Friday, 23 January 2015

Was I expecting too much when I wished that the next on screen incarnation of Storm would be a good one? That X-Men: Age of Apocalypse director Bryan Singer would choose an actress  better suited to the rebooted role than Halle Berry? An actress who could act, and who would do her research to learn what Storm is about and thereby approach the character with pride, instead of the contempt that Berry initially offered in her phoned-in performance? Whatever her motivation, I’m glad Berry changed her tune once she came to understand how popular the X-Men actually are. But I still revelled in that blessed moment in X-Men: Days of Future Past when Berry’s Storm was finally removed from this pained existence—even if only for a brief moment.

Monday, 19 January 2015

In grade six, there were two Commodore-64’s in the classroom, and if we did all our work, then we had a chance to play one of the three games available. I used to do my work extra fast so I could score extra time. Because I really needed to pense the bunnies. Little did I know at the time, that when I ventured Below the Root with the Windham Classics game, I was paving the way to my love of roleplaying games.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Last year, I wrote a piece where I selected Captain America over Superman as representative of what it means to be an inspiring, benevolent, super powered person. I based my decision on my feelings about the character of Superman, which tend to lean towards that of Lex Luthor. I appreciate that Superman does wonderful things for the human race, but continue to ask myself “why?”

Sunday, 11 January 2015
Sunday, 4 January 2015
When my daughters (6 and 9) saw the trailer for Annie, the first words out of their mouths were "She looks like us!"

Those words made my heart burst.

When I go to the movies, read books or comics, or watch television shows, I am acutely aware of the fact that I rarely survive apocalypses, I'm the first to die -- especially if I get a close up, it's unrealistic to have me live in the same part of town as dragons. I am a slave, a thug, a maid. I'm just a token, a sidekick, maybe even an exotic girlfriend.

I hate that this is what I see when I am meant to be entertained. I hate that it's the first thing on my mind.

But for my daughters, when I took them to see Annie, they got to see themselves in a role that any little girl could play. With no psychological baggage attached. My wish for them is to be able to see lots more movies like this where everyone has a place.

It was very important for me to take them to see this movie. Specifically for them to see it in the theatre where my wallet could speak to the fact that people will watch movies with PoC leads. Movies that aren't just about the "black experience," but are movies that everyone can empathize with and enjoy.

After all, as much as Hollywood feels it's a risk to cast PoC leads who aren't firmly established, ultimately, the only colour the big execs understand is green.

Was this a great movie? No, it wasn't fantastic, though Quvenzhané Wallis most certainly was. Technically speaking, the choreography was lacking and the sound editing was off and the characters were shallow and there was too much product placement. But my opinion doesn't matter, nor do the opinions of all the critics who have had similar thoughts. My kids came out of the theatre satisfied, singing about the sun coming out tomorrow, even though we walked out into a snow storm. And so were all the other people who came out of the theatre, young and old.


Friday, 2 January 2015
Thursday, 1 January 2015
The fact that I am writing this while sitting in my bed, in my pajamas, might imply that my convictions are lacking. But if you've been following my resolutions for the past few years, you'll know that I've wisely chosen to focus my life altering plans on things that I already love doing. My resolutions aren't so much about change than they are about refinement.

Did I achieve the goals I set out last year? Well, I read books, I played games, and I wrote lots of words, so yes. Yes I did. So I will maintain this momentum with more of the same.

READING: While last year's 120 reads was a pretty solid showing, it is less than the 150 I had aimed for. This year, I'm going with 100. Then when I blow that number out of the water by the end of the year, I'll be able to walk around like an over achieving boss.

GAMING: That Steam Wall of Shame continues to grow, though at a slower pace than in the past. I only bought two new games in the recent holiday sale (mostly because the ones that tempted me turned out to be already in my library). There are some games coming out this year that I know I will be playing, such as The Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight. I need to play the prequels in preparation. Plus I want to roll through Dragon Age: Inquisition again with my dwarf. But there are other games that I want to play this year, including Valkyria Chronicles, which just landed on PC. I want to play more Indie games.

WRITING: This is where I really want to get serious. I did a lot of writing last year, including a successful ghostwriting project from which I learned a lot. Another project will hopefully come to fruition this year. I want to write more unique articles/regular features for both Women Write About Comics and The BiblioSanctum, while still keeping a few crazy ideas for my personal blog.

