The Radical Moderate 5: “Choose! Choose the form of the Destructor!”

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“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”  (H. L. Mencken)

I promised myself I was going to let this election season go by without putting my political opinion out there. Because it really doesn’t matter what I think. Alas, I find it irresistible, rather like an impending sneeze or some less polite bodily exclamation; the internal pressure is too great. So, here’s my opinion.

November 8th is going to be a sad day.

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Why? Because whoever wins everyone is going to be disappointed. The close to 50% of the country who voted for the loser will be disappointed immediately, while the 51%+ who voted for the winner will spend the next four years being disappointed.
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I honestly don’t know if the political party whose candidate wins will be better off than the party of the candidate who loses. If the Democrats win, they will elevate one of the Left’s most morally and intellectually unfit politicians in modern history to be the figurehead of their party. If the Republicans win, they will elevate one of the most morally and intellectually unfit public figures in modern history to be the figurehead of their party. I’m not sure either party can survive that, and I’m reasonably certain that political leaders and thinkers on both sides are now wishing for a do-over on their respective party primaries. Alas, too late!
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This might actually be a good time to go back and reread my previous post on The Worst Form of Government. At the end of that post, I wrote “In this election cycle, vote for the candidate most likely to sustain and strengthen the worst form of government.” I’m honestly not sure that it’s possible to make that choice this time around; when your choice is between deep and blatant corruption and potentially frightening incompetence, it’s hard to decide who to pull the lever for. If you vote for the lesser of two evils, you’re still voting for an evil; there’s a strong moral argument to be made for picking a third-party candidate or None Of The Above.
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Would it cheer anyone if I remind you that we are not voting for a king or dictator on November 8th? We are voting for a president, and, whichever candidate wins, our next President will be hobbled by constitutional restrictions and deep unpopularity and public distrust. We have made the worst of all possible choices in our primaries this year, and must now choose a destructor, but we can survive him or her. If necessary, impeachment is as much a part of the Constitution as elections and either of their VP-picks would run the Executive Branch and represent America better.
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So go vote. Then have a drink. Or get a hug. But vote; the worst form of government needs to hear your voice.
M.G.Harmon
Posted in The Radical Moderate | 6 Comments

And We’re Rolling.

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So, Team-Ups and Crossovers has been out a week. What’s in a week? About 1,000 sales, that’s what. TUAC has hit #1 in one of its Amazon Categories at least twice, and would have hit #1 in the Superhero Novel category were the space not completely crowded out by vampire erotica. In general I’ve been quite happy with the launch; a couple of things are great, a couple of things not-so-great.

Great: The Amazon Reviews. With 15 Amazon Reviews up so far, TUAC has a solid 4 1/2 Star-Rating. Thanks, everyone who has taken a few minutes to review the book there—and I encourage everyone who enjoyed the latest Wearing the Cape book to go there and make their feelings known! (This is me being subtle.)

Not-So-Great: A couple of errors slipped past the editing process, including a code-error that causes some readers to show large blank spaces in the Astra Gets Grrl Power story. There is an easy fix; just change your reader’s background color (sepia is fine) or highlight the blank spots. However, I am working on the problem, and will re-upload a fixed file as soon as possible before asking Amazon to send all current owners a notice of the fix. (Once Amazon approves, you’ll be able to download a corrected copy.)

Other things.

There has been great buzz on the Velveteen-crossover stories, and readers have been lamenting that the first two Velveteen Vs. books are no longer available on ebook. Well, Seanan McGuire knows this, and so for her fans she has kept the individual stories that make up the two book available to read on her author-blog:

The first story is Velveteen vs. The Isley Crawfish Festival. Enjoy; it’s fascinating to read from the beginning and see how her superhero-concept evolved over time (plus it’s hysterically funny).

Dave Barrack’s Grrl Power fans have really been enjoying the Astra/Halo crossover story, and he has set up a page dedicated to talking about it. For anyone who hasn’t yet bought the book and intends to, I highly recommend going to Dave’s page and clicking on the book cover image to go to Amazon; if you do, then Dave will make a little extra money for the sale (and for a full-time indie writer/artist like Dave, every little extra bit counts).

