To summarize what I've said elsewhere:
Ryan Dewalt reports on FurAffinity that Albert Temple, creator of the long-running and popular furry webcomic Gene Catlow, has passed away at 59 due to natural causes.
Gene Catlow began in 2000 and covered a wide variety of topics including race ("species") relations, tech humor, and Albert's particular humble and loving approach to the world.
Albert's messages of love, tolerance, and good humor in the face of adversity will be sorely missed.
One of the kindest people I ever met, with a wit that was quick but never cruel. Very grateful for the chance to have known him. In the flurry of Twitter messages that went by this morning I saw someone describe him as "the Fred Rogers of furry," and it really does suit him.
Albert and I were not close, but he was the kind of person who made you feel like you were good friends just be being in the same room, and I like to think that if we'd been in the same circles more often we would have been.
Godspeed, sir, and hoping we'll see you again.
I don't get it. And there are many aspects of it I don't get.
I mean, I understand why sex might sell; I've bought comics myself because of the sex appeal of a particular character or story, but it's such a small sliver on the pie chart of what's interesting in life. In a world full of amazing wonders, exciting possibilities, and the vast spectrum of love, hate, and human relationships, why does the career arc of so many comics artists and/or furry artists follow the same pattern of, "Draws some stuff, doesn't get noticed, draws sex stuff, interest explodes, ends up drawing the same piece of porn over and over again forever because why bother doing anything else?"
Heck, I've seen it in my own work. I know how to push fandom buttons. I can predict with a fair amount of certainty which pics or pages will get a big response, based on sex content. And... just... enh. -.-
The part that baffles me the most, tho, is... are people buying the same porn pic over and over? Why would you do that? What could you possibly get out of the same thing drawn again? They must be, for sales to sustain in that quantum level of difference. I suppose maybe it's like hearing a remix of a favorite song... but even I can't stand hearing four different versions of Ghostbusters in a row.
How does a steady diet of the same damn porn pic over and over not get monotonous AF?
What prompted this particular rant was a trip to Barnes & Noble yesterday. I was looking through the manga section and came upon a title I forget now, which had an bait-and-switchy eye-catch cover of a genki girl in some action pose... who turned out to be a very minor character in a drama comic full of people in school uniforms standing around. Very clearly, somebody in the marketing department, following the principle of "sex sells, and what isn't sex, doesn't sell," decided a drama comic about people in school uniforms standing around couldn't possibly be of interest, so put this gal on the cover. But doing this leads to the worst of both worlds– people looking for genki girls in action poses aren't gonna buy the book after picking it up, and people looking for teenage angst aren't going to know that this is the book for them.
That's not all of it, tho. An artist whom I used to love like crazy, I have had to pretty much stop following, because over the years everything I used to love them for (great artistic composition, interesting character dynamics, a clever sense of humor) have fallen away one by one, to be replaced by the service of a singular particular fetish. In short, their work has become monotonous AF. Artists gotta follow their muse, so I'm not going to call them out on it or anything like that. But as a fan of the artist-they-were, I can't help but resent they've evolved into this one-trick doppleganger of someone whose work used to mean so much to me.
There's a whole other rant about the male gaze aspect of "sex sells," but I should probably stop while I can still form coherent sentences. In the broader culture, this is a topic full of misogyny, but even in the super-gay world of furry art, where the males are gazing at other males, it's still there, and still annoying. But that's a rant for another day.
So, Suburban Jungle launched 18 years ago today. Thanks to the strange time-dilation effect of comics, that puts Rough Housing as due to start happening around 2019 to put Charity at the right age. XD
It’s been a long strange trip and I’m very grateful for all the friends, fans, and extended family I’ve made along the way. Thank you very much!
Trying to make my prices a little more easy-to-calculate and a little less “pulled a number out of Buster’s shell.” 😀 Subscribers to my Patreon get a 5% discount.
When not at conventions, I can still sell the books and buttons but they’re easier to get through their respective publishers:
There was a kerfluffle, back in the dim dark past, during which some self-important pedant at Wikipedia decided that webcomics were not “worthy of note” and systematically went through and deleted them all. What I said at the time, and it’s still true, was that I was actually a lot prouder and happier that Suburban Jungle had a TVTropes.org page, because as far as audience engagement in the modern world goes, that’s a lot more significant.
I haven’t looked at it in a while, but last night on a whim I decided to check it and was chuffed to discover that it’s still being updated, in particular making a note of a page in the current issue, posted in November, where Charity runs so fast she breaks the panel border. So, while Suburban Jungle‘s TV Tropes page isn’t the huge lots-of-subpages juggernaut that something like Firefly is, it is still current and alive.
This makes me happy. XD And I want to build on it. As with the Community Welcome Thread, I want to create a “third place” for people within Suburban Jungle, where people can bring their own creativity and energy to bear rather than just passively reading the comic and then moving on to the next link in their bookmarks. We’ve been there before, thanks to the networking powerhouse that was Mammallamadevil, but also because the word was being spread by folks like Hikaru, the Dirt Den Inn crew, HBar98, TK, and dozens of others.
Rekindling the fandom is one of my big goals for 2017. The semi-regular streaming (generally Monday, Tuesday, and/or Wednesday nights at 7:30 EST) is the first part of that. It’s up and running at full tilt, and either this week or next I’ll be adding a new camera so that I can record doing real media commissions as well. An even bigger piece is under construction right now with the help of several collaborators— but that probably won’t really take shape until March or April.
In the meantime, I’ll just have to keep on keeping on, and I hope you’ll do the same. Get interested, and get involved! If there are ways we can build the fandom, I’d love to hear about them. But I can’t do it alone!
