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The Layers of My Immortal—A Review

Simon

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My Immortal is celebrating its 10th anniversary and, with it, a milestone in fandom history and fanfiction.

Harry Potter is arguably the most fertile fandom for fanfic writing and its stories range from the magical to the bizarre to absolutely wrong. For My Immortal to be the most famous/memetic Potter fic is no small feat. That it would remain in the collective conscious a decade after its original upload was taken down is a curse from Satan himself and we are blessed for it. We’ve tested superheroes and blood explosions as cathartic mechanisms in these dark times. Now, the twain shall meet…somehow, as I dissect the layers of My Immortal.

In the end, I will try and put the eternal question to rest: Is it a troll fic, or just bad?

Just in case you don’t have the time or sanity to spare , Nick graciously sent me a dramatic reading that should have you covered. It’s fantastic, hear it and come back whenever you want.

My Immortal: keynotes for preps

My Immortal is the cursed child of one Tara Gilesbie, which she posted under the username XXXbloodyrists666XXX. Her identity and motivations haunt the Internet to this day.

There are certain opening lines that weigh when quoted. Lines such as “Somewhere in La Mancha….” and “It is a truth universally acknowledged….” establish everything you need to know in terms of tone and experience. They stick with you and follow you long after the first read has concluded. Of all such lines, this is one of them:

“Hi my name is Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way and I have long ebony black hair (that’s how I got my name) with purple streaks and red tips that reaches my mid-back and icy blue eyes like limpid tears and a lot of people tell me I look like Amy Lee (AN: if u don’t know who she is get da hell out of here!).”

This is immaculate.

Everything you need to know is encapsulated: It’s badly written in every sense of the term; our protagonist, Ebony Dementia Dark’ness Raven Way, lives for the sole purpose of her self-preservation and her musical and sexual desires; and if you aren’t up to date on your early 2000s rock, get the hell out.

I imagine the genderswap version’s soundtrack features Crazy Town, Alien Ant Farm and late Metallica.

Ebony is accompanied in her adventures by our favourite characters and Draco, all of whom have converted to Satanism and Slytherin and taken gothic-vampire makeovers. There’s Drako, Vampire (Harry), B’loody Mary (Hermione), Diabolo (Ron), and Dracula (Neville). Oh and Willow. Hargrid, maybe? Who cares.

If Tara was trying to hide her authorial avatar in Ebony, or make it subtle, nobody bought it.

Much like Lizzie McGuire, Tara has an A.N/chorus at the start of each chapter to diss flamers, demands good reviews, and fangs her friend Raven (geddit?) for her help.

The metanarrative picks up the pace for the earlier chapters and is just an amusing relic from the past. The highlight includes the brief fallout between Tara and Raven. In Chapter 16, Raven’s character Willow is killed, desecrated upon, and EXPELLED for skipping math (all off-screen). She gets better.

Adding to the layers of insanity and typoing, we have the most inane love triangle this side of Legend of Korra.

Ebony and Drako are horny dunces who bone everywhere; Vampire and Ebony have the hots for each other, yet Ebony is committed to Drako. On the other hand, she’s furious that Vampire and Drako went out one time. It’s like if Korra and Asami had been exes before they knew Mako.

Beyond that, there’s less plot than The Room had to give away, and it’s every bit as repetitive. For example, the bit where Diabolo changed Vampire’s scar into a pentagram is copy-pasted in the same chapter; an entire sequence of Tara waking up in the nurse’s office in Chapter 39 is repeated in the next one.

That latter incident is made all the weirder by the scariest part of the fic (no kidding): Allegedly, a troll hacked into Tara’s files, spoiled Chapter 39, and rewrote it.

The disturbing part? It was well-written! It had syntax, paragraphs, and sentence structure!

Internet historians may never be able to decipher that particular narrative digression. Anyhow, let’s get to our leading lady proper.

Ebony: Sue or Null?

tara

The cast of the My Immortal web show. Special kudos for its diverse cast.

Before approaching My Immortal, I held the theory that fanfiction was a female coded activity. The re-read confirmed it and my research yielded the claims to back it up.

Obviously, coded activities are not intrinsically exclusive, and men are perfectly within their right to write fanfiction. What I mean by this is that women have a lot more to gain and to lose from writing it.

Every mainstream media is still male-dominated and, just in case you’re not caught up with the news, the world made a statement that a woman can never participate in a male-privileged area without making excuses for her existence.

I’m talking, of course, about movies.

Because I called Rey a “Mary Sue” when I came out of The Force Awakens. I was certain mine would be the minority opinion. Fortunately, I was soon reminded that Anakin Skywalker exists and that apparently women can’t have nice things in Star Wars.