But my real goal for the year is to get serious about my own personal projects. I have stories that have been sitting in my head for over a decade, and while I've begun the process of getting them out of there, I really need to tighten up my focus. I want to say I need to pick one and get it done, but I tend to work well when I have multiple projects. So step one is picking, perhaps three projects. And then find a way to write more regularly and without distraction.

MISC: There are a few other things on my 2015 plans list. These are not so much resolutions, as new and continuing adventures. My husband bought me a lovely cast iron tea pot for Christmas, so I'm looking at augmenting my reading and writing moments with some lovely tea blends. My new job continues to be great and new opportunities may present themselves that I plan to jump on. I want to do some convention planning and get more out of the conventions I hope to attend. Maybe even cross the border for one.

[ETA] MUSIC:. I enjoy music, but I don't *know* music well enough. I have a few friends who are always finding me new and interesting songs, and while I do often find things through Songza or from television shows, I want to be more active about this new music procurement. Spotify's NewMusicResolution will help.

So there you have it. 2015 in a nutshell. I'm still in my pajamas. I am still in my bed. But the cool thing is that, with the magic of my laptop, my major resolutions actually don't require me to get up and/or put on pants.

2015. I got this.
Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Inspired by TF. Image source: [x]

Its wings had fluttered their last over an hour ago, but still she watched. Just in case.

Behind her, the other children continued their games of hop scotch or hide and seek or whatever else it was that made them laugh and sing and do all the things that children are supposed to do.

They invited her to their games sometimes, but the girl just ignored them until they gave up and went away. She was quite content to be on her own, though there weren’t many places on the compound to find true solitude. Still, she was good at staying out of everyone’s way, so most of the adults didn’t pay her much mind, save for the ones who always had something to say about her mother.  They couldn’t say such things to her mother directly, so they would say them where they knew the girl could hear, shaking their heads and casting glances. Pitying her.

There was one woman who still tried, though. Most often at bed time when she called the other children to her lap for story time.  That woman still looked to the girl hopefully, with her haunted eyes, wanting so much to give comfort that the girl did not need.  That woman was the one who still thought of herself as a mother, even though the last of her children had been stolen years ago. She clung to the few that were left in the compound as if they were her own, and huddled with them by the firelight at night to speak and sing of rainbows and princesses, dragons and fairies. Happiness that held no meaning in a world where monsters were real.

The girl hated bedtime. When everyone hid underground and spoke in hushed voices, just loud enough to drown out the incessant buzz of the demons that waited in the distance. The grown-ups talked and talked until the children fell asleep, sometimes daring to turn on the little music box and sing along. Anything to keep the children from hearing the nightmare.

Curfew was an hour before dusk and the girl could not disobey the silent alarm of waning sunlight that called everyone into the depths of the compound where they hoped they were safe. She hated it. The cloying stink of hope that they clung to, singing their lullabies and telling their stories. The stench of fear that made them hide instead of fight.

It was the one time the girl hated her mother—but only just a little.

The shadows shifted and the girl knew twilight was not far away. She would be called back soon.

She tapped the glass once more. The creature didn’t respond. She sucked in a breath and put a hand on the jar, then slowly tilted it on its side, then let it go. She waited, her heart racing, ignoring the light that scattered through the glass as the jar rolled away.

Stupid.

This was not one of the demons’ vessels. There was nothing to fear from a real and true butterfly, yet sweat trickled an icy path down her back as she stared at the creature with wings the colour of ash and flame. So rare to find any remnants of nature that had not been tainted by the demons’ poisons. It had taken the girl a morning of patience to capture it. She had spent the rest of the day watching it die.

And now she would watch it burn.

The lighter was already in her hand. She’d retrieved it from the pouch at her thigh without even realizing it. It was stolen, of course. Supplies were scarce. A tool like this was not meant for foolish experiments and if she were caught, she’d be punished with extra kitchen work for days. The girl didn’t mind extra kitchen work. It was an important and necessary task. But she hated that the adults thought of her investigations as silly dalliances to be punished rather than praised.  While the other children played their vapid games, she was learning how to survive in this forsaken world.

The flame flickered, pulsing softly to the beat of her heart. It was hard to drag her eyes away from it.

The shadow shifted.

The girl spun around, tucking the lighter behind her back. It was a useless action. She knew it was too late. Whomever had caught her had likely been there for long enough to know what she’d been up to. Still, her mouth opened to form her defense, then snapped shut when she saw her mother staring down at her.

