Wednesday, 25 May 2011

It probably sounded better in my head

I don't know how many writers actually read this thing, but the ones that do may understand why I haven't been updating this for a while. You ever start writing something, and the plot just sort of eats you and you can't do anything else? That's basically what happened.

Anyway, in between writing chapters for that story and plugging away at my new job and .hack//Infection, I was desperately trying to come up with a topic for a new post. Someone (and you know who you are) suggested I do something on cheese, except that I don't like cheese, so it would either be an extremely short post or I'd wax lyrical about how cheese is the worst thing ever and then I would just alienate everyone and... I'll just stop rambling about cheese now, shall I?

Anyway, yesterday, someone over on the Genesis Awards started a thread asking whether anyone actually listens to song lyrics, and when I started thinking about that, I somehow ended up drifting on to TV Tropes, and from there I somehow came up with the concept for this post (yes, the process was exactly as non-sequitur as it sounds).

There is a trope known as Alternative Character Interpretation, which I find to be great fun. Basically, this trope boils down to: Character A appears to be fooling everyone into thinking that he's actually really stupid while being secretly very clever and making them underestimate him, however it could also be interpreted that he is actually genuinely stupid and just has an amazing aptitude for accidentally ending up with the right answers by accidentally annoying them out of people. The outcomes of both situations are the same, it's just that the character is slightly different in each case.

Why am I telling you this? Because this morning I got a Bruno Mars song in my head and suddenly realised that if you take bits of some of his songs out of context, they can actually be interpreted completely differently. Take his song 'Just The Way You Are' for example.

'When I see your face
There's not a thing that I would change
Cause you're amazing
Just the way you are
And when you smile,
The whole world stops and stares for awhile
Cause girl you're amazing
Just the way you are'

In the song, this is actually Bruno telling his girlfriend that she's far prettier than she thinks she is. It's all wonderfully romantic. However, it could also be interpreted as a stalker with a crush idolising this girl from afar. Think about it; overly romanticised descriptions of her, obsessive repetitions of these, that one line where he says that he tells her these things every day. The girl is never stated to be his girlfriend, so you have the fun twist where he's actually just phoning this poor girl up and breathing heavily down the phone for a few minutes before creepily telling her how amazing she is. Every single day.

Now I know that the song is implying no such thing, but it's kind of funny to think it is. In a morbid, really not all that funny at all sort of way because stalking is in no way funny...

*ahem* Moving on.

The other song is 'Grenade'. This one's about how Bruno really loves this girl, but she treats him like dirt and is basically just a bitch. However, when I was thinking about the chorus, this little imaginary exchange  popped into my head:

Girl: Hey Bruno, could you do the dishes for me please?
Bruno: I'd catch a grenade for ya
Girl: Uh... that's... sweet, I guess? But I really just need-
Bruno: Throw my hand on a blade for ya
Girl: Umm... no, I just need you to wash them, not-
Bruno: I'd jump in front of a train for ya
Girl: Bruno, you really don't have to try this hard to get out of doing the dishes. I can just-
Bruno: You know I'd do anything for ya
Girl: But not the dishes?
Bruno: I would go through all of this pain, take a bullet straight through my brain
Girl: Bruno, you're just being silly now.
Bruno: Yes, I would die for you baby
Girl: I really don't want you to do that Bruno. Just the dishes would be fine, really.
Bruno: But you won't do the same
Girl: Well, no; I don't think either of us being dead is exactly conducive to this relationship continuing. Oh, you know what? I'll just do the damn dishes myself, okay? You just sit there, being all melodramatic, like usual.

No, I don't know what Bruno Mars ever did to me either, but I do seem to like making him kind of a jerk, don't I? No idea what that says about me.

Anyway, despite the fact that all of this interpretation was pointless and silly, it was still really quite fun. Try it sometime; if nothing else, it'll give you something other than the weather to babble nervously about when trying desperately to fill an awkward silence.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Monthly Webcomic Review: Awkward Zombie/Aikonia

Well, I'm currently camped out in the university atrium trying to publicise a Zombie Apocalypse. I would also be trying to write an essay that's due for Thursday, but it's very hard to rewrite a short story when said short story is not currently in the immediate vicinity. I blame this on the fact that I was up far too early this morning and didn't get any coffee before I left the flat, and a small green book is very forgettable in that situation. And then we had to push the apocalypse back a week because the weather this week is dismal.

So yeah, today is going well.

I have had coffee by now though, so it could be worse. Anyway, it's time for another webcomic review! Yaaaaaaay! I'm actually reviewing two comics today, drawn by the same artist, Katie Tiedrich.

I actually stumbled across Awkward Zombie before it was Awkward Zombie, back when Katie was best known as Hail-Neko-Yasha on deviantArt. Mostly, her comics consisted (and still consist) of stand-alone video-game comics, usually pointing out strange plot holes or featuring various things she did while playing.
She does bring up good points, such as how the hell is Boo meant to play football? He has no legs.
 Mostly, the comics are geared towards gamers, but she often does slice-of-life strips about her current adventures at college. While usually featuring Nintendo games such as Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Brothers and Pokemon, World of Warcraft comics also feature heavily, supplemented with a healthy dose of random games from almost any genre, ranging from Shadow of the Colossus to Excite Truck to Portal 2.

It's always worth checking out Awkward Zombie simply for the comedy value and the pleasantly quirky art-style. The sharp sense of humour and usually very accurate pointing out of plot holes make for entertaining reading, even if you aren't familiar with the game she's featuring. Also, the artist comments she makes on them are usually worth reading as well.

Since Awkard Zombie is a set of mostly stand along comics, there isn't really a whole lot to say about it. So I thought I would talk about the other comic that Katie is currently working on. She's only doing the art for this one though, as part of a four-person team.

Aikonia is actually promotional material and a precursor for an upcoming browser-based game of the same name by MADSOFT Games. It's a fairly standard fantasy premise, with some similarities with both Trudi Canavan's Black Magician Trilogy and Maria V. Snyder's Yelena Zaltana trilogy.

The Setting

Click to see full-size, or alternatively, go read the comic.
Aikonia is set in a world where magic is accessed through a veil which requires training in order to use correctly. The actual setting of the comic mostly takes place in a magicians' academy, where this training takes place.

The academy is overseen by a council of elders, except that something