Because the existence of a backlash against 2016’s Ghostbusters still infuriates me to my core.

In short, I lift my middle finger to all of you, geekbros, and droogies. Rey’s perfect. And the remake was way better.

But more stressingly, fanfiction begins most commonly as a coping tool. It creates a personal narrative space for the stories and relationships that the mainstream often obscures. For a more theoretical approach, I strongly recommend Doris Sommer’s Pre-Texts: The Arts Interpret. It doesn’t explicitly mention fanfiction, but the takeaways are far too resonant.

Basically, stories can be molded, and the classical notion of the literary canon, as per Harold Bloom, has been destabilized. This is deeply tied to the feminist movements in as much as canon services male writers and perspectives. Its destruction and the appropriation of their stories is a resounding yes for female narrators who wouldn’t have that space otherwise.

Storytelling has slowly advanced since, and I’d love to live in a world where my hypothesis is completely rebuked. Until then, fanfiction has always been not just a refuge, but a necessity for many women.

The first fanfic to achieve public recognition was Diane Marchant’s A Fragment Out of Time.

For better or worse, E.L James exists. And while I can’t call her a role model, this piece makes an excellent case for how misguided the reception towards her work is. Basically, Fifty Shades of Grey was filling a need for female porn and was constructed as a quotation-marks-romance quotation-marks-novel to be taken seriously.

quote

This leads me to the discussion: Is Enoby’s real name “Mary Sue”?

I’m not blind to the fact that characters who don’t worship the ground she stands on are either preps, killed, or sent to vacation in Azerbaijan (apologies to our Azerbaijani readers).

Nor did I miss Ebony’s infamous soliloquy:

Tara’s notes express disgust at the term Mary Sue and she insists that Ebony is not perfect (she’s a satanist!). That’s at least a base acknowledgement that the story has Values Dissonance for some people. It doesn’t make her a nuanced character, but the author is self-aware….I think.

Taken in a vacuum, Ebony’s no Rey (geddit, koz she h8s da son?).

She’s irascible, she fetishizes gay people, flips them just for staring at her, and she takes herself way too seriously.

Unfortunately, the real-life discussions on fanfiction and Mary Sue-dom compel me to take this critique to a whole other area. I’m going to take a wild leap and speculate that My Immortal’s reputation as the worst fic ever written was, at least, partly influenced by its female author.

Female writers in every medium already face an extra challenge to be taken seriously. Rowling had to shorten the Joanne and adopt a “K”, for crying out loud. There is no end to the plethora of bad fanfiction written by obvious men, yet I don’t see the same scrutiny put into those. We even give them Emmys.

The discussion has no clear cut answer. Is Ebony a Mary Sue? What even is a Mary Sue? Is it a character with plot armour or implausible competence? I mean, Ebony is studded with plot coupons, but competent she is not.

All of this ties back to the other leading question: Is My Immortal a troll fic?

It’s hugely tempting to think it is. Because it makes Tara Gilesbie a masterful bad writer who hits and worsens every bad note at the right moment. Like if Gordon Ramsay had written the recipe for Sandra Lee’s Kwanza Cake.

And yet, there’s a special something about the composition of the fic that betrays too much incompetence. There’s the repetitions I mentioned. Then there’s Tara’s fetishing of gay/bisexual relations which is not trolly, but is downright offensive.

Then there’s this dialogue.

“We won’t do [you-know-what] again.” Draco promised. “This time, we’re going with an ESCORT.”

“OMFG wtf/ Are you giving into the mainstream?” I asked. “So I guess ur a prep or a Christina or what now?”

How does that make any sense? Does that even qualify as trolling?

I’ve worked at crack fics and even if I devoted my entire life to it, I could not get these results. True, that could be because we will never reach Tara’s level.

But when you insert the fic into our culture, the signs add up. From someone who’s seen troll-activity first-hand, Tara’s attacks on flamers and trolls hit too close to home. Then there’s the fact that the fic is unfinished.

Was our genius unable to top herself? Or was a young girl taken over the edge (metaphorically, I mean)?

Inspiring as Ed Wood’s story is, the road from ridicule to “ironic fame” is not entirely flattering and our culture hasn’t been shy of demeaning better writers than Tara Gilesbie. Our cultural landscape and the construction of the story compel me to conclude that….it’s just that bad. Is it the worst? Absolutely not.

The Cursed Child exists, in case you forgot.

I can’t call My Immortal the worst anything if it gives me so much joy and fun in dissecting the layers of its insanity and illogical….logic. For that matter, there’s plenty it does right.

My Immortal was ahead of its time

It’s 2016, we’re in the Holiday Clusterfuck, and I mean the above. Let’s talk about what My Immortal does well with no hint of irony.