Reception of some of the stories have been mixed. A few readers have not appreciated the voice of K.F. Lim. One reviewer thought A Traveler’s Tale the worst story in the book. I knew going in that, with the shifts in style between many of the stories, most readers would enjoy some stories more than others. I would love to hear back from everyone as to what their favorite stories were and why.

So talk to me. Let me know what you think we did right. Tell us what made you laugh. And thank you for all your support.

M.G. Harmon

Posted in Wearing the Cape | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Update: Team-Ups and Crossovers Released!

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Just a quick update! The final stages went much more quickly than expected, and Team-Ups and Crossovers is now available for Kindle on Amazon!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M9GOOQB

As mentioned before, it will be available in paperback within a couple of weeks. Everyone have a great Halloween Weekend!

M.G.Harmon

Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments

Team Ups and Crossovers

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Typhoon, Velveteen, Astra, and The Mighty Halo. Not quite the finished cover-art, but close…

So I’m two months late. I’ve learned two things this year; 1.) I don’t multi-task at all well, and 2.) writing short stories is as hard as writing novels. Well you live and you learn, especially when you have no choice but to scale that learning curve, and Team Ups and Crossovers is now in the finishing stages of editing and I can talk about it.

Team Ups and Crossovers started with simply remembering how much I enjoyed the Marvel/DC crossovers. You know: Spider Man vs. Superman, the Justice League vs. The Avengers, etc. The comic writers had tremendous fun with them, and certainly a lot of readers did as well. Crossovers have actually become quite the fiction-trope, fueled by the internet’s powers to spread fanfiction far and wide (some of it as good as or better than the source material). Fanfiction.net is a guilty pleasure of mine, where you can find just about every kind of crossover you can imagine. For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supernatural, Castle/Firefly, Naruto/The Avengers, or Harry Potter/Buffy/Avengers/Firefly.

Of course most of these crossovers are less than serious!

I don’t read as much as I’d like to (I could read every hour of the day, but it cuts into writing), but I am currently enjoying several superhero series and it occurred to me to approach a couple of authors to see about co-writing a collection of crossover stories, the idea being that something happens to catapult Astra into a cross-worlds journey through several superhero universes. I was very fortunate; both of the authors whose universes I was most interested in being allowed to play in answered back affirmatively.

Seanan McGuire

I’ve reviewed her stuff here before, but I’ll say it again; Seanan’s Velveteen Vs. stories, taken together, give us one of the most imaginative superhero universes out there today. Velveteen, Jackie Frost, The Princess, Polychrome, Action Guy, Victory Anna, and many more are all original, delightful, fully realized characters inhabiting mostly stock superhero-types. The action in her stories spans the gamut, from foiling mundane crime to cosmic adventure, and while she peppers Velveteen’s world with a lot of joke-villains (good jokes!), her serious, plot-driving bad guys are serious, scary, and real. Real people under the powers, with believable motivations. Seanan is very, very good at portraying convincing evil.

Unfortunately for me, Seanan writes hard. I don’t think a year passes without her turning out at least three titles. On top of that she does the convention circuit, so she really didn’t have time to write or co-write a crossover story. Fortunately, when I reached out to her she admitted that while she hadn’t read my stuff she’d heard good things; she kindly gave me permission to write an Astra/Velveteen crossover, and approved the two linked tales I came up with for adventures in the world of Super Patriots Inc. I hope I got Velveteen right.

Dave Barrack

I don’t know who introduced me to Grrl Power. I think it was one of my readers. There are a lot of online comics out there today, but Grrl Power is in the top 10%. I rank it up there just below Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary. Dave is both the writer and artist of Grrl Power, and while his art has improved since the first pages, his humor has always been first-rate. I encountered the series when it was already two years in, and reading Sydney/Halo’s first “adventure” (of course it was a bank-robbery) I laughed so hysterically I couldn’t keep reading. So of course I had to ask Dave about an Astra/Halo crossover.

Dave has been writing/drawing his webcomic full-time for two years now, but he said heck yeah and together we were able to co-write a hilariously fun story. Naturally Astra plays the straight man to Halo’s insanity. I don’t know about Dave, but I had so much fun with it that the door is always open to a sequel.

