the goddamn privilege. But really, when will we finally get around to flushing this thing, this load of crap, once and for all [tosses torn magazine into a trash can onstage. Applause].

    And when are we going to finally realize what we’ve got? Just look at the candidates for these awards that are coming up. Free minds, free hands, producing work that no committee could come up with, no development executive could allow, no focus group could approve. Minds like Harvey Kurtzman’s alive now and working. Look at what we’ve got. What we have in our little field—and it’s little, but it’s smart, damn smart—what we have is magic. Magic that certain people are eager to bottle. Deal with them then, if you wish, but don’t look up at them. Look down. And be certain of this, our field will pull out of this slump and won’t be Hollywood that’ll rescue us. And it ain’t gonna be the internet either, it’ll be the books. It’ll be the comic books.

    Ladies and gentlemen, the Harvey Awards.

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