Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Archive of 30 Years' Classic Sci-Fi Available For Free

Archive.org recently added a gigantic collection of the influential science fiction magazine Galaxy Science Fiction to its site that is free for anyone to read, worldwide. While it's not a complete collection of the magazine's run, there are many pieces of sci-fi history in the collection. Get the details after the jump.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Muslim World's History of Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fiction


Writing for Aeon, Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad delves into the long, rich tradition of speculative fiction in Muslim culture, including some of the first examples of feminist fiction in the early 1900s. As he points out, it's not really all that surprising when you consider the background it came from:

Western readers often overlook the Muslim world’s speculative fiction... Some of the first forays into the genre were the utopias dreamt up during the cultural flowering of the Golden Age. As the Islamic empire expanded from the Arabian peninsula to capture territories spanning from Spain to India, literature addressed the problem of how to integrate such a vast array of cultures and people...We also have the Muslim world to thank for one of the first works of feminist science fiction. 

He draws a line from the high fantasy tales of the Golden Age to the early 1800s to today, and it's a pretty interesting journal. And if that whets your appetite, you can find more at www.islamscifi.com .

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rare Recordings of Indigenous Language Saved By Today's Tech

This week, on International Indigenous Peoples Day, UC Berkley announced that efforts were underway to use new non-invasive scanning procedures to archive and preserve recordings of indigenous California languages.



UC Berkeley said in an announcement:
Berkeley researchers are using optical scan technology to transfer recordings from thousands of decaying wax cylinders, preserving audio of 78 indigenous California languages, most of which were recorded more than a century ago. Many of the recordings contain the only audio in the world of several of the languages, and others hold unknown stories and songs.
The collection will be made available to indigenous communities, as well as to scholars and the public.
The video above link has interviews with the linguistics and physics researchers, an archive specialist, and a descendant of a tribe that has no surviving "old-timer" speakers to teach the language.

fff

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Listen Up: Rolling 12s

Rolling 12s theme is built around the world of tabletop gaming and looking at some of the more unique forms of storytelling that the format allows. In particular, Rolling 12s features audio drama content focused on black characters and black tabletop players. The main stories, "Monde Demasque" and "Hallows Eve" centers on a Vampiric court of black women fighting for survival in territory staked out (no pun intended) in Houston.

The podcast is currently on hiatus, so now's the time to get caught up on episodes! You can listen via Rolling 12s on stitcher, on Google Play or via iOS.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Little Red Wolf Looks Gorgeous

I recently discovered Amélie Fléchais’ illustration work. I was delighted to find out that her delightful "The Little Red Wolf", originally published in French in 2014, will be published by Lion Forge Comics/CubHouse in the United States in English this fall. The English edition of this story, which turns the classic “Little Red Riding Hood” tale on its head and features a wolf in a familiar red cape. The translation was done by Jeremy Melloul.

I’ve got some art from the book to showcase today but let me do my best to describe to you what this book offers. In a twist on LRRH that is both whimsical and haunting, it follows a little wolf tasked with visiting his grandmother’s house to give Grandmother a rabbit his mother has just hunted. I got a sneak peek at the book and permission to share 2 of the 80 full-color images with you. Bon appetit, and keep your eyes out for this book in the fall!



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Listen Up: Fan Bros

The Fan Bros Show is a podcast that bills itself as the "Voice of the Urban Geek".  Hosted by Dj Benhameen, Tatiana King-Jones and Chico Leo, Fan Bros discusses the week in geek life and media fandom. The also have a weekly spinoff podcast called "Black Castle" that goes over the week in Game of Thrones. Lots of good stuff, and the guests they have on each week are super fun to listen to.

You can listen to the podcast on the Fan Bros  website, on iTunes via iOS (though the iTunes feed can sometimes lag behind the actual release date) or on soundcloud.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Shining Some Light On Solarpunk's Politics

Artwork courtesy of T.X. Watson
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably heard of steampunk. I've also covered steamfunk and silkpunk. There's a cyberpunk off-shoot that started via artist tumblrs and has grown from aesthetic to a speculative near-future with some interesting political underpinnings: solarpunk.
It's been the prompt for at least one game jam, and has an oversize influence in visual domains: There's a seemingly endless scroll of solarpunk pinterest boards, and the concept has worked its way into webcomics and concept art for Black Panther.

Writing for Medium, Andrew Dana Hudson has an in-depth look at the vision behind this speculative future, and the politics behind the genre. An excerpt:
Let me say from the outset: the world of solarpunk is this world. The here, the now and the very soon. Burdened with all that that’s been slung across our backs. While you might set your solarpunk stories in far off futures or fantasy universes (I won’t stop you), great speculative fiction always reflects the fears and aspirations of the time and place it was written. This is what I’m interested in: what solarpunk can tell us about the civilization we have right now, where it’s going and what we’ll be living through.
I’ll also offer up my own ideas about what exactly we should be doing with this strange bloom we’ve found. Solarpunk feels like a cathartic uncorking of a pent up imagination, and that energy can be channeled in different directions. A genre explores ideas through motifs, variations on a theme. A movement provokes change through iterations of strategy and deed. I love the former, but we need the latter.
The entire article is fascinating reading, so I implore you to read the whole thing. Then, once you've done that, have a look at the impressive body of work from the late, great Solarpunk Press, where you can find art, podcasts and fiction that explore the genre.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Listen Up: The Art Scene Podcast

Hosted by Louis Vargas, The Art Scene  focuses of on-depth conversations with up and coming artists, gallery owners, museum professionals and anybody else with an art background that have gone on to take non-traditional paths in life after an art degree. The Art Scene doesn't just cover an artist's work but also an artist's life. He also gives a lot of insight into the California art scene.

You can follow along via The (art)Scene website, on iTunes via iOS or on soundcloud.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Comic Con In Abandoned Mall Store A Hot Topic With Fans

Fandom Fest, a long-running comic and toy collector fan expo in Kentucky, seemed like is was off to a rocky start when it announced a change of venue a few weeks before the convention date. Soon after, sixteen of the previously announced celebrity guests canceled their appearances. Part of the reason? The new venue was an abandoned Macy's at a local mall. Writing for Comics Beat, Heidi McDonald is your tour guide to the train wreck. For example, celebrities complained of promised airfare and hotel fees not being paid. Fans seeking autographs of the 16 celebrities that had now cancelled were denied refunds. A fire marshall showed up at the venue and, citing safety concerns, only let the 30,000 fans in 1,700 people at a time.

So what did Myra Daniels, the convention co-organizer have to say in her defense? She did release a statement.

It's a doozy.
“I am not going to say that everything I have done… that I have no made mistakes. Absolutely I have made mistakes. Has there been a time maybe flights weren’t done on time that they had wanted? Maybe they said they wanted them by 30, 40, 50 days out and they weren’t done at that exact time. But did they have flights? Did they have hotels? Yes they did,” Daniels said.
When asked if she felt bad about the fans who were left without any celebrities that they wanted to see she said, “”No, I don’t feel bad about that, we’ve done nothing to rip anybody off. They knew that when they signed up. They even had to click a box saying I understand this.”
The entire report is by turns fascinating, frustrating and horrifying, and you can read the whole account here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Reaction Gifs: The New Digital Blackface?

Teen Vogue has been offering up a continuous supply of well-written, well researched essays, from a diverse range of writers. At least once a week, I'll read something on Teen Vogue that will give me pause and have me re-evaluate something I normally take for granted. This one surprised me: reaction gifs. As Lauren Michelle Jackson posits in her Teen Vogue op-ed, that could very well be the case:

 There’s no prescriptive or proscriptive step-by-step rulebook to follow, nobody’s coming to take GIFs away. But no digital behavior exists in a deracialized vacuum. We all need to be cognizant of what we share, how we share, and to what extent that sharing dramatizes preexisting racial formulas inherited from “real life.” The Internet isn’t a fantasy — it’s real life. After all, our culture frequently associates black people with excessive behaviors, regardless of the behavior at hand. Black women will often be accused of yelling when we haven’t so much as raised our voice. Officer Darren Wilson perceived a teenage Michael Brown as a hulking “demon”and a young black girl who remained still was flipped and dragged across a classroom by deputy Ben Fields. It’s an implication that points toward a strange way of thinking: When we do nothing, we’re doing something, and when we do anything, our behavior is considered “extreme.” This includes displays of emotion stereotyped as excessive: so happy, so sassy, so ghetto, so loud. In television and film, our dial is on 10 all the time — rarely are black characters afforded subtle traits or feelings. Scholar Sianne Ngai uses the word “animatedness” to describe our cultural propensity see black people as walking hyperbole.

The entire op ed is very well-written. Agree or disagree, you're likely to come away with a lot of food for thought, so be sure to read the whole article.

Being An Indie Game Developer While Keeping Your Sanity

Debates about the legality and how necessary "crunch time"--  extreme periods of work in order to meet milestones or game launch deadlines where 80 hour work-weeks are the norm-- have been a hotly-contested topic for close to half a decade. I talked about how AAA studios like Blizzard exploit workers' passion and camaraderie to cover up the effects of crunch time 3 years ago. As the perennial debate over crunch time and overwork in video games has heated up once again, I wanted to turn to an area that is often overlooked: the pressure and strain of single-person indie game development.

Writing for gamesindustry.biz earlier this year, Oliver Milne penned "The dangers of passion projects: Staying sane in indie development". He spoke with Josh Parnell, the single person behind the long-anticipated space sim Limit Theory that was successfully crowdfunded in 2012. Parnell worked on nothing but the ambitious space-sim for 3 years straight, handling programming and debugging and reworking all the code himself. In 2015, his regular public updates stopped cold. Parnell seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth. Six months later, he resurfaced, citing overwhelming stress and the need to retreat for half a year for his mental health.

Crowdfunded or not, you might think that control over your own schedule, milestones and owning what you make might make long hours and the pressure of crunch very unlikely. As Milne and Parnell point out, it's more likely than you'd think:
Being in control of their own hours and intellectual property might, on the face of it, seem like it would reduce those problems for indie developers, but Parnell says the indie lifestyle comes with its own risks: "On the one hand, what makes you so great as an indie dev is your passion. It's that you're doing what you love. On the other hand, that's exactly the danger of it, because the minute it becomes work, or the minute you let your life get consumed by it, everything changes. It's hard to see that coming when all you're thinking about is 'Oh, I'm just going to be doing what I love, it's going to be great!'

The entire article does a great deep dive on Parnell's case in particular and what all game devs could learn from what happened, so I'd recommend reading the whole thing.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Kids, Squids, Art Memes & DIY Hacks

The Splatoon series is well-known for two things: inventive multiplayer non-violent FPS action and the Miiverse player art accompanying player profiles that often showed some surprisingly intricate artwork. In fact, even though the Miiverse function won't be included in the Nintendo Switch, Splatoon 2 includes a profile function that works essentially the same way... so artists have kept on arting.

Some of the profile art looks jaw-droppingly detailed. Two examples:



How were these done? The two images were made using two different approaches: one involved a lot of patience, and the other involved hacking a game controller to run an external program.

The first image was created by reddit/twitter user Tobi, who explained his process this way:
“I just used a capacitive stylus for rough shapes, a zoomed in copy of the guy's face in 2-colour mode which I constructed in Photoshop, and a looooooooooot of patience to recreate the face. You don't have to be pixel perfect, because the entire thing hinges on visual noise to begin with, but it's nice if the face had some semblance of coherence to it. The clothes and hair are mostly random dots, whose only purpose were to create the illusion of texture and depth.

The second image, however, was not made by hand. Splatoon player and programmer ShinyQuagsire23 figured out how to trick an external USB input capture device to repurpose a fighting game controller to create the input needed to recreate an image pixel-by-pixel . The entire image creation process takes about an hour.

ShinyQuagsire23 uploaded the entire project to GitHub so that the rest of the world can share detailed Splatoon profile art too.

Or use it to make the dankest of memes.

Today Bandcamp's Donating Profits For Trans Law Aid. I'm Matching It.

Bandcamp, a DIY online music store for indie musicians that offers a pay-what-you-want pricing plan, announced it would donate 100 percent of its proceeds today to the Transgender Law Center. Bandcamp said in a statement this week that "We support our LGBT+ users and staff, and we stand against any person or group that would see them further marginalized."

While Bandcamp will be donating its cut of every sale today, the artist get to decide what they're going to do with their remaining share. I have an experimental music brand on bandcamp myself at lowercaset.bandcamp.com. I will be donating 100 percent of everything I make today to the Transgender Law Center today as well.

So, every sale made today August 4th (from midnight to midnight Pacific Time) will benefit to the Transgender Law Center, a nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to change law, policy, and culture for the more equitable. TLC does critical policy advocacy and litigation on multiple fronts, fights for healthcare for trans veterans, defends incarcerated trans people from abuse in prisons and detention centers, supports trans immigrants, and helps trans youth tell their stories and build communities.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Thank Yous, How You Can Help The Code & Get Free Stuff

Here's this month's Patron Thank Yous:
  • Cargo, who had nothing to link to, but is a great dude! Thanks, Cargo. 
  • Daphny Drucilla Delight David! Her Patreon is here and her blog is on the blogroll! 
  • Fluffy! Check out their stuff at beesbuzz.biz
  • Hillary Gross
  • Gabriel Gentile, on twitter at GabrielCGentile
This month's free Patron-exclusive download will be online this Friday-- FREE high-resolution glitch art that subscribers can print out, frame or remix.

What's The Patreon Stuff About, Anyhow?

The Code is helped by the patrons I just thanked. In addition to geek ephemera and the esoterically nerdy, I use this blog to focus on marginalized voices and perspectives, advocate for inclusiveness in media fandoms and sub-cultures, signal boost diverse creators and share stuff that can be food for thought.

I also create experimental electronic music and art prints & apparel under the name lowercase t, and perform improvisational readings with the Overly Dramatic Readers.

I also help people! Some of the ways I do that:
  • I co-host several charity fundraisers with The Munchausen Society every year
  • Advocate for strong anti-harassment policies and safe spaces at conventions
  • Organize public relations, media outreach, recorded an audio book & designed the website for a disabled dad's panel on disability for Bronycon; it was so successful he was invited back 2 more times!
  • And More!
I want to keep doing this work, and working with & helping people and also be compensated for my time and effort. My ultimate dream is to be able to offer a bi-monthly podcast along with a blog updated every day of the week. I know times are rough for a lot of people, so I've set this campaign to charge monthly-- no matter what, you'll only be charged the amount you chose to pledge once every month. 

I have rewards for every single support level I offer, too! Check it out:

$1 a month:
TIP JAR 

You'll get: 

  • My thanks & gratitude
  • Your name listed in a special "Thank You" post on The Code every month
  • Access to Patron-only posts and updates
  • One free Patron only exclusive download each month

$3 a month
CUP OF COFFEE

You'll get:

  • Your name listed in a special Thank You post on The Code
  • Access to Patron-only updates
  • Free Patron only exclusive download every month
  • Monthly link/plug to whatever you want-- your website, a project, your YouTube channel-- you name it!


$5 a month
LUNCH TIME


You'll get:

  • All rewards for previous tiers (named in the monthly thank you post, Patron-only update access, free monthly Patron only download, free plug on The Code)
  • free music download of a track of your choice from lowercase t every month!



$10 a month
SURPRISE MYSTERY CARE PACKAGE


You'll get:

  • All rewards for previous tiers 
  • A special Mystery Surprise Care Package made just for you mailed to you EVERY MONTH. It'll be a CARE package stuffed to the brim with fun stuff like novelties, toys, magazines, surprises and a hand-made doodle from me.




$20 a month
PIZZA TIME


You'll get:

  • All previous tier rewards (including the Monthly Mystery Surprise Package)
  • Every month you can request a post on The Code on a topic of your choosing or get a free music track made just for you based on a title you make up!
Click here to find out how you can become a Patron for as little as a dollar a month-- that's 3 cents a day.

If you don't want a monthly commitment but would still like to help out, you can send any amount you choose one time only by going through PayPal here, and you don't even need a paypal account.
Not a fan of PayPal? You can buy me a coffee via Ko-Fi!

Guest Post: Home, Heartbreak And Undertale


This post contains story spoilers for Undertale.