Yeah, 2016 pretty much blew chunks in a lot of ways. Thing is, it started out so well! I thought 2014 was the worst things were going to get, 2015 was the beginning of an upward climb, and that 2016 was going to be awesome. Then everything went pear-shaped, starting with our moving plans. Then Buddha died... and from there it was a nearly-unrelenting sea of crap that culminated in the Worst Possible Result in the election. I used to joke about not wanting to live in 1930s Germany. I don't joke about that any more.
For the record, some good things DID happen in 2016, and there's evidence that 2017 will be better. So even though things have been rough, just wallowing in it isn’t going to help. Since the end of November, I have been making a concerted effort to wedge positivity back into my life by any means possible, and it is working, even if there is a lot of resistance from a world determined to set itself on fire. But more on that in the Goals for 2017 part of the post. For now, let's review the goals I set at the beginning of the year.
- Issues Four and Five, Plus the First Collection. Partial success. Issue four is out and issue five is running currently, after moving and story development heck. This will be finished in early 2017, assuming all goes well.
- Publish That Book! Still working on it. I've received a fair amount of positive feedback from the various agents etc. I've shopped it around to, but so far it hasn't found a home. I'm going to keep at it until it sells or I run out of potential markets. If it gets to that point, I'll look at self-publishing.
- Finish Another Book! Didn't happen. Had to punt mid-NaNoWriMo, but I'll get back to it in 2017.
- Get the Money Sitch Fixed. Didn't happen. Despite being a very strong candidate, lythandra went to trainings and applied for jobs and talked to headhunters and out of all that got a few tiny nibbles and only one offer– which was immediately cancelled a few days later due to the contract being disputed. I hung out my shingle as a freelance/tech writer but so far have spent most of my time on that front turning down such lucrative offers as "Write ten full length novels for us to sell without giving you any residuals or credit for $35,000/year." So, still living on savings and what income the comics and art bring in, but we have plans in motion. (See below.)
- Move. Um. Happened, yes. But not the way we wanted. It needs fixing still/again.
- Get Back to Conventions! Eh... sort of. AC and MFF happened again. We also went to a steampunk meet in PA, but we had to punt on FurTheMore and Dragon*Con for financial and/or scheduling reasons. I expect 2017 to be different, however.
- Stronger faster slimmer better. Big setbacks here. Depression, stress, and a host of other factors meant that in six months I regained all the weight it had taken me two years to get rid of. :P I am not happy about this. The good news is that at the end of November I rejoined Weight Watchers and I have recovered 11 pounds' worth of progress since then, despite the best efforts of convention food and holidays. More significantly I have figured out how to live comfortably on a 35-ish point diet– basically the allocation for someone my age weighing 220 lbs. At my current rate of weight loss, I will hit that in six months, which would suit me just fine.
- No More Afib. Success! Heart ablation surgery was a complete success. Since March, I have only experienced afib twice, both of which were in December and seem to have been triggered by salt. As long as I continue to limit my salt intake, I should be set.
- Bernie Sanders 2016. Ugh. Don't get me started.
Now the review post from last year had unexpected things achieved in 2015. Alas, 2016 didn't really have a lot in the way of such things. However, it wasn't entirely bleak. Zootopia was really good, for instance. Also, I got into Overwatch and a fan very kindly built me a terrific computer to run it on, which prompted me to create the Learning Not to Suck at Overwatch series. It didn't exactly set YouTube on fire, but the videos were fun to make and I got to test my mettle in a competitive environment, something which I've never done a lot of. Overwatch also provided my single longest running batch of art commissions, in the form of "Play of the Game" badges. My Overwatchery has been thin since Halloween– other priorities eating my time– but I hope to get back into it in January.
So that leads me to my goals for 2017...
- Issues Five and Six, Plus the First Collection. Five and collection should be done well before AnthroCon. Issue Six, we'll see. I’m thinking of taking the comic in a slightly new direction based on the ending of Issue Five, but that's still in the very half-baked stage so I can't really go into detail yet.
- Publish That Book! Like I said, still working on this.
- Finish Another Book! I am looking at creating a series specifically for self-pub. More on that as the development fills out some more.
- Start a Company. This is a big one that Laurie and I have been messing with off and on again all year, but which is really starting to take shape now. Again, I don't want to talk about it in too much detail before everything is set in motion, all the T's are dotted and I's are crossed, etc., but it's a cool, exciting project designed to put the making of money back into our hands, since getting hired by other people doesn't seem to be a thing that really happens to anyone any more.
- Move to California. Okay. So. I thought this was going to happen last year, but for various reasons I kept fairly quiet about it at the time, and then it fell through anyway. It's back on the plan now, and I am not keeping it a secret any more. The exact details are still being hashed out, so you can expect to hear more on this as the year goes on. But part of the reason for the Start a Company item, is to enable living where we want, and since Fed jobs are going to all be utter crap for the next four years or more as the assholes-elect try to burn down the country, there's not a whole lot of point in staying around here for the job market anyway. Our families and some of our friends are here, of course, but we only see them a few times a year as it is– Facetime/Google Hangouts and plane tickets will probably take care of that problem. California is not necessarily the only candidate, we're also looking at some spots around New England for instance, but it is by far the strongest candidate and my top choice unless there is a strongly compelling reason to go elsewhere.
- Stronger faster slimmer better. 220 lbs by end of September is the plan. 220 lbs by end of June is the stretch goal.