People said that the girl had her father’s eyes—warm, amber fires that twinkled when he laughed. But the girl didn’t laugh. And she didn’t want her father’s eyes. Not when her mother's eyes spoke so much louder. The adults always spoke of how cold her mother’s eyes were, though they were never referring to the colour. Sometimes the girl thought her mother’s eyes could pierce darkness with their pale blue glow.

When the grown-ups looked at the girl and shook their heads, they would speak of how her mother had been different once, before the demons’ had taken her father. Before she’d lost the unborn child he left behind. The last baby that would have been born to any one for a long, long time. Their deaths had stolen her hope, the adults would say, leaving behind a shadow of a woman, and a strange child that didn't know how to smile and play.

The girl didn’t need the bedtime stories of the other children. Her mother’s eyes told her stories that meant so much more. Her mother's eyes told her how to fight. How to survive. And how to protect the people who couldn't--or wouldn't fight for themselves.

Her mother reached up with her right hand and retrieved the heavy gun over her shoulder. The girl had seen it many times. She knew exactly what it did. She understood every part, from the charred muzzle to the tank strapped to her mother's back. She had never touched it.

But she had seen its flames.

The girl stood and her mother crouched so that they were eye to eye. The sun had begun its slow descent behind the mountains. The others would be scrambling to lock themselves away from the darkness. The girl held her breath. Above the silence that hung between them, the girl could hear the buzzing sound of waking demons.

Then she saw the little twitch at the corner of her mother's lips. The woman stood, turning them both toward the gate that led out into the valley, away from stories of princes and princesses safe in their castles.

"It's time you learned how to use this."

On Fire and Wings

Posted by Wendy B
Saturday, 27 December 2014

MegaCity New Year

Posted by Wendy B
Monday, 15 December 2014
I’m finally finished with Dragon Age: Inquisition and frankly, I’m feeling pretty meh about it. There were many things the game did right or tried to do right, but ultimately, the main story and character ended up being a letdown. I feel like BioWare tried really hard to answer all the questions while still leaving themselves loopholes, but the end result is a lot of inconsistency that requires assumptions and headcanon to make everything work. A lot of people are quite happy with the story and perhaps even with their Inquisitor, but I suspect those people have not invested so much into the Dragon Age lore. I don’t profess to be an expert on the lore, but there are things that really stand out for me that make me wonder if the writers forgot to check the wiki, cross-reference each other’s work, or worse, tried to sneak in some retcons.

I think my biggest disappointment is that this was a story that placed so much emphasis on elves and elfy things. From Solas involvement, to the ancient elven ruins everywhere. Yet, as a dalish elf, I had little opportunity to explore that and was basically just an ignorant character who knew nothing and learned little more. For a non-elf, I imagine this has even less meaning, especially when it comes to interactions with Solas.

Perhaps opting to have different playable characters was the wrong decision. I think both the story and the character would have been much more powerful had elves been the only choice. Then the dialogue options could more readily help mould the character. The different race options in Origins were interesting because they had actual stories that were entwined into the game. The opening sequence for each character was unique and really helped shape the roleplaying possibilities. I originally started as a mage, and when Duncan presented an opportunity to escape the Circle, I leapt on it. But when I switched to a dalish, I found myself playing a character that hated humans, and despite the risk, refused to join the Wardens, forcing Duncan to conscript her against her will.

In Inquisition, everyone starts on the same ground, with little to their ‘origins’ as a kossith mercenary, a noble human, a dalish spy, or a Carta dwarf. There’s nothing to base the character on, as with Origins, and the dialogue options are so bland that they don’t allow for much shaping of a personality, as with Hawke (or Shepard). Buuut I am sure there would be far more people complaining about being stuck playing a tattooed knife-ear savage.

SPOILERS BEYOND

This was Hawke’s fight

Players came to accept that our Warden was mysteriously missing when it came to DA2. Hawke took up the torch and did a fantastic job of becoming an endearing new protagonist for the series. The Inquisitor? Not so much.

Not to mention the fact that the game wants to tell me that my Warden and Hawke were negligent for not following up on their respective issues of darkspawn and mage/templar wars. I appreciate that Cassandra sort of addresses this in her table flipping rant about the fact that she had actually been in Kirkwall hoping to convince Hawke to lead the Inquisition. But the Warden’s letter basically just says “Was researching ancient darkspawn. Found nothing. Sorry.” (As far as my headcanon goes, my Warden was busy running around Antiva with Zevran and then becoming Keeper of her dalish clan, among other things. At least that’s a better excuse for being absent and useless.)