K.F.Lim

Funny story. I don’t respond to most reader reviews, but some I do. Some reviewers ask questions. Others make suggestions. When a reviewer addresses me in any way I take that as permission to respond as I would to fan-mail. I met KF on Goodreads, where she critically gushed over all of the then-published books in the series and proceeded to ship Hope hard with another major character. (For those not familiar with the terminology, ship is short for relationship; fans of well-loved characters will often ship them with other characters with whom they think they should be romantically involved). KF shipped so entertainingly that I had to ask her where she was getting it from; I expected some throwaway comment back, but KF is a lawyer and she laid out the subtext she read into certain scenes in the first few books and argued a case so convincing I can’t unsee it now. Not that things progressed that way of course, but that was the beginning of a long and enriching correspondence relationship.

KF wrote the last short story in Team Ups and Crossovers, in which Hope meets a very different CAI team after returning home from her cross-world adventures. My sole contribution was style-editing (after grad school law she writes too correctly). Her dialogue is dead-on and hilarious, she nailed Astra near-perfectly, and the new capes she introduces, beginning with Typhoon, are wonderful. I predict that many readers may find hers the most entertaining story in the book.

Publication Schedule.

As has become the practice, Team Ups and Crossovers will be released in Amazon Kindle format first, on November 1st. It will be followed within a few weeks by the print-on-demand edition. Again, I apologize for the lateness of the book, and hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it!

M.G.Harmon

Posted in Wearing the Cape | Tagged , , , , | 32 Comments

In A Good Place

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Which of these two doesn’t look comfortable?

Jean Paul Sartre once wrote “Hell is other people.” He also wrote “Like all dreamers, I mistook disenchantment for truth.” Neither statement has much obviously to do with The Good Place, a great new TV comedy.

WARNING: EVERYTHING FROM HERE DOWN IS PRETTY MUCH ALL SPOILERS

Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) opens her eyes to find herself in a relaxing office waiting room. On the white wall opposite her couch, WELCOME! EVERYTHING IS FINE. is written in bright green letters. Michael (Ted Danson) welcomes her into his office, where he tells her that 1.) she’s dead, and 2.) she made it to the Good Place. The Good Place is kind of a pastel, Disney, planned community Heaven reflecting no religious expectations in particular (every religion apparently got it around 5% right, except for one stoner who guessed 95% of it while high on mushrooms).

Eleanor is introduced to the neighborhood; apparently the Good Place is divided into minutely planned districts, each with 322 residents chosen for their compatibility in this afterlife utopia. She is introduced to her soulmate. All looks rosy.

Except she’s not supposed to be there.

Yes she’s Eleanor Shellstrop, but no none of the memories she sees played on a This Is Your Life screen are hers. She wasn’t a selfless lawyer who saved convicted murderers on death row, or who rescued orphans in war-torn failed states, or cleaned up disaster sites, etc. She was a salesperson for a shady company pushing useless “drugs” on old sick people, an utterly self-centered human being with no apparent redeeming qualities. There’s been a mistake.

Of course she doesn’t want to be discovered and kicked out of the Good Place, so she prevails upon her soulmate, Chidi Anagoyne, in life an ethics professor, to teach her how to be good.

I watched the premier last night, it was delightful, and I highly recommend that everyone catch it and judge for themselves. Especially since I have a strong suspicion that Eleanor and everyone else is being lied to. Something…benevolently sinister is afoot. Can something be benevolently sinister?

Here’s what I mean.

In the first few minutes, you learn that Eleanor’s neighborhood is brand new; everyone arrived more or less at once and gets the same group briefing in the form of a charming video presentation.

What are they are told? That everyone in life accumulates what is, for lack of a better word, karma; deeds which make the universe better go in the positive side of the ledger, while deeds which make the universe worse go in the negative side. Upon death the score is tallied, and only the small fraction who achieve incredibly high scores (as Eleanor had supposedly done) go to the Good Place. Everyone else goes to the Bad Place; a place Michael and his assistant can’t tell you anything about, but from the brief audio-clip sounds pretty unpleasant. Back to this in a minute.

You also learn that Michael was formerly an apprentice; Eleanor’s neighborhood/district is the first one he’s been allowed to design and build on his own. He isn’t even human. He’s far from infallible, and the Good Place’s universal assistant, Janet (who knows everything and can get you anything you need), knows more than he does about what’s going on. But she’s like a protocol-bound artificial intelligence; she has no free will and can’t violate privacy and so on.