- Bring the Awesome! I was just getting through my grief about my parents when Buddha died, kicking it all off again. I spent most of 2016 in a depression deeper than anything I’ve been through since 2001, although instead of manifesting as "feeling bad," it was more like an emotional dead zone, making it hard to enjoy anything and leaving me in a constant state of "peeved and grouchy for no good reason." That shit's got to go. As I said, since the end of November I've been focusing on positivity, and I'm just going to build on that and do more in 2017.
- Edit Myself Less. This one is kind of hard to explain without context and it's more a note to myself than anything. There are aspects of myself that I have simply made a point of not talking about for one reason or another; opinions, feelings, or wishes I have kept to myself when it would have been appropriate to share them, and so on. But honestly? It's not doing myself or the people who care about me any favors. I've had people tell me "I thought I knew you..." before for just this reason. And while I'm a lot more myself now than I used to be, I still get into that self-censorship habit when I’m depressed or afraid. This is something I need to work on. Shoving every thought in your head into other people's faces isn't a good idea– but shutting yourself down just to please other people isn't a healthy choice either. I'm not about to start drawing porn or anything like that, but I am going to be loosening up.
- Reverse course and mitigate/repair damage to the country. Grassroots action FTW. They're not going to burn down the country while I have anything to say about it. More on this in some other post.
jamesbarrett's sister Kimmie said that 2016 was the end of a 9-year cycle, which is why there were so many deaths and endings and so much loss, but that also meant that 2017 would be a year of new beginnings.  While astrology and numerology are not my particular flavor of crackpottery, I can’t deny that 2016 sure has felt like everything was crumbling around my ears. Not going to California when we originally planned to, which pushed us into the Maryland move, and the death of Buddha all hit me hard. Seeing the end of the first administration in my life that I actually liked the President was going to be tough; seeing him replaced by somebody so obviously The Worst Possible Candidate For the Job just hurts.
But these things all happened and can't be undone. I've had my disappointment and my grief and my rage. While there may be emotional aftershocks, the end of November made a sea change in Laurie and me, and I am excited and ready for the things we’ve got coming up in the year ahead. If 2017 is indeed the year of new beginnings, let's make it the beginning of something amazing.
 This is based on numerology: 2016 breaks down to 2 + 0 + 1 + 6 = 9. 2017 will be 2 + 0 + 1 + 7 = 10, 1 + 0 = 1. Thus 2016 is the end of the current cycle and 2017 is the beginning of the next one.
As you may have heard, yesterday was a rough day, art wise. It was in fact my worst convention day in 16 years of being a furry artist. After a full day at the table in Artist Alley (usually where I do best at Midwest Furfest), I had received a total of one commission, and sold one button. My daily total was less than the person next to me was charging (and receiving) for a print.
It was... odd. I had people stop and say hello, some of whom had fond memories of having read Suburban Jungle in the past, and others who saw the comics for the first time and loved the art style. But then they walked away and bought art from someone else.
By the time the room closed, I was in a state of exhausted disbelief. As I put it at the time, "Furry fandom, did I do something to you that I just don't know about?" Even my earliest fledgeling attempts to run a table before Kerry joined the scene were never this pitiful.
But then a strange thing happened; after the room closed, people started wanting commissions. XD My friend Axiom asked for badges, and one of my online readers who has friends attending the con commissioned me on Twitter with the intent of sending them to pick them up at my table today. It wasn't a huge pile of work, but it was something at least, and a nice pump-primer for what will hopefully be a good day today.
It was a weird day. XD And one that I'm not eager to repeat– the gut-punched feeling I had wandering around after the table closed was not a healthy mindspace– but at the end of the day I was reminded that I am lucky to have friends and fans, and I am going to keep making stuff as awesome as I can.
Three Good Things For Today
- Wrote almost all of a novel summary for NaNoWriMo. Still needs the last act and chapter/scene breakdowns, but I think I may have the workings of a real book here. ^.^
- Submitted dealer table application for AnthroCon.
- Actually put up a (very small) Suburban Jungle update for tomorrow.
- Bonus Good Thing! TwitterPonies fun. :)
Three Goals For Tomorrow
- Find and apply for three jobs.
- Finish novel summary.
- Resolve prescriptions weirdness.
G'nite world, and have an awesome tomorrow. I love ya. <3
I am askew. And last night was the worst of it. Today was to some extent a sick day, although I didn't officially label it as such and like a nitwit tried to actually be productive in the morning. By lunchtime, I knew that wasn't going to happen.
But, with years of practice, I can feel this evening that the worst is over (for now) and I am starting the climb back up out of the hole. Assuming I can shove myself into bed early and get some proper sleep tonight, I will be back to being myself in the morning. At which time, I will want to have a plan so I don't end up just pfutzing around. To that end, here's this week's Too Much To Do List:
- Work up the "Langley the Lifeguard" idea for Roar 8.
- Find a "non-steampunk" tarot app to facilitate the "tarot as story prompt" idea.
- Find old "story vault" file and transfer to Google drive.
- Work on Issue 5.
- Furplanet commish.
- Let Man In Amber percolate on the back burner a while.
- Do some meditation not related to past-life regression.
That should keep me busy for a while. If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna curl up with Tumblr and look at KorrAsami and AppleDash stuff for the rest of the night and get all the feels.
Hey, hey! Every once in a random period, I put up a little post welcoming my new readers and keeping everyone abreast of what’s coming up!
Welcome New Readers!
<3 <3 <3
…Not a lot more to say about that, actually. Got questions? Comments? Suggestions? I’d love to hear ’em, in the comments or via e-mail (thegneech at gmail dot com)! I’d also love to know how you came to be here. Suburban Jungle? Are you a Twitter follower? WHOOOO ARRRRRE YOOOOU?
Suburban Jungle Issue Five!
