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‘Gamer’ Has Never Been Enough

I’ve never liked the term ‘gamer’. It’s reductive and bland, all too obvious. A ‘gamer’- one who games, or plays games. Such a strange banner to throw up over our heads. I play most types – video, tabletop, mind, board, social, classic, etc, etc. etc. — but I’ve never been able to bend a proper term into shape for that identity. ‘Player’ sounds weird – and a little 90’s BET. ‘Gamester’ is lame and acronyms make the world yawn. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t that important of a question. Everyone plays games – all humans, everywhere, forever. There’s no need to draw a circle, no tribal totem to shake. 

But now this #gamergate nonsense.

These sweaty children smearing their foreheads with war paint and screaming across the digital savannah. Hatred and fear disguised as a righteous fury. They wrap their fingers around that empty little word ‘gamer’ and wield it like a cudgel.

You are using a meaningless word, which is appropriate for your drivel. Let me tell you a thing, let me whisper you one of the secrets of the clan you claim to represent.

‘Gamer’ is not enough. It is not enough name for who and what we are. We need more – more names. Mario. The Grey Warden. Dragonborn. Malrock the Magnificent. Lara Croft. Dogfish. Nathan Drake. Commander Shepherd. More names are needed, more ways to see the world. Terra. Samus Aran. Luigi. Wander. Sommerset the Stray-Dog,  Pac-Man. More names, groups, armies, comrades, unions. The Alliance. The Horde. Blue Team. The Lodestar Crew. The Turks. The Jedi Academy.

We are the dreamers, the walkers in strange lands. We are the people of Many Names, of Many Eyes, of Endless Lives. We are the point in the dark, the moving hand, the twist of the brain that learns and remembers. We learn, we grow, we return again and again.

This is who we are, this is who all humans are. And we who are so fortunate to play in strange worlds unnumbered are always eager for anyone who needs a new name. That’s all ‘gaming’ is really – another chance, another way to see the world, another chance to Get It Right.

So those of you hiding behind the word ‘gamer’ as an excuse for misogyny and intolerance – it’s time for a new name. It’s time to Try Again. You know how. It’s as close as the Reset button. If you are human, you play games. If you play games, you can learn. So learn. Do better. 

There is no banner. There is no tribe. Only you and your warped cadre bleeding and gibbering on the people who love what you love.

http://ben-andrews.deviantart.com/

Lunch with a Villain II

We met again, weeks later. Pizza this time, the shadows and red neon of the joint seemed appropriate. He was there first this time, leaning over the counter in whispered conversation with the bearded cook. I don’t know what they were talking about, but the cook clutched his pizza spade as if it was the mast of a sinking ship. The villain spun to greet me, bright smile flashing. He flicked his brown cloak in an unnecessarily dramatic way and left the pizza guy to drown.

“Hey, I got us a pitcher and a pizza with Too Much Goddamn Meat on it. You’re buying.”

I sighed and dug out my wallet.

After paying I slid into the wooden booth. My lunch date had his eyes fixed on the large flatscreen TV on the archway behind me. I noticed that his eyes were no particular color. Was that because I couldn’t remember or because I’d never decided when I wrote him? I stole his hair from May’s Adversary and his nose from an old black and white movie, but his smile was all mine – some bright, shining shark-thing from my interior.

“So, what does it mean to be a Villain?” I asked.

“Shh,” he held his hand up. “Wait until after this play.”

“You don’t know anything about sports. I don’t know anything about sports, so it stands to reason that you don’t either.”

“Ahhhh,” he waggled his eyebrows, line of sight still locked to the TV. “but I can convey a knowledge of sport. Just like I can burn children and fly. You can’t do those things, but you make someone who can. Just the tiniest note on the piano – ‘Our Defense is looking strong’ – and suddenly the reader accepts me as an expert, a true fan. They imagine all the knowledge that you can’t give me and I have it. I’m just an echo chamber.I reflect more light then I emit — HOLY SHIT, THAT FUCKING REF. He had control of the ball! Damn it.”

“Are you done?” I took a sip of the watery yellow beer.

“Never, ever done. That’s what it means to be a Villain,” the brown-cloaked man grinned. “But that’s not what you came here to ask.”

“It is something I’ve been thinking about,” I said defensively. “I think I only write villains – Jonas and Rime included. Some hard-hearted thing, some hatred of everything that shines – I think it comes from younger days, feeling outcast and alone. The good people are the popular, pretty ones – so who wouldn’t be drawn to a life of evil in the halls of Middle School. Anyone who doesn’t understand the darkness in the human heart had a good puberty.”

“Oh, fucking shut up.” the villain leaned forward and took a fistful of my shirt. “Fine, you want to talk? Let’s talk.”

The brown cloak spun and he tossed me through the thick plate glass that separated the pizza joint from the sidewalk. I choked and stammered, my head full of empty vibration. The glass had cut up my left arm, but not too bad. My lunch date stepped through the shattered portal and leered at me. He snapped both fingers and his palms began to shimmer, then burn with a green fire tinged with vomit-yellow.

“Do you remember how to run?” the villain asked.

I look like this!

DragonCon – Ur-Promotion – SPELL/SWORD!!!!

So, yeah – I’m going to be at DragonCon from Thursday thru Sunday – SO TRACK ME DOWN AND LET US COMMUNICATE WITH OUR MEAT-FACES.

I’ll be packing in a few copies of the book to hide randomly around the convention – I also may press copies into the hands of Elizabeth Moon, Jim Butcher, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman as a sign of my fawning devotion. Last year I had a lot of fun putting free download cards all over the place – but I just didn’t have time to get everything together this time.

I will also be making a special secret announcement about The Riddle Box, about 2 AM in the Marriot lobby. I will whisper it into an empty mayonnaise jar, then hide it somewhere in Pulse Bar. Anyone that finds it will be cursed, ye unto seven generations.

For anyone that follows this blog, that I’ve never met – if you are going to DragonCon – comment on this post and lets meet up! I’m in pathetic need of writer affirmation and should be just soused enough to spill major plot details for Book Two, Three and the very underpinnings of my fictive muse. I’ll alternatively be dressed as a ‘5’ from the MeowMeowBeenz episode of Community or as a ludicrously drunk wizard.

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Bard’s Doggerel

Writing about music is like dancing about math.

Song in the scabbard and stone in the bath.

Hand in my pocket, heart full of dust

Robot Vandal is nothing but rust.

End of the road, bend of the way

the king’s thread-jester has nothing to say.

- Max Madwand, Bard of Gate City

millerorcsp200-201

Lunch with a Villain

We met on the patio of Agua Linda – well, it’s not much of a patio, just some plastic fencing, plastic chairs, plastic tables with plastic umbrellas. But it’s outside and it’s nice, so let’s deem it a patio. I got there early and ordered a beer and munched on chips until he got there. I half expected him to fly down from the sky on his golden roc or just freaking teleport in, gleaming yellow and green. But no, he  walked up off the street, turned the corner of the building and sauntered right up. He was smiling, of course. Villains always smile – true, proper villains anyway.

He tucked his brown cloak over the chair back and helped himself to some chips. He started to speak, but instead leaned over towards the glass doors that lead inside and signaled for his own beer. His smile was 1000 watts of teeth.

“You look older,” I said.

“Well, that’s hardly surprising. You’re older too,” the villain crunched on a chip dripping with red salsa. “Just as much gray hair on your head as on mine.”

It was true. His hair was thick and wild, the kind of white-boy afro you rarely encounter in the wild — but silver winked from many places in the brush.

“This already isn’t going like I thought it would,” I said and took a sip of my beer.

“Hey, I just work here,” the villain spread his hand expansively, then folded them behind his head.

“Look, I wanted to talk to someone and for some reason you were that person. I don’t even know why. We haven’t worked together in a while and you’re sort of dead?”

“I was defeated. Not killed, just sort of removed from the scene. It was all pretty vague. What is it with you and these metaphysical—?”

A large frosted glass of brown beer clunked onto the plastic table. The villain winked at our waitress and proceeded to snag the grass-green lime from the rim and toss it into the parking lot.

“I don’t even know why they give the lime. It doesn’t do a damn thing for the taste, in my opinion,” the brown-cloaked man took a long, slow pull at glass.

“It’s nice. I like it.” I waved the waitress away with an apologetic smile. “No food today, we’re drinking our lunch.”

The villain clinked his glass against mine. “As I was saying, I wasn’t really killed so much as expunged. Two ways to look at it, creator mine. From one angle, I was never a real person – just a personality construct created by the sudden influx of infernal might and superior intelligence on a pre-existing mental framework. The boy made his choice and became me. Then at the end of the tale that girl unmade his choice for him and he became him again. I’m like an alternate personality – or a mask the boy wore for a while. So you’re just talking to an old mask, I’m afraid.”

“You said two ways to look at it.”

The villain snickered and took another long draw of his beer, then leaned back out into the aisle to signal for another. He held up one finger, then after giving me an appraising glance raised a second.

“I think you know the other way. All just actors, aren’t we? Playing this role then that role, then we hang out in your head until it’s time for auditions. I had my time on the stage and now I’m back in the wings – is that what this is about? You need a proper menace?”

He leaned forward almost hungrily. I felt a little guilty.

“No, that’s not what this is about.”