You also meet Eleanor’s neighbors: Tahani Al-Jamil, a self satisfied 1-percenter jet setter who constantly name drops her associations with famous people (Princess Di, Johnny Depp, etc) and her Good Deeds, and her soulmate Jianyu, a Buddhist monk who still maintains a vow of silence (possibly in self-defense).

So here’s the thing; Eleanor herself spots the problem with this setup (mind you, she sees only that it’s unfair to her). How can a sorting system that puts only the very best in the Good Place and everyone else in the Bad Place be at all fair? Shouldn’t there be an Average Place? Like Cincinnati?

Eleanor also complains that Tahani hardly seems better than her: “She’s a condescending bench.” (You can’t swear in the Good Place.) Tahani is proof-positive of the instrumental definition of Good being used by whomever sorted the departed into the Good Place and the Bad Place; her obvious motivation for Doing Good in life was to score social points. She did good in life because it made her Better than You; this motivation for doing good soundly has been soundly rejected by every major religion (the Bible, especially, is full of condemnation for the sort who do good for praise and bragging rights).

But apparently motivation doesn’t matter. Apparently.

One last fact; Eleanor quickly learns that when she does something bad, it affects the whole district. Comically so, with rains of shrimp and garbage about which Michael can do nothing, among other things. So she can’t even be secretly bad, she’s got to learn how to be good or the situation will quickly go to hell, figuratively and possibly literally speaking.

Remember I mentioned that something about all this seemed benevolently sinister?

Point #1: Eleanor can’t be there by mistake. The system got her name, place of birth, and date (and method) of death, right. But it got everything else wrong? I don’t think so. I think she arrived with a forged history. Who forged it, and why?

Point #2: This is Michael’s first solo job, and he seems a little out of his depth. Janet knows more about what is going on than he does, and she’s not helping.

So, what is going on? I have a hypothesis, one I’m not going to share yet. Maybe if someone in the comments gets close I’ll discuss it. In any case, I look forward to watching The Good Place; I think it’s a comedy meant to completely and deliberately bend your mind and make you think. I hope it is; it shows great promise.

M.G.Harmon

 

Posted in TV Reviews | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Suicide Squad Completed the Mission

 

Suicide SquadNot the Good Guys.

So, I saw Suicide Squad this week. I’m going to spoiler the heck out of it, so 1.) DC comics fans should go see it, and 2.) stop reading until you get back.

We good? Okay then.

Unlike Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad didn’t try and reinvent its characters (I recently commented somewhere that I enjoyed BvS because I went in expecting to see Frank Miller’s version of both the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel and wasn’t disappointed). Suicide Squad is a show about a bunch of evil supervillains who have been drafted to undertake suicidal missions when only metahumans (or Humans With Extreme Whupass Skills) can do the job. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

So, on that basis, how did it do? Well, I found it entertaining in spots (mainly any scene Harlequin did anything in), and not a waste of my time and money.

But I probably won’t get the DVD.

Which is sad, because it had a lot o potential and overall was very well done. Good casting, good acting, good dialogue, good action. It was good.

But here’s the problem: there wasn’t a single character in the show in whom I could become emotionally invested. There was not one single character who grew in any way because of events. There was no karma for the characters whose bad decisions led to the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of human beings.

And not because there weren’t opportunities. Here’s a few missed ones.

Deadshot: a soulless hitman who has one human moment. He’s captured by Batman because he’s not willing to kill the Dark Knight when his own daughter (who is the only thing he loves) is there to see him do it. His revealed heart’s desire much later in the movie? It’s not to make sure his daughter has a good life; it’s to kill Batman.

Captain Flagg: a soldier dedicated to protecting America no matter the cost or evil required. Except that when he has to choose between keeping EVIL from breaking loose and killing hundreds of people, and keeping his girlfriend safe, he chose his girlfriend.

Amanda Waller: the woman whose ambition is to protect America from metahuman threats any way she must. Except that it’s her actions that directly lead to the world-threatening threat that the Suicide Squad is mobilized to defeat. Along the way, Waller casually sacrifices innocents to ensure that there will be no blowback on her for having done what she did.

Killer Croc: a man-beast condemned by his monstrous appearance, who has rejected humanity because humanity rejected him. Nope. No change; he finished the mission because otherwise he’d die, and he got a wide-screen TV out of it.