The cover is up! I’m going start drawing pages this week, with my current plan being for the issue to begin running September 5. I’m not going to set that date into stone yet tho, just in case things randomly go pear-shaped, as they have a tendency to do around here.
Sky Pirates of Calypsitania and NaNoWriMo
There is some hopeful activity on the novel front! Alas, I can say no more for fear of jinxing it, but I am excited and hope it works out! In the meantime, I am working on an outline for a sequel novel, under the working title of Eternal Promises, with an eye towards writing the actual manuscript (or at least large chunks of it) over the course of NaNoWriMo. (Which means, among other things, I need to get as much of issue five done as possible by the end of October!) Eternal Promises will finally bring the intended-but-never-produced first story from Arclight Adventures to the light of day, which makes me happy.
Overwatch Play of the Game Badges and Videos
There are only a few badge commissions left, but I do have a complete “Victory Poses Plus Badges” group commission that I will be trying to finish over August and September. (Because let’s face it, I won’t be drawing enough, right? ¬.¬ ) I only have footage for one more Learning Not to Suck at Overwatch video right now, which will probably go up sometime this week, but I imagine that series will be going for a bit longer. I’d love to know what (if anything) people think of it, beyond the obvious “There’s a watermark on the video and your microphone is wonky.” Think of those elements as… uh… charmingly kitschy? I don’t have the budget to fix them at the moment. 😉
My next convention will be Midwest Furfest in December, where you should be able to find me in the Artist Alley most of the time. Due to budget constraints, I am currently trying to find someone to take over my Dragon*Con room; if that doesn’t happen, it’s entirely possible I’ll end up going to that as well, even though I really can’t afford it, on the grounds that the money is committed so I might as well enjoy it.
So that’s the State of the Gneech at the moment. Busy, busy, busy, but creating a lot of stuff that I hope you’ll check out and enjoy. Life is good.
Contact Jacky Paisley
- Deposit checks
- Resolve insurance
- Pick up prescriptions
RH Bonus Stuff
- PotG badges to Patreon?
- Lia commish
- Sky Pirates agent pitches, round three
- Redliox potg badge
- Gryphon_2 potg badge (need refs!)
- Welof potg badge
- Loupy potg badge
- Script for issue five
- Mail Kamau's power cord
- FurPlanet commish
- Sky Pirates 2 outline
Record footage for "Learning Not to Suck at Overwatch"
- Clean up gneech.com bibliography, about page, and categories
- Clean sinks
That should keep me busy for at least the afternoon. ¬.¬
Given that I have been operating on poor sleep, trying to bang out content as quickly as I can while coping with moving (again) and a broken toe, AnthroCon went quite well. ^.^' It was great as always to see Sirfie, Andrew, Kamau, Inkblitzer, T'Chall, Tieran, Zia, Spiritwolf (briefly), and all my other usual con besties, plus meeting new folks. Sales were strong on Friday, dead on Saturday (probably a symptom of the out-of-control parade), and decent on Sunday. The Play of the Game badges were a hit, which is a good thing, because a fair amount of the sales I made were for post-con commissions of them, rather than stuff at the table. If I'd stuck to my usual policy of "no post-con commissions," it would have been another year of lackluster numbers.
I'm not sure where that puts me in terms of future cons. I'm making mid-2000's money with mid-2010's expenses, which means I'm still slightly ahead of the game but travel takes more of a toll than it used to and as fewer of my old pals go to cons, the less of a party from start to finish it all becomes. Plus, there is a definite generational shift: the time of the internet being a haven for techy people and ham radio nerds from the Radio Shack era is over, and a more mainstream audience is moving in. When Gilbert and Sullivan references and jokes about object permanence go over the audience's head, it's a lot harder for me to relate. It's not "You kids get off my lawn!" so much as "Wow, I need to figure out how to get with it."
Anyway, here are a few more random notes from the con for my own future reference:
- Needed more business cards. Usually people don't want 'em. This time I ran out. Go fig. I also need cards WITH THE COMIC ON THEM.
- The more "general geekdom" buttons moved better than the furry ones. Again, go fig. Gaming jokes and the snarky buttons were the order of the day.
- As issues and button designs build up, table real estate is becoming a real issue. I was seriously encroaching on Sirfie's space this time, even tho he was very gracious about it. Is there some kind of vertical display option for the buttons? And I need to take that magazine rack.
- The "beachy decor" effect of the crates is lost when they're just covered up with signs and displays anyway. Some kind of lighter and easier-to-tote display is required.
- Standing poster! Instead of the full-size Tiffany banner, free-standing poster displays are more effective and probably easier to schlep around, while still creating a high-impact look. Smaller banners that could hang on the display (a la LizardBeth's banner) are also a good option. The chalkboards/whiteboards are still good options as well but will need some way to be mountable. (The velcro works on the crates, but will it work on wire displays?)
- How do I improve my at-the-table art so I can charge more? I'm almost never happy with my real media work and feel cheesy charging rates that make the time invested worth it. Short of taking laptop, tablet, and inkjet printer to the con to do digital art at the table, how do I address this?
- AnthroCon's dealer room has become so immense and diffused. I get lost in the crowd! Would I do better at smaller cons?
BronyCon and... Blugh!
Usually after a con I tend to have a period I refer to as "con bounce," where I'm all excited and energized and I want to Do All the Things! This time, alas, not so much, or at least, what there is, has been delayed. The week immediately following the con was largely spent recuperating, which I blame mostly on the heat, bad sleep, and gimping around Pittsburgh on a broken toe. I was mostly better by Friday, but lythandra came down with a nasty stomach bug and was incommunicado while a very kind fan came over and dropped a crazy gaming rig on my head.
