In the ten years that Twitter has been an online presence, the social media platform has radically changed the way we receive and react to information. As a recreational tool it allows us to connect with people all over the world, sharing our thoughts, opinions, fears, and the general existence of the every day mundane in only 140 characters. We build and break connections with people we may never meet in person, jumping in and out of timelines at a leisurely pace or with rapid fire exuberance. It’s become the norm to include the words “tweet” and “hashtag” into casual conversation as we try to navigate the “dos and don’ts” of a social space with loosely defined rules at best.how-to-grow-twitter-followers

But, really, a similar description could be applied to Twitter’s distant cousin site, Facebook. Certainly the idea behind the two platforms is the same. Where Twitter consistently beats Facebook is in its live timeline, a feature that has proven its value as a tool of social activism. The real-time feed of information has been instrumental in exposing the global community to revolutions, protests, tragedies, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, systemic racism, and political inaction in ways that weren’t possible before. The #BlackLivesMatter movement rose and remains a political lightning rod because of the live feed, bringing the hardships and daily experiences of black men, women, and children into the lives of people outside the black community; exposing them to something that can’t be ignored or overlooked in good conscience. The hashtag has become a symbol of activism, but it is also a means of gathering information. The aggregate function of a hashtag allows users to effectively track an event or a trend with the option to get a live feed as the hashtag is used or see the highlights based on the amount of “likes” and “retweets.”

The combination of real-time updates and aggregate searches makes Twitter an invaluable primary resource not just for regular users but for scholars, researchers, and students. So, of course, when news spread that Twitter was thinking about changing the live-feed default to a more streamlined feed with an emphasis on trending tweets, reportedly using an algorithm to display tweets based on what the user may like, people got a bit concerned. And by concerned, I mean #RIPTwitter became an immediate trending topic. While those behind-the-scenes at Twitter have mostly dispelled those rumors, the reaction is far more interesting. In the last few years Twitter has made small attempts to alter their platform to attract more users. These have mostly been design changes, but even that had numerous detractors because to those of us who experience Twitter, casually or fervently, something was taken away without our consent.

Twitter’s biggest selling point, right after the live-feed, has been the illusion of choice. We choose who we follow, who we block or mute, and we customize our homepages with images and color schemes in order to put our personalized stamp on the Twittersphere. Again, Facebook shares a lot of the same functions, but delayed updates, especially where real-time news is concerned, and a fairly static page without a character limit makes for a less energetic approach to social media. By contrast, Twitter encourages activity, 2confronting users with a feed that grows by the second and displays how many tweets have been added that haven’t been seen. The constant presence, no matter what page, of the scorecard keeping track of the tweets made by the user, people or accounts the user is following, and the people or accounts following the user promotes a currency of influence. If you want to get more followers, if you want to be heard by more people, then you need to be more active on Twitter. Unless you’re on your homepage, Facebook doesn’t display the amount of friends you have for public scrutiny. So to make a long story short (too late!): you peruse Facebook, but you engage with Twitter, which gives us a greater attachment and investment in how we represent ourselves. Thus, everything is curated by the individual, so when the site changes something even the most minute alteration becomes a violation of the user’s ability to choose.

Whether or not the people behind Twitter know it, they’ve stumbled into the murky waters of information control. It’s not a new concept by any means. We experience it daily, especially where our news consumption is concerned. Every channel, website, and print article practices a form of information control, cherry-picking facts out of the original context in order to craft a narrative suitable to the needs of its audience. We want to be informed, but we also want our biases confirmed so those in the position of gathering and reporting the news cater to those biases regardless of the harm done in the process. The discipline of historiography is all about examining the subject of history and how authors shape the narrative of any person, place, or thing of historical significance. In my profession as an Archivist, we’re confronted by the sins of information control on a near constant basis. It’s easy to point our fingers at regimes like the Nazis, the Stasi, Stalinist Russia, or North Korea who keep meticulous records to justify their existence, but one can’t deny that practically all archival institutions stand on the shoulders of people who were deliberately left out of the record. Power lies in existence, in having a voice, and when we’re no longer around to speak for ourselves then the record should speak for us. The multitude of silences in the archives is deafening.Twitter minute headline1

Now, I’m not saying Twitter is deliberately altering timelines in order hatch a nefarious plot of dictating information to users. The CEO has already gone on record saying the live-feed is important because it’s essentially what makes Twitter unique compared to other social media platforms, which is true. What I am saying is how they’ve approached updating the website and what they’re updating speaks to some very odd priorities. Though the algorithm-based feed is an opt-in feature, they weren’t exactly forthcoming with that information until they were forced to explain themselves. And even then, they were defensive and reactionary; sounds about right for Twitter, actually. Basically, their customer service skills are wanting, which is why users pondered the reason for aesthetic changes taking priority over issues of security and safety – something that Twitter has dragged their heels on until recently. It says something when the look of your website has more focus than the actual user-base. But, again, even aesthetic changes made, without warning and in the face of the previous freedom to customize, sends a message. When your users resent and distrust you for making minor changes, what’s to stop them from believing you’ll let them see what they want to see versus what you think they may like to see?

 

 

1001 Knights

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Intro and Outro music provided by DarkeSword

I needed to do a fun article. It’s been a weird couple of weeks in the House of Sam, so I’m gonna talk about one of the stranger and yet awesome categories of comic book characters – Gorillas. No, not the beloved alternative/hip hop/electronica group, but rather our gloriously rendered, hyper-intelligent simian cousins who populate the world of DC Comics. While television viewing fans have come to know of frequent Flash villain Gorilla Grodd, it’s worth noting that the comic book universe home to the Scarlet Speedster has at least six sentient apes running around with the goal of either helping or hindering our favorite heroes. And with the possibility of more apes appearing on The Flash via the proto-Gorilla City of Earth-2, I thought I’d give all you lovely people a rundown of villainous and heroic primates with the potential to grace our small screens, or maybe the big one.StrangeAdventures75

 

 

But First: Why Are There So Many Gorillas?

It’s a question worth asking due to the sheer number of intelligent gorillas roaming the DCU. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has its own sentient apes, but not as many as its main competitor. The answer comes down to age, and not the silver one that most people associate with the proliferation of monkeys in media. While the Silver Age is definitely known for its heavy use of science fiction tropes, gorillas were hardly absent from fiction or comics prior to the era of sci-fi shenanigans. Edgar Rice Burroughs introduced several ape characters in the Tarzan novels from 1912-1964 and the early Tarzan films featured his chimp pal Cheeta. During the Golden Age various jungle related comics had their title characters regularly confront enemies of the gorilla kind even if it was only on the cover. No, as a company, DC has been around longer and thus they’ve gone through at least two phases of popular culture where “gorilla movies” drove sales. From King Kong to the first Planet of the Apes franchise, giant and/or intelligent primates have never quite left the media landscape. DC Comics just happened to have more characters who survived the ebb and flow of popularity.

 

Gorilla Grodd

Yes, I know The Flash has put Grodd much higher on the radar than anyone could’ve imagined, but he’s still an interesting character worth looking at a little more. Introduced in 1959, in the comics the residents of Gorilla City (originally located on regular old Earth-1) gained their intelligence from an alien who crashed landed in Africa, but it was later retconned as a radioactive meteor because comics! Grodd, upon gaining a massive boost to the old noggin, basically decides to start taking over the world, like immediately. The only variations of his plan usually involve taking over Gorilla City from intellectual rival King Solovar or deciding just to destroy humanity inGrodd general. Gotta change it up every once and a while. Like his television counterpart, Grodd is telepathic and telekinetic, which makes him a pretty formidable opponent for the Flash since Grodd’s disdain for humans in general makes it easy for him to use people as canon fodder in order to get the upper hand. There were, however, a number of plots where Grodd could change into a human and others where he took over a human’s mind almost permanently, so we’ll see how far the live action show wants to push it. He’s also pretty game to team up with other villains – joining Lex Luthor’s Legion of Doom and Vandal Savage on numerous occasions – so keeping my fingers crossed for Captain Cold to show up on his doorstep in Earth-2!