Harlequin: willingly driven insane by the Joker, then abandoned to be captured by Batman. Completely loyal to Mr. J from beginning to end, told Diablo (who regretted losing his temper and incinerating his wife and children) to “own it. We’re all monsters here.”

Were there any sympathetic characters in the show? Well, there was the human host of Enchantress (DC’s version of Zule from Ghostbusters). Captain Flagg’s girlfriend, she was a true innocent in the whole mess, but she wasn’t a central character.

So, no strong character arc for anybody; the movie could have overcome that by giving meaning to the conflict. Like the Dirty Dozen fighting the Nazis. Sure they were SOBs, but they were fighting evil SOBs. The fight against evil is ennobling.

Except, as mentioned the Big Bad Threat the bad guys were sent to defeat was instigated by Amanda Waller, who paid no price for all the death she caused (five with her own pistol because “none of them were cleared for any of this.”).

So, it’s merely-human bad guys fighting godlike bad guys, evil vs. EVIL, to end a threat that they themselves created. In the end, nobody changes, nobody grows, and nobody gets what they deserve (which is a bullet for each of them).

But Harlequin was fun to watch, and may be getting her own movie; hopefully in which she can grow. And the action is fun, spiced by witty dialogue, and the Joker was dead-on perfect. So Suicide Squad wasn’t a home run, but it wasn’t a strikeout either. It was a solid swing of Harley’s Good Night Bat, worth the price of admission.

M.G.Harmon

Posted in Movie Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

Update and Words of Encouragement.

It has been way, way too long since I posted here. I am very sorry. Hopefully my silence did not dim your joys in any way, but life has been distracting me way too much. Bad writer! I will try and be better. That said, I only have a few things to say today, mostly updates (and a little gentle mockery).

Teamups and Crossovers

2016’s book is still in the works, moving forward, getting done, and any other phrase for not done yet. It should have been finished by now and I am never, ever, ever pursuing two projects simultaneously again. (Sigh.) The good news is that two authors (one collaborative, one with an original piece) have turned in two very fun stories. At this point it also looks like the book will also include a new and updated glossary and an extensive background section to make it a kind of resource for series fans who want a deeper look at the world. Current projected publication date: the end of September.

Wearing the Cape: the Roleplaying Game

Also much-delayed, partly due to factors beyond my control. Factors being a euphemism for artists. The upside is that the delay has allowed for a much more extensive review-and-playtest phase than I originally anticipated, and I modestly believe that the result of the extra time will just be a much more awesome game. If I’d known what a pain this project would be before I started it, I probably wouldn’t have started. On the other hand, once it’s finished it will be one of my proudest achievements to date. Because it will be awesome. For those of you who don’t peek at my Wearing the Cape Facebook page, here’s a little sample of the art:

Astra Flight

The gamebook itself is going to be a thing of beauty. Not a coffee table artbook, but very nice looking nonetheless.

And the Encouragement.

As most of you know, I am an indie-published author. Since self-publishing my first three or four books, I have been approached by a few smaller presses offering traditional contracts; the drawback being that they couldn’t offer me a level of earnings better than I was already making in straight royalties.

Naturally I decided that my success was because I was brilliant.

However, I had an epiphany today due to a humorous post on Facebook. It was this image:

Warning: NSFW (you will be laughing too hard).
Back Blurb

This! This is the golden secret to writing success! What are the three most desired protagonists in romance writing today? Vampires, Vikings, and angels. Also hot: a whole family of unbelievably gorgeous seductive man-cake (perfect for a series). So this inspired author decided that nothing could be better than a family of seven Viking vampire angels! It’s just so, so…I think I may cry.

Seriously (not really), not content with the mind blowing, giggle inducing wonder that is the back cover, I had to research it. The book this back-blurb belongs to is Kiss of Pride: A Deadly Angels Book by Sandra Hill. Behold the cover.

Kiss of Pride

I will not quote from the gloriously insane prologue (please please please use Amazon’s  Look Inside function for that, but again, not at work). I will give you the opening lines of Chapter One.

Vika Siggurdson hadn’t had sex in a hundred years, and he was not in the greatest of moods. The last time had resulted in two hundred years being added to his penance, and it hadn’t even been good sex.

This. Is. Beautiful! It promises Vikings, immortal vikings, immortal and sexually frustrated Vikings! Boom!