On Saturday, Laurie was feeling better so we headed over to Baltimore to do a bit of ghosting at BronyCon. I have somewhat mixed feelings about "brony" fandom generally, but I gotta say I was much more impressed by this one than by the last one I attended. Nevertheless, the trip was draining for both of us– Laurie because she was recovering from her stomach bug, and me because... well, I was coming down with her stomach bug. -.-
Sunday's activities are best left without elaboration. Suffice to say it was not a good day, and now I need to eat some yogurt. ¬.¬
Do All the Things!
So yesterday and today are all about recovery, and reclaiming my con bounce. And just in time, too, 'cos I have to do All the Things. Look at all the things I have to do!
- Play of the Game Badges:
RJ, Salen,Snowdrift, Jell-O Blue, Gryphon_2.
- Other Post-Con Commissions: Lia, Redliox
- Write issue five
- Continue marketing Sky Pirates (six rejections down, ____ to go)
- Come up with and start writing another book
- Get my medical insurance sorted (again)
- Get followup x-rays on my toe
- Find some way to get D&D happening again
- Mail Kamau's power strip back to him
...And that's just Tuesday. ¬.¬
Okay, I exaggerate, some of that can go to Wednesday if it has to. ¬.¬
Point is, I've got a lot to do, and I can't do it if I'm a) lying around listening to my insides gurgle, or b) moping. So that con bounce is badly needed!
Where My Ponies At?
A vaguely-related thread to some of the points made above is a seismic shift taking place in the TwitterPonies and pony fandom generally. Every fandom has a life cycle, and as the show "finishes" more and more threads, a certain sense of "winding down" becomes inevitable. I have many thoughts and feelings about this, which I am going to have to let brew for another post, I think. But I will say that one of the reasons I have been cultivating other interests (e.g., Overwatch) is that I think we are nearing the point where MLP is going to return to its pre-FIM status as one of the many quiescent-but-everpresent "background fandoms" like Lion King or Sailor Moon, except a little more prominently than its previous standing... at least until the 2021 reboot.
C'est la vie!
Play of the Game Badge: RJ by the-gneech on DeviantArt
Every once in a while the universe goes, "Oh by the way, HERE." And while I'm always very grateful for these episodes, I am also very baffled and left feeling vaguely like something is out of order somewhere. In this particular case, a very kind TwitterPonies fan, upon hearing of my constant battles with the rapidly-failing MACH5, made a new and way better computer appear as if by magic today. Dubbed KITT, as it is all black and mysterious except for a single red light on the front, it is actually the second computer of mine by that name. And, not gonna lie, it's very nice. ^.^'
So, true to my word, I jumped into PVP in Overwatch tonight, after a few AI matches to get a feel for the new machine.
Sooooo smooooth. O.o I dunno what the framerate was, but it was like watching a very peculiar Pixar movie. I only won one match... but the defeats were gorgeous to watch. XD
I didn't spend the whole day on that, tho. As you can see, I completed the first of my "Play of the Game" badge commissions today. Tomorrow I'll try to bang out another if I can, but I'm also thinking of heading over to Baltimore tomorrow to catch lunch with some folks at BronyCon. I was considering a Saturday pass to poke around the con itself, but $50 is kinda steep for what I would get out of it. Lunch with friends is more than sufficient instead. :)
Tomorrow night, I hope to do some online gaming, in the form of Cards Against Humanity and possibly Quiplash if I can rustle up enough players. And if not... well... I can run Overwatch now. Whenever I want. No crashing.
-The Gneech, now idea how he got so lucky
AnthroCon was cool and fun and a con; it wasn't the best one ever, but it was far from the worst one either. It was a fairly condensed con, in that I didn't do a lot of going around to see and hang out with people, or ranging all over Pittsburgh for weird dinner events. It was pretty much "sit at the table all day, hang out in the Zoo at night."
Sales were quite good on Friday. Saturday was almost completely flat (which I blame mostly on the Parade That Wouldn't Die), and Sunday picked up a bit. The net result was a solid but unspectacular con business-wise. That's a slight uptick from the "disappointing" trend the cons have had for the past few years, so I'll take it. :)
There was no major discernible trend this year; there was some Zootopia stuff of course, but nowhere near as much as I expected, and a few folks doing stuff with Overwatch besides me, but no obvious "Year of the Ponies" or "Everything Undertale" moments.
So, like I say, a good con. And that was the last major thing on my agenda until Dragon*Con, so... all that "stuff I will take care of after AnthroCon"? You're up next.
Starting tomorrow. ¬.¬
From the “Ideas I Wish I’d Had a Month Before AnthroCon Instead of Two Days” Department…
Yeah, so, Overwatch has been eating my brain. ^.^’ What can I say, it’s an awesome game! So I want an excuse to do art related to it. 😉 Badges! Who doesn’t love badges?
But yeah, the flyer pretty much says it all. $30 gets a glossy photo-quality printed badge in holder mailed anywhere in the U.S., or $25 gets a high-res file so you can print out your own. And if you’re one of my Patreon supporters you get $10 off!
To claim one, you can leave a comment here, or you can e-mail me via thegneech at gmail dot com. Gamsa!
Anyway, all week I've had as a to-do item "Three Good Things" post. But what's been happening is that at night I'm fighting to force myself to go to bed much against my will, which means I don't have a "wind down" routine so much as a "knock myself down" routine... and so the "Good Things" post doesn't happen because it's 2 a.m. and I have been trying to make myself go to bed for hours.
I blame Overwatch. :P But that's for another discussion.