I spent most of my playtime with Undertale scared and depressed. This is probably not a normal or even, perhaps, sensible reaction. The game is pretty hilarious. It’s full of fantastically written characters. It’s an overall enjoyable, fantastic experience that I’d recommend to anyone. But it really upset me, and that’s still hanging around whenever I think about it. And it’s all Toriel’s fault.
Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But it certainly feels that way.
Toriel is the kind of character I wish there was more of in fiction. I’ve been experimenting with a character like her (though quite, quite different) for awhile now in my own writing. She’s caring and incredibly genuine. She’s feminine, and given many “grandma” sort of qualities. But at the same time she’s strong, she’s powerful, and she makes things happen. She has agency. She calls back to this ideal person I dreamed of being when I was little: mom-like, but without the dependence that was connected in my head. Who I am has changed a lot since then, of course, but there’s still a real strong connection there. I could do a lot worse to look back at my life and realize I resemble Toriel. I loved her, from when she first takes your hand in the game. It was something so ridiculously intimate-feeling, a gesture you just don’t see in games like this. How could I not?
And not long after, the game forced me into a situation where I had to essentially hurt her. Now, yes, of course, there’s a pacifist solution, and I used it, but I really hurt her emotionally by leaving. I knew she’d be upset. But she gave me a phone, and her phone number, so she’d always know I was safe. So I called her, and she didn’t pick up. I called Toriel approximately every 10 minutes of game time for the entire game, and she never picked up.
Now, from a narrative standpoint, this makes perfect sense. To her, me leaving was another death, of many. Another mistake of her ex-husband she couldn’t stop. To Toriel, she was grieving for me. (Even more true once it’s revealed she was really grieving for the me of long ago, the character you control in the game not being you.) Why would she increase her pain by talking to me? I wasn’t going to make it, just like the rest. I was already gone. I understand why it’d be hard to pick up the phone.
But to me, personally, it was devastating. I’ve been working really hard on my brain problems recently, and I’ve discovered something about myself. I have an anxiety disorder, and it all comes from this fear that people I care about are going to leave me, or abandon me. That I can’t be the thing they want. Someday they’ll realize it, and off they’ll go. Toriel wanted me to stay with her, enjoy a simple life with her, and I tried. I tried so hard to do that. I wasted almost an hour trying to figure out a way to not tell Toriel I wanted to leave the RUINs. I liked her. I wanted to be that for her, if that’s what she wanted. I couldn’t. It was a game of adventure. So I had to press on, because that’s the game. And she left me for it.
The moment I called her after walking out of the RUINs, and she didn’t pick up, I nervously told myself it was too quick for another event with her, and she’d pick up soon. I played a tiny bit more, and nothing. And I realized she would never pick up. And I vowed to stop playing the game right then and there. I couldn’t take her leaving me. It reminded me of my recurring nightmare I have. I used to have it every night. These days, I’m doing better, and it’s a couple times a month. But I’m always somewhere I want to be, and I realize, at some point, someone I care about has disappeared because of something I did. Maybe it’s my parents, maybe it’s my fiance, maybe it’s someone else, but they’re gone. I run and search and cry and can never find them. I knew I wouldn’t find Toriel either, a character who said she’d love it if I called her “mom,” since I brought it up. I couldn’t take it. I had that nightmare that night, just to seal the deal.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the game, and Toriel, though. Everyone else was enjoying it. I was going to miss something important, wasn’t I? So I asked around, talking to people who had beaten it, trying to find a reason to play more. “Will Toriel pick up the phone? Will it be okay? Will she talk to me?” They told me it would be alright. But the whole way through the game, I called, over and over again. And she never picked up. I held on to the pie she had given me. I couldn’t bring myself to use it, because I knew it would probably say something in the use text that would upset me, because it’d be about her. I laughed at the jokes, I got to know other great characters, I enjoyed the game, sure, but most of it I was on edge. I was worried. I was scared. What if it didn’t work out? What if she doesn’t pick up the phone?
Of course, in the True Pacifist ending, you are reunited. Toriel comes back as part of the dramatic finale, and you can give her the family she wants. But what you can’t do is apologize for hurting her, making her worry. And what she doesn’t do is apologize for not answering the phone. You tell her you want to live with her, and she remarks that you should have said so from the beginning. But I couldn’t do that. I tried, but I couldn’t, just like so many things I wanted to be for my parents, because they wanted it so badly, but I couldn’t. And just like my parents, Toriel abandoned me, for a time.
I saw those ending scenes, and I went, “Oh, good, that’s what I wanted.” But even now I can’t completely get into the fantasy of it. I’m still worried about it. She left me once, for doing something I had to do. Can I really be sure she won’t leave again? She made a joke out of me wanting to call her “mom,” after all. Is this as serious as I want it to be? I don’t know. There’s no more game to tell me.
A friend of mine commented (or maybe retweeted, I can’t remember) that it’s wonderful that Toriel has already basically become a mom for furries who don’t have that sort of thing. And that’s something I really understand, and that idea makes me happy. I kind of feel that way too, not because I don’t have a wonderful mother (mine’s pretty great, all things considered) but because can you ever really have too many moms? Too many people that show concern for you? And I’m glad she had an arc, of sorts, in the story, as a writer. It all worked well. I know she, in particular, is going to stick with me for a long time, and that’s the sign of a good character.
But I’ll never get to tell her I missed her. And she’ll never get to tell me she’s sorry for leaving me alone for so long.
Maybe that’s silly or ridiculous to be so hung up on. But I am. Such is the power of an interactive medium.

This post originally appeared at On The Stick and is reprinted with permission. Alexis Long writes cool stories you should read at poetfox.com.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Listen Up: Running on Rooftops

Hosted by Darryl & Phil, two big friends that are even bigger comic book nerds, Running on Rooftops specializes in discussing, analyzing and highlighting adapting comic book properties from the printed page to the silver screen (though they also cover television and Netflix adaptations too).

The most recent episode available does a deep dive on the recently released Spider-Man: Homecoming that's pretty entertaining to listen to. Whenever there's a major release on Netflix, they also invite a guest host onboard. The also have shorter episodes they call "Sprints" released on occasion.

You can follow along via the Running on Rooftops website, via iTunes on iOS or Google Play.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

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