Friday, December 27, 2013

Nobody Cares and Nobody Demands Better

I had another article scheduled, but a topic came up and I need to vent a bit.

The last couple of months have seen the release of two episodes of the classic series Doctor Who.  If you haven't seen it, um, seriously, it's existed for 50 years now, surely you would have heard of it.  Doesn't matter, you don't need to know anything about it, and if you do know of Doctor Who, no spoilers here because, again, it isn't important.

What's important is the response I've seen to both episodes.  The first was the 50th anniversary episode of the series, and the second was on Christmas day and was a passing of the torch type episode.  Both episodes are damn big events within the Who fandom.  Both had some flaws (nothing is perfect).  Both were also accused of ruining the franchise (or some equivalent there of).

That last part is very annoying to me.  I watched both episodes as they were released (in the US at least) and enjoyed them quite a bit.  I saw some of the flaws, the niggly bits that cause issues, but none were deal breakers, not just for the episode, but the series in general.  Yet the screaming and yelling on both are loud.  One person, whose reviews I respect, hated the "big moment" of the Christmas episode and followed it with a string of scathing tweets (no, I wont' link them) about it.

That big moment he accused of being a Deus Ex Machina, a god in the machine.  Old term, usually referring to how Greeks would end plays that they couldn't figure out how to resolve by having a god come down and sort shit out.  Was that big moment one?  In my estimation, no.  It was set up pretty early on in the series that this was possible and the trail was laid down in a way that it worked.

The same thing was said about the "big moment" in the 50th anniversary, and that moment was a kind of retcon.  Many screamed at how it ruined the main character, and most of the revived series (the series was dead for a couple decades) was now pointless.  I disagree again, as it really didn't change anything with the rest of the modern series, it didn't lessen anything about it.  It LIBERATED the series from it, granting it a new breath, a new birth, and the chance to get beyond it.  Before that moment was changed, it had done it's job, it had explored the depth of the character, but it wasn't needed any more, and removing it opened the character up to a new path.

This rage reminds me of the end of the modern Battlestar Galactica series.  Everyone loved the first hour of that 2 hour finale.  The second hour, however, will come with a lot of venom.  An UNGODLY amount of venom.  Maybe it was because this was the first major sci-fi series to be completely within the information age, picked apart by the internet episode by episode, but the end of that series raised a stink I can still feel.  And I liked it.  I couldn't understand the hate for it, I still can't.

So why?  Why does this kind of thing exist?  It's easy to say "well it's the internet," but I think it's more than that.  The title of this article "Nobody Cares and Nobody Demands Better" is a quote from that person I mentioned earlier.  I think that's the root of the problem, and not true in the least.  The problem?  Many have placed their bar of expectations far, far too high.  They want every episode, every movie, every comic to be the best EVAR!  Okay, that's fine, as I said before, critics want creators to and their creations to be better.  BETTER, not BEST.  Nothing is perfect.  Perfection, however, is demanded, but perfection varies from person to person.  One man's Deus Ex Machina is another's clever use of a plot device, a retcon is a necessary liberation and an epilogue is the fulfillment of a promise made decades ago.

It's also super focused.  The 50th anniversary episode and the Christmas episode are actually one after another, in sequence.  There's a hidden time gap, but they are the are together.  In fact, I would reach back as far as the last regular episode of the last season, so 3 episodes, all related to each other.  The fact that they are titled "The Name of the Doctor" "The Day of the Doctor" and "The Time of the Doctor" should have been a clue they are not meant to stand alone.  Yet one of the first comments I saw about the last one was "When you paint yourself into a corner, walking on the paint is not an acceptable option."

What if the plan was to walk on the paint all along?  Or maybe you missed the path that wasn't painted over that lead out?  As I said, that last big moment was spelled out as possible from very early on in the revived series, and with the events of the previous episode, could have been done at this point.  Was this intentional or the normal outgrowth of the script?  No idea, and we likely never will know the truth.

So does nobody demand better?  Well, no, they do.  There was a time when the various entertainment markets could get away with shoveling out crap, but good things still came out, they were praised and elevated above the rest.  There's an old adage that 99% of everything is crap, and while I don't strictly agree with it, most stuff isn't good because there is SO much of it out there.  Diamonds in the rough are hard to find.  Demanding better is why there is so much out there, because they were looking for diamonds all along.
Were those 3 episodes of two different series bad?  God no, they were quite good.  Perhaps not great, but that's fine, I'll take good.  Great would have been amazing, but that doesn't happen often, if it did, it wouldn't be as great, now would it?

Rant over.

Before I move on, I finally got a new job.  It shouldn't interfere with my updating this site, but if it does, I'll make sure to say something.

Next time, I can't live without, until then kiddies.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dreams of Stars Part 9

            "Hey, you can't go in there!"

            L’lorne and Deborah stopped mere feet from the elevator door.  The guard that stood there didn't seem to mind their approach, but the woman at the reception desk practically screamed at the two of them.

            L’lorne turned from the elevator and marched across the black marble floor to the black marble reception desk and the three people who manned it, or womanned it as they were all women.  "Really?" she leaned against the desk that was nearly chest high.  "And why would that be?"

            "You're not authorized," the woman glared.  Well, at least Deborah assumed she glared as she could barely see over the desk.

            "I was the last time I came in here," L’lorne said in the most irritated tone Deborah had ever heard.  It also confused her, as she had been under the impression that L’lorne had never been in the building before, or even in the capital for that matter.

            "Well you must have missed the updates to the security system," the receptionist said.  "Your ident cards please."

            L’lorne grumbled something, and handed over her wallet.  The woman waved her hand at Deborah, insisting that she give her own ID, but the woman didn't quite seem to be looking at her.  Deborah hesitantly handed it over only to have it snapped out of her hand.  There was some shuffling behind the slight rise in the counter that prevented Deborah from seeing over with any ease, followed by some tapping and beeping.

            "Ah, okay," the woman said.  More shuffling and tapping.  "Okay, there we go."  The woman stood up and handed L’lorne's back, then moved to give Deborah's back.  "Sorry about that," she said, looking right over Deborah's head.  The girl could only blink, then carefully reached up and took the wallet.  "As I said, the security system was recently upgraded, and now everyone must have their ID's scanned before entering the elevator."

            "Really, when'd they do that?"  L’lorne asked.

            "About a month ago, I think.  You two must have been out in the field a while if you didn't even hear about it."

            "Well, we decided to walk back from our last assignment," L’lorne smiled.  "Better for the circulation, you know?"

            "Oh don't I ever!  I would walk back and forth to work if I didn't live so far away.  Or if it wasn't so cold in the winter, or hot in the summer.  Oh well, you're all set.  You’re heading to missing persons, yes?”  L’lorne nodded.  “They moved two weeks ago, fifth floor, turn left, then right, third door on the right.  Have a nice day."

            "Thank you," L’lorne said.  Deborah said something equivalent, but didn't linger on the exact nature too much.

            "There's something wrong with that woman," Deborah said quietly to L’lorne as they moved toward the elevator.


            "She didn't even stop to look twice at me.  She didn't even look at me."  Deborah paused.  "What did you have that ID say about me?"

            "Nothing, except that you were authorized to enter."  The guard nodded to them and turned the key that called the elevator.  "Why, do you think it matters?"

            "Well, I don't know, but something is definitely wrong with her if she doesn't notice that I'm a. . ."  Before she could finish, the elevator arrived, and L’lorne pulled her inside.

            "Maybe there's another reason," L’lorne said as she studied the button panel and pressed the button marked 5.

            "Yeah, what's that?"  The mirrored doors of the elevator slid closed.

            "Oh, probably that," L’lorne pointed.

            Deborah's gaze shifted from L’lorne to the doors, and a reflection that wasn't quite her own at all.  There was L’lorne, her long black hair, simple coat and slacks, and standing next to her was a tall blond woman wearing a long brown coat.  "What the. . ."  The blond woman's mouth moved as Deborah spoke, causing her to stop.  She moved her hand, and the image moved her hand the same.  "What is this?"

            "What they see right now, and for as long as you want."

            Deborah reached over and touched the reflection.  Her hand was near even with her head as she reached out, but the reflection reached down to touch the hand exactly where it should if it were a real reflection.  "How," was all she could manage.

            "You didn't think those glasses could just receive information, did you?"

            "But I'm not wearing them."

            "Doesn't matter to the glasses."

            The girl stared at her reflection, an adult reflection and could only ponder at it.  "Is this what I'll look like when I grow up?"

            L’lorne shrugged.  "Probably, it's only guessing really, taking what I've learned about you and extrapolating this image.  It's close, at least."

            More staring.  "I look like mama."

            "Then your mother was a very beautiful woman," L’lorne said calmly.  The door pulled itself open and the image disappeared behind the walls.  "Come on."


            For a moment, Deborah wondered if all government building hallways looked like the one in which she stood.  It was devoid of any real markings aside from room numbers and a few choice words to describe the room behind it.  The rest was bland, a dull cream color that served no purpose than that it was chosen to stick to the walls.  The carpet was a combination of purple and dark blue, but it too seemed simply to have been placed there with no rhyme or reason.  The lighting was equally bad, just cheap florescent office lights, and while they let in adequate light, they seemed destined to light a space which was not meant to be seen, and likely would never have been if it weren't for the lone window at the end of the hall.  That was the only way she knew the hallway was ugly.

            "I think it's this way," L’lorne said quickly, moving away from the window and the elevator, deeper into the depths of the hell of the bland.

            "Where are we going?"

            "Missing persons," L’lorne answered, peering down a side hallway that wasn't part of the directions.

            "Why?  Mama isn’t exactly missing, she was kidnapped."

            L’lorne stopped at an intersection.  A quick glance left was followed by a confident step to the right.  "True, but the point was simply to get in here, everything afterwards we can handle electronically."

            Deborah stopped at the intersection while L’lorne continued forward.  "Well why missing persons?  Why not something more in line with what we want?"

            "And what would be," L’lorne stopped and returned to the intersection.

            "I don't know, maybe," she couldn't think of anything and just stood there for a moment, as if in thought, but really as a stall.  "I'm just not sure how I'm supposed to react to everything."

            "You mean your reflection."

            "Yeah, mostly.  But the ID thing, with you seeming like you've been here before, the glasses, your implant things, the way you spend money, the boutique.  It's all, just, I don't know, confusing."

            L’lorne nodded, then put her arm on Deborah's shoulder.  "Let's go have a seat," she pointed forward to a kind of small lounge.  They settled down on a pair of linked, uncomfortable, and fairly ugly chairs.  "Okay, ask away."

            "Um, I'm not sure where," Deborah started.  "How did you make that image of me?"

            "It extrapolated your genetic patterns into the fully grown form.  Probably about 25 or so, I'd say."


            L’lorne held up her wrist and the watch.  "I knew you couldn't get in as a kid, so I had this make you look like a woman.  It's all quite simple, simple as breathing."

            "Simple?  I've never seen anything like this.  It matches me exactly, like it's," a pause of disbelief.  "Like it's reading my mind."

            "No, it's not.  It's reading your nerve impulses in your various body parts, nothing more."

            "And the database?"

            "Electrical patterns in the brain.  That's why you have to speak the first commands to it, so it knows what to look for."

            Deborah thought on this for a moment, and decided that it was reasonable, if odd.  "How does it do it though?"

            L’lorne smiled.  "It does it very well."  Deborah frowned.  "It would take too long to explain, just accept that it does it, for now.  Later, maybe, I'll show you how it all works."

            "Okay," Deborah said.  "Now, why did you act like you've been here before?  Have you been here before?"

            A shake of the head.  "No, I haven't been here before.  This is the first time I've been in the capital, for that matter."  She settled down a bit in the chair.  "Remember the boutique?  How that woman acted when we came in?"

            "Like we didn't belong?"

            "Exactly.  We didn't belong in there, did we?"

            "No, well I didn't anyway."  She could still see the disgust on the woman's face as she tried to shy them away.

            "We didn't belong," L’lorne stressed.  "But as soon as I started acting like I belonged, and gave her evidence to support the act. . ."

            "She became more than happy to help us," Deborah finished.

            "Same here.  We act like we belong, offer her evidence that we belong, and to her, and everyone else who matters, we do."

            "Well, that makes sense," Deborah said quietly.  "But what if that lady hadn't told us where missing persons was?  How would we have found it?"

            "I would have asked in a way that didn't sound like asking.  Maybe make a joke about it being moved when they changed the security system or something.  Doesn't matter, she told us anyway."  L’lorne stood up.  "Now, the officer guarding it is probably expecting us, so we should get going."

            "Right," Deborah said without hesitation.  She felt better, like she was learning something important.  "Uh, how are we going to convince that guy to let us look for mama?"

            "That," L’lorne said.  "Will take persuasion by other methods."

            "You're not. . ."

            "No, of course not, but we will have to make it so he doesn't have any choice."



1. What kind of person is Lcorn Llorne? What does she look like (in your mind)?
2. What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus? What does she look like (in your mind)?
3. Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?
4. Does the second section flow well?  Does it feel forced or disjointed?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Not Comic Review: The Hydrogen Sonata

I know, it's not a comic review, but I needed to do a follow up.

Not Comic Review:  The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

Back at the beginning of November, I did a Not Comic Review of Consider Phlebas, the first book of the Culture series by the late Iain M. Banks.  I mentioned at the end that I hadn't gotten to the last book, the result of Banks' premature death, The Hydrogen Sonata yet.  Well I finished it and I have two things to say on it.

1.)  It's not my favorite book of the series, but it's damn close.

2.)  Yeah, read this last.

Every book in the series covers a different aspect of the Culture as it's main point.  Excession is a very Mind (super AIs) heavy book, for example, showing how they think, act and orginize.  Surface Detail goes into artifical afterlives and how it effects the civilizations that create them.  Use of Weapons is all about a single Special Circumstances (Culture's version of CIA) agent.  Hydrogen Sonata covers an aspect that has only been hinted at (and only kind of explored in Look to Windward), the Sublime.

The Sublime are the "evolved beyond the material" branch of civilizations in the Culture universe.  Doing so requires either a lot of special preparation (and can only really be done by a Mind level AI), or by the overwhelming agreement of an entire civilization.  This is the result agreed on by the Gzilt civilization in the book, and the entire book is a countdown to the momentous event.

Turns out, there's a lot of bureaucracy and politics.  No, that's not what the book is strictly about, but there are affairs to attend to, effectively a civilization scale will.  Which would be pretty boring, until the remnant of an early civilization to sublime brings in a message that could turn everything on it's head, and the defacto leader of the Gzilt is damned and determined for it not to interfere with Subliming.

And that's when things get going.  The message is not a mystery, it's stated quiet clearly to the reader and the few involved.  The book itself is the chase to find out if it's true, since the message got more than a little intercepted.  First to find out who might know, then to get there before those under orders to stop it from being found.

I complained that Consider Phlebas had good action sequences, but they felt kind of thrown together.  Not here, there are maybe two serious action sequences and both are just as good as Phlebas, but they feel more controlled and natural.  Once the action kicks off, it plays out well and ends when it needs to.  Of course, there's always twists, but they feel right.

There's also a lot of extraneous story lines, but they're small compared to the larger plot, and they mostly pay off well.  The real purpose of these extra story lines is to expand on the Culture universe a bit more, and show off some really spectacular ideas and locations, which is something Banks is quite good at.