So I decided that today I would simply list a ton of good stuff that's happened to me recently, in no particular order, and with no numerical limit. Most of this is very personal/self-centered stuff rather than any sort of "greater good," but that's okay. Sometimes things that are just good for me, are good enough.
- The weather has been crazy nice for most of May/June. This sounds trivial, but given the strong correlation between my energy level/mood and sunny days, it's a lot bigger than it may seem. It's weird, I can sometimes wake up and somehow know, just from how bleah I feel, that it's a cloudy day outside.
- I've been having fun playing Overwatch. This is a little more of a mixed bag because I've also been very frustrated with my computer trying to play Overwatch. The thing crashes five times out of six tries, and I don't currently have the funds to replace it. XD So it can be kind of frustrating to spend 50 minutes rebooting for every 10 minutes playing, but when the computer gets into a long "working" streak, Overwatch is a lot of fun. This leads to my next item...
- People are being super-generous about helping with the computer problem. A fan who prefers to remain anonymous is upgrading his own computer to a super-high-end model and basically giving me most of his previous one, which is still a giant step up from the one I'm currently using. All I have to provide is a copy of Windows and a video card, and that I can afford to do. ^.^ He's currently talking about handing it off to me at BronyCon, which is July 9-10. Another friend has given me a full license for Team Fortress 2, on the grounds that Overwatch is basically a newer version of that, to play in the meantime. XD
- Finished issue four! It'll be at AnthroCon! Rough Housing is starting to build up a body of work finally. ^.^
- AnthroCon is next weekend! I get to see a bunch of my furry pals and do arts and get commissions and stuff!
- We're moved! We've got the furniture all in place, curtains up and art on the walls. There's still settling in to be done, especially in the office and library because we don't use those rooms as much, but we do at least have the beginnings of a home going on.
- My heart ablation surgery was a complete success! I haven't had any afib since March, and as of this week, I am off the heart meds. In as much as afib ever gets "cured," this is it.
- My toe is healing nicely. I did cringe a bit when the doctor said it might need a pin, but then the x-rays came back that the joint was fine and that all I have to do is keep taping it up and wearing this silly shoe-brace-thing for a few more weeks. I'll probably be alternating between it and a regular shoe at AC, particularly for driving and/or if the weather is rainy.
- This video. Just... this video.
So... yeah. Some good stuff has been happening. I'm sure there's more than I've remembered to post here, but I am a lion of little brain and things fall out of it a lot. I'm going to try to be more regular about posting good things on a regular basis, but that requires not fighting to force myself to go to bed. So... we'll see. ;P
DVaGneech and TracerBlitz by the-gneech on DeviantArt
Taking a little break from Ghostbusters  to get into Overwatch. This is a fun action-oriented online game from Blizzard (makers of World of Warcraft ) which is being described as a “hero shooter.”
What’s a “hero shooter”? I have to admit I barely understand the term myself. The shooter part is easy– the controls and interface are standard FPS. The “hero” part apparently refers to the fact that instead of controlling a single player avatar or character, you choose from a variety of characters depending on the needs of the team and the situation. So if your team needs a damage dealer to lead an assault, you might choose the jetpack-boosting soldier, but if they need to defend a point you might choose the sniping archer.
Overwatch has 21 characters currently, broadly grouped into “offense,” “defense,” and “support,” with subcategories of “tank,” “builder,” and “sniper.” Gameplay is fast and woolly: you are grouped up with five other players (either friends you’ve pre-grouped with or randomly-selected players of a similar level/rank) and tossed into an arena against a team of six other randomly-selected players (or AI foes of choosable difficulty). There are basically two missions currently: conquer waypoints, or escort/deny a moving payload.
I’m told it’s somewhat like Team Fortress 2, but as I’ve never played that, I can’t address it.
Now normally this isn’t the sort of thing I would expect to get into, being pretty much all action and no plot. The “payload” being delivered or blocked isn’t even identified beyond being a thing on a truck (it looks vaguely like a giant electromagnet). And I couldn’t tell you what made me interested in checking it out, other than a vague hole in my nerdery where LotRO and Borderlands used to be. But once I decided I wanted to play it, I found myself going on a long and painful journey into the underworld, by which I mean Windows gaming.
The Exciting Adventure of Gneech vs. His Computer
My gaming PC was quite beefy once upon a time. Specifically, around 2008 or so when I bought it to be an awesome platform for playing Lord of the Rings Online. It served me well in that capacity for a long time, and it never had the slightest problem with Borderlands 2, so I fully expected it to be capable of running Overwatch.
Ha, ha, silly me. How was I to know that Microsoft and/or NVidia had imposed mandatory retirement on my video card? (In fairness, the card design is 10+ years old, which is a very long time in the world of computers. But the thing still works! Assuming the fan motor stayed good it’d probably keep on working for 10 more years if the software would support it.) After much wailing and gnashing of teeth about not being able to afford a contemporary gaming rig, I finally took a gamble and bought a new card, basically a 2014-ish version of the same card. Any better/more powerful? Not really, as far as I can see, but it has DirectX 12 drivers, which the old one doesn’t, and that’s what was required for Overwatch to work.
However, the new card and the old system don’t really get along very well. Windows keeps polling the card like the guy in Smooth Criminal: “Video are you okay, are you okay, are you okay video? Video are you okay, are you okay, are you okay video?” But the video card, trying valiantly to render things the game is throwing at it, doesn’t answer quickly enough, so Windows decides, “Oh, the video card must have crashed, let’s reset it.” Which kills the driver, and by extension, kills the game. Usually about 10-30 seconds before the end of the match I’m currently in. -.-
Now this PC (currently on Win 7) is eligible for an upgrade to Windows 10, so I thought that might fix it. I tried to upgrade to 10 before, only to have it keep crashing on the old card, which was not supported by Windows 10 because reasons. I figured, “New card! Specifically states compatible with Windows 10 on the box! Maybe this will fix everything!”
Ha, ha, silly me. So I upgraded to Windows 10… which absolutely refused to acknowledge that there was any graphics card at all other than “Generic Display Adapter.” And you know what Generic Display Adapters don’t do very well? Render 3D objects. So, while I did eventually get Overwatch up and running under Windows 10, it was completely unplayable.
So… finally… I rolled back to Windows 7, and I’m living with a 40% chance that any given match will cause my computer to crash. 😛 The (relatively) good news is that if it’s going to crash, it usually does it early on. If I can get past five minutes in the game, it’ll probably be stable until the end of the session.
I have had a fan very generously offer to build me a new machine and bring it to BronyCon in July, for which I’m super-grateful! Let’s face it, if the worst thing about the whole situation is that I have to wait a little over a month to reliably play the most current video game, I have it pretty damn good.
The Exciting Adventure of Tracer’s Butt
Although the gameplay is fun and engaging in a pure-action kind of way, it’s really the art and character design that appeals to me about Overwatch, as evidenced by the pic at the top of my buddy Inkblitzer and me rendered as D.Va and Tracer, respectively.
And honestly, even then it’s only a few of the characters who stand out. Certainly none of the male ones: with the exception of Winston (who is still basically Beast from the X-Men) they’re all the same tired old tropes of “Weary Soldier,” “Sheriff Shooty McCowboy,” “Wangsty Grim Samurai,” “Cackling NOT-the-Joker With a Bomb” and so on. But Tracer, the game’s mascot, is a Peter Pan-style gadfly who teleports around poking her enemies with sticks (well, bullets, but still). D.Va, my particular fave, is a Korean gamer girl with a bunny on her chest and a giant pink mech who flings herself into crowds of enemies like an enormous bowling ball, knocking them all for a loop. Finally there’s Zarya, who is basically a Rule 63 version of The Heavy from Team Fortress, who deadlifts her giant plasma gun in character introduction screens and regularly invites everyone to the gun show.
The prominence of female characters in the game (and quite probably the fact that they’re way more interesting than the male characters) has of course led to all sorts of internetty nonsense about it all, most famously about a victory pose for Tracer that people decried as being too much about showing off her butt when the character generally isn’t sexualized otherwise. Given that Widowmaker (super-cliche femme fatale sniper in a skintight bodysuit) is all about her catwalk strut, and that Mercy (the healer who literally has wings and a halo) is all “tender goddess,” the complaint was basically “Can we have one female character who is not primarily rendered in terms of the male gaze for a change?”
Blizzard, to their credit, said, “it’s a fair cop” and changed the victory pose, but by then the dweeby fanboys had latched onto the whole business of butts, which can make looking for Overwatch fan art an exercise in eye-rolling as you encounter one “Durr hurr hurr!” Tracer’s Butt piece after another. :-` It’s a minor nuisance, but still causes side-eyes around a character who is otherwise fun and engaging.
Still! It’s a minor issue at best and doesn’t really impact gameplay. So far everyone I’ve encountered actually in the game has been either typically uncommunicative (it’s hard to type in the team channel and shoot at the same time) or has been very nice, with few or no dickweeds encountered so far. While the basics of the game are simple, actually going up against live players is incredibly challenging– I finally had my first victory last night, and it was very satisfying to finally feel like I was getting somewhere after my first attempts were so sad. The game rewards study and perseverance, and that’s a nice feeling I’ve been lacking for some time.
Will I still be playing in six months? I have no idea. Will anyone? It depends on where the game goes, if indeed it goes anywhere. People have been playing Team Fortress 2 for something like a decade now with no signs of stopping. With no single-player story to “beat,” the only way to play the game is in matches with other players, which can be a blessing and a curse. There is no real finish to the game, which means you don’t get people going through the single-player, being “done,” and wandering off. On the other hand, if it gets to the point where players become scarce and every match is made up of one or two humans and a bunch of AI foes, it could become a ghost town real quick.
It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out! And it’s nice to be in on something new for a change. 😉
 Sort of. The first draft is actually finished and I’ll keep posting about it in a day or two.
 Can you believe there’s a movie coming out for that? XD It actually looks pretty entertaining in its own schlocky way.
So sometime last week Matt Trepal (creator of Fight Cast or Evade) pointed me at a writing technique called “7-Point Structure.” It’s not that far removed from the Snowflake Method/Five Act Structure I’ve already been using, but it is different enough that it can give you new insights on a story.
The best breakdown of it I’ve found comes from the person who first popularized it, Dan Wells, and you can see that here:
In order to sort of teach myself the ins and outs of it, I decided to make a 7-point breakdown of Zootopia, as that’s fresh in my mind and a remarkably-tight story considering the “toss everything out and start again” way it came together. I mentioned it on Twitter and had several folks express interest, so I’ve decided to post it here, because I love you.
WARNING! ZOOTOPIA SPOILERS AHEAD! BECAUSE DUH.
This discussion assumes you already have the gist of 7-point structure. If not, go watch those videos and come back. 😉 Also, Zootopia (in italics) refers to the story/movie, while Zootopia (not in italics) refers to the city itself.
As John Lasseter so aptly put it, Zootopia‘s real subject is bias, both how it effects people and how they deal with it. As I started dissecting Zootopia I rapidly came to the conclusion that it has three major arcs, to wit Judy Hopps’ arc, Nick Wilde’s arc, and an overall Zootopia’s Promise arc. They are all connected by bias: Judy’s having to cope with bias against the idea of a bunny cop as well as her own bias on the subject of foxes, Nick having internalized the bias against foxes as well as his own bias on the subject of Zootopia’s failure to live up to its own ideals, and all of Zootopia’s struggle with the messy intersection of its stated ideals and the reality of life.
In light of that, the true plot points of Zootopia aren’t necessarily a simple list of “A happened, then B happened, then C happened” but of the characters’ progression. Zootopia is a character-based story, not an event-based one. And here’s how it falls out:
|Starting Point||Hopps: Hopps is discounted as a police officer (by Bogo and Nick)|
|Nick: Nick is convinced there’s no point to being anything but “a shifty fox”|
|Zootopia: Zootopia claims to be “where anybody can be anything” but is far from that in reality|
|Plot Turn 1||Hopps and Nick: Hopps recruits Nick to help her search for Emmet|
|Zootopia: 14 animals are missing|
|Pinch 1||Hopps and Nick: Captured by Mr. Big|
|Zootopia: Manches goes savage|
|Midpoint||Hopps: Nick stands up to Bogo for Hopps|
|Nick: Hopps saves Nick’s life during the Manches chase and shows him respect and compassion|
|Zootopia: Lionheart is arrested, revealing that all the missing animals are predators turned savage|
|Pinch 2||Hopps: Hopps resigns from ZPD in despair|
|Nick: Nick feels betrayed and breaks off his friendship w/ Hopps|
|Zootopia: Zootopia is violent and full of prejudice|
|Plot Turn 2||Hopps: Hopps figures out the mystery|
|Nick: Nick realizes Hopps truly values his friendship and forgives her|
|Zootopia: Bellweather’s plot is revealed|
|Resolution||Hopps and Nick: They become respected police and equal partners|
|Zootopia: Zootopia lives up to its promise, even though “life is messy”|
The way the 7-point structure works is that you start with your desired end state and from there you make the start the opposite of that. Thus, if the end state is “Judy and Nick are partners and Zootopia is making progress on its ideals” then the beginning has to be “Judy and Nick are enemies and Zootopia is failing or actively working against its ideals.” In this particular case, it’s Bellweather who’s actively working against Zootopia’s ideals, but she wouldn’t be able to succeed if the rest of the city didn’t already have the underlying tensions that she exploits.
Each plot turn or pinch, therefore, is a stepping stone from the starting point to the resolution. An interesting thing to note is that a lot of scenes or moments that stand out about Zootopia do not actually register in terms of plot: the character of Flash for instance, while an awesome piece of set dressing, doesn’t really impact the story at all except as a plot device to burn up some of Judy’s timer and add dramatic tension to the “Nick stands up to Bogo” moment. The character of Gazelle, despite her incredibly catchy song, is not important to the plot at all except as a sort of mouthpiece for the ideals that Zootopia is failing to live up to.
This kind of analysis can show you hidden things about your story, such as empowerment issues. For instance, if you have a story full of “strong women,” but all of the plot points are driven by male characters, guess what? You still have a patriarchal story. (Not a problem in the case of Zootopia, but one I did find in another piece I applied this method to.) It can also help you boil down your story to the most essential elements, and show you where things need to be stronger.
For instance, if your resolution is “Luke becomes a fully trained Jedi” and your starting point is “Luke is a mostly-trained Jedi,” this is gonna be a pretty weaksauce arc. On the other hand, if your resolution is “Luke becomes a fully trained Jedi” and your starting point is “Luke is a powerless nobody in the middle of nowhere,” you’ve got a lot more to work with!
In the case of Zootopia, they did a really good job intertwining the characters’ arcs with the thematic (“Zootopia’s Promise”) arc. Judy and Nick have to be friends and equals at the end: therefore they have to be enemies and socially-disparate at the beginning. But the reason they are enemies is because Zootopia isn’t living up to its ideals.
Dude. That’s some tight plotting.
This, more than any adorable furry critters or catchy songs, is why Zootopia works. It’s just damn well written!
Not gonna lie: I felt kinda gut-punched by the initial appearance and marketing of Zootopia. When I first came onto the furry scene, I had friends working at Disney who lived in constant fear they would be “outed” as furries and get fired. So now, 15 years later, to have Disney release a movie that is clearly aimed at furries but still didn’t want to name them as such (remember the “What Is Anthropomorphic” trailer), about a fox and a rabbit teaming up? Tell me that doesn’t sound like The Lion King : Kimba :: Zootopia : Kevin and Kell.
And then to see a promo poster with a big ol’ pair of furry faces and the caption “WELCOME TO THE URBAN JUNGLE”? It was real hard not to take that personal. It felt like Disney saw furry conventions bringing piles of money in to convention hosting cities and charity auctions and thought, “Hey, why isn’t that money coming to us instead?” It also felt like people like Bill Holbrook, Uncle Kage, and me had spent years working to de-stigmatize the furry genre, only to have Disney swoop in and reap the rewards.
But the movie received out of this world reviews, even for the usual softball of a Disney movie, and everyone I knew who saw it loved it. I knew that I was going to end up seeing it eventually anyway, so I went ahead and did on Saturday.
Well, I’m pleased to announce that I was wrong. This is not “furry being co-opted.” This is, “furry has arrived.”
Zootopia, from the train with separated compartments based on passenger size, to the themes of speciesism, to the surprisingly biting social commentary, is legit furry literature of the best kind. The filmmakers didn’t just take someone else’s work and throw a billion dollars at making it pretty, they took the furry premise and made something new, original, and beautifully realized.
So, all objections withdrawn. Go see it! In the meantime, I’ll just leave this here for you to consider (beware spoilers).