How weird is it that I kinda, no, really love the concept of vampires in Harry Potter?

Consider: In supernatural comedies like Addams Family Values and Hotel Transylvania, the classic horror monsters co-exist and form a community. Harry Potter is an expansive fantasy world that integrates multiple mythologies. The idea of a community with mummies and vampires should be a given, especially in a boarding school.

Yet vampires are only mentioned tangentially in the text. The closest we get to classic horror beings are werewolves who are distinctly otherized and marginalized. It doesn’t help the metaphor’s case that we only know two of them: Remus, the Good Victim, and Greyback, the evil biter.

I have a discussion in mind on how implausible it seems that werewolves would be otherized or that the creation of Wolfsbane potion wouldn’t have been impulsed earlier, but let’s leave it for another time.

The take-away is, vampires should exist in Harry Potter and they should be made more visible. If you’re as knee-deep in My Immortal as I am, you could honeypot and argue that vampires are a loose canon and freely circulate between the Muggle and Wizarding worlds. So having wizarding children being descendants from vampires makes every speck of sense.

Then we get to the depiction of Snap and Dumblydore.

Keep in mind, this came out mid 2006-7, right before Deathly Hallows. Readers were still reeling from losing Dumbledore and the debate on Snape’s true allegiance was stronger than ever.

What did Tara do with them?

mother

She made Dumbledore an irascible prep and Avril Lavigne stan. And she made Snape the creepiest, treacherous doofus this side of Littlefinger.

In the immediate aftermath, when Deathly Hallows struck close to home, that must have been taken as a poor demonization of the characters.

Now? The fic mirrors the fan sentiment towards them eerily well.

Snoop is treated like a creepy douchebag and Dumbadoor is challenged and reviled because of his casual favouritism and disregard for the lives of his students. He even gets the TVTropes quote for Ron the Death Eater:

“No.” he said meanly. “I don’t give a darn what Voldemort does to Draco. not after how much he misbehaved in school especially with YOU Enoby.” he said while he frowned looking at me. “Besides I never liked him that much anyway.”

It’s not quite the most in-depth character study, but it does mirror the sentiment towards his problematic attitude.

By contrast, Rowling named Harry’s kid Albus Severus, the epilogue memes will run for centuries, and she gave us “The Cursed Child” which stanned for them because flaws make you greater (?) Sorry, but Tara was on track here.

Then there’s the Time Turners and how they were (sort of) properly integrated into the narrative. Was it done better than Cursed Child? I couldn’t tell you. No matter how many times I read our site’s review, I cannot make sense of what time travel was. Was it a Time Chasers deal? A Rick and Morty-esque multiverse? You tell me. It’s hard to read some of the spoilers when you’re shaking your head at the others.

Because the time travel serves the purpose of defeating Volzemort and the Death Deelers who are attacking students. It’s a slight bit more urgent than providing a Time-Turner just so the star student could take more classes (most people have the opposite use in mind).

I don’t have the space to question all the semantics behind time travel in-canon, so I’ll just say that it’s cut-and-clear here: Ebony uses the Time Turner to seduce Ripple/Satan before he becomes a prep and that causes a ripple effect in the present timeline. Done.

As for making Voldemort the result of Satan’s heartbreak versus the Ominous Child of Evil Rowling delivered…..I’m okay with that. I think both tragic and pure villains have their place in the right story.

Do I take Voldemort seriously? No.

He has the narrative depth of beer foam, he tries to sound smart by way of his Shakespearean dialogue, yet is undone at every turn (Crookshanks!), and any weight in preventing his rise is lost when his “movement” is so vague and confusing.

float-onBah. What a poser.

But for what it’s worth, the gimmick of time travel to mend his broken heart is a perfect fit to the insane atmosphere the story builds.

Also, I’m curiously touched by Ebony’s love for Professor Trevolry. I wasn’t a Trelawney stan exactly, but after all the ridicule she endures and Dumbledore’s use of her, it’s touching to see her talents and ideas being acknowledged for once. Female companionship is endearing, although I could use without them calling each other “cunt”.

Did My Immortal deserve better?

Yes. If you must take anything out of my ramblings to heart, it’s this: Read My Immortal. It’s not my guilty pleasure. It’s my problematic fave.

Whether you’re doing it out of fan appreciation or “ironic enjoyment”, you should read it.

I think Tara Gilesbie is in the same breadth as George Lucas and Ed Wood, wherein she has a keen appreciation of the material and a good instinct for tropes, combined with a horrible grasp on the English language and the most incompetent way of expressing her ideas to the audience.

But whether your enjoyment is ironic or not, My Immortal is a part of our culture. There are professional, Nobel-winning writers that would kill to have the staying power this has attained. It’s an ugly, unfinished mess with sloppy pacing and mixed priorities. But it has an underlying heart and passion to it that makes it oddly endearing.

And in this year when our universe has become a satire, don’t we deserve to see an upload? Don’t we deserve to see the conclusion to this thrilling tale?


Cover image courtesy of Deviantart artist My-Immortal Comic

Simon has a hard time behaving like a human. Everything he knows from politics and sexuality, he learned from fanfics and the occasional literature.

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[…] to being Tara. But a decade after her first appearance, with her notorious fanfic having become a cultural touchstone, spawning a beloved webseries, and inspiring fandom sleuths for years to solve the “mystery” of […]

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[…] to being Tara. But a decade after her first appearance, with her notorious fanfic having become a cultural touchstone, spawning a beloved webseries, and inspiring fandom sleuths for years to solve the “mystery” of […]

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[…] to being Tara. But a decade after her first appearance, with her notorious fanfic having become a cultural touchstone, spawning a beloved webseries, and inspiring fandom sleuths for years to solve the “mystery” of […]

Culture

A Cup Of Fantasy: Dryad Tea Pairs Perfectly With The Tabletop

Dan

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It’s officially September, and it will soon be fall. The air grows cold, the skies turn slate grey, and the mind wanders in search of the comfort it can only find inside a mug of fresh brewed tea. Now, of course, you can go to Starbucks for whatever they’re passing off as tea right now, and you could also get some Tetley or Celestial Seasonings down at the supermarket. But what if you want to move beyond the mundane, to try something new and different? Maybe you want a tea that doesn’t just taste good, but pairs with your favorite book? Maybe you want a mug of something named “Raspberry Imp,” “Loki’s Kiss, or even “Wibblycog?”

Owner and operator Rubiee as well as one of her “tea minions.”

Nestled in the back of the hall between the Artist’s Alley and a steampunk hat shop, Dryad Tea’s booth was almost always busy, mostly because they offered something different from the t-shirts, props, and expensive costuming at other booths. I got to have a chat with the owner, operator, master blender, and self described “Tea Maven” of Dryad, Rubiee Tallyn Hayes, who gave me a rundown of their products and a little backstory on Dryad.

The brand originally started while Rubiee was in the “dark faerie Celtic vocal band” Pandora Celtica, singing about the dark sides of the fae world. In order to support the band, each member picked up a side gig. For Rubiee, that was her tea blending and pottery. The initial blends Dryad carried, still in their catalogue today, were directly inspired by the characters and world Pandora Celtica constructed in their music. When the band went into semi-retirement, Dryad Tea lived on thanks to an overwhelming amount of support and a successful Kickstarter. Since then, she’s expanded her blends to reflect her love for mythology, literature, and general geekiness.

Dryad Teas is a full service tea company, in that they do not carry only one specific kind of tea. They’ve got your usual assortments of blacks and greens, herbals and rooibos, and even single-note teas for purists or home blenders. Dryad works to make sure their tea is ethically sourced, and tries to make their blends as organic as possible (some ingredients can’t be bought organically). Evil tea displeases the spirits, after all.

“Winter’s Court” is a chai blend of black tea, peppercorns, cinnamon, rose, and ginger that is only available after the Fall Equinox.

While the general grouping of Rubiee’s teas are recognizable, her blends are wholly unique. When making her blends, she tries to construct a tea that plays off of more than one sense. While the obviously taste delicious, they also smell just as good, with some blends like “Seelie” (a floral rooibos) being as much potpourii as tea blend. They played on this beautifully at GenCon, with samples of seventy-five teas out for free smells. You don’t even need to go full wino with it either. One sniff and you can immediately get an idea of what the tea will taste like. I bought a pack of Early Grey blends that, in theory, would not end up being a diverse profile but in actuality smell and taste totally different from each other while retaining that core Earl Grey flavor (even the green tea blend!).

The themes for the tea also play into things, with a great deal of her recent blends coming out of discussions with creators in the fantasy community. Some of the people she’s spoken with and inspired blends include authors like Seanen McGuire, Jim Butcher, Paul Lell, and Catherynne Valente, as well as the music of SJ Tucker and Bekah Kelso. She also draws less direct inspiration from things like Warhammer 40k, Alice In Wonderland (every tea shop has to have at least one Alice blend), Shakespeare, and even Pokemon Go! (the Mystic, Instinct, and Valor teas were a recent passion project for Rubiee). They also debuted brand new premium teas at GenCon, a special white and a Jasmine Dragon Pearl green, that are more expensive thanks to production costs but also offer unique and truly exquisite tastes.

Seamlessly integrate tea into your RPG games with a dice tea infuser.

