Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Raid Is On: How Big a Deal Is Ibaraki-Douji?


We're in the midst (at least for the West) of Fate/Grand Order's first raid even. And so far... it's not bad.

Fate/GO is a game where, with every passing event, it's evident that notes are being taken and changes made. Granted, we're getting this R&D two years after the fact as Japan speeds ahead into the next story arc. But it's still obvious that things are being tried and tested and tweaked between stories. And even if not every change flies, it's encouraging to see that event mechanics don't just stay the same. It means every new round is a new chance to see what sticks.

The Rashomon event is an interesting one, since it's the game's first (but, as I understand it, not last) world boss. From the point of view of the fiction, they do a good job holding it in place, making sure that the story -- you're the only Master left -- doesn't get trampled by necessity. In the game itself, obviously, you're one of many chipping away at Ibaraki-Douji's ever-replenishing health bar... with HP in the trillions.



The oni of the event are available if you roll well enough; there's no "reward Servant" this time around, which is always a little disappointing to me because I only ever spend rarely. I can absolutely understand wanting to preserve the rarity of Servants like Shuten-Douji and Ibaraki-Douji by not making them prizes, though.

The prize system returns -- a bit -- to the Mission system of the two previous events, now divided up into renewing dailies. As you rack up damage points, you also run up a ladder of bonuses ranging from energy refills to Craft Essences to Ascension materials. Which is pretty nice, especially considering if you're doing at least second-level fights, it's rare you won't end the round without at least one goodie from the set.

There's also a shop, and shopping is one of my favorite parts of any event. This time, there's tons of level-up material available, so if that's your priority you can start raising up some languishing team members.

As for the raid itself? Well, that's... interesting. And a little daunting.


In the legends, Ibaraki-Douji got his hand cut off. And in the world of Fate/GO, naturally, that's been taken into consideration... but not to our advantage. She's gotten both her hands back, and now they're separate targets with separate attacks. (She also has a rocket punch... which is both pretty funny and hugely unfair.)

Ibaraki-Douji remains a Berserker, but her arms (and the drunken men who guard the path to her) switch classes each "Day" -- as in story day, which isn't necessarily a real day. This means you won't be stuck with one set of Servants that's constantly useful or useless. That said, I've found it's quickest and easiest to get your powerhouses out, drop the event CE's on them, ignore the arms, and aim down the middle. You don't need to defeat her arms separately to win, and while they do (seem to) count toward total damage and drop some extra items, that's just extra rounds spent when you only have 15 rounds to defeat her.

And considering Ibaraki-Douji herself gets an extra attack when one or both of her arms are gone and she's stronger than either of them, it's honestly safer and faster unless your team is completely broken.

Early phases are the worst, since you're looking to do anywhere from 300K to 6 million points of damage per fight. (Yes, that's accurate.) But once you get some event CEs on you, it becomes much easier. It's also really satisfying to watch that huge HP bar slide down.


So, let's talk mechanics. Short and sweet.

The Good

  • Limiting the raids to players at a certain point of progress, and offering three levels, is good insurance that no one will be in over their heads.
  • Setting up a separate "energy bar" for the raid, and allowing it to be refilled several ways, is a good way of ensuring that we don't feel our regular energy is being wasted by the raid. More on that in the Less Good.
  • ONE HUNDRED BLAZE OF WISDOM IN THE SHOP
  • A fun story
  • Really need character designs, voices, and animation

The Less Good

  • F/GO is always a little grindy by nature, but the raid is the ultimate grind since you're expected to fight the Exact Same Fight over. And over. And over. The arms changing classes isn't enough of a variant to count.
  • The initial fights until you get some CEs are brutal, and not in an encouraging way.
  • There's a discrete point (which I'm at) where level 2 encounters are almost pointlessly easy, but level 3 are still impossible. I appreciate a round 3 and also appreciate the ill omens of the number 4, but I feel there could be an extra level in between.
  • Shuten-douji looks cold and I'm worried about her.
All in all, I'm enjoying the event. And if this is their first raid,I can only imagine how they'll improve in future. I like the continuation of the concept of missions within the event for semi-regular rewards (that then become useful within the event), and the shops are a blessing for those of us trying to get those awkwardly stalled Servants leveling again.

