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review 2020-03-09 21:34
8-Bit Theater, Entire Series by Brian Clevinger
8 Bit Theater Vol. 1 - Brian Clevinger

'8-Bit Theater' is a sprite comic (a comic using video game 'sprites' as characters instead of unique creations) based off of the original 1987 'Final Fantasy' video game for Nintendo. It follows Black Mage, Fighter, Thief and Red Mage (helped along by the exasperated White Mage) as they trade-in on orbs 'lukewarm' with destiny to get in on a quest to become Light Warriors and defeat Chaos.

 

This was, in my opinion, the King of Sprite Comics, which, is not a whole lot of praise to be honest. Sprite comics are looked down upon in world of web comics as lacking in artistry and being plagued with lazy jokes and storytelling. I mean, this is true, but '8-Bit Theater' was a lot of fun and I ended up following it all through high school. I was pleased to discover before graduating college that it had been given a conclusion. There were so many of these comics back in the day that I used to follow, and I'm sure there are many more out there, but I don't think any of them reached the scare-quoted 'stature' and longevity that '8-Bit Theater' enjoyed.

 

In total, '8-Bit Theater' was made up of 1,224 comics, a drawn epilogue, and dozens of guest/holiday comic one-offs. Brian Clevinger has made several other comics that have been given actual acclaim, but this is the only one I really loved.

 

Now, since a stray comment reminded me of the 'armoire of invincibility' joke, I ended up re-reading the whole series. A lot has changed for me since the high school computer lab. The comics are rife with dated, classic 'nerd' sexism and mild homophobia - nothing truly toxic, after all, White Mage and Princess Sara are among the smartest characters in the series, but still it effected my enjoyment. Clevinger also used a lot of wordy, rambling humor that made many strips an exercise in patience as Red Mage or Fighter babbled on for eight panels to end in yet another face-palm sigh of exasperation from Black Mage.

 

'8-Bit Theater' in its ~8 years of publication created a rich world of insider jokes and was my first introduction into the many tropes of gaming and fantasy in general. This was a great experience and got me to play my first video game in almost a decade. I'd never played the first Final Fantasy and borrowed the upgraded edition of the game on PSP from a friend. So, an old time-waster inspired me to give up a whole weekend on a thirty year old video game. Fun!

 

But, whatever, its still pretty damn funny. It also helped that it brought back some great memories of laughing at these panels with my friends clustered around the same monitor in the computer lab. "Ye be facin' THE CLAW!" If we'd had smart phones back then, I don't know if we would have gotten anything done in high school.

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text 2020-03-01 20:29
On the use of slurs in writing

FYI - I speak from a position of privilege for I am a white woman.  

 

So this weekend an author who seems to be prone to melt downs had a melt down because a  reader noted that they took off a star in the rating for a book because of the use of homophobic slur.  This lead not only to the author's fans, friends and what not trotting out the "it's fiction but must be historically accurate point" as well as authors attacking readers, so it is the standard Indie author mess over on twitter.

 

Here's the thing.

 

Slurs hurt.  That is why they are, well, slurs.  Furthermore, it is true that most readers want a degree of historical accuracy, they are also well aware that it is not going to be 100% accurate.  In much historical fiction, the women do not always act like a the women of the times must have, sometimes the thoughts of the men are too modern in terms equality. So this argument while valid on the face, is really that valid.

 

It is also very true that some books should not be comfortable, that by making the reader uncomfortable such work can affect society.  This too has some truth, but it is not a reason to use slurs carte blanche.

 

So when this whole debate went down and then spiraled into indie authors being assswats, I kept thinking about the play I saw Friday night.  My General Tubman is a play set in both modern day Philadelphia, and the Civil War past of America.  The cast is majority African-American (only 2 white actors), it was written by a WOC, Lorene Carey.  Because of its setting, Carey could have justified the use of the n word over the course of the play. (I will not type at the word, and if you do not know what the word is, well, it rhymes with bigger).  She could have made all the arguments about shock, about culture, about the different ways it is used/spelled and whatever.  