Teas are available in sizes ranging from the three cup sample size all the way up to the 100+ cup eight ounce size. You can also get tea in travel tins and as part of gift packs, or even in the monstrous “Battle Box,” a “one of everything button” for Dryad’s teas that contains a sample of every single one of their teas. You can also get a randomized mix of teas, custom blends, a “grab bag,” and even the “Mad Tea Party,” a tea blend composed of all the other teas mixed together.

Like any good tea shop, Rubiee doesn’t just stock the tea itself. She also carries a full range of accessories for your tea drinking life, and even makes the vast majority of them! At GenCon, everything they had was made by Rubiee, except for the honey sticks she carries. That is reflected in their stock, which features handmade special dice infusers, ceramic tea pets and trivets (things that hold your used tea bag or infuser), and special crystal infusers. They also carry sweeteners like the honey sticks, silicon tea infusers, and timers. She’s even got a special herbal blend called “Vampire’s Bane,” a mix of herbs and garlic that is less of a tea and more of a marinade.

The mighty 22oz Octomugs, a uniquely Rubiee creation, were a hot seller at GenCon

Rubiee also is a hard working potter, working with her apprentice to produce mugs and bowls for purchase along with her tea. The two of them have different styles of pottery, meaning that there’s a fair amount of diversity even within a two-woman operation. While her stock of mugs is currently still replenishing after GenCon, you can still see what else she has in stock and even put in special requests.

For details on Dryad’s full range of teas, and to get some for your very own (at pretty damn reasonable prices for hand blended tea), you can visit their website, as well as the Etsy shops for both tea and pottery. If you’d like to support Dryad on a longer term basis, you can sign up for their Tea of the Month Club to have samples sent to you each month, or become a Patron and get access to samples, tokens, and even Dryad’s discord channel. You can also follow Rubiee on Twitch, where she streams her pottery throwing and tea blending. You can even see her in person at Wisconsin’s Teslacon or on their home turf at Denver’s MileHiCon, where they’ll be slinging tea and tea accessories.

(Editorial Note: We’ve corrected some things after talking with Rubiee. We mistakenly called the Jasmine Dragon Pearl’ tea a Darjeeling, referred to all of their tea as organic (which is impossible due to sourcing limitations), and referred to Rubiee as the sole potter when she in fact has an apprentice) 


Images Courtesy of Dryad Tea

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Culture

Gencon Report: 7 Things Gaymers Want Game Developers To Know

Dan

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Tabletop Gaymers has been a mainstay of the tabletop gaming circuit since its formation in 2013, working to facilitate awareness, connections, and safe spaces for gamers across the LGBT spectrum.  As the biggest tabletop game in the world, their presence has been strong at GenCon since they were just a Yahoo group. Their “Queer As A Three Sided Die” is the longest running queer panel at GenCon, running since 2011, and often acts as a communal place for the queer gamers and developers to kvetch and critique an industry that was and remains dominated by straight, cis, men, (though us white gamers don’t get away scot free either).

 

I attended this year’s iteration on Thursday. Moderated by Tanya DePass (@cypheroftyr), founder and director of I Need Diverse Games), the panel also featured writer and game developer Crystal Frasier (@AmazonChique), Roll20 Production Coordinator Trivia Fox (@dark_deer_), and writer and culture critic Anna Kreider (@wundergeek). It was a Redditor’s worst nightmare: 2 enbies with bright colored hair and completely different presentations, a bi black woman, and a trans woman with her hair in bisexual colors wearing a The Last Jedi shirt; all walking into a room to talk about how they want to make gaming more diverse. It was glorious. You’ll be able to watch a full recording after the show, but below are some of the biggest takeaways from the 2018 iteration of “Queer As A Three Sided Die.”

1. Don’t Forget About The Queer POC’s

Tanya was not fucking around at this panel when it came to intersectionality. Almost immediately, she was willing to point out the rather monochromatic makeup of the room and the still underrepresented POC’s and especially Queer POC’s in gaming. While the focus of the panel was the LGBTQ community in general, ideas like fetishization of black men and women, servant POC tropes, and the general absence of POC game developers and writers at GenCon all  were bubbling under the surface of discussion. Its clear that there could be three other panels on this topic that Tanya could host, so be sure to check out her work at INDG. But as it stands, it helped ground the conversation and kept the discussions from turning into an exercise in “oppression Olympics.”

