Welcome back from one of about a zillion different events!

PAX, DragonCon, Burning Man, Bumbershoot, Fan Expo, Faerieworlds, I don’t even know what else. And, of course, a bunch of people stayed home. Where were you?


I, of course, was at PAX, riding a dragon.

I also released a single. It’s one that’s super-personal for a lot of reasons, and I wrote a big post about it here which you should read because I think it’s the kind of thing that will mean a lot to a bunch of other people as well.

And, of course, you can go right on and play it right here, which you should do. It’s on Bandcamp and also on Soundcloud.

But PAX – wow, yeah. I didn’t intend to do all four days, but I did, and I’m glad I didn’t sell the extra passes. Totally worth it.

First, in a lot of ways, I figured out why it’s felt different the last few years, but still good. PAX got too big to be the “instantiate the internet” event it started out being years go, and, having now spread out over several blocks (all the way to the Westin!), it’s become a gaming-oriented theme park overlay for the city.

That’s a very different experience. But the thing is? I like theme parks. I had a great time. For example – I don’t give two figs about Magic: The Gathering but I loved tooling around the insanely-decorated Paramount. I liked that there was a VR-events hotel. I liked the teeming hoards of geeks up all night downtown, the sidewalks like party wing hotel corridors only not so cramped. I liked finding said afterparties, as well. It was epic.

And, the old parts are still there. I spent a fair amount of time in the handheld lounge and having people want to know where the hell this weird-ass handheld I was playing came from and how they could get one. POCKETCHIP YOU OWE ME. (I was mostly playing Celeste on it, which is kinda brutal. I’m 1km in so far. Hard game is hard.)

From a coming-games standpoint, VIVE did what Oculus Rift did not do, which is convince me that goggle VR has a place in computer gaming in the very near term. It’s kind of like – okay, things like the Virtual Boy and predecessors (which existed!) weren’t quite yet up to Pong. Kinect was maybe Advanced Pong. Oculus Rift made a big jump forward, and is kind of an, oh, maybe an Atari 2600 experience – fun to play with, but not fun to play.

Vive, though – yeah. Vive reaches the level of being actual fun. Look, here I am shootin’ a bazooka and throwing grenades at Nazis! Because fuck Nazis. Really, I wish they’d been doing the greenscreen for another game called Raw Data, because that was the most fun, because it was 100% I AM TRACER ONLY FOR REAL WITHIN VR. That was great.

And sure, it’s probably about the Commodore 64 / Atari 800 level of VR device, particularly since there are still controllers with buttons – even if they’re a lot less intrusive than, say a gamepad. But as we all know from history, Commodore 64 is Good Enough. Game ON.

Oh, what else. The Overwatch cosplay was thick, I shot every Overwatch cosplayer I could grab (which was not all I saw) and put a bunch of photos on Flickr.

I entered a lot of hardware raffles (like usual) but did not win (like usual). I played a hilariously stupid game called Gang Beasts which is technically a fighting game, but all of the characters are floppy plushies. I won one round by deciding I’d just go jogging around the outskirts of the arena instead of fighting and the other players all accidentally threw themselves off the edge of the world. VICTORY THROUGH JOGGING! And I scouted out a lot of hardware, like y’do, for when there’s money again and I can think about building a VR gaming PC.

Like y’want to, at least. 😀

Where were you, and was it fun? Play the new song while you’re telling me about it. It’s the kind of thing I think a lot of us are going to need heading into the rest of this year, and for now, hopefully, we’re all coming off a good long weekend. Time to get back to work.

we’re not friends, we’re not lovers, we’re not people you know
different clans, different colours, and a whole different flow
but i know that when i see you that it’s true even so
that the future has a place for me
and the future has a place for you
and the future has a place for both of us now

if you’re having trouble with paypal today

I’ve heard that some people are having trouble with PayPal through Bandcamp? If that describes you, drop a comment and I’ll contact you in email about alternative arrangements. We can do this, I promise.

Anybody else going to PAX today? I’ll be showing up with the shiny new PocketCHIP I supported in Kickstarter! I just got it, barely know how to turn it on, the flail will be hilarious in the handheld gaming area. But I’m bringing it! 😀

NEW SINGLE HERE! Read about and play it!

i come back to you now, at the turn of the tide

NEW SINGLE!

This is a super-personal song, so of course it takes me a zillion words to talk about why.

“We’re Not Friends” wasn’t going to be released until 2017, on Din of Thieves. But a couple of months ago, SJ Tucker posted that the mood out there – she tours a lot – was the worst she’d ever seen it, and called upon everybody she knew to release their most uplifting stuff, because maybe we can’t do much, but we can at least do that, because maybe, just maybe, it would help. And having written this in a flurry and surprising my band with it right before a really big show – and not just saying, ‘we’re doing this’ but saying ‘we’re doing this and closing the show with it,’ I thought, “Okay. I’m in.”