So instead, we get the Inquisitor, who basically just got lost at the conclave while searching for the bathroom, and stumbled onto Corypheus’ ritual. Then goes on to become the Mary Sue messiah. Other than some Chantry complaints and of course the bad guy, there’s very little opposition to the Inquisitor. No challenge that she can’t talk down with a few simple dialogue options. Everyone loves the Inquisitor means very little drama and conflict outside of fighting bad guys.

Old God Soul or Bust

We still don’t really have an answer to the importance of Old Gods to the Witches of the Wilds. If there is no dark Ritual Kieran, then there’s no Old God soul, and nothing for Flemeth to be interested in.

Special Snowflake Cory

As the first darkspawn, he’s allowed to have extra and unknown powers, sure, but he just started making them up along the way, with someone conveniently calling them out and explaining them without anything but assumption to go on, until the voices from the Well of Sorrows to confirm the theories. For example, when Cory is exploded at the temple, he pops out of a dead Grey Warden and Morrigan quickly theorizes that he must be able to do this with blighted bodies, including darkspawn. Presumably this is to explain how he escapes after Hawke kills him. And yet, we learn later that he’s only able to do this because he is horcruxing the not-archdemon (which Morrigan also conveniently identifies in that scene, as does Dorian in random party chatter).

“Oops” -Solas

With Solas being all shifty and flakey all the time with my elf, his greater involvement was suspected early on. My friend jokingly called the Dread Wolf reveal, and was shocked to find that she was right. The after credits scene certainly leaves a lot of interesting questions. But it also leaves a lot of WTF questions. As in, Solas, baby, how did you wake up and think it was okay to hand your Orb of Destruction to the guy who wants to be a god? But hey, he’s here to make amends now for the sake of his people, and he’s so impressed with how well my Inquisitor dalishes, so I’m sure interesting things will come in DA4: Elf Upliftification, when all the elven lore won't be a disorganized mess of vagueries and maybes, and dalish won't be quite so ignorant.

Timey Whimey Things

Go after the mages and you end up tossed a year into the future where Corypheus has taken over and the world is shit. The key factor? Corypheus orchestrating the assassination of Empress Celene of Orlais. When the Inquisitor returns, we basically learn that the whole point of traveling in time is to find out about this assassination. Because there was no other way or reason to head over to Orlais for support? How about: we need Orlais’ support, especially with the whole Chantry falling apart business. So head over to the party to talk to the empress, then get caught up in an assassination plot that may or may not have something to do with Corypheus. The end result of stopping the assassination and dealing with their throne issue? An Orlesian alliance. No weak and lazy time travel plot device required.

The War Table

Mass Effect 3’s war table and assets were useless. They were just numbers on a chart and then a few cutscenes during the final battle. I love the interactivity with the DAI war table as well as the ongoing contribution of the agents and allies we gather. And actually having them there in the battle, actually doing something? Stellar.

Cerberus Rogue Faction Syndrome

I will forgive the entire concept of resurrecting a bad guy – even the fact that said bad guy is from DLC that many players might not have played. The Keep provided an excellent opportunity to sneak Corypheus back in without giving away BioWare’s plans. But why do we need a cult of evil to be his minions? Corypheus can mimic the Calling and bring Grey Wardens in to do his bidding. There was ample opportunity to expand on that (thereby providing greater opportunity for the player’s Warden to do more).

Frankly, we could just have had more Tevinter in general. If they found a way to appease the Qunari with, say, a treaty (which seems to have worked with all the other nations), then the Imperium could turn their eyes to Orlais who would then be in need of support (see above re: better reasons to go to an Orlesian party). Tevinter would love a chance to return to its original state of glory and Corypheus whispering promises of such would be perfect motivation for many of them, rather than just a handful of fanatics. The fall of the Thedas Chantry would also be an excellent opportunity for the Black Divine to pounce, plus the displaced and disgruntled mages, as shown in the game, would be enticed by the prospect of going to a land where mages are respected and allowed to live freely.
I don’t hate the idea of the Venatori, per se, but much like all the Cerberus rogue faction missions in Mass Effect 3, it was a poorly implemented plot device that quickly becomes an annoyance, rather than a a well-thought out addition to the story as a whole.

Companions

Always the highlight of BioWare games. I love the depth given to the supporting cast – and to minor characters as well. Krem and Harding were instant favourites for me, but I also took the time to visit with Sutherland and his crew, Your Trainer, and Mother Giselle (who should have been Divine… How the hell did I get Leliana??). Cassandra surprised me most of all.