2. You Have To Listen To Sensitivity Readers, Not Just Use Them As PR

Crystal, Anna, and Tanya all are veteran sensitivity readers, and they were passionate about the importance of a sensitivity reader for game companies and writers. These readers are given preliminary drafts of games or books to critique the author’s use of characters or plot points within the reader’s  expertise. In a games environment trying to cater to LGBT gamers without hiring them (more on that later), it’s vital for devs to not just take advantage of sensitivity readers but to LISTEN TO THEM. It doesn’t matter if you show your accidentally transphobic or racist character to Crystal or Tanya, you’re doing nothing if you then ignore them. You also shouldn’t listen to a “sensitivity reader” if they don’t really fit the “sensitivity” they’re critiquing. Don’t send your nonbinary characters to, say, me for instance. I don’t really have the experience to speak to that (no matter how much white dude confidence I have). Instead, send them to Anna. Just please, PLEASE pay your consultants.

3. Humanize Your Trans Characters (And Don’t Fetishize Them)

Luckily, the culture has shifted to a point where the vast majority of writers have at least some awareness on how not to write trans characters (though there is a nagging trope that being trans is a symptom of demonic curses). But in many creators’ rush to present their characters in a positive light, they go all the way around the bend int over idealising them. The more benign manifestation of this is in trans characters who act as purely good, brave heroes who have no real personality beyond their identity (Crystal recounted how happy she was to finally get to write an trans character who was an ass hole in a recent Pathfinder adventure). But it also manifests in a grosser way, one that the panelists agreed is possibly worse than outright homophobia: fetishization. Never give your characters magic genitals, try to move them away from being “promiscuous,” and never make them some weird ethereal beauty due solely to their identity (but you can make them ethereally beautiful).

4. You Do Know Non-Binary People Exist, Right?

Gender isn’t a binary, my dudes. In real life, the community is beginning to understand that some people do not fit into the male or female label. But if the games industry has been slow to represent transgender characters, it has been absolutely glacial at representing their non-binary player base. When they do show up, they usually are shoved onto rock monsters, alien creatures, and the like. A non-binary player shouldn’t have to play a sentient ball of mud to come close to their existence outside of the gender binary. Get on it, people.

5. Don’t Keep Waving Magic Wands Over Your Trans Characters

An incredibly common trope in fantasy and science fiction, when handling trans characters, is to give them some sort of instantaneous magical gender switch. A belt that lets a trans man impregnate his partner, a ring that lets a trans woman fit the clothes she wants, etc. While the panel acknowledged the pure escapism of these story elements, they also discussed diversifying how creators represent the trans experience in their work. An example given was an alchemical solution that would, over time, allow a character to fully transition into their preferred gender. The important thing is to allow the experience to become more diverse and therefore more representative. We’ve had every kind of cis person in games, why not spread that diversity?

6. The Con Audience Is Not Your Whole Audience

At these panels, there’s sometimes a topic that makes even the attendees feel a wave of discomfort. That came near the middle of the panel, when the idea of privilege came up. It’s easy to pat ourselves on the back at the panel or at the con and say “we did it.” We came to this panel and we’ll solve the problems. But for every one person at GenCon, there’s hundreds of gamers who can’t afford to attend. But they still buy and play the games sold and discussed there and would like a say in how they’re represented. We as con attendees shouldn’t get to big in our breeches when it comes to our say in game development. If we’re lucky enough to be at a con, we should make sure we try to listen to our fellow gamers so that when we meet the people making our favorite games, we can advocate as unselfishly as possible.   It’s important for the people making the games, from the big boys on top to the little fish just finding their places, to take into account what the players they don’t meet might be sensitive to as well. There is, though, an even better way to improve representation in games…

7. HIRE US

Throughout the course of the panel, the panelists referred frequently to the “same ten brown haired, blue eyed white dudes” being hired over and over to make games, even as companies pay lip service to increased representation. But if they really want experts on writing the LGBTQ experience or the black experience or the Asian experience…fucking HIRE them. Not just as sensitivity readers, not just as reviewers. Bring them in as writers, as designers, as artists. Let them catch your bullshit before it even gets out of the writer’s room. Let them pitch you their non-binary heroes, their big buff orc femmes, their rail-thin elf butches, their gay clerics, their black princesses.

If you don’t want to be left behind, let us work for you. Cause we don’t really need you. Queer people have a knack for telling our stories, always have and always will. We’ll tell our stories wherever we can and however we can.  We’re not going to stop.

Be sure to check out Anna Kreider’s Patreon as well as her blog Go Make Me A Sandwich (particularly her takedown of D&D 5e’s horrifying handling of Curse of Strahd), Crystal Frasier’s website, Tanya at I Need Diverse Games, and Trivia’s Tumblr as well as their work at Roll20. And stay tuned for the full video of the panel, with a special cameo by yours truly.

Editor’s Note: We incorrectly used a pronoun in the above article. This has been corrected and we regret the error.