I know I'm not getting that Crystallized Lore at the far end, nor am I going to roll either oni. But the music, the inventiveness, the art, and the gaming style are making me excited for future events.


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Friday, May 18, 2018

The "Detroit: Become Human" Demo Made Me a Liar and I Love It


If you've hung out on my blog or social media for more than about ten seconds, you pretty much know by now what my video game jam is. I will play just about anything, but I have an extra soft spot for games that really make the most of their format. That could be choice-based storytelling or tinkering with the interface in general. But if there's a story in front of me, and that story could only be told in the version I'm currently witnessing, then I'm extra excited.

I had a go (okay, multiple goes) at the demo for Detroit: Become Human this week. And first off... damn, that game is stunning. I'm pretty sure we're about to hit a point at which we can't go much higher-quality without our consoles catching fire -- if we're not at that point already. That's already a sign that we're at the back end of the current phase of game design: the graphics are about to plateau, so innovation has to be poured into gameplay and storytelling to keep moving forward.

Detroit: Become Human is from the Quantic Dream, who also brought us Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. So that should give you an idea of what you're in for. And if the hype surrounding it reminds you of their "Kara" trailer from 2012 -- well, yeah, it's branched off from that. In fact, she's back in this game. But you won't see her in the demo. Instead, we get to meet a different android: Connor, who is programmed for detective work.


Full disclosure: I played on "Story" mode because I suck at games. No shame admitting it; hand-eye coordination is a massive weak point of mine, and I thrive at tactical games and puzzle-solving over real-time action. Plus, I wanted at least a little leisure to really explore what I was in the middle of. As I understand it, playing on actual gamer mode involves a little more interfacing and a few more QTEs, so I think I made the right choice.

The orientation is third-person as you navigate Connor through a crime scene in an open-layout penthouse apartment. You come in knowing nothing except that you need to rescue a hostage. The rest comes to you via investigation. What you choose to look at and interact with will give you clues, which (when the time comes to confront the hostage-taker) gives you more potential dialogue trees.

The investigation mode is actually really fun. Much of it involves reconstruction of events based on your surroundings and the clues nearby, piecing things together bit by bit as you assemble a full picture of the crime scene before you get down to business. As you fit the pieces together, you get a running read-out of your odds... which is, likely by design, alternately discouraging and nerve-wracking.


There's not technically a hard timer on you, but there is the option to either waste time or not waste time. And while taking a bit longer than you should won't wreck your chances at making it to the end, it will alter the scenario significantly.

The whole situation leads up to the actual hostage negotiation -- which I won't go into any detail on in case you want to play for yourself and sort out the clues on your own. I will say that on my first playthrough (which is always doing things the way I would if it were literally me in the situation) I was... technically successful?

I wasn't happy with it, though. Which is actually kind of awesome. Because I knew then that that meant there were multiple ways to succeed and fail... and I'd really missed an opportunity to get exactly what I wanted out of the game. As it turns out, there are six -- six -- potential endings, just for the demo.


One of my major gripes in games is when I choose a dialogue option and the character proceeds to say the exact opposite of what I thought they were going to say. This happened once here, and at the end I got another round of getting the complete opposite of what I was going for. And while that tends to annoy the hell out of me, here it game me a sense of what we'd be seeing in the game proper. Any disconnects between my logic and the game weren't there to frustrate me: they were there to tease the setting and story by tweaking at my sensibilities.

I'm only aware of three of the six endings at this point (my friend played similarly to me but got a different one, and then I screwed the pooch royally on my "asshole run" following my first play). Reconstructing the clues adequately isn't the only thing that alters your experience: how aggressive you are in your negotiations, how honest you are, and (I think) a fish early on (???) all play into it.

There is a very real place for stories like this in modern entertainment, and not just because we're pushing gaming to its limits technologically. This is an era when we're so deeply engaged in what we watch and read that our immersion is greater than ever. And in stories with a message about morality, society, or humanity, there's a lot more to be gained if the story is guided by our own decisions rather than watching a character who has even odds of not doing what we'd do in a given situation.


A demo isn't always an indicator of a game's entire value, so I'd never venture to say this is proof the whole thing will be awesome. (Largely because then I'm just daring the universe and the writers to prove me wrong.) But I can say that the sheer amount of storytelling and replay value compressed into one demo is stunning, and I can only hope we keep seeing more like this from Quantic Dream and beyond.


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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Raconteur Roundtable Had Me Back -- FOR ANIME!!!


After my first appearance on their awesome podcast, the fine fellas at the Raconteur Roundtable asked if I'd come back to discuss a deep and moving topic: live-action anime adaptations.

Well, duh.

It had been mentioned on my first appearance that they'd never had a guest who knew a lot about anime, and so I was happy to make myself available for later talks if they so desired. What they came in with was... interesting. And, fortunately, something I've had recent experience with.

I don't tend to like talking negatively about things for extended periods of time, but sometimes...


A great time was had by all, as I knew it would be. We touched on obvious topics like Ghost in the Shell and The Last Airbender (which isn't anime in a traditional sense but fight me), less obvious ones like Takashi Miike's anime remakes and the fact that the Wachowskis' Speed Racer was actually really good (again, fight me), and finished it off with a big dose of Erased and Death Note.

Honestly I love talking to the hosts of the Raconteur Roundtable the same way I love talking to my close circles of friends: we've all read and seen the same things, so our in-jokes and comparisons land at pleasantly surprising times.

Please go have a listen if you're so inclined, and be sure to check out their other episodes while you're at it!

>> Raconteur Roundtable Episode #29


Friday, May 11, 2018

Hi, I'm Kara, and I inadvertently helped make a meme.


So this is my life. I've interviewed award-winning actors and writers. I have been published worldwide. I have a major book release in two months. And right now the most talked-about thing I have ever worked on is that danged "Is this a pigeon?" meme.

I'm starting to vaguely understand how Nicholas Gurewitch must feel about inadvertently creating the word "weeaboo."

Now, for starters, I did not create it -- it comes from an anime. I'm also not the only person involved in its creation; there are a handful of us watching in stunned silence as this explodes everywhere. I'm also not salty about it, because this is the most of this particular anime I think the world at large will ever see.

I'm impressed that everyone from Know Your Meme to the frickin' Independent has covered this. But I was there, God help me. Time for the full full context.


Back in the Before Times, when I still had a desk job, I was a fansubber. (Any non-anime fans rolling through: "fansubbing" is subtitling unlicensed, unavailable anime gratis and putting it out for release to fellow fans -- at least it's supposed to be the unlicensed stuff.) This was still just a bit before Crunchyroll and other sites changed the face of anime consumption. There would come a point in the very near future when lots of fansubbers, including myself, would be snapped up by streaming sites and DVD companies to work for them.

At the time, I was bouncing around amongst three different groups doing editing and QC. One, Onmitsu, delivered subtitled oldies with English and Portuguese language tracks. We did a lot of shows from Sunrise's Brave series (follow this link to read more about that -- tl;dr Japan wanted to try doing Transformers).

One was Brave of the Sun FighBird, the second in the franchise and a serviceable little show. I enjoyed it but generally if it has a robot I'll enjoy it. The protagonist, Katori, was a space alien thing who possessed an android in order to interact with humans. He loved the Earth and wanted to protect it, but didn't really comprehend it very well. So it fell to the young audience association characters to keep him in line.


The infamous scene takes place when Katori is trying to act human in front of a detective, while wearing his very science-y human disguise. He also goes on to ask if a row of tulips are violets.



We all had a laugh at the time because, well, Katori. This is pretty standard for him, and it's part of his shtick that he's a noble and true-hearted space cop soldier thing but initially dumb as a box of rocks about Earth.

I then proceeded to forget all about this show because I subtitled about 56 dozen things during my fansubbing years, and then about 56 more during my pro-subbing years before I moved on to news and features. Also literally no one cares about brave shows except me and five of my friends.

And then suddenly. A couple years ago. Fighbird screencap on Tumblr.

It was originally pegged as a bad translation, and I can completely understand that. Fortunately somewhere along the line it was established that nah, Katori is just that dumb. From there, it came and went, mostly with friends popping any new iterations of it to me just to see my reaction.

Then the other day happened and this bitch is everywhere?


So that's it? Yeah, that's it. I'm not gonna go all Makoto Shinkai on you and tell you not to enjoy it. I'm not gonna tell you to go watch the whole show it's from (because how), and that's pretty much the entire story. The group that put the Fighbird fansub together is still friends but has gone its separate ways business-wise, though the majority of us are in the anime industry now unsurprisingly. It's a little bizarre to see this snippet of our lives flooding our timeline, but it's a nice trip down memory lane in a way.

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Hey! If this is the first time you've read anything of mine (highly likely) why not have a look around? When I'm not working with Crunchyroll, VRV, or one of many other spots around the web, I'm writing fiction and critical essays on geek topics. I also co-author a light novel series, do a webcomic, and have some Doctor Who-related books coming out in the very near future!


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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The State of the "Universe": So What Now?


WARNING: This entry contains massive spoilers for the most recent episodes of Steven Universe, "Can't Go Back" and "A Single Pale Rose." These also happen to be massive spoilers for the end-game of the show as a whole. So if you don't want to be spoiled, avoid this post by all means.

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As is going to happen with any show that bobs on and off the air for months at a time, I am generally woefully behind on Steven Universe until I see all my friends reacting with shock and tears on Facebook. That's my signal to go and see what the heck has happened this time.

And.

Wow. This is one hell of a Steven-Bombshell.

Fan reaction is split across interesting lines. My circles of friends and fans are reacting with general interest and excitement (and tons of emotion), while the YouTube theorist community is... upset. In my search for theories on what this most recent revelation means for the future of Steven Universe, I found primarily angry people: it "can't" be this way because that means that characters have now done Bad Things. Or it "can't" be this way because it's a long-standing fan theory and it's Too Easy.

Hokum. It was written and it happened. And of course characters are morally grey. They always have been. That's half the point of the show.

So, with plenty of buffer to make sure the spoiler couldn't be seen even remotely accidentally, let's get down to business:

Rose Quartz was Pink Diamond. What does that mean for the future of the show?


Pearl's Feelings Are a Lot More Convoluted


Once we learned that Pearls are little more than servants and decoration, the obvious question came up: who does Our Pearl belong to? Color theory matched her to Pink Diamond, White Diamond, Rose Quartz, and all the Diamonds. But later episodes revealed her as a Pearl that belonged to no one.

Her love for Rose, then, was not a love borne of servitude or purpose. Except... except... now we know that she was Pink Diamond's Pearl, and thus Rose's. And even if Pink Diamond insisted that she was "just Rose" from then on, how seriously is Pearl able to take that?

Pink Diamond displayed a preference for Pearl that was beyond master and servant. But we also know from Garnet's story and from Pearl's own admission that Rose was never a one-Gem kind of girl. It wasn't until Greg that the concept of staying with one person really seemed to occur to her. So she does seem to love Pearl... but that love seems strangely capricious, like only half a couple knowing that the relationship is open-ended.

So where does that leave us? Does Pearl love Rose freely, or does it still carry an underpinning of devotion and subservience that she couldn't "switch off" just because her Diamond looks different? Does Pearl even know which it is?


Rose's Stories Betray Serious Self-Loathing


We can only assume that Garnet's version of Rose Quartz's story came from Rose herself, with backup from Pearl. She's just as shocked as anyone to hear the news. And considering she's essentially Rose's main acolyte at this point as the new leader of the Crystal Gems, this is a hard fall for her.

But Rose's stories vilify herself -- her old self -- very deeply. This isn't necessarily a plot hole. After all, we know that she was in trouble with Yellow and Blue for being too fond of Earth as it was. And in order for her loss to not be mourned, she had to make sure her old self was remembered as unpleasant and wicked.

This could have been a tactical maneuver. But one wonders... was it also personal feeling? Was she so disgusted with her Diamond status, what it meant and what it implied, that she wanted to vilify her old self and bury it as deeply as possible? It's hard to know. Pink Diamond is very childish by nature, and this extreme of emotion seems completely probable.


The Powers of a Diamond


Rose Quartz has always been kind of God Mode: from healing and resurrecting tears to mallet-space to... pretty much every freaking other thing she can do. Knowing she was a Diamond gives us some degree of context for the sheer craziness of her powers... but it also tells us a lot about what Steven may have up his sleeve.

Steven has, as we've seen a couple of times, the ability to "possess" a person or thing in his sleep. This could potentially explain how Pink Diamond originally spent time among the Quartzes on her colony, rather than just feeling like playing runaway princess and shapeshifting into one for shiggles. We know there were several Rose Quartzes on the colony -- it would be simple enough to hijack one in this way. (Bonus thought -- is this something all Diamonds can do? Is it a way to quietly keep tabs on their workers?)

But there's one thing -- powers and personal feelings and all that combined -- that this really puts a different spin on:


Steven.


Literally everything is different now.

Steven isn't just the combination of a Gem and a human -- he is the combination of a Diamond and a human. A ruling-class, "pure" and highly powerful alien being. We don't even know what Diamonds are, where they come from, and what they can do. We still aren't fully aware of their back story. Heck, we still haven't seen one of them save for a hand.

But here's the big thing about that: Pink Diamond became Rose Quartz to throw her old life away. Then she became half of Steven. It's almost as though she was whittling her own life away as much as possible, to become as un-Diamond as possible, to become as human as possible. I still believe that she loved Steven as much as she said in "Lion 2: Direct to Video." But Steven now makes the second time she has completely sacrificed her identity.

Pink Diamond -- Rose Quartz -- absolutely didn't think things through. She devastated Blue Diamond, she lied to the people she cared about most, and she's left an enormous mess for Steven to clean up. But now he's not just half-Gem... he's half-Diamond.

And I've got literally no idea what that's going to mean for the rest of the show, except that we appear to be approaching endgame really, really fast.


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Monday, May 7, 2018

DOCTOR WHO: Time Team vs. The Classics


It's always something with Doctor Who fans. Right now it's a lot of things. We need to sit down and have a nice long talk with ourselves on several of them, but right now I need to hit the pavement concerning one very specific development: the Time Team.

There have been some grumbles and complaints about the reveal of the new Time Team -- a group originally started in 1999 for Doctor Who Magazine including the likes of Clayton Hickman and Jacqueline Rayner. Their mission? Watch the heck out of Classic episodes (in order, at that point) and review them.

The times have changed. First off, here's the new Time Team:


Die-hard Who stans amongst you will note that Christel Dee is present, as well as the founding members of the Time Ladies. Overall, it's a mix of twentysomethings who would have been children when Eccleston first hit the airwaves. You may also there's an even gender divide: six men, six women.

The complains have already begun... and shockingly, it's not about how many girls there are (not from where I'm sitting yet, anyway; I'm sure it's coming). The sheer youth is troubling a lot of older fans, some of whom have said they feel that the choice is ageist and that there ought to be a spot for "someone like them" in the mix. To which I say... well, one... I'm still shocked I'm seeing someone like me in the mix, so let me have this for a minute.

Okay? Okay. I'll talk about this more in a bit, I promise.

This time out, the Time Team isn't doing things in any semblance of order. Rather, they're watching sets of episodes along a theme, regardless of era. A few screencaps of their reactions have already made their way to Twitter, and people are moaning already. This is what they were afraid of, you see. It's not like the new stuff, so they're not liking it. They're talking about how slow it is. And it's awful that they think this.

Coming in at 37 years young and having started with the TV movie in college, I'm older than their eldest member by 11 years or so. I've also been watching longer by... maybe about seven years. Ish. I'm a Wilderness Years baby, so a lot of my initiation into the fandom was via Big Finish and old VHS tapes recorded off PBS. So yes, my familiarity begins with the serialized 20th century series. And yeah, it can be disheartening to see people get turned off by the pacing and by what it was, and preferring what it is.

But there is a happy medium to be had here. It's just not as fun to talk about, I guess.