For one insane moment I considered picking up a free sample of Book One on my Kindle just to keep the giddiness going. However, I regretfully decided that too much exposure to this wonderful insanity would destroy my ability to write even as semi-seriously as I do.

Where was I going with this? Oh yes, my epiphany.

Sandra Hill’s Deadly Angels series averages a 4.6 Amazon Star Rating. The first book in the series rates only a 4.0, but they go up with one of the later books a 4.8 and the latest a 4.7. How in the waking world could this possibly be? Well, Sandra has found a niche. Yes, it’s a Viking-vampire-angel niche, but it practically had to be there. In similar fashion, I stumbled upon the New Adult Superhero Story niche when I wrote Wearing the Cape. Both are underserved niches, so like Sandra, I didn’t have to be a great writer to do well in it. I only had to be a good-enough writer.

Hopefully I have gotten better, but my point for all you aspiring writers out there is this; polish your craft, yes, but there is a lot of competition out there, so if you want to get published while you’re still just good-enough (or noticed when you self-publish) then you need to find an underserved niche. Find your Viking-vampire-angel niche. But, and here’s the catch, you must commit to it. To serve it well, you must cast aside every thought that whispers But Viking-vampire-angels are just silly. So, from a certain perspective, is a teen superhuman who dons a cape and mask and takes a codename.

Now isn’t that encouraging?

M.G.Harmon

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 9 Comments

WTC:RPG, Stage II

Cover Flight

I’m glad to say that readers have continued to bother me about this, asking what’s going on and when it will happen. I’m now pleased to announce that, while massively behind where I thought we’d be on this, we will presently be ready for Stage II in WtC:RPG’s developement.

I have no excuse for the delays, other than to plead that writing a set of game rules for playing in the Post-Event World, even one using a preexisting open-sourced set of rules (the Fate System), has meant climbing a much more difficult learning curve than I anticipate. This is not simply a vanity project, and I want Wearing the Cape: The Roleplaying Game to impress even long-time gamers.

So what is Stage II?

I have previously had some dedicated Fate players taking a swing at the first, word-doc draft of the game to help me discover if anything is obviously broken. Stage II is to present a fully blocked draft of the game (minus much of the still-developing artwork) for a select and dedicated group of gamers who have never played a Fate-based roleplaying game. Why? WtC:RPG is designed for both long-time gamers and for newbies—reader of the book who have never played a tabletop RPG before, or who have previously played but with other systems like D20, Pathfinder, Champions, Mutants and Masterminds, and others.

Which means Stage II is the playtest for both playability and learnability. The rules must both work and be understandable by players with no previous experience. I think it’s ready to show everyone. But frankly, after all of the work that has gone into this, I’m terrified.

So, for everyone who has been patiently waiting, who can participate?

If you have a group of at least three willing victims, and the willingness to commit to not just read over the rules but test them hard and provide feedback on learning and play, you are welcome to join the effort to make the Post-Event World a playable reality. We have a google+ community page where test subjects—I mean playtesters—can talk to me and each other. All playtesters will get their names (and hero names) in the second-page credits in the game, and may have a strong influence on how this project is finished up and carried into the future.

Thank you all in advance.

On other news, Teamups and Crossovers is still an ongoing project slated for publication in the fall. It began as an opportunity to simply do some short stories involving other characters in the Post-Event World, but has evolved into a series of linked adventures interspersed with standalone pieces. One of the stories is co-written, another written by a never-before published writer, and a third written with permission—the story of Astra’s adventures in another superhero universe altogether. I never know until I’ve published, but I think that all Wearing the Cape fans are going to be thrilled.

So, lots more to come.

Marion G. Harmon

 

Posted in Wearing the Cape | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Fake Hate.

Haters-Gonna-Hate-Meme-Leonardo-12

“The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles. Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch, and I don’t like anybody very much!” (The Merry Minuet, by The Kingston Trio)

I remember hearing The Merry Minuet on the radio as a teen, and laughing about itespecially laughing at the last lines, which present the “solution” (go listen to it on Youtube). Because you have to laugh, at least once in awhile, at the truth of the song; something bad is always happening somewhere, and most of the time the bad thing that’s happening is us. As a species we are flawed and often hateful, and we know it. “We have met the enemy, and they is us.” (Pogo)

We hate each other. This is obvious, at least if you follow the news media much.