“Whatever,” the villain finished off his first beer, then smiled at me through the glass bottom. “Or do you want to wear the mask? Do you want to be the villain for a while?”

“Uh-“

“I’m not really the seductive type –“

“God, shut up,” I sighed. “This was a bad idea.”

The waitress brought our beers and departed in the silence that crouched on our plastic table.

“Do you want to get drunk?” the villain asked.

“Yeah, okay.”

The Lines II

Puimun/DevianArt

Puimun/DevianArt

Lucas played the lines.

It was easy at first. So simple, bone simple, blood simple, like blinking or drinking or building a nest. He pressed the keys and the the light was there, the music to spare, he connected dots in the dark while the masked man gibbered softly in his ear.

The melody of connection -of this like that – of short, lean, and fat. He could see the Under of things, the Hidden Heart of springs, the Secret tick of the clock in his grandmother’s parlor. Fingertips on keys, black and white, a stone piano singing in the quiet.

And how fine the lines were.

At first he drew them carefully and all one color of light. Bright yellow, fat as a caterpillar daydream, he could still see them when he shut his eyes. The faces of his friends reflected their delight in his beams of wild gold. The dots, the nodes they glowed, like planets brought into alignment, the way that Star Prophet  promised. It was so easy, like squalling off a log, easy as nigh, sundown and moon-mad.

Bold as brass, he changed the lines. Still true, and still bright. But blue and green and red and octavian orange. Big lines, small lines, razor-wire net of thought and light that spread around him like a symphony. He became a wizard, singing the lines, playing the times forever and ever dancing in the dark of things.

And still the man in the mask laughed, right behind his left ear. He could feel the man’s breath on his shoulder, the cold hands hovering when he slept.

Sometimes he would stop. Let the lines fade and let his eyes adjust to the dark. And then the man would hit him until the blood flowed.

“Play the lines, Lucas!” the masked man would howl. “Play them and play them right.”

And so he would play. He would play when his fingers hated the keys and  his heart bled the piano. It was so easy, like dying, like staunching a wound.

It was so hard.

Lucas played the lines and the dark crept closer. No matter how bright, no matter how many new colors he found, it crept closer. The masked man pressed near as a lover and whispered in his ear. Lucas loved the masked man. Lucas hated the masked man. Lucas needed the masked man.

Lucas played the lines. Who was he if he did not? Lucas loved the lines. Lucas hated the lines. Lucas needed the lines.

The masked man giggled softly in the dark and his cold hands slid down his arms and tapped a quiet rhythm on Lucas’ knuckles.

“One day you won’t play the lines, Lucas,” the oil-slick tone came from the mask. “One day you won’t play them right. You won’t play them quick enough, you won’t be sure and you won’t be fast. You’ll stumble in the dark and then I’ll have you. I’ll have you my beautiful boy and drag you down into the river, oh the river, oh the river…”

Lucas played the lines and wept. He played the lines and slept. Amongst the dark he wove and shone, he kept playing riddle and bone. Song and sorrow, ring and stone, forgotten music he played alone.

And the masked man laughed.

And Lucas played the lines.

[Sort of a continuation of this.]

 

State of Ruin

How does one begin a story?

With thunder and lightning and rain? With the song my mother sang that last night, that last night before I ran away? Should I begin with the ravagers, their black cries and crude crush and stomp through the white-knacker arbor? The blood in my teeth, the blood on my hands, the frantic knot of my scarf around the gate? The trees and the night and the thunder, the lightning, the rain?

Did the story really start there? Did I start there? Or was it when I first laid my hand on the sword?

- – scrap of a journal, found in the Idolobha Mirror

Why are all my heroes runaways? Will this whole post be a series of questions?

I’m in a mood, so strap on your cummerbund and cravat, I need to lay in a bower of lilies and emote with an absinthe-soaked hanky over my face for a bit.

I am creative wormwood at the moment. I’m chugging along in my various storytelling

Artist - Phil Noto

Artist – Phil Noto

projects [tabletop games, mostly], but the big weight on my brain isn’t moving anywhere. By this I mean The Riddle Box – slowly moldering in Edit Hell. I’ve been chipping away at it in fits and starts, even got some seriously potent advice on the first couple of chapters from my supremely advanced colleagues Rachel and Michael — but still it lays there in the hopper, just getting more and more razor-edged by the moment.

I have some legitimate excuses – we just moved, bought a house in the bargain, day job trips, etc. – but I know the real problem is my heart isn’t in it. I kind of despise this type of writer fluff – writing is a craft, you should do it when it’s time to do it, but I’ve just felt gutted and hollow lately and I want to weep on my tortoise-shell mirror, okay?

I know the answer is just to keep moving forward and not beat myself up about it, but when does being understanding and supportive of your own depressive tendencies just morph into bullshit laziness?