Take into account:

20th Century Who Does Suffer from Pacing Issues


It does. It does. It just. Does. And people familiar with the history of the show know why it does. But that doesn't change the fact that the issues exist.

Doctor Who was, up until 1989, made for a very different sort of television audience in a very different era of entertainment. There was no recording for posterity. There was no way to rewatch last week's episode to remind yourself what happened. There was no way to pop ahead to the next one if you didn't feel like waiting. So people watched things one time, maybe two at best.

Too, Doctor Who was made for a very specific demographic in a very specific time slot. Remember that from An Adventure in Space and Time? It was to entertain and educate kids while luring the parents into the sitting room for the evening's programming. And since it was made to be something very specific, shown in a very specific way for which there was no alternative, it will be different.

This is not to say that all its pacing issues are a product of its format. Genesis of the Daleks could be about an episode shorter and still hit home. There are a few that could actually do with a bit of an edit. But at the time, since it was a one-night-only affair as far as anyone was concerned, what was the point? No one was planning on a bunch of nerds restoring and rewatching these things multiple times. So the care that would be put into those issues now... just wasn't.

The issues are real. They're a product of the format and just occasional subpar editing. But they are quite real, and they will glare more than ever in a modern context.


21st Century Who Has Pacing Issues, Too


If pre-2005 Who trips over its own feet here and there, post-2005 Who tears around like a mad person. Steven Moffat acknowledged with the arrival of the Twelfth Doctor that steps were being taken to pull back just how breathless the pacing had become. Observable steps have definitely been taken (the long restaurant scene in Deep Breath was lovely, for example), but it still suffers sometimes from the haste of modern action television.

Not only that -- while many of us watch on the night, others binge. And when we binge, we already know what we saw before. We watched it this morning. "Last time" segments can be rushed through or omitted entirely because there's a good chance the viewers either just saw what happened, or remember pretty well.

Fans of pre- and post-2005 Who are, at this point, like a pair of drivers in a 45-mph zone -- one going 30, one going 60. Neither can fathom what the other is about, while pointedly ignoring that they could both stand to adjust their view of the speed limit.

At the same time, preferring one or the other isn't intrinsically wrong. I personally enjoy the pacing of the Twelfth Doctor era's two-parters, which puts me in a very small group, because it hits that middle ground for me of moving along at a fair clip while still giving me a cliffhanger to get worked up over. That's me. One person.


Observing the Issue Isn't Betraying the Fandom


There's a bit of a skewed mentality that finding a problem with early Who is a sort of betrayal. That if you aren't completely down with everything it was, you don't like it enough, and you're one of those fake NuWho-only fans.

So, real talk. I've been watching Doctor Who for going on 20 years, which admittedly is playpen time compared to some. I've written critical essays and books about it, I've interviewed writers and actors, I've taken time to study it from every angle from production to story. And all Who of all eras Has Some Problems. That includes the fine vintages.

Sixth Doctor era was swimming in bad scripts. Many writers needed a firmer hand from the editors. Putting Chinese makeup on a white dude was REALLY REALLY DUMB. Removing science-inclined women from the show for decades was also really dumb. And acknowledging all these things does not mean I don't love the episodes.

The Time Team's reaction to the slow pacing -- and Christel Dee's (potentially facetious) comment that she watches early Who on 1.5x speed -- has been gathering up a bit of spite on the Internet. They're not watching it right. They don't understand the context of when it was made. (I assure you they do, or have at least been informed of it.) And thus they aren't reacting "properly."

And that's a pretty big claim: that anything other than full acceptance of an existing problem is "improper."


Older Fans' Takes Are Already Everywhere


If I wanted to be really scathing and unhelpfully rude, I'd say that the people reacting negatively to all the young blood in the Time Team are cross because because Panini didn't call them to be on it. But I don't want to be really scathing and unhelpfully rude, so I won't.

That said, it is extremely, devastatingly easy to find Classic Who fans opinions: in books, in magazines, online, and just about anywhere you can find Who-ish things. We really don't shut up. I speak from experience here.