Part of this of course is that hate sells, and “People get along!” or “People agree to disagree!” isn’t a grabby headline. But part of it is the simple truth; when it comes to blaming others for our problems, to quote another song “Any Mick’ll do, any black, any Jew. Any poor wee bugger who’s not like you.” (Any Mick’ll Do, by Brian McNeill.) It’s baked into our DNA or written into our souls, or what have you; it’s human nature to separate the world into Us and Them and hate Them. This is nothing new, and it seems that no sooner do we bury one prejudice against someone Not Like Us than another appears or exhumes itself; it’s like zombiesyou can shoot as many as you like, but you’ll always be in a target-rich environment.

But lately I’ve been paying attention to a phenomena that is new to me; fake hate.

It has multiple causes, but I think it comes back (as most of my observations on social conflict do) to The Syllogism.

  1. I am a rational/good human being.
  2. Because I am a rational/good human being, I believe X.
  3. If you do not believe X, you are either ignorant, stupid, or evil.
  4. Because you are ignorant, stupid, or evil, it is useless to debate with you and pointless to listen to you.

It hinges on Statement 3: If you do not believe X, you are either ignorant, stupid, or evil.
If you believe that Statement 3 is true about someonefor example if you believe that their opposition to abortion is rooted in misogyny or their opposition to Affirmative Action is rooted in racism, or their opposition to the 2nd Amendment is rooted it their desire to render you defenselessthen you expect those people to act in specific ways. You expect the hateful to act hatefully.

And often, they don’t.

I’m not saying there are not plenty of racists or sexists out there (and reverse-racists and reverse-sexists); you can trawl the internet and find all the hate and vituperation you can stomach, coming from people on every side of every social conflict of our time. Neither the Far Right nor the Radical Left have a monopoly on hatefulness. But for all of the words many of us hurl at each other online and at protests, apparently, as a society, we are not being hateful enough in practice.

Apparently, the haters are good at disguising their hate.

And this is a problem for radicals or reformers who want to change society. After all, if Statement 3 is true, but your ignorant, stupid, evil enemies are hiding it or at least not acting on it, then right-thinking people will not get angry enough to see the rightness of the changes you want to make.

When you’re right but nobody is listening, being righteous is not enough. You need to show them you’re right.

Which brings us to this sad event: http://www.kvue.com/news/local/whole-foods-accuser-drops-lawsuit-over-cake/196619953 .

To sum up;

“An openly gay pastor who claimed that a grocery store bakery wrote a homophobic message on his cake has dropped his lawsuit against Whole Foods, claiming he made up the story, according to news reports. ‘I apologize to the LGBT community for diverting attention from real issues,’ Pastor Jordan Brown said in a statement, according to the ABC affiliate in Austin and other news reports. Brown normally preaches about love and acceptance, with a particular focus on outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians, at the church he leads in Austin. But after he picked up a cake in April that was supposed to say ‘Love Wins,’ he turned to preaching in the media, and in court.

“The company’s response to Brown’s statement on Monday was brief: ‘We’re very pleased that the truth has come to light. Given Mr. Brown’s apology and public admission that his story was a complete fabrication, we see no reason to move forward with our counter suit to defend the integrity of our brand and team members.'”

(Washington Post)

Now, I do not pretend to see into the heart of Pastor Brown. I like to think that he didn’t make up the accusation to attack a blameless employee and an entire corporation for selfish reasons. I believe that he believed he was committing the sin of False Witness in a good cause; drawing public attention to ant-gay sentiments by providing a concrete incidence of anti-gay behavior. Photo evidence and a public lawsuit is certainly one way to get attention. (I know my first reaction on hearing the story was disgust.)

But then it turned out that Whole Foods could provide video evidence that the cake’s packaging had been tampered with after purchase, and Pastor Brown’s own pictures raise doubt that the employee who made the cake provided the last, deeply offensive, word. And now Pastor Brown has admitted that he fabricated the story, and apologized.

And I wish I could be surprised. I don’t like to be cynical about anything, but in the past few years fake-hate reporting has become increasingly common. I first saw it appearing in reports of on-campus incidents; someone would hang a noose, paint up offensive graffiti, or commit some other disgusting act of racist expression on campus, everyone would go crazy, and then the investigation would reveal that it was actually done by an “anti-racist” group or individual to raise awareness of racism. But it has spread off campus, too, with impacts that range from trivial to life-destroying.