I do believe he also has the most television and video game appearances of any DC gorilla, showing up in everything from the Super Friends to Justice League: Unlimited to Lego Batman.

 

King Solovar

Part of the original group of gorillas gifted with hyper-intelligence, Solovar has been instrumental in keeping the peace between Gorilla City and the human world. Where Grodd seeks power, Solovar keeps his brilliant mind tempered with wisdom and humility. Which is probably why the two are always at odds, though it seems to depend largely on how into taking over the world Grodd is that day before settling on messing with Solovar. He’s definitely made a play for the throne plenty of times, but where his rival is concerned Grodd will go the extra mile to make the king’s life a living hell. For instance, Solovar fancied a female gorilla named Boka and intended to marry her. Grodd, learning of this thing called happiness and falling for Boka as well, built a machine that emitted a type of radiation that made solovarothers instantly like him, causing Boka to turn her affections towards him. Then he used it to become King of Gorilla City. Then he tried to take over Central City. That’s the world of gorillas in the DCU. In the DC Animated Universe, however, Solovar appeared as the Chief of Security for Gorilla City sent to stop Grodd from, of course, taking over the world. Luckily, Flash and Green Lantern were there to lend a hand.

Given the rivalry between Grodd and Solovar is a pretty major part of their backstory, it would be interesting if the live-action show tried to play this up. Since Grodd is a newcomer to the nascent haven for intelligent gorillas, it wouldn’t surprise me if he tried to take over the place with his opposition led by Solovar. It would be a great juxtaposition for the show as well, giving the STAR Labs team a group of allies against Grodd and his brood should the occasion arise.

 

Tolifhar

He may not be one of the more well known gorillas of the DCU, but this genetically modified white-furred gorilla is a favorite of mine purely because of his appearance in Gail Simone’s excellent Wonder Woman story, The Circle. A former follower of Grodd’s, Tolifhar was and remains the leader of the Gorilla Knights, a group of gorilla warriors created purely to fight superpowered beings. Thankfully, tolifhar-gorilla_knight-1Diana convinced them to switch sides and allowed them to stay in her home for a while. Hilarity definitely ensued. To be fair, it’s hard not to instantly like a gorilla in plated armor who also happens to sport one hell of a scar over his left eye. Plus he’s written by Gail Simone, so automatic awesome.

Like Solovar, it wouldn’t be hard to work Tolifhar into Earth-2’s Gorilla City as either a supporter of Grodd’s or one of Solovar’s elite guard. Either way, it would be pretty cool to see Grodd fight one of his own kind and Tolifhar, without question, could give him a run for his money. Extra fun would be Barry and the rest of the STAR Labs gang working alongside another gorilla who is just as capable and intelligent as Grodd, only nicer. Or at least less gung-ho about killing all humans.

 

Ultra-Humanite

A character who’s had an up and down career in the books, the Ultra-Humanite was one of Superman’s first recurring villains during the Golden Age until Lex Luthor rose in the ranks of Supes’s punch card. He was also a regular human being at the time with delusions of grandeur intent on taking over the world. Like ya do. When he was brought back during the Silver Age, he looked less man-like and more ape-like on account of transferring his consciousness into a large white-furred gorilla. Again, like ya do. Please note, though, that the Ultra-Humanite isn’t one of the Gorilla Knights turned bad. He’s just a dude crossing lines in science that man, or ape, was never meant Ultra-humaniteto cross. His backstory changed here and there, but the running theme was that of a man constantly doing body swaps to keep his superior mind alive. Back in the 40s he even had his brain placed in the body of movie star Dolores Winters. It may have been a means to an end, but he wasn’t complaining about his time as a woman.

Ultra-Humanite has made a few appearances in the DC Animated Universe where he’s taken on the very sci-fi form of a big-brained gorilla complete with throbbing veins to let us know just how smart he really is – just in case you didn’t know. I did appreciate the animators and the writers making him distinct from Grodd by giving him more refined tastes in music, art, and culture on top of his superior scientific skills. Again, it would be pretty fun to see the STAR Labs posse either going up against Ultra-Humanite or reluctantly working with him. The effects team has gotten pretty good at animating gorillas after two episode with Grodd, so I think this is right in their wheelhouse.

 

Monsieur Mallah

After Grodd, Monsieur Mallah is my favorite of the DC Comics gorilla faction. Seriously, it’s a gorilla with a beret and bandoleers toting a machine gun. How can you not squeal with delight whenever he shows up to make life inconvenient for the Teen Titans? First appearing in Doom Patrol in 1964, Mallah was the result of experiments on animals by a French scientist trying to boost intelligence. Mallah was one of the success stories, reaching an IQ surpassing Einstein. When a colleague became jealous he rigged an explosion and made sure the object of his jealousy got caught in the blast. Only the brain survived, transferred to a computer network by Mallah and eventually stored monsieur-mallahin a cylindrical case that showed off the still functioning organ while sporting a sweet skull face. Now known as the Brain, Mallah served as his personal assistant and bodyguard, helping him create the Brotherhood of Evil and causing general mayhem.

It wasn’t until Grant Morrison took over Doom Patrol in 1990 that any hints of romance sparked between Mallah and the Brain (yes, the joke has been made), but oh my did sparks fly! And like all of the crazy and insane ideas Morrison comes up with this one worked like gangbusters. Points to you if you find any of the fanfiction that’s sure to exist. The pair made frequent appearances on Teen Titans and Young Justice and proto-Superman even managed to take them down on Smallville. I can only imagine how awesome it would be to have Mallah and the Brain open one of the breaches between Earths 1 and 2 and wreak some havoc on Central City. Cisco would have a field day with these two.

 

Sam Simeon

First appearing in 1964, Sam was the latter half of Angel and the Ape, acting as partner to the very human Angel O’Day while also working as a comic book artist. Simeon didn’t so much hide that he was an ape as the people around him just assumed the big, burly, hairy ape-like guy at the desk was just an ape-like dude. When the book was revived in the 1990s, Sam was revealed to be Gorilla Grodd’s grandson angelandtheape2(though this conflicts with another book that claimed Sam was Grodd’s brother) and used his psychic powers to project the image of a human for people to see when they came to the detectives. Only when his concentration broke could others see him for what he was.

This one might be a long shot for The Flash considering the familial relation to Grodd, but it would be pretty sweet if Joe West ran into a normal looking dude named Sam only to find out the guy is actually another psychic gorilla. Like nana Cross always said: You can never meet enough psychic gorillas. Don’t believe me? Go read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael.

Fiona-Staples

 

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Intro and Outro music “Cat Walk” by Saga

 

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Joelle Jones Live Drawing at Rose City Comicon 2015

Intro and Outro music – “Valio La Pena” by Marc Anthony

In news that shocks no one, Star Wars is kind of a big deal again. With the successful billion dollar box office trouncing that is Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, it’s not surprising that the followup projects to the reinvigorated franchise are drawing more attention. Specifically, the young Han Solo movie being written by Empire Strikes Back and Force Awakens co-writer Lawrence Kasdan and his son, Jake, which will be directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord (The LEGO Movie, 21 Jump Street). While the movie won’t be released until 2018, a shortlist of actors was revealed though the response from fans had about as much excitement as Arthur and his Knights eating Sir Robin’s minstrels. I mean, what’s not to get excited about when you see the same list of young actors from every YA movie adaptation?

Look, I know Han Solo is an iconic character to a lot of people. I get that. I love Harrison Ford and I love the Han Solo he created in the original trilogy and The Force Awakens. But let’s be honest, Han requires about as much backstory as Boba Fett – zero. Han exists within the Star Wars universe as a philosophical foil for Luke (hokey religions and whatnot) and a romantic partner for Leia. He’s a pirate, a ne’er-do-well, a lovable rogue, and an archetypal character of the monomyth. Making a prequel movie feels like it might go the way of X-Men Origins: Wolverine in that Han can’t grow all that much because he needs to be at a certain place in order to match up with A New Hope. That kinda limits you since his character development only happens within the original trilogy and, presumably, the thirty year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Plus, the upcoming Rogue One, due for release in December of this year, is being described as a heist movie, which kinda takes the wind out of the sails of a movie focusing on a smuggler two years later. Really, the best we can hope for is the movie hinging on Han’s friendship with Chewbacca because if they do a “how Han Solo got the Millennium Falcon” type movie I swear to God I’m putting a blaster to my head.

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For my money’s worth, the movie will probably be about the Kessel Run.

My point is that Han’s story is really only of interest when it intersects with the activities of the rebels. His selfishness is paramount to his triumphant return at the end of A New Hope and his “reluctant” yet continuing association with the rebellion throughout Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The same goes for Luke. He’s drawn into the rebellion through happenstance and thus learns about his true heritage and “destiny,” I guess. But the final member of the heroic trio has been involved with the rebellion for much longer and it’s really because of her that there’s any Star Wars to begin with.

I’m talking about Princess Leia Organa and she deserves a prequel movie more than anyone!

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Think about it: Leia is the princess of Alderaan who becomes integral to the rebellion’s survival by the beginning of A New Hope. She’s the one carrying the stolen plans to the Death Star and it’s because of her resourcefulness that R2-D2 gets away to deliver those plans, and her message, to Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker. Without Leia there is no hero’s journey for Luke and there’s definitely no turn-a-new-leaf story for Han.

So what made Leia go from Princess to Rebel Leader? What pushed her into the crosshairs of a war with the Empire? Because that sounds way more compelling than the Smuggler’s Life movie in the works for Han. It’s essentially a coming of age movie that starts the moment Leia is adopted by Bail and Breha Organa and ends with her decision to commit to the rebellion. I mean, if you want an easy way for a movie prequel to tie into the anthology films, then this is it. Rogue One ends with the plans stolen and the Princess Leia film ends with her taking on the role of envoy to ensure the plans make it to the rebellion headquarters. The last shot is of her ship heading towards the beginning of A New Hope.

What ties the whole concept together is the potential character arc of Leia prior to the events of the original trilogy. For one, now that we’ve met Bail and Breha it kinda gives some context for how Leia might have responded to her position as Princess of Alderaan. Thanks to the prequel trilogy, we have a visual of the Organas:

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Yeah, Leia had to have known she was adopted by the events of Star Wars, which opens up a lot of storytelling potential. How do the Organa’s explain their new daughter’s appearance? Has the Empire been keeping tabs on Leia the whole time? And since Bail knows Leia’s biological father was a very powerful Jedi, would he take steps to help her should she show signs of Force sensitivity? How would he take steps to help her if the Jedi have gone into hiding?

Leia’s prickly personality would certainly factor into the progression of the story as well. It’s clear, in hindsight, that Leia takes after Anakin more than Luke who tends to have more of Padme’s traits. Leia is strong-willed, stubborn, capable, and headstrong. Yes, she has a nurturing and romantic side, but Leia proves throughout the original trilogy that she’s a force to be reckoned with all on her own. Some of that could stem from being adopted and her sense of self-worth. Joining the rebellion may have given her something of importance to work towards, something that would make her feel like the title of “Princess” wasn’t just handed over but earned. Alternatively, Leia joining the rebellion could be her own act of rebellion. Perhaps Bail and Breha tried to keep a low profile under the thumb of the Empire to protect their daughter, but all Leia sees are her parents being subservient to the Empire’s cruelty. Furious at them, she takes more and more risks while helping the rebels, which puts her on the Empire’s watch list. And as a third option, Leia’s story could easily be about a high-born young woman whose eyes are opened to the truth of the Empire’s rule. She has everything and yet realizes it means nothing in a galaxy where the Empire reigns.

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The only prequel idea we’re not doing is the Leia-falls-in-love-with-a-handsome-member-of-the-rebellion-who-makes-her-see-the-truth story. That is the worst possible scenario. Again, blaster to the head. Leia being involved in the rebellion has to be because of her agency, not because a pair of pretty eyes and some abs said, “Hey.”

I’m also aware that Star Wars Rebels will feature a teenage Leia in an upcoming episode, which is fantastic. It’s not surprising given the timeline of Rebels and how close the show is getting to the events of the original trilogy. But if Disney and Lucasfilm want to continue doing anthology films within the Star Wars universe, complete with prequels, then lining up Leia’s story matters just as much, if not more, than Han’s. Besides, Leia’s got a sharp tongue on her as well. You want some real fun? Let’s see what a typical day in the Alderaan court is like when Leia gets political.

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David Bowie was and always will be a cultural icon. He let his freak flag fly and encouraged everyone to do the same. He invited us to embrace the idea of being ourselves, turning whatever made us odd or weird into the very thing that made us cool. For Bowie, being himself was an exploration into multiple personas: He was Ziggy Stardust, he was The Man Who Fell to Earth, he was Jareth the Goblin King, he was Nicola Tesla, but above all else he was David Bowie.

Bowie’s presence, his musicality, his persona are eternal. His style and swagger live on in artists unafraid to push the boundaries of performance. His aesthetic has been the subject of countless homages and his music has a way of popping up where you least expect it, though it’s never unwelcome. He could bring us to tears as we mourned the loss of Major Tom, but he could just as easily bring us to our feet to dance away the blues. We had him for a short time, but there’s no doubt he lives on.

He’s waiting in the sky now and he’ll shine on forever.

 

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It’s the start of a new year, so I thought I’d move forward by going backward. Yeah, I know what I said.

When I get self-reflective, especially about my decision to pursue writing, my mind wanders back to what really solidified my love for writing in the first place. And as much as I purport to be passionate about History and my profession as an Archivist, my passion for writing was a result of being a fan of the sci-fi television program Andromeda.A_77544

For those of you who somehow missed this gem of a show, Andromeda is about the adventures of High Guard Captain Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo), a man displaced in time, as he tries to rebuild the fallen Commonwealth that once united the galaxies. Along for the adventure are the ragtag crew of the junk ship Eureka Maru – Capt. Beka Valentine (Lisa Ryder), mechanical genius Seamus Harper (Gordon Michael Woolvett), enigmatic alien Trance Gemini (Laura Bertram), and Magog spiritualist Rev Bem (Brent Stait) – as well as Nietzschean warrior Tyr Anasazi (Keith Hamilton Cobb) and the Andromeda’s sentient android, Rommie (Lexa Doig).

The series was created by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, based on unused material by Gene Roddenberry, and ran from 2000-2005, though admittedly only the first two seasons are consistently good. Might have something to do with Wolfe’s unfortunate departure from the show during the middle of the second season over creative differences with the studio; the bone of contention being Wolfe’s desire to steer away from primarily standalone episodes in favor of long-form storytelling. Why do I know his approach would have been better? Because when Robert Engels was brought in as Wolfe’s replacement, and the episodes became more standalone, it started going downhill fast. Not that there weren’t good episodes during Engels’s run, but the overall quality of the show took a huge dive in the third season primarily where the main characters were concerned. It’s like when Aaron Sorkin left The West Wing at the end of the fourth season and as season five rolled out under new management it was obvious they didn’t understand the characters or how they interacted with each other. The same goes for Andromeda – I’d invested a lot of time in the friendship of Beka Valentine and Seamus Harper only to watch the two characters, who essentially acted like brother and sister, drift further and further apart. Then there was that whole “Hercules in Space” debacle that was the fifth season, but that’s really not worth your time.

HarperOkay, backstory out of the way, it was around Wolfe’s departure and Engels’s arrival that I started mulling around a lot of ideas in my head; ideas that focused on how I imagined the characters interacting and how they’d react to events within the episodes. Again, I kept focusing on Beka and Harper because they had the most history within the timeline of the show and yet it went largely unexplored. So, this being the early days of internet fan forums and interactions, I found one that seemed to have the most activity and started writing what were essentially tags to each episode focusing on Beka and Harper. Entitled “Coda”, though not to be confused with Wolfe’s own “Coda” script posted after the series ended, it was my way of getting ideas out of my head and exploring what I thought was a fairly rich science fiction universe. Eventually, the forum shut down (I still can’t remember the name of it), but a new one sprung up, the still-operating ExIsle. If you dare, I’m pretty sure a few of my stories are still posted and awaiting someone’s critique of pieces written when I was in high school. I cringe at the thought of all those grammatical errors and oddly worded sentences.

The point is, when I started writing these stories another avenue of creativity opened up to me. I’d written poetry before and a couple of pieces where I experimented with prose, but it was just something I dabbled in, not something I took all that seriously. As I continued to post to ExIsle, I began to focus more on the stories I produced and it was through the process of writing fanfiction that I developed the skills I utilize in my writing even now.

The inner perfectionist in me really started to emerge where dialogue is concerned. For those of you who haven’t seen the show, Harper is a hyperactive, fast-talking, socially-inept genius responsible for a lot of exposition and technical jargon. So, naturally, I became attached to the character but it made for a difficult learning curve when it came to writing him. As a fan of the show, I had the benefit of seeing the finished product, the hard work of the show’s writers and the actor bringing the character to life. I felt then that it was only right to try and at least capture Harper’s voice whenever possible. Harper also had a darker past as a slave on Earth that produced a few prejudices and nightmare fuel when dealing with Nietzschean overlords or fearsome Magog, but it was important, at least to me, to keep his sense of humor intact. It was a tension reliever as much as a defense mechanism and it seemed only Beka, Trance, and to some degree, Rev Bem, who could see through him. I think there was also an unspoken challenge in getting Harper’s voice as close to the television show as possible. His voice stood out, which made him both the easiest to differentiate and yet the hardest to pin down. Being on the forum meant I read as much as I wrote and whenever an author managed to capture what made Harper Harper it made the story that much better. In sins-bekaharp-smmy mind, it meant the author figured something out. They listened to the cadence, the rhythm, and the sound of Seamus Harper and managed to channel it into their writing. It’s a skill I continue to hone as I move towards more prose writing, but it’s just as helpful for writing academic papers as it is reviews. Voice is important; it’s distinctive and if you can figure out a character’s voice, then you can figure out your own.

The science fiction environment of Andromeda was a huge factor in the type of fiction I read and tried to write early on. The worlds and people created for the show were fairly simplistic, but also grounded in particular traits that gave me a good baseline: Nietzscheans were genetically minded brutes, Nightsiders were greedy opportunists, Perseids were peaceful scientists, and the Magog were straight up nightmare fuel. Easy enough. Then you factor in the collapse of civilization (on some planets) after the fall of the Commonwealth and the efforts of some, not just Dylan Hunt, to rebuild albeit in less than ideal circumstances. The show definitely covered all of the typical tropes used in every science fiction show at some point, but there’s nothing wrong with tropes so long as you at least try to bring something new to the table. The most fun, however, was creating the technology. I’m not a super-techy person but writing fanfiction for Andromeda let me stretch my imagination to make up tools, vehicles, weapons, and ephemera that could “logically” fit into the universe. The worst, though, was explaining how tech worked, especially the inner workings of the Andromeda herself. Again, it went back to keeping in sync with the show. How did they describe slipstream (their method of faster-than-light travel)? How was Rommie the android separate from the main A.I. of the Andromeda? What the hell was that string of words Harper just put together that sounded vaguely important to keeping everyone alive? I felt it necessary to have a base understanding and maintain some authenticity to the show as a means of laying the foundation for my own creations. I applied the same tactics when I wrote fanfiction about Stargate: Atlantis and Lord of the Rings. But that’s just me. Not everyone feels that way. Besides, when push comes to shove, who’s going to argue about the improbable things in a fictional setting? Oh, wait…

andromeda-1d1Thankfully, I was never on the receiving end of angry diatribes about how true I remained to the world of Andromeda or whether or not I depicted a character poorly. I was lucky at that moment in time because no one was policing me and my creativity and fan forums were mostly civil. Above all, the people on ExIsle were encouraging and supportive. At one point I had two ongoing stories that I wrote while in college and I tended to publish both on the same day to the point where the frequent readers dubbed that day “Sam Update Day.” It was sweet and it came along at a point in my life where I didn’t have a lot of friends so getting that kind of support and encouragement from people who had the same love for the show as I did meant a lot. Having that connection and the ability to critique without attacking meant I could experiment with the stories and not feel like someone was going to immediately dismiss the premise or a new character. I returned that kindness as well; commenting on stories, giving my opinion, but also being encouraging of new writers and new ideas. We were bound by our shared love of Andromeda and that was all of the credibility required. I really wish it was the same now, but I know that’s not entirely true.

So, yeah, that’s pretty much where it started. Every person finds their spark of creativity somewhere, mine just happened to be with wonderfully flawed sci-fi show. I’m certain all of you have one as well!

RatQueens_14-1

This is going to be a shorter review than you’re probably used to from me, dear reader, but that’s only because I’m pretty sure the next issue of Rat Queens is going to put the preamble of the latest issue into context. It’s the final push before shit starts to go down and, if I’m honest, I’m worried. I’m stressed out because it isn’t just a shoe, but a whole wardrobe’s worth of clothing and accessories, is about to drop on our girls. Something’s about to go down and I don’t know if I can handle the idea of a possible splintering in the girl-power-force-of-badassery that is the Rat Queens.

Quick Recap: The Queens have traveled to Mage University, ostensibly to help Hannah free her father after his revolt against the University’s Council of Nine goes south. While there, Dee reunites with her brother, Senoa, and reveals her plans to destroy N’Rygoth, Violet and Betty get into some shenanigans involving a sled and a dragon, and Hannah has a touching reunion with her deceased mother.

Throughout the latest issue, it’s clear that a confrontation is inevitable, but it’s not just between the Queens and the university. From the moment they arrived, the Queens have been less active in their pursuit of who they need to fight and stab with more time placed on layering their back-to-school-special with heaps of secrets about to be uncovered. Kurtis J. Wiebe has been dropping hints about Hannah’s story since the beginning – a necromancer’s “cell phone”, the black-eyed rage attack, horns, her broken friendship with Tizzie – and now it appears to be coming to a head. Between her reunions with actual demons, her mother, and her father’s heartfelt message, Hannah’s time at Mage U, and what she did to get expelled, are being set up as the emotional center of what could be a devastating blow to the Rat Queens as a team. She’s been lying to them for a long time and lies like that have consequences.

Still, part of the appeal and the strength of the team comes from their misfit ways bringing them together. None of them are innocent of keeping secrets from one another because, let’s be honest, none of us are one hundred percent telling the truth all the time. We hide even from the people we feel closest to because of a number of reasons and we guard ourselves in case those lies are revealed. Hannah is the poster child for deflection, but her feelings of love and loyalty for Dee, Violet, and Betty are soft spots waiting to be exploited from within or outside the group. Thanks to Senoa, Dee knows something Hannah didn’t want her to know, but will that be enough for Hannah to confess or are the girls headed towards a far more epic battle like the one glimpsed briefly by Violet? Come to think of it, was the sword possessing Violet? Did she have a vision of the future? What’s up with that sword?!RatQueens

The art, as always, is fantastic. Tess Fowler’s depiction of the inter-dimensional space is so trippy and cool I want to vacation there. Whales, everyone! There are flying whales! Pretty much every time Fowler gets to stretch her style is pure joy. From candy-hoarding dragons to netherworld realms, it’s every Lisa Frank meets 1970s van art enthusiast’s dream! Tamra Bonvillain’s colors are, again, on point and vibrant as fuck! You wish you lived in a world as colorful as the one she paints! But then you’d probably have a seizure or something. Maybe not. Fifty-fifty at best.

Like I said, this one’s a bit short and sweet – not unlike myself – so I can dive into the next issue with reckless abandon. So go pick up Rat Queens #14 and get with the program!