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Culture

Fandomentals At Gencon 2018: Our Most Anticipated Board Games

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For the first time ever, The Fandomentals is going to GenCon! Running from August 2nd through August 5th, GenCon is the single biggest gaming convention in the world. For the second year in a row, the convention announced in a press release that they’ve sold out of four day passes days before the convention even begins! And it’s no wonder they’ve sold out. With over 200 new board games alone debuting at the con, there’s a lot to see, do, and play. Here are the 10 games we’re most excited to try at Gencon 2018.

1. Samurai Jack: Back to the Past

Publisher: USAopoly

From the developers of The Thing: Infection At Outpost 31 and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, Samurai Jack: Back to the Past is a co-op card drafting game based on the fifth season of the hit animated show from Cartoon Network. Players take the role of Jack and his friends as they travel from place to place to gather honor and defeat the evil that is Aku.

Why We’re Excited:  It truly seems like a love letter to the iconic series. Project Raygun has brought their legendary craftsmanship to the table with loving vinyl figures of Jack, Aku, Ahi, The Scotsman, Monkey Man, Sir Rothchild, and Max as well as vivid cards that use art from the show itself.

2.  Red Dragon Inn 7: The Tavern Crew

 

Publisher: Slugfest Games

Since its debut in 2007, Red Dragon Inn has become a monster among the tabletop gaming crowd. The game has won over the hearts of gamers thanks to its gentle skewering of fantasy tropes, beautiful art, and unique and varied gameplay. One of the most re-playable party games ever, the games have featured killer rabbits, blind navigators, and bomb throwing goblins. But finally, in its seventh expansion, we’ll get to finally play as the long-suffering staff of the eponymous inn. From the jovial owner Warthorn Redbeard to the woman known only as “the Wench,” the staff finally gets a chance to put their feet up and enjoy a mug of ale like anyone else. The new expansion isn’t the only addition to Red Dragon Inn, either.

Slugfest and Steve Jackson Games have joined their mighty powers to bring Spyke and Flower from Munchkin into the Red Dragon Inn. The two can dual each other to prove who’s more min-maxed, or join in the fun of the main games in Red Dragon Inn’s first ever standalone Ally pack.

Why We’re Excited: The Red Dragon Inn is genuinely one of the best-designed games series out there.  The art is lively, the writing is clever, and it’s just fun as hell to play. Plus it has the added option of play with real alcohol, which needs to become more of a trend.

3. Legends of Sleepy Hollow

Publisher: Greater Than Games

Set three days after the Washington Irving tale, Legends of Sleepy Hollow places players right in the middle of Tarrytown circa 1790. They can become one of four townsfolk as the search for the disappeared Ichabod Crane begins. Much more story driven than most other board games, Legends takes place across 8 chapters and features secrets, twists, and even combat with attacks unique to each character. Players will balance their action pool with their characters fear levels ad they delve into the real story behind Sleepy Hollow.

Why We’re Excited: For one thing, the art is gorgeous. Abigail Larson was clearly drawing on her love of Tim Burton when she brought the game to life, and it evokes not just Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice, but also the more recent autumnal classic Over the Garden Wall. It also seems to really aim to use board games as a method of storytelling, rather than just being an excuse for strategy or competition. As immersion in video gaming reaches new heights, its no wonder that board games are getting in on it too. We’ll for sure checking this one out.

4.Blood on the Clock Tower

Publisher: The Pandemonium Institute

Its rare for a brand new studio to come out swinging this hard with their first release. Blood On The Clocktower is a deduction based game where two teams, Good and Evil, square off to either destroy the town or banish the demon forever. Similar in play style to Ultimate Werewolf and Town of Salem, each player takes on a role acting to help or hinder the spread of evil. Unlike those games, the game doesn’t end when you die. Rather, players become ghosts who can affect the game from beyond the grave.

Why We’re Excited: We love new developers. The old blood comes out with new games all the time, but the tabletop world can sometimes seem stale once you get below a certain age of publisher. But Pandemonium is bringing some real excitement to their first GenCon with a game that puts a unique spin on the extremely popular deduction genre. The addition of storyteller promises to take the lies and scheming to another level and helps add to the creativity as well.  If it’s not on your pre-order lists yet, I’d get on it.

5. Crusader Kings: The Board Game

Published By: Paradox Interactive/Free League Publishing

DEUS VULT, my brothers and sisters! Yes, the deep and sometimes incredibly confusing world of Paradox grand strategy is moving off of computer screens and onto a game board! This is Paradox’s first foray into tabletop gaming, and they’re swinging for the fences. The new game sticks closely to its digital counterparts, with each character controlling a dynasty that spans decades. Players will juggle intrigue, war, and horse popes as they fight to dominate the anarchy of Medieval Europe. Or, at least, get a genius heir no matter how many wives they have to kill. This isn’t Paradox’s only GenCon release, as they’ll also be demoing the tabletop adaptation of Europa Universalis as well.

Why We’re Excited: Paradox Games have a steep learning curve, but they aren’t time sinks just because. There’s an insane amount of depth and craftsmanship to their games, and they’ve brought all of that to bear in their first tabletop game. The art is crisp, the colors pop, and they did a fantastic job recreating the look and feel of the original game. While there’s no word if Glitterhoof, everyone’s favorite chancellor, will appear, we’ve got our fingers crossed.

6. Masque of the Red Death

Publisher: IDW

IDW is on a damn roll this year. Not only has their Legend of Korra: Pro-Bending Arena become a bestseller and a beloved part of the fandom, but they’re bringing a slew of games based on amazing properties to GenCon. But while we love Batman and the Ninja Turtles, its Masque of the Red Death, possibly the most goth board game ever made, that caught our eye. Based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, the players must balance their party duties with the encroaching plague. Drink, gossip, and carouse as all the while the Red Death encroaches on your lives. The most popular noble wins…IF they survive.

Why We’re Excited: Look at it! It’s beautiful! Filled with the unique art of Gris Grimley, IDW makes this game pop with lots of 3D standees and items. Plus the balance of doom and partying is always fun, reminding us of the Winter Palace in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Whether you’re a Poe fan, a board game fan, or just terminally goth, this game is a must-play.

7.Sovereign Skies

Publisher: Deepwater Games

Deepwater has one of the most varied inventories at GenCon. Dedicated to creative and well-designed games, they’ve taken on a real challenge this year. Sovereign Skies is an epic strategy game where factions vie for resources and galactic dominance. Seems like one of those “all night” games, right? Not really. Designer Aaron Andrew Wilson has worked to condense strategic space opera to a playtime of only 45 minutes! Players will occupy colonies and recruit politicians as they battle it out on the edge of space.

Deepwater is also debuting the 50’s tinged city planning game Welcome To at this year’s GenCon as well.

Why We’re Excited: Games that play under an hour rarely tackle a subject as epic as the Space Opera. Being able to do all the best parts of a strategy game without spending three house haggling over wheat is incredibly attractive. Plus the art is stunning, nothing new for the very aesthetic-minded Deepwater.

8. Raccoon Tycoon

Publisher: Forbidden Games

At first blush, Raccoon Tycoon looks like a well-constructed resource management economy game. Players each control a commodity and must corner the market by building buildings and collecting railroads until you become the top dog.

For some people, that might send them straight to sleep.

But then you hear the perfect pun and see the art (which is beautifully done by Annie Stegg Gerard). It’s RACCOONS! AND FOXES! Dressed in little coats and vests! Woodland critters doing ruthless land deals! It’s like if Ticket To Ride were cute…and fun.

Why We’re Excited: IT’S WOODLAND CRITTERS IN TINY NINETEENTH CENTURY ATTIRE DOING BUSINESS DEALS! LOOK AT HIS LITTLE HAT! LOOK AT HIS LITTLE TIE! I BET HE TALKS LIKE PATRICK STEWART!

9. Gorilla Marketing

Publisher: Roxley Games

I think something is in the water these game devs are drinking. But it’s good. Because Roxley decided to take the perfectly functional “random party game” idea and make it better. How you ask? The same way DC wrote Batman in the Silver Age: add Gorillas. The game takes place across two rounds. In the first, the players name the thing that they will advertise, whether it be college courses, bands, food trucks etc. In the second, the players then must come up with a tagline for that product. The winner isn’t just who’s funniest, but who meets the criteria of the judge’s card.

Why We’re Excited: See: Raccoon Tycoon, but with gorillas.

10. Evil High Priest

Publisher: Petersen Games

This one has been on our radar for a while. The “dark cult” genre is a staple of tabletop gaming, and Evil High Priest is a welcome addition to the genre. Rather than warring cults and warring monsters, the players of Evil High Priest are all in the same cult, worshiping the same unknowable eldritch being. But there can be only one high priest. Players must gather cultists, perform dark rituals, and terrorize the local townsfolk in the name of their dark master, all while dodging the pesky investigators. The winner is the player who has the most power and treasure when the final seal breaks and doom comes to the world.

Why We’re Excited: Cult games are just fun as hell. There’s something about millennials that just attracts us to the weird and dark. And in today’s political climate,  summoning the Great Black Goat Shub-Niggurath doesn’t seem like a half bad idea. Petersen is a company that strives to create high-end games, and it shows in the rich details and unique art that fills Evil High Priest to the brim.

 

So that’s our list! See anything you like? What games are you excited about this year?


Images via Gencon LLC and the respective publishers

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