As another example, a young Muslim student recently made up an account of anti-Muslim aggravated assault and posted it on Facebook. When it came out that the hate-crime was fake, one respondent wrote “Why would she make it all up? I don’t understand, she needed attention that bad. She had the whole Muslim community in an uproar and I as a Muslim student attending Uta was very worried. Instead of honoring the victims of the chapel hill shooting she fabricated a lie to gain attention from others focusing on that tragedy. I’m truly ashamed.”

http://www.arlingtonvoice.com/crime-emergency-education/story/feb/13/2015/muslim-uta-students-claim-aggravated-assault-weapon-was

The most famous (or infamous) recent example of this is the University of Virginia fraternity rape story published in Rolling Stones magazine, which now appears to be entirely false and is the focus of several ongoing lawsuits.

In the incidents when they have falsely claimed victimization, less generous opinion of the perpetrators of these incidents would be that they are just attention-seekers. They themselves reject this judgement, claiming idealism and good intentions. Authorities are also lax to prosecute these incidents.

“A University of Chicago student who claimed his Facebook page was hacked and filled with racist and violent messages against him and another student has now admitted he faked the attack.

“Intended to shame the school into making drastic changes around race and speech on campus, the hoax appears to have worked.

“The students behind the ruse, the hoodwinked university and the school newspaper have argued that the hoax – which provoked a federal investigation – should not detract from fixing the school’s “culture of racial intolerance,” in the words of a petition demanding policy changes.”

(The College Fix, http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/20329/ )

So people lie. We know this, and what makes these incidents so bad?

Fake-Hate is a serious problem because every time a story like this happens, the public trust is damaged. There are serious social issues to be discussed today, but any discussion in good faith depends on trust; injuring the public trust is a disservice to everyone, but especially to those on the same side as the persons telling these lies.

What can be done about it?

It’s disingenuous to simply say that we should all calm down and stop hating on each other so much (buying into Syllogism Statement #3) that we’re willing to Make Up Crap about them because They Deserve It. A more realistic approach is to use the law; after all, laws are being broken here. And this is happening with some cases.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/woman-admits-tweeting-fake-threats-fellow-black-students-204320195.html

If enough liars are convicted for their actions, others will decide that the price of lying for the cause is too high. Meanwhile, the next time you hear reports about a senseless and disgusting expression of hate, wait awhile; it may be an incidence of Fake-Hate.

M.G.Harmon

(Note: for more incidents of Fake-Hate, just google “fake hate crimes.” You’ll find enough to read for hours if not days.)

Posted in The Radical Moderate | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

War is Never Civil.

Civil War

Team Steve! Team Tony! Wait, this feels familiar…

I have just come from watching Captain America III: Civil War. I went into it with lower expectations than I might have; Batman v. Superman was…okay but flawed and I enjoyed it mainly by telling myself I was watching a Frank Miller interpretation of the real Batman and Superman. I think the main problem is that BvS’s writer and director were trying too hard to “re-imagine” those iconic heroes. Civil War, on the other hand, is proof that Marvel Studio’s writers firmly understand that they don’t need to re-imagine anything. Update the backstories a bit, yes, but in CV they have continued to hew as closely as possible to the character of the heroes we know and love. And the result is genius.

No spoilers this time, other than the setup and general theme. The setup is payoff on the fact that, even when they won (which is most of the time), the Avengers left a lot of collateral damage in their wake. Some of it they were responsible for. Plus they are a private organization that can dismantle national armies, and they answer to no-one. So, four years after the Avengers are founded, the United Nations is moving to put them under the control of a supervisory panel. If the team won’t allow it, it must disband.

That’s the setup.

The theme springs from the setup; before the members of the team can fully hash it out among themselves, a crisis immediately blows up around the Winter Soldier (no spoiler there since it’s in all the previews). The team becomes divided between those willing to, out of principle, follow the new law, and those who, out of principle, cannot.

Yes, Marvel set it up so that both sides are right at various times and with the information each has, and it hurts to watch this band of brothers (and sisters) get ripped apart. In the end, I don’t know who made the right call initially: Steve, or Tony?

You decide. Get thee to a theater. Go!

(Also, the introductions of Panther and Spiderman are awesome.)

Posted in Movie Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments