O is for Oooooooooooh My!

Where to start?

George Takei is probably best known for playing Mr. Sulu on the original Star Trek television show, until recently. You see, George came out in October of 2005 with his partner of 18 years, Brad Altman. He then became a spokesperson in 2006 for Human Rights Campaign “Coming Out Project.” He married Brad September 14th, 2008, before Proposition 8 came into effect in November.

Why am I listing all this? George Takei came on the scene for LGBT rights and he has been very vocal about his thoughts and opinions. When Tennessee’s bill “Don’t Say Gay” hit the scene in 2011 forcing teachers only to talk only about hetrosexuality in schools, George put out this YouTube video:

Then we have the video calling out Clint McCance’s douchebaggery.

He has become a social media all-star. He continues his LGBT advocacy interspersed with humor and salient viewpoints through these channels. On Twitter, he has over 600,000 followers. Facebook shows that George has nearly four million likes. He even pins on Pinterest with over 300,000 followers there. Or if you just like reading a blog, you can follow the link from his website.

George Takei has so many more accomplishments to his credit, but I think his voice for equal rights is the most impressive. Even when he put down McCance, he still did it with intelligence, grace, and aplomb.

Here is a funny for you to leave with.

N is for No

In the convention world, “no” is often an alien word. I am not referring to the No Pants Subway Ride 2013 even. I am talking about all types volunteers in fandom who have skills, and know that there is a vacancy in their organization. They want to serve because they do not see it being filled. That is time to step back, talk to those are close and will be affected by the decision, and know the limits of their time. How often does this happen? Not enough. I found my self here. I have seen others here countless times.

But, it is not only that individual’s fault. Those desperate to fill vacant positions can be guilty too. These managers, directors, department heads, con-chairs, or whatever the title is, need to assess these people and their commitments. Yes, they may have the skills, but if they lack the time, was that really a good fit?

Just think about things first. It is ok to say no.

M is for Mercedes Lackey

Meeting up with some technical difficulties, The A to Z Blog Challenge is back to its regularly scheduled posting….

I was going to do something else for “M,” but thought differently about it and I am saving that as a topic after the challenge is complete.

So, I am going to write about prolific author, Mercedes Lackey!

Larry Dixon and Mercedes Lackey Skyping away. Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/30169195@N00/4026681104/

Larry Dixon and Mercedes Lackey Skyping away. Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/30169195@N00/4026681104/

Discovery in a creepy Milwaukee bookstore

I had found this used bookstore just off of Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. They had the most interesting books, some of which probably sat on their shelves for ten or more years. My interest at that time was trying to understand some occult ideas, and I had this tendency to zero in on books that had “Magic” in the title. I was zipping by the Science Fiction & Fantasy section when this book, Magic’s Pawn, jumped out at me.

The story of a vain, young noble, Vanyel Ashkevron, sent off to his aunt’s home, and where he falls in love with her student, Tylendel. Their tie to one another breaks open Vanyel’s latent magical talents when Tylendel dies suddenly and quickly. Vanyel barely survives this ordeal and goes on to legendary feats for the sake of the country called Valdemar.

This series was so engrossing to me for a few reasons. For me, it was the mid-nineties and here were openly gay characters in a fantasy book, not one but three books actually. Second, finding love and purpose can change a person. And third, the story could have been about anyone- straight or LGBT- who is struggling through life.

Off to the races

Just a fraction of the books Mercedes (Misty) has written. Image from theaudiobookbay.com

Just a fraction of the books Mercedes (Misty) has written. Image from theaudiobookbay.com

I started on an obsession. I had to get my hands on anything she wrote, co-wrote, or touched. That was an interesting task considering all the different series she has in her bibliography. Her books are not all about LGBT characters, but Mercedes always makes for an interesting read. She starting publishing in 1987 with Arrows of the Queen. Her bulk of work is in the Valdemar world, but she also writes alternative histories about people with magical abilities, elves, bards, dragons, science fiction, and retold fairy tales. She has co-wrote with Piers Anthony, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Dave Freer, Eric Flint, Rosemary Edgehill, and many others.

Mercedes has been writing now for over 25 years and has produced over 100 books alone. Go check her out and find something you like.

L is for L.A.R.P.ing

L.A.R.P.ing, not for the weak

Here we come, walkin' down the street. Image from http://www.larplist.com/Awards.php

Here we come, walkin’ down the street. Image from http://www.larplist.com/Awards.php

L.A.R.P. is the acronym for Live Action Role-Playing. It takes your regular role-play gaming and adds crafts, theater, and imaginary settings. This system gives the participants the chance to act out their character’s role in a small group or large scale production.

More than just swords and dragons

Often tied to Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) coming out of the 1970’s, L.A.R.P.’s are flexible in the scenarios and playing styles.  The fictionalized scenarios can range from Steampunk story lines, to Lord of the Rings, to a zombie apocalypses. The Society for Creative Anachronism is an international living history organization dedicated to recreating the Middle Ages, and can loosely be thought of as a L.A.R.P. organization.

Rules vary by the group or organization. Some groups have published their rules to be followed. Others just mandate the form of weapons and how they are to be used. While, yet others act under the tenant of portraying their character as appropriate to the scenario.

Play is refereed by game master(s) or arrangers that drive the scenario’s goals, and more mundanely book the venue, advertise the event, and manage the finances. Because they know the overall goal, the game masters manage the player characters acting out self-created roles or ones developed by the game masters.

Geeks come to the mainstream

Over the years, the media has picked up L.A.R.P. in television shows. However, we first heard news stories of how D&D was filled with occultism, satanism, and escapism. Over the years, these notions have been proven wrong. Now, we see L.A.R.P.s occasionally on the internet and television in a growing acceptance of geek culture. One of the best known geeky L.A.R.P.-minded personalities in my book is Felicia Day. She has her own internet show called The Guild, and plays a limited character, Charlie, on Supernatural.

Only Felicia Day can mix Star Trek and Middle Age L.A.R.P.ing. Image from http://io9.com/5978853/on-supernatural-felicia-day-makes-everything-ok

Only Felicia Day can mix Star Trek and Middle Age L.A.R.P.ing. Image from http://io9.com/5978853/on-supernatural-felicia-day-makes-everything-o

Ah, the awesomeness of Felicia Day… For more on beginning L.A.R.P.ing

K is for Kittens???

Today, the letter “K” is for kittens!

Rather than writing about cute, cuddly kittens, I am going to talk about cat girls in regards to anime and manga. Basically, cat girls are feminine characters with some sort of cat aspect such as ears, tails or feline traits. In Japanese culture, they can be referred to as Neko (cat) or Nekomimi (cat ears).

One variation of a cat girl. Image from http://www.blingcheese.com/image/code/73/sad+anime.htm

One variation of a cat girl. Image from http://www.blingcheese.com/image/code/73/sad+anime.htm

Often at anime conventions, the most common costume is the cat girl.

Cat girls do get a little bit on the sex kitten side of things. That is not my thing, but each to their own. I bring this up if you go looking for pictures, watch out. You may see things you had rather have not seen…

J is for Joss Whedon

This post is about Joss Whedon…

Not to be confused with

Joss Stone, an amazing songstress from England, who at the age of 16 already had the voice of a 40 year blues veteran. Image from http://www.bookloversinc.com/2012/12/18/interview-with-laura-kaye-giveaway-2/joss-stone-2/

Joss Stone, an amazing songstress from England, who at the age of 16 already had the voice of a 40 year blues veteran. Image from http://www.bookloversinc.com/2012/12/18/interview-with-laura-kaye-giveaway-2/joss-stone-2/

Two amazing Josses, but only one post about Joss Whedon.

In the beginning…

Well, maybe not that far back. But Joss is the son and grandson of television writers. His first major job after finishing college and moving to Los Angeles? The writing team for Roseanne where he was the story editor and sometime writer in 1988. He want on to Parenthood, where he co-produced and wrote some episodes.

He was not on my radar yet, but his next project changed that.

The original Buffy. Kinda scary... I feel old. Image from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/BuffyTheVampireSlayer

The original Buffy. Kinda scary… I feel old. Image from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/BuffyTheVampireSlayer

Awesome, silly movie for that time. It has an interesting cast with Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens (yes THAT Paul Reubens, a year after that Florida theater thing), Rutger Hauer, and Luke Perry. Admittedly, I went to the movie for Rutger Hauer- I had such a “thing” for him then. I came away with a hmmm, that was a good but different movie. After Buffy part one, Joss wrote his fingers off. We got Toy Story, Alien: Resurrection, Titan A.E., Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer  on television and animated, Angel, Firefly, and Serenity.

Then, there was this little thing called a writer’s strike

In 2007, The Writer’s Guild went on strike. Joss, his brothers, Jed and Zack along with  Maurissa Tancharoen went off on an odyssey to produce the anti-television show. The end result was Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog shot in six days, and released in three separate acts over the course of a few months. After years of writing acclaim, Joss received his first Emmy award for something that never aired on television. He proved in 2008 that the internet already was a viable medium to write and produce for.

So much more

I could go on with the rest his roll of credits, but that is not what he is all about. His mother influenced him greatly with her feminist perspective. So much so, that Joss is often asked how he manages to write such amazing roles for women. He says that you just had to know her. In response to why he writes such strong women characters, he famously replied, “Because you’re still asking me that question” .

Joss engenders a considerable loyalty, not just from his fans (Browncoats), but also from his talent.  Actors want to work with him, and keep working with him. Case in point, Nathan Fillion saw Joss’ name come up on the caller I.D. one day. Nathan picked up the phone and said “Yes!” He just knew that he must work for Joss; which, he has done Buffy, Firefly, Dr. Horrible, and Much Ado About Nothing. Nathan is not the only actor to reappear in various Whedon projects. Alexis Denisof has the most appearances at five, but Wikipedia has a chart documenting the crossover of projects.

The essence of Joss

The reason Joss is so popular in my mind are of a few reasons. He does not assume the lowest denominator of his audience. He expects that people will follow his point of view, or not bother. Second, he takes common themes, tweaks them, and yet still makes all of it relatable to his audience. (Take his movie A Cabin in the Woods. Teenagers, a cabin, foreboding woods – we got a horror movie, but not the one we expected.) Third, Joss does not regurgitate Polyanna stories. His main characters can die, or have a miserable existence.

Yet, he does this all in his twisted sense of black humor that comments on the human condition. Take Joss’ video in support of Obama.

Maybe, it really is all about the Spam and its own key.

I is for Ianto Jones

A Change in the Programme

Originally, “I” was supposed to be “Its bigger on the inside,” but since my “blue” post was already about Doctor Who, I thought that it was better to find something else. Ianto Jones is a fictional character from the British television show, Torchwood. Yes, yes. It is a spin-off from Doctor Who series, but dammit, Russell Davies is an amazing writer.

Such a stern picture, but he is really a big teddy bear. Just ask Captain Jack. Image from http://www.blastr.com/2010/11/steven-moffat-wont-bring.php

Such a stern picture, but he is really a big teddy bear. Just ask Captain Jack. Image from http://www.blastr.com/2010/11/steven-moffat-wont-bring.php

Just the “help” (spoiler alerts)

Ianto is referred to as the General Support Officer for Torchwood Three based in Cardiff, Wales. This is the third division of Torchwood and they hunted aliens and their technology. Originally, the role of Ianto was to last for five episodes and then he was done, but he appealed so strongly to fans that lasted for three series (seasons). He was a quiet character that ran the administrative duties, made tea, and keep track of the ammunitions.

Ianto comes to the fore in episode four of season one. In “Cyberwoman,” we see him trying to save his girlfriend who has been partially assimilated as a Cyberman as seen in the Doctor Who episode, “Doomsday.” We all know that this will end badly, and Ianto looses his girlfriend. From this point, Ianto does not have much to hide, and we are treated to his sense of humor by way of one-liners peppering the scripts.  It is in the middle of series one, where we Davies hand in exploring human sexuality. What begins as a bit of a fling, turns into a deepening relationship between Ianto and Captain Jack.

Fun in the fauna. Image from http://lgbttvcouples.tumblr.com/

Fun in the fauna. Image from http://lgbttvcouples.tumblr.com/

We are lucky to see their relationship build, and see the tragic death of Ianto while trying to save ten percent of Earth’s children. The Ianto fans, however, lost their shit. They wrote letters. They wrote to anyone who was in any way connected to the Doctor Who franchise. They made websites. They called the writer and producer homophobic (really?). They designated donations in Ianto’s name for the BBC charity, Children in Need.

 A memorial at Mermaid quay for Ianto Jones. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ianto_Jones_memorial_at_Mermaid_Quay.jpg

A memorial at Mermaid quay for Ianto Jones. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ianto_Jones_memorial_at_Mermaid_Quay.jpg

The character of Ianto Jones made quite the impression in British cult television. Again, this is a science fiction drama that is relatable to the viewer through the character’s personal struggles. Geek, gay or both it is nice to see it all being portrayed as a normal attribute.

H is for Halo….Maybe?

Ok, as I was brainstorming ideas for my list, I came up with Halo for “H.” It seemed like a good idea at the time. I, however, am not a gamer. I am surrounded by gamers who will be giving me crap after they read this post. I never had console games in my house and love it when I hit a friend’s house with Lego anything. I did play World of Warcraft for a few years, but stopped when I realized that eight hours of grinding could be spent with real live people.

Aww, cosplayers. Image from http://hdw.eweb4.com/out/628023.html

Aww, cosplayers. Image from http://hdw.eweb4.com/out/628023.html

And this photo reminds of a favorite YouTube video.

Wow, serious stream of consciousness/Ooo shiny kicked in.

Halo. I am supposed to be writing about Halo. I know that the franchise originally started as a PC game, and then Microsoft took it over to the 360 for console gaming. The lead character is called Master Chief. The franchise has turned out 7 video games,  book adaptations, graphic novels, comics, a stalled movie, and an anime series.

But it has now become part of the culture and comic relief  as done by Rooster Teeth’s Red vs Blue in the machinima style.

What does this say about Halo? If anything is around long enough and is kind of popular, it will be taken up and reconstituted into a new form. Heck, it has its own pedia site.

G is for Galatica, Battlestar Galatica

Art, back when it was all done by hand. Image from http://www.megomuseum.com/remego/battlestar.shtml

Art, back when it was all done by hand. Image from http://www.megomuseum.com/remego/battlestar.shtml

Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar Galactica leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest… a shining planet known as Earth. ~ spoken by Lorne Greene at the close of each episode of the Glen A. Larson’s original Battlestar Galactica.

So, when normal geeky GenXers had already seen Star Wars the year before, my first exposure to Science Fiction and space travel was Battlestar Galactica and then Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (Erin Gray was such a hottie and still is. Gil Gerard.. eh). Looking back it now, it is almost painful to watch Battlestar. It was appropriate for the time, but now we have…

What does the SciFi Channel know about high productions?

In 2003, The SciFi (now SyFy) Channel showed a four-hour miniseries of a new Battlestar Galatica. announced that they have revived the 70’s space opera and would be adding it to their line-up. The purists decried the move as unacceptable, especially after seeing that Starbuck is now a girl (who I think would wipe the floor with the boy Starbuck.. Rawr!). Others could not see how SciFi could have high production value expectations that it takes for space shows. They already had Stargate SG-1, where would the bucks come from?

Could this really happen? No, but it makes awesome TV! Image from http://scienceinmyfiction.com/tag/battlestar-galactica/

Could this really happen? No, but it makes awesome TV! Image from http://scienceinmyfiction.com/tag/battlestar-galactica/

The bucks came from the show itself. Producer Ronald D. Moore gave us nitty, gritty life in space with real plot devices and was not afraid to mix things up. Think about trying to land a Battlestar on a planet to rescue prisoners from another ship. Balls, real balls!  He created an ensemble cast and crew that was critically acclaimed and stacked-up nominations, awards, and best of  lists. We had gone from geeky science fiction to one of the best dramas airing on television at the time. (In 2002, Fox aired and then cancelled Firefly before it had a chance.)

The legacy Ronald D. Moore gave goes beyond the spin-0ffs of Blood and Chrome and Caprica. He proved that a science fiction television show can be engaging beyond the special effects, the fantastic, and the parables of current events. He made science fiction appealing to an audience beyond geeks by making characters who are relatable by their struggles with religion, politics, and existence.

bsg-3

F is for Furry

And then, there is Furry Fandom

Different levels of furry characters

Different levels of furry characters

When I planned my list for the A to Z blog, I thought that Furry would be good for “F,” but sitting here I am grasping at how to write about it without it being this huge long thing.

Here’s what I will do. I will start simply. The general definition for furry fandom is that it is a subculture interested in anthropomorphic animals according to Wikipedia. Right now you are scratching your head over the ten dollar word “anthropomorphic” (see I can spell it right twice!). Basically, it means an animal with human characteristics- intelligence, facial expressions, wearing clothes… And then, it breaks down into smaller subcultures.

Fursuiting

Here we have some college mascots- Bucky (yea!), Herky, Sparty, and Goldy.

Here we have some college mascots- Bucky (yea!), Herky, Sparty, and Goldy. Picture from http://talkingmascot.blogspot.com/http://talkingmascot.blogspot.com April 2011.

Three of these mascots are animal-based, and without the collegiate ties would be purely considered doing something called fursuiting. CSI episodes aside, some people are drawn to fursuiting as a way to interact with others in an anonymous way to get around their shyness. Others like to entertain. While yet another subculture uses suits for a not so PG13 use that I will not discuss in my mostly not adult blog.

Fursuiting takes form in different ways. The picture about shows a full suit. Partial suits are a combination of a head, arms, legs with human clothing. Others are happy with just ears and tail.

How did we get here though?

That same Wikipedia article credits Albedo Anthropomorphics by Steve Gallacci as the first Furry comic. However, being named in 1980 at a science convention, the anthropomorphics go all the way back to Mickey Mouse, and Felix the Cat when they were called “funny animals.”

Since then, people have continued to identify with cartoons, be it Bugs Bunny or the Thundercats. As the Wiccan/Witch movement gained momentum, people connected to the traits of their spirit animals. Others took it further believing they can transform or shape shift into an animal called therianthropy. This is becoming a common path in various role playing game systems.

It is a lifestyle

Furry fandom definitely has a cultural lifestyle.  Each year, numerous conventions are held all over North America and Europe. A few well-known conventions stateside  are:  Anthrocon (billed as the largest Furry convention in the world), RainFurrest, Further Confusion, and Midwest Fur Fest. In fact, I have mentioned this under “C,” that the Twin Cities will have their own convention in September of 2014 called Furry Migration (the site should be live any day now…). Previously, the conventions tended to focus solely on fursuiting & creating/building/accessorizing and graphic arts. Now, the trend is a focus on highlighting authors, publishers, games, videos, and gaming. Furry conventions are different from science fiction conventions in the way that the attendees interact with each other. They are families coming together again after visiting at the last convention. An interesting crossover does occur with Anime conventions, and cat girls. Well, more than just cat girls.

Who loves a parade? Fursuit parade at Midwest Fur Fest 2012

Fursuiting can be the ultimate crafting experience. Suits range in price from $500 to $10,000. Some folks like to build their own, while others go out and order them.

“Fursonas” are characters developed by Furry fans. Wikipedia attributes the development of these fursonas to role playing. That is correct, but I know others who have created them as an alter-ego. It is a place where mentally, they can relate better to themselves and others.

The development of the internet and Usenet is also has a hand in today’s Furry fandom. It is the belief of one of my friends that Furry fandom has such a strong gay representation because on Usenet you find alt.gay followed by alt.furry. This gave people an avenue to more freely talk about themselves and their feelings, wants and desires. I believe this is where the fursonas really started.

XXX

The television shows take the sex angle, and make it sensationalistic. As in any subculture, there is some aspects that not all people can relate to. CSI and other shows pick up on some random tidbit in the news, and they create a whole episode around it. Is all of Furry fandom like this? No, but it is something to keep mind.

And by the way, if you go out looking for more information, watch out for the hate sites. The first one I saw threw me for a bit. I am a female, and a Furry- some sites will say that I cannot possibly be both. Yet, this is voice people hear in the media, on the internet, and talk among friends. Furs just want to be respected, left mostly alone, and not be seen as deviants.