What this is about… at the topmost level, it’s about representation, and what it means to those who are not represented in media and culture when suddenly you’re there.

You see, there’s this whole history for queers – if you’re represented at all in media, it’s somewhere in the range of “psychotic” to “tragic,” and there is – historically – no such thing as a happy ending for the faggots. TV Tropes has several sections on this; you can start with “Bury your Gays” and it gets worse from there. The number of exceptions – well, in the Anglosphere, you can count them on one hand, and arguably on one finger, before a couple of years ago.

And that won’t sound like much to most of you, who have had this since before you can remember, and got sick of it, and started writing other and more complicated and more interesting things, and that’s cool because those are good and important stories too. But you still go back to these happy endings for comfort, for relief, and even if you don’t, you have the comfort of knowing it’s there. Hell, you’re swimming in it. The message is: this is normal, this happens, this is good. You can get this.

By contrast, the message we get is: die alone in misery, faggot.

So when Korra and Asami in Avatar: The Legend of Korra got that happy ending – the walking off into the sunset together holding hands ending – it sent shock waves through queer fandom. (And also through straight fandom, and a fair chunk of it reacted in rage. Not all, not even most, but a lot. Go look at the Wikipedia edit history around the end of the show, as it was me and one other person fighting every other editor about it.)

Seeing that, getting that ending – it felt like a giant aching wound in my brain I hadn’t even known was there suddenly got healed, like something deep and old and broken stopped hurting, and I’m still getting emotional as I type about it right now.

You can go look that up yourself, if you like YouTube reaction videos. People breaking down, sobbing. It took weeks to process what happened. That’s how much of a revelation it was for a lot of us.

But this isn’t a song specifically about Korra and Asami being canon girlfriends at the end of Avatar: The Legend of Korra, and it’s not about any of the other “red/blue” couples, as Tumblr likes to call them. It’s about our reaction to seeing ourselves in characters when we never have before, and it’s trying to tell you a story about stepping through getting this ‘hey, what’s going on’ idea, then going ‘nah, that can’t be right,’ then going ‘wait, this looks like a thing, but we don’t get that so it can’t be,’ then the shock and – for a while – outright incomprehension when it is.

When it’s us. When, for once, we get the happy ending, we get the walk into the sunset, we get the tomorrow ever after. We’re not friends with them, we aren’t their lovers, we aren’t people they know – but they’re like us, and they don’t end in horror and pain, so maybe we don’t have to either.

Maybe the future does have a place for us.

It’s one thing to know that intellectually. It’s another to have a story which supports it. Stories shape reality, or at least, people’s decisions about reality. Stories matter.

And that doesn’t just apply to dykes. Gods know there are a lot of oppressed groups – particularly racial groups, particularly the African diaspora, particularly in the US – who get the blunt end of the story stick.

Getting this story, then, is for us very much a turning of the tides – hence, the subject of this post. And if there’s a time when we all need that sea change, it’s now, in the dog days of 2016. At very least, we need to feel like it’s possible – I think we could all use that hope.

That’s a lot to try to pack into a song, but I’ve done my damnedest to do it. I just hope it speaks to you, too.

Solarbird, the Lightbringer
for Crime and the Forces of Evil

guest musicians and thanks

Tomorrow’s the day the new song comes out. I’ll talk about the song itself then, and how and why I think it answers SJ Tucker’s rallying call. But I wanted to throw out some thanks and acknowledgements here today.

First, thanks to Kathryn Tewson for the guest vocals. She hasn’t worked close-mic before, or much really with this kind of music but I think she sounds good, and she said she thinks she’s “never sounded that cool ever in my whole life” and that’s good enough for me.

Second, thanks to Alexander James Adams, for both chorus vocals and surprise fiddle! He surprised me with a recording when I was only asking for vox, and that fiddle track is all over the song now. That post I made a couple of days ago, “This seems unlikely,” with a picture of my Surprise Fiddle Part? The line above mine is labelled “AJA fiddle,” and that would be Alec. Lots goin’ on there.

Third, thanks to Klopfenpop, for listening to roughmixes and being the only person who caught me being out of tune in one of the harmonies for a bit under 40ms underneath hard consonants which were keeping my attention distracted. Goddamn, Klop, you have good ears.

And fourth, Anna, for joining that big thick chorus we have for this thing. This song needed a big group, and she helped it get there.

Tomorrow. Or tonight, midnight Pacific time, if you want to stay up. Watch Bandcamp, ’cause the blog post will be later in the morning. But Bandcamp – that’ll be midnight. We’ve got a torch, and we’re gonna light it up.


Midnight, on Bandcamp

oh right, singles need art too

I’ve been going through photos trying to find something nice. What do you think?


(yes the text trim is intentional)

The album will have original art of course, this is for the single this year.

this seems unlikely and yet

this seems unlikely and yet it appears to be happening

all out of digital signal processing headroom, but we’re ready

It’s a good thing I’m pretty much ready with “We’re Not Friends,” because I am absolutely out of DSP headroom. Seriously, the screencap I actually got read 104% CPU, but it peaked at 107.4% so I mocked that up.


yikes

All the recording is done; last of that was Saturday afternoon. I’m pretty sure I don’t have any more effects I want to add. The current mix holds up on laptop speakers, which is, unfortunately, a bar you have to hit. I’ve got test-mix copies out to Alec and Anna and Kathryn to see what they think of what’s on it.

This is not a single I thought I’d be releasing this year, but it’s gonna happen. I don’t know if Sooj’s idea – ‘the mood is amazingly bad, get the most “up” material you have out, we can at least do that much’ – is going to do any good, or even if anyone other than me is actually following through on it, but my barrage is ready, and I’m gonna be launching it at the objective in two days.

I still have to figure out single art tho’. Ffft. Who went and made music releases so complicated, anyway?

musicians, contact norwescon now

As you may know, several years ago, I started and built a small geekmusic festival at Norwescon called nwcMUSIC. I took last year off completely as a sabbatical year, and they continued to do it.

This year, I’m back as an advisor – sort of a showrunner emeritus. And while I won’t be running it, I will be giving a lot of advice and training on how to run it the way I did.

NOW IS THE TIME TO CONTACT NORWESCON TO BE A PART OF NWCMUSIC 2017! Or, for that matter, to be involved in any programming at the show. Here’s part of the announcement:

I know Norwescon seems forever away, but August is actually when the main work of programming begins. SO! if you are interested in being a panelist, get yourself over to this attending pro information page and use the contact link to tell us who you are and why you would be a good panelist.

Please do so even if you have been a pro before, the programming team isn’t constant from year to year.

Bonus request: if you are an artist, and there are workshops/demos you could run, please include that info; art track is my responsibility and I’d like to increase the amount of hands-on programming.

So, hie thee off and fill out the form! That’s EVEN IF you’ve been at nwcMUSIC or Norwescon Programming before. I did it, even. Do it today!

update any apple mobile devices NOW

It’s getting good traction, but I’m going to borrow the band blog to mention this now: if you have an iOS device (iPhone, iPad, etc), then go to Software Update and update it right now.

Here are some details at Gizmodo, and here’s the BBC story. Basically, it’s a single-click exploit and your phone isn’t yours anymore.

Seriously, update now, it’s a bad one. Actually, it’s three bugs, each of which is very bad, but they’re all fixed at once.

and so another year’s hugo awards are past

I haven’t written much about the alt-right/”Rabid Puppy” Hugo Award slate gaming lately; as last year, their slate utterly collapsed, with the core of it finishing behind “No Award,” again, just like last year. Theodore (“Vox Day”) Beale did of course claim TOTAL VICTORY, as he will always do regardless, and I got a small bit of banhammered hate on Twitter (aw, they remembered me! I’m flattered) and blah de blah de blah. To be honest, Dave Truesdale’s expulsion from the con was far more interesting.

Really, I’m kind of surprised they still care, what with actual fascists being actual contenders in elections in the west this year. It makes their chosen pond look even smaller. Scalzi wrote a column calling them gum on the shoes of history, which is about right.

I imagine they might give it another run next year even with the new rules in place, mostly ’cause Dunning-Kruger is gonna Dunning-Kruger, and if you want poster children for that effect, I have some suggestions.


Why do white supremacists always look like counterexamples?

Jim Hines has a nice post up about the actual award winners, and it’s a good read.

Meanwhile, the Sad Puppies – as opposed to the Rabids – are concentrating their efforts on a new set of awards, the Dragon Awards, to be given at Dragoncon. Those are over here, and it’s an internet vote so have fun managing that because wow I can’t think of anything easier to hijack, but y’know what? Great. Go have fun, I hope it works out (no, really, I genuinely do) and good luck.

Meanwhile, I’m going to post this and hope the construction next door takes a break today. My studio is sound-conditioned, not sound-proofed, and I have to ask, WHO NEEDS FIVE KINDS OF POWER SAW FOR A CARPORT? I mean, I’m guessing at five, given the number of different sounds I was hearing, and unless they’re starting some sort of electric saw noisemusic band, I’m assuming this is all for the carport and not either music nor lulz.

Then again, the griefer count has been pretty fuckin’ high lately. Maybe it is lulz. These chorus vocals I was mixing are sounding pretty damn sweet despite the saw effects, I got to say, so you’re gonna have to do better than that to stop me.
 
 


This is part of a series of posts on the Hugo awards nominations capture by rightist political slates.

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