 

The word is used only two or three times, in one scene.  In this scene, John Brown is preparing for his attack on Harper's Ferry and his neighbor, a white woman, comes to warn him about "those armed n*gg*rs" she saw on his property late at night.  That scene occurs in the second half of the play.  And when that word is used, it carries weight.  We also get Brown's reaction to the word. When the word is said, you can feel the subtle shift in the audience (which was mixed) to a belief feeling of uncomfortableness, and using it there made it clear (1) the position of the woman (2) what Tubman and Brown are fighting against (3) the power of the slur.  The word comes out hard because it is the first (and only) time in the play that anyone has referred to anyone, especially Tubman, but anyone that way.  If you are going to use a slur in writing, this is what you should use it to do, DO NOT drop it round like seasoning because of accuracy.  That lessens the context and hurt of the word.

 

I think also of a book I reread this weekend, Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong, and there is an attempted rape scene (the woman kicks the guy's ass) and no doubt Armstrong could have justified using the word cunt in that scene.  The thing is, she was able to write the scene without it and still convey the threat and misogyny of the man who would have been a rapist.

 

If you are going to use a slur when writing, you should know the power of the word, and reserve that power of that word for when it will have impact, not because using it makes you edgy.

 

 

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text 2020-02-29 20:40
My General Tubman

So if you can get to Philly before March 15, I highly recommend seeing My General Tubman at the Arden.  It is a play by Lorene Carey.  It presents a history of Tubman juxtaposed with a the current rate of black men being imprisoned.  It is a wonderful history and timely play.

 

The acting is great.  The only weak part is that there is a love story that does and doesn't work, if you know what I mean.

 

Carey make excellent use of the idea of the Chorus, who is played by Aaron Bell.  Peter DeLaurier is an excellent John Brown, and Danielle Lenee makes an excellent Harriet.  She equals Anisha Hinds'  portrayal of Tubman in Underground (esp that one woman play episode).

 

The run has been extended, so if you can, see it.

 

 

The Arden

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review 2019-12-07 18:16
A Company of Swans - Eva Ibbotson
A Company of Swans - Eva Ibbotson

Harriet is the daughter of the worst professor at Cambridge, a man who doesn't mind teaching her Latin, but won't even consider the possibility of her attending university. Her aunt, Louisa, keeps house for them and is the cheapest person ever, so were Harriet to hack them to pieces with an ax, no one would be surprised. fortunately, Harriet is offered the opportunity to join the corps of a ballet troupe headed up the Amazon for an extended stay among the insanely wealthy rubber barons of 1912.
It's a delightful book. Just as in [book:A Countess Below Stairs|714569], the heroine isn't brilliant at everything, but she is charming and kind. The hero is a good man, which we know because of his efforts to protect a native tribe (or two). Sure he's a colonial making a fortune, but he treats his workers well, and cares about their long-term interests (if not their land rights).
In addition, we are treated to the amusing characters of the ballet company, a buffoon of a suitor for Harriet, an entrancing young boy, a scheming Scarlett O'Hara type, and quite a lot of natural history. Fleas get their due, as does a coati.
The magic of the book is that Ibbotson tells an Edwardian love story in a way that mostly feels authentic and also progressive. Perhaps it's because when the author brings in a <i>deus ex machina</i> she proclaims it as such. Maybe it's because our leads are enjoying everything unabashedly. I don't know, what the magic is, but I bet you anything you like that Ibbotson had FUN writing this book.

Library copy.

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review 2019-10-06 22:07
It Happens in the Dark - Carol O'Connell
[(It Happens in the Dark)] [By (author) ... [(It Happens in the Dark)] [By (author) Carol O'Connell] published on (September, 2013) - Carol O'Connell

Something of a black comedy: all theatrical effects, pun intended. A Broadway play turned deadly has Mallory managing to rope everyone into working the case. Entertaining, of course, but also O'Connor succeeds at pulling in reference to every Broadway story I can think of. The end result is perhaps less of a puzzle to solve and more of a dazzling performance. Vicious fun.

Library copy

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