And while I’m unhappy that I didn’t get to have Fade sex with Solas, I really liked the way the relationship was worked into the story as a whole and hope that he and my Inquisitor can work things out.

But as the game proceeded, I realized that there actually wasn't a lot of depth to these characters and their stories. They had strong backgrounds that you could read up on in the codex and interesting personalities and interactions, but their companion missions had little follow through, and like the rest of the story, ended up feeling like it all ended too soon.

Am I being nitpicky? Of course I am. But as someone who knows a reasonable amount of the lore and will look up that which I do not know, plotholes, retcons, and inconsistencies disappoint me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for writers who create such an incredible world to pay attention to details – because in this case, I know that the BioWare writers do pay attention to the smallest detail. But it seems that in focusing too much on one, they get carried away and miss the others. I spent over 100 hours in the game, with plans to return for more, but the more is generally outside of the story. That is to say, BioWare put too much into creating this incredible open world, failing to balance that with the story and characters.

On the positive side, the lack of depth in the story and the blandness of the Inquisitor just means I’ll have to work that much harder to fill in the blanks with my headcanon.

Monday, 8 December 2014
Friday, 5 December 2014

When I was a young girl in high school collecting Terminator trading cards and working Terminator analogies into all of my grade ten English class assignments, I had a dream. It was a dream that involved cyborgs and judgment days. Self-aware computers and human resistances. I had a dream of seeing a scarred, war-hardened leader look into the eyes of the man who would become his father, and send him back through time to his death.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Whispers from the Capitol

Posted by Wendy B
Monday, 24 November 2014
These diaries will contain spoilers for Dragon Age Inquisition (DAI), as well as its predecessors, Dragon Age: Origins (DAO) and Dragon Age II (DA2), and may also contain spoilers from the tie-in materials. If you’re new to this whole Dragon Age business and want to know what the hell I’m going on about, please visit my little Dragon Age Primer to learn a bit more about BioWare’s fantasy roleplaying video game series. Not able to devote the ridiculous amount of time into leading the Inquisition yourself? Then join me on my noble journey!

Sunday, 16 November 2014
I guess they couldn't call the sequel "300:2," but I would have accepted "Previously On 300," since a good chunk of Rise of an Empire was just rehashing what good old Leonides was doing on the other side of the mountains (hint: dying). 300: Rise of an Empire is supposed to explain what caused this whole problem with the Persians, as well as tell us what is going on during and just after the sacrifice of the mighty Spartans, whose martyrdom united the rest of Greece against the god king Xerxes.
Frankly, I came here for manflesh and Xerxes, but all I got was meh. While I did appreciate Eva Green and her glorious boobs, I had to see the latter in the most purely pointless and unsexy sex scene I have ever endured this side of pornography. I managed not to sleep through it, but eventually fell asleep at the last half hour (after having my husband fastforward through the previous half hour). Normally, I'm on my husband's case for willful suspension of disbelief in movies and television, but this is one of the few movies where even I can't turn off simple logic rules and just enjoy the film. Especially when there was so little to enjoy. Characters were so dull and obvious in their plodding paths. Despite his name being repeated throughout the entire movie, I was constantly forgetting Themistocles, who apparently caused this whole war in the first place.

Previously on 300

Posted by Wendy B
Saturday, 15 November 2014
Friday, 14 November 2014
Saturday, 1 November 2014
I have been contemplating a third tattoo for a while, but until I was inspired to look up chaos theory and the butterfly effect, I finally found an image and a symbol that spoke to me. My new ink is in keeping with my zodiac theme, adding the Celtic zodiac symbol for my birth to the dragon and scorpion tattoos that I already have.

It represents something that I thought I'd lost. A rebirth, if you will. And many other things, not the least of which has a lot to do with my love of books and, subsequently, of writing.

This is my butterfly in the sky.

I also had him touch up my dragon. The one people who obviously don't know me mistakenly call a seahorse, thereby earning my secret ire.

The problem with tattoos is that they get under your skin, so to speak. My inking process has occurred three times over two decades, but now I'm already thinking about another. And another. If I'm not careful, I'll end up like my Saints Row character... although I really do like her spiderweb tat...

That's not too far off the mark though. My zodiac triptych is complete. Now I'll move on to my geekery -- specifically, gaming, and the game that started me down a long road.

I'm on an ink high, though, so I'll pace myself before committing to the needle just yet. Good thing my new tattoo artist is booked up till next year...

I should go.


Inked

Posted by Wendy B

WHAT IS THIS?

This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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