We really do corner the market on Who commentary. What the fandom currently lacks is intelligently framed commentary from a younger generation that's framed in a way that brings any sort of legitimate attention to it. Young fans' thoughts are all over the web, but they're unsorted and mixed up. The twelve people chosen, to their own varying degrees, have the experience to bring their insights as new fans to the show in a way that's intelligent and engaging.

And, as I've said elsewhere, it does us no good to hoard our fandom -- to decide our way is the only way, and to not listen to what newer and younger people have to say. Whether we agree with it or not.


But.

Could the Time Team have done with one or two older members on it? Yes, absolutely. I'd love to have seen some fortysomethings, some Americans and Australians. But here's the problem -- most of the people who'd actively want to be The Older One in this group would likely be a bad choice.

Most of the people I've seen say they'd like an older member in the new Time Team exude a very clear idea of what they're looking for, whether they know it or not: they want their avatar in there to tell all these kids how wrong they are. And that is exactly what the group doesn't need. Not a babysitter, not a teacher. Older members should be equal voices whose opinions are part of the conversation, not what the younger members should aspire to become.

I like the look of the new Time Team. I'd love to see it expand to include a wider cross-section of fan types, but not so that those other types can school the ones already there. And in the meantime, maybe this is what we need to shake up our sensibilities, and to break ourselves out of the idea that there is a Who Fan Monolith mentality to which we should all aspire.

Be brave enough to listen. They've opened their minds to a whole new era of television not tailored to them: open your minds to their opinions.


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Friday, May 4, 2018

"Hatter House": Yes, it's more modern "Alice in Wonderland."


Frankly, I'm a fiend for all things Alice in Wonderland: dark or light, quality or kitschy, modern or classic. I haven't caught up to absolutely every version, but it's in my books to do so. And when I have done, I'll likely be extremely disappointed because that's one less thing to look forward to on my watch list. But there it is.

When a certain journal asked for new spins on the story of Alice in Wonderland, I sent mine in -- and was roundly rejected. It is what it is. I tidied it up and sent it off to THAT Literary Review, who liked it and put it into their magazine. And that, dear reader, is where it lives today.


You won't be hard-pressed to find yourself a copy. It's available free as an ebook via Amazon on the mag's website. So you can grab it down and read at your leisure. There's plenty more fun reading in it, too -- so do please take an afternoon and have a read of all of it!

The concept behind "Hatter House" was an actual modernization of the Wonderland story from a couple of different angles. Angle 1: what sort of denizens would a 21st-century Wonderland entertain? When it was first written, characters like the Mad Hatter and the March Hare existed there, making references to tropes and sayings of the time. So a modern Wonderland would require the existence of modernized trope-characters.

In "Hatter House" you'll see a handful: the Pink Elephant (daughter of the White Elephant), Mama Bear, the Absentminded Professor, and Mary-Sue, to name a few. One or two classic characters do get a mention, of course. Because what would it be without at least a nod to the old guard!

And then, Angle 2: how would Wonderland react in the wake of Alice? Most new iterations see the citizens loving and missing her, or requiring her help in some new challenge. And while I love those stories (I'm a complete fool for American McGee's take on that), it's a much kinder approach than I feel the locals would actually have taken.


Alice brought childlike curiosity with her, certainly. But she also brought logic with her, questioning the denizens' actions and telling them when things didn't make sense. Jonathan Miller's 1966 teleplay starring Peter Sellers and John Gielgud removed the fanciful nature of the story, boiling it all down to a little girl observing adults being quite daft. And that's probably the fairest read there is of the story. (Incidentally, I highly recommend you see it if at all possible.)

But take it at face value. This little girl is threatening the very fabric on which Wonderland is based: illogical nonsense. In "Hatter House," precautions are taken once Alice has left Wonderland in order to make sure that further travelers like her don't harm their quality of life ever again. The "Alice Walk" -- a heavily standardized path that sates curiosity while minimizing damage -- is created to get future "Alices" in and out of Wonderland as quickly as possible, to avoid things going too normal.

But what happens when things do start to go normal?

Go read to find out. It's free.

Remember, you can pick up THAT Literary Review Issue #3 free from their website. Enjoy!


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