I don't know when, in relation to the writing of this book, Banks learned he was dying.  Perhaps this is because he did die, but I get this feeling from the book that this is something a dying person would write.  It has all these odd elements, like searching for old people/drones stuck in their ways and all the bureaucracy thing with the Gzilt that feels so much like someone preparing for the end of their lives (which in a sense it was).  I don't know if I would feel the same if he was still alive and another book of the series on the horizon.

As it stands, I feel The Hydrogen Sonata fits as a wonderful cap stone to the series.  It's not my absolute favorite of the series (that's still Use of Weapons), but it's probably right behind it.  If you are looking to get into the Culture series of books, I still recommend starting with Look to Windward, but the last two books should be Excession and The Hydrogen Sonata (especially as there's a call back within the latter's pages).

I probably won't review another Culture book, but I do recommend all of them.  Next time, we get back to webcomics.  Until then kiddies.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dreams of Stars Part 8

            They had arrived the next evening, about an hour before sunset.  Deborah was tired, but felt a renewal of strength when they set their first steps in the city proper.  Here, they would find her mother, and she wanted nothing more to begin the search right away.  L’lorne, however, had a different idea, and insisted they begin the search in the morning instead of so late in the day.  Her arguments did not fall on deaf ears, as every time she mentioned sleep, Deborah felt the miles wear on her once again.

            It was still too early for sleep, though, and even after getting a motel room just inside the city limits, there was still much to do.  A shower, for one, to clean the miles off Deborah's body, was the first goal of the evening.  L’lorne could only groan at the pile of clothing left in the bathroom while Deborah wrapped herself tightly in a motel bathrobe that somehow appeared from nowhere.

            "This won't do," L’lorne announced, holding the tattered shirt and pants Deborah had worn for something now leaning on a month.  "We need to get you some new clothes; these have all but had it."

            Deborah nodded in agreement, the blouse was torn, the slacks frayed and both were covered in dirt and dust.  "Well, they're hand me downs," she said.  "Couldn't afford new stuff, well, ever, so I made do with what the other girls in the building could give up."

            "Well, put them back on for now," L’lorne tossed the clothes back on the bed.  "We're going shopping."

            The stores of the capital were some of the best in the world, and L’lorne took pains to go into only the best.  The first look at the woman in the simple street clothes and the girl in the tattered remains of a street rat's life didn't grant any encouragement to the staff, and the manger, an older woman, intercepted them near the door and explained very carefully that there were better places to shop.  "Places you can afford."

            Deborah cringed at the polite insult and moved close to L’lorne, readying to ask her to leave, but L’lorne had no intention of doing so.  She grabbed the nearest blouse from the rack and looked at it carefully.  "This is very nice," she said as she lifted the sleeve and ran her fingers through the material.  The woman tried to protest the action, but was beaten down with L’lorne's eyes.  "But not what we're looking for.  Where do you keep the good stuff?"

            "As I said," the woman began her protest once again only to have a credit card pressed up against her nose.

            "If you wish me to continue shopping here," L’lorne said with a nasty level of menace.  "I suggest you not finish that sentence."

            It took a moment for the woman to recover from the rebuff, and another for her to actually look at the card.  Her eyes went wide and her face white.  "Oh dear, I'm so sorry ma'am.  Right this way ma'am."

            They weaved back through the racks of clothing to where, as L’lorne requested, the good stuff was kept.  "What did it say?" Deborah said quietly.

            " Sirkowski, you remember him don’t you?" L’lorne smiled.  "These people only respond to names, generally, money, specifically.  I think after all the trouble he caused you, buying you a new wardrobe is the least he can do, don’t you?.”  Deborah nodded.  “Oh, don’t mention anything about the price, it’ll spoil it.”

            Soon, the woman was busy scuttling around them, picking up various blouses and slacks from different racks and bubbling on about springs and winters and matching colors.  A pile in hand, the troop moved back towards the dressing rooms.

            "Better let me have that coat, okay?"

            Deborah removed the coat and carefully folded it into L’lorne's arms, and then disappeared into the dressing room.  She reemerged a few moments later in the first outfit, which the woman praised but L’lorne panned.  Deborah could only agree with L’lorne's statement, and returned to the dressing room.

            As she changed, she could just hear L’lorne mention something about the coat to the woman, who seemed not pleased at all about the comment.  When Deborah exited the room again, the woman was gone and L’lorne clapped quietly at the look.  "What did you say to her?" Deborah said as she came over and lightly examined the coat L’lorne was still holding.

            "I was just wondering if there was something that would go well with your coat.  I figure if you're going to wear it regardless, might as well make it go with everything else."

            "Oh."  The coat looked odd, but not really.  Cleaner maybe?  The material looked almost new.  Deborah shook her head.  Impossible, it was her coat, she could see that.  The lights were having an effect.  The woman returned with another pile of clothing and shooed her into the dressing room.

            Back out again, this time in something that looked, just on the hangers, great.  Deborah stood in front of the mirror and marveled at the look she had suddenly stumbled across.  She looked good, damn good.  L’lorne moved forward and placed the coat over her shoulders.  Now, she looked even better.  The clothes even made the coat look better, like it was brand new.  Even the woman seemed impressed and asked about fit and if they needed shoes.

            "I like it," Deborah finally said after a quick shoe fitting.

            "Good," L’lorne smiled.  "She'll be wearing out, no problems of course?"

            "Of course not ma'am," the woman replied.  "What of the old clothes?"

            "Donate them," Deborah found herself saying.  "Only fair."

            "See to it."  They left, making only one other stop at a local salon to finish the look with a slightly better hair style.


            Her new clothes didn't itch, something that she had grown accustomed to on the few occasions when she was afforded new clothes.  The lack of itch bothered her so much she actually began to itch, just for it to feel normal again.

            "The Central Data Processing Center," L’lorne said facing the building but speaking to Deborah.  "Built more than a decade ago, it remains the state of the art in computer, communication and networking technology.  Behind these walls, 100 trillion files are received, processed, stored and/or transmitted to every part of the world.  Every agency of government, from local to federal, uses the information in this building to assist in law enforcement, financial transactions, government dispatches and even simple letters.  Truly, the CDPC is the greatest achievement of the modern age."

            "Wow," Deborah said, staring up at the white, marble walls of the CDPC.  "Your database had all that?"

            "No."  L’lorne flipped up a pamphlet.  "I got it at the motel.  This place is pretty impressive, if you don't know any better."

            "That Delphi thing is that much better?"


            Deborah could only manage a light grunt.  Whatever Delphi was, L’lorne seemed to view it as the greatest thing ever, or close to it.  "Well anyway, is this where we'll find mama?"

            "What do you think?"

            "I think we're looking in the wrong place."


            Deborah grunted again.  "Well, for one thing, they keep information in this building, not people.  For another," and for this she had to pause to get it right.  "You said that whoever took her made the government look like pa poors, and this is run by the government, so. . ."

            "The word is pauper," L’lorne corrected.  "Though your version is much closer to the spirit of the word.  And you're right, she won't be in here, but it will tell us where she is, then we can go get her."

            Another grunt.  "Wouldn't it be easier to go after those guys than going in there," she pointed at the building.

            "Well, no, not at all."  L’lorne scanned the horizon for a moment then stopped.  "Let's, for the moment, say we did go after those guys, where do we look?"

            "I don't know."

            "Nor do I, but I would guess it would probably be that building over there," she pointed towards a small brown two story building just down the street.  "What do you think?"

            She studied it a moment, taking in the view very carefully.  "I think you're making stuff up."

            "Possibly," L’lorne replied.  "Let me try to explain it to you.  This secret agency has two major parts.  At the top are the guys controlling things, issuing orders, and generally being rich and powerful.  At the bottom, are the agents and thugs, like those guys in the white suits you saw take your mother.  Now, how do you figure the two parts talk to each other?"

            "With their mouths."

            "Nope, they don't talk to each other."  L’lorne walked along the steps of the CDPC towards the brown building.  "In fact, the guys on the bottom have no clue who the guys on the top are, and vice versa.  It's important that they don't know, keeps them isolated and protected."

            "Keeps who protected?"

            "Everyone, don't want people stumbling upon your group and exposing its actions after all.  Instead to communicate, they use a small office, that one.  Inside, I'd say there are three people, an administrator, a secretary, and a clerk.  They receive messages from one of the big guys, probably mailed in from somewhere, then mail the message back out to the appropriate persons at the bottom."

            "And vice versa," Deborah added.  "So wouldn't it be better to go there anyway, find out who issued the orders to take my mother and. . ."

            "It wouldn't help, they wouldn't know where your mother is, they've never been told.  At best, they know their mission was accomplished, and that they can move on with the next phase.  The point is, the guys in that office also don't know, so bothering the agency itself is kind of pointless."

            "But if we find the guys on the bottom. . ."

            "Out of possibly thousands?  It would take forever.  Anyway, it doesn't matter, because they told the CDPC."

            The girl shook her head, the newly clipped hair still leaking a few shards of hair to the ground.  "Wait, why would they tell them, when they didn't even tell their own bosses?"

            "To hide the fact that they did anything at all."

            "Okay, I'm confused now."

            L’lorne chuckled lightly.  "100 trillion files, more every day.  Lost in the crowd, invisible."

            "Just like when the girls pull back from the street," Deborah said, the meaning of L’lorne was saying finally starting to come through.  "But still, why would they need to hide it, nobody cares anyway."

            "Bureaucrats always care, especially if you use their systems to move people around, which they probably did.  Wherever they sent your mother, she probably was sent on a government transport to a government facility under government guard.  No one's going to care if some random person is being shipped around, as long as all the forms are filled out."

            "So why not just make something up?"

            "That's beyond their abilities to do easily.  Easier to use the real name, intimidate a few people into not continuing their search, and that's it.  She disappears into the system."

            "You make it sound so easy."

            "It is," L’lorne said with a smile.  "That's why they did it that way.  Simple is the best way to do something, fewest things can go wrong that way."  She walked back over to Deborah and placed her hand on her shoulder.  "Now we need to do the simple thing, and go into the building, and find out where your mother was sent."

            Deborah looked to the building, then back at L’lorne.  "Right, let's do that."  They started up the steps when Deborah stopped.  "Wait," she said.  "We can't."


            "Well, I'm a little girl, for one, for another, you're, uh, not with the government, right?"

            "That's right."

            A silent sigh of relief.  "So why would they even let us look?  That one cop wouldn't even let me help when he took the case."

            "Good point."  L’lorne reached behind her back, again, and removed, from somewhere, a small black wallet.  "Here, just show it to them when they ask."

            "What is it?"  Deborah opened it up and saw a very bright and shiny badge, along with a coded identification card.

            "Something I was working on while you were sleeping," L’lorne folded her own out so Deborah could see it.  "Now, are you ready?"

            "I guess," she shrugged.  "Still don't know how they're going to miss the fact that I'm 12."

            "Oh, don't worry so much," L’lorne said.  "Everything will be fine, you'll see."



1. What kind of person is Lcorn Llorne? What does she look like (in your mind)?
2. What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus? What does she look like (in your mind)?
3. Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Exiern's Recent Twist

Ah, Exiern.  I haven't talked much about it, the least of which being I can't pronounce the damn name, but mostly because it's kind of an average comic whose big story element really doesn't come up much.  The story of Exiern is about Typhon-Knee, a barbarian hero who one day rescued a princess from an evil wizard, and the wizard turned him into a girl for it.  It's not a bad comic, especially as it's an adventure/comedy strip.  Last week though, came a special reveal that, well, I don't like.

The reveal was that Typhon-Knee was, in fact, gay before he was turned into Tiffany.  I think the author figured this was going to be an issue as he promptly wrote a blog post about it.  What is the issue though?  I've tried to make it clear that I have no problem with homosexual characters of any sort, male or female (I'm straight, BTW), yet this bothers me, so why?

Because it was wholly unnecessary to the character.  The author claims less a big deal than the "real" reveal that happened a few days later.  Which had jack and all to do with Typhon-Knee's sexual preference.

The original point of Tiffany was for that core joke, big strong barbarian turned into a woman and dealing with this new reality.  There have been moments when she's had to deal with how she had previously viewed women, and successfully confronted them.  She has grown as a character through these trials, and has to deal with a new element:  a growing relationship with Denver, a rather nerdy guy who happens to be a dragon (it's an odd comic).

That relationship is why this reveal is a bad move.  Tiffany is falling in love with Denver, this is clear, but NOT because of any sexual desire.  That's the problem, because making Tiffany always having been attracted to men, even before she was a she, undermines the growth the character has had over the years.  Would Typhon-Knee ever fallen in love with Denver?  Probably not, all the growth that lead to this growing relationship came from the gender change.

It also leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.  It seems almost as if the author is saying, probably unintentionally, that gay people would be happier if they changed their gender, so their relationships would be more appropriate.  Which is bull of course.  Still, I think it is unintentional, but it does bug me that this implication is almost there.  Bringing in Typhon-Knee's sexuality adds a layer of confrontation and possible misinterpretation to the comic that it didn't need.

The author says that there are many valid interpretations of the character, and I would agree, and I think he chose a poor one for the overall health of the comic and character.  Better options would include simply having Typhon-Knee be uninterested in sex, bisexual, or even just outright refusing to rape and pillage in the first place for a newly developed moral center.  Any of these would have worked to set up the larger story twist without actually hurting the story or character in any way.

I'll still be reading Exiern, I like the comic even if I don't like this very moment.  There's enough good going on to possibly overlook this, as long as it doesn't become a weight on the author's neck.  If it never comes up again, all the better, there was no reason to have it in the first place.  If it comes up repeatedly, I'll probably have to drop it, yeah I think it hurts the comic that much.

Until next time kiddies.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dreams of Stars Part 7

            Deborah flopped out onto the bed and groaned.  Tired couldn't begin to describe how her body felt, and yet, it wasn't complete exhaustion.  She wasn't sure, but if felt as if she were actually stronger now than she was before this trip, much stronger.  Well, after walking almost 90 miles in two days, one and a half really, she should be much stronger.

            The door opened with a click.  "Here," L’lorne said, tossing a bottle of soda onto the bed next to Deborah.  "That's the one right?"

            "Yeah," the girl replied as she cracked the bottle open and let the cola and vanilla flavored drink slip down her throat.  "Thanks," she said after a nice long swig.

            L’lorne sat down on the other side of the bed and leaned back against the headboard.  "Good.  You sure you don't want to get anything to eat?"

            "Nah, I'm not hungry."  She should be, but she wasn't, very strange.  "Besides, we can always have a good breakfast in the morning."


            Silence settled into the room as they sat on either side of the bed, staring at the far wall where an old, nearly obsolete, television sat.  L’lorne reached for the remote on her side of the bed and looked at it for a moment.  "Don't bother," Deborah replied.  "Already tried it.  The TV's fried."

            "Really?"  L’lorne clicked the power button on the remote and the TV lit up.  She handed the remote to Deborah.  "Seems okay to me."

            "Yeah, well it wasn't working." A quick series of clicks and Deborah found something to watch for a bit and settled down with her drink.  Time seemed to drag, the lack of motion down the seeming forever highway had warped her perception of time.  As the current show ended, after taking far longer than she could ever remember it taking, she glanced up to see if L’lorne felt the same.

            The woman was staring off into space.  Again.  "Uh, are you okay?"

            L’lorne's head shook in a bit of surprise.  "Oh, I'm fine."

            "Yeah," Deborah said with no small measure of disbelief.  "You know, you've spent most of our time together just staring at nothing.  Don't pay attention to anything."

            "I do," L’lorne countered.  "I'm just used to be on my own for long periods.  That and I get caught up in my reading a little too much."

            "I guess I can understand that."  A beat.  "Reading?"

            L’lorne chuckled.  "Sorry, slip of the tongue."

            "How are you reading?  I don't see a book or a display or anything."

            "Really?"  She leaned forward and lowered her hand over her eyes, holding for just a moment, then dropping it so that her eyes could be seen.  A sparkle of color covered L’lorne's eyes from corner to corner, lid to lid.  Deborah backed away in a moment of a shock.  Immediately the movement was followed by a whispered term of amazement.  L’lorne pulled her hand back up across her face and the colors vanished.

            "What is that?"

            "Implants," L’lorne said.  "It's a display implanted into my eyes and hooked wirelessly to my portable computer."  Her sleeve pulled back to reveal a rather bulky, at least for a woman, wristwatch that Deborah had, until now, not seen.

            "And you've been reading a book on it?"

            "And charting our route, looking up places to eat, stay, and double checking news sources about, well, everything you've told me about what happened to your mother.  It's pretty handy that way."

            Deborah could only shake her head.  "That's just incredible.  No wonder you've been so off most of the time."  A moment of silence was filled only by the low hum of the television.

            "You want to see this stuff?"

            "What, you're going to take out your eyes or something?"

            "Not so much."  L’lorne reached behind her back and snapped the arm back up.  Delicately placed between her forefinger and thumb appeared a pair of sunglasses, the wrap around kind with a sturdy black frame.  "Here."

            "Uh, thanks, I guess."

            "Just put them on."  Deborah looked up at her, carefully holding the glasses in her hands.  "What are you worried about, they won't bite."

            A raised eyebrow was all the argument Deborah could come up with, and finally she put them on.  The room lit up.  She dropped them down again, checking to ensure that yes, the dim bulb of the nearby lamp and the glow of the television was the only sources in the room.  Back up, and the room was at full color.  Every shape highlighted as brightly as possible, every color standing out like a spot light had been lit in the room.  "Whoa," was all she could say.

            "Go look outside," L’lorne encouraged.  Deborah hopped off the bed and opened the curtains of the small room.  It should have been dark, just after dusk, with a warm red glow far to the west and the first shadows of the night taking over, but instead it looked like midday, the sun almost could have been high in the sky, lighting everything in its perfect glow.  The glasses dropped down again, confirming the time of day, then back up and into place.

            "Is this how you see everything?"

            "Depends on what I need to see at the time."  She motioned for Deborah to return to the bed.  The girl settled down on it just as the weather came up on the television with the meteorologist commenting on an odd warm front that had settled over the region, but L’lorne made it a point to turn it off.  "Won't be needing that anymore."

            "These are like your implants, right?  Just in a clunky form?"

            "Pretty much.  You'll have full access to the entire database," she held up her watch.  "As well as anything that happens to be on the local airwaves."

            Deborah gave a grunt of agreement.  "That's all fine and dandy, but how, exactly, am I supposed to get access?"

            "It reads your thoughts."

            "Be serious."

            "I am," L’lorne said with a hint of mocking shock.  "Is it so hard to believe that something that is implanted into the eyes wouldn't be controllable via your thoughts?"


            L’lorne sighed.  "You'll have to trust me on this one, I'm afraid.  If it'll make you feel any better, you'll have to say what you want it to do, to start with."

            "Still rather unbelievable."

            Another sigh.  "Okay, now I want you to say ‘access database.’  Not just say it, but think it really, really hard."

            "And this will work?"

            "I guarantee it."

            Deborah took a deep breath and stared forward with intensity.  "Access database."  There was a flash of color, then the word 'Delphi' appeared in large, stylized letters, and faded away only to be replaced with a single word, 'Command?' followed by a blinking cursor.  "I think it worked."

            "Yes, it did.  Now you can look up anything you want.  Just say ask it."

            "Right."  Deborah sat there silently for a moment, her mind flashing around for something.  "Uh, I can't think of anything," she said finally.

            "I see," L’lorne leaned back against the head board.  "Okay, what's your favorite band?"

            "Art Flexible," Deborah replied.  "But it won't be in this database, they're this local group that had maybe three records, and they burned and distributed the lot themselves."

            "Well, take a look anyway."

            "Okay, okay."  Another deep breath.  She thought about the band, the disk cover, the music.  "Find Art Flexible."  The cursor filled out the name, and in a moment her view was covered in information.  "It's the whole band," she muttered, and it was.  From biographies of each of the members, to the complete song lists of all their albums, all of it was there.  As her eyes moved to each of the categories, the section would enlarge and the full story would appear.  She zipped her eyes away, and the section reduced back down and the main view returned.  "This is so awesome."

            "Glad you approve."

            "The only thing that would make this better is if it had the music so I can listen to it."

            "Who says it doesn't?"  L’lorne tapped the ear piece of the sunglasses.  "It has mini speakers here.  Look for the section about the songs, and you should be able to bring up a proper playlist."

            Deborah did so, and soon the music, a weird combination of tech and rock poured into her ears.  She groaned with joy and settled back.  "Oh, this will make walking so much easier tomorrow."

            "I probably should have given you them earlier," L’lorne replied rather sheepishly.  "But I kind of forgot you didn't have them already.  I'm just used to people always having them."

            "That's alright," Deborah said lazily, the music having nearly completely taken over her thought processes.  "Oh yeah, what was that thing you were reading, maybe I'd like to read it too."

            L’lorne went from sheepish to sad.  "Oh, well it's called "What We Left Behind," by Roxanne Ernstrom.  It's an old love story, you wouldn't like it."

            "Oh, a love story eh?  Thinking about your lost love again?"

            A sly smile.  "A little, yeah."

            "Well, let me bring it up, maybe I'd like it after all."

            "I don't think you'd understand most of it."

            Deborah sat up angrily.  "Where the do you come from that you can say what I can or cannot understand?"  As she said the words, the image on the glasses flashed for a moment and a map appeared with a little X marking a position.  "What the. . ."

            "Should have warned you, sometimes it takes your requests literally," L’lorne said, not without some measure of irritation.

            "Oh."  The map showed a river, curving up in a great hump just after it had merged with another river of equal size.  The X appeared right next to it on what would be the east side if the map was orientated correctly.  It seemed familiar, but she couldn't quite pick out where she had seen it before.  None of this truly mattered, as what caught Deborah's eye more than anything else was a series of numbers at the top of the image:

10 1 DDEFQ 99221 66345.88991. 

            "So this is a map of where you came from?"

            "Yeah, pretty much."

            "Then what's the number at the top for?"

           L’lorne seemed even more irritated by the question.  "Just a reference number, nothing you need to worry about."

            "Fine, if that's how you want to go about it," Deborah shot back.  She snapped the glasses off and nearly smashed them into the nightstand.  "I'm going to bed."

            L’lorne sighed as the girl wrapped up underneath the blanket.  It took a few moments, but she finally reached out and touched Deborah's shoulder.  "I'm sorry, I don't like talking about home much."  Deborah didn't make a noise.  "And what I meant to say about the book was that it's really, really long, and I don't think you'd have the patience to read it all."

            Deborah snapped around.  "Oh really?  Do you not think I can read or something?"

            "Oh, I have no doubt in your reading ability, but I've basically been reading it non- stop since I met you in that alley."

            "The whole time?"

            "Well, more or less.  Not when we were playing chess or you telling me about your mother, but most of the rest of the time, yeah."

            "That's a heck of a love story."

            "It has its moments, that's for sure," L’lorne said with a smile.  "When this is all over, maybe I'll let you take a crack at it."

            "I don't know, if it's that long, I might be an old woman before I finish it."

            "Anything can happen," L’lorne said quietly.


            L’lorne snapped the book closed, dropping it flat on the table quickly followed by her head and a groan of irritation.  After a moment to recover, she lifted her head up and turned toward the window.  It was snowing, again, the highlight of the sixth winter she had spent in this place.  As she watched the snow fall from inside the odd structure he had led them to so long ago now, a geyser flared up, throwing its hot steam and water high into the air, melting the slowly falling snow before it even had a chance to fall.

            "Right on time as always," he said, surprising her only slightly.

            "It's too regular," she muttered.  "It can't keep it up forever."

            "Change is the only constant in this case.  All it would take is a minor earthquake and the internal clock would be completely thrown off."  He stepped forward and tapped on the book.  "Finished?"

            "Finally," L’lorne groaned again.  "If I had known I would have to read that when you were first teaching me, I think I would have told you to forget the whole thing."  He just chuckled, irritating L’lorne even more.  "I suppose you're going to ask what I learned from it."

            "It had crossed my mind."  He sat down across from her and the last of the large pile of books that sat in the far corner.  "So?"

            "She was deeply in love with him."

            "Interesting.  You're quite right, of course, she was, right up until the end.  Couldn't even stand the thought of spending the end with anyone else.  That wasn't quite the point, but it is valid."

            L’lorne fell against the back of the chair.  "So what was the point?"

            "What you leave behind makes you what you are," he said.

            "Right, of course, it also directs every action you make."


            "So my leaving my village will direct everything I do.  Leaving my family, my mother. . ."

            "You haven't left her yet."

            She glanced around herself and out the window.  "Funny, I don't see her around here."

            "Trust me," he placed his hand on her shoulder.  "When you really leave your mother behind, you'll know it.  You'll feel it deep within your core and that's when you will finally be made."

            "And when were you made?"

            He made no expression, but the tone was one not of sadness, but of triumph.  "When my first teacher died and took his title.  Everything I am now comes back to that moment."  There was silence for a moment as they stared at each other.  "You know, maybe you should read the book again."

            "Oh no, please, not that.  I don't ever want to read it again."

            Another chuckle.  "I'm just kidding.  But you will read it again, on your own, and then you'll see something you didn't see before."

            "And that is?"




1.  What kind of person is Lcorn Llorne?  What does she look like (in your mind)?
2.  What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus?  What does she look like (in your mind)?
3.  Does the setting seem fitting?  Would you like to know more?
4.  How did the entire glasses sequence play out?  Where could I improve it?
5.  This is probably the last major clue to L'lorn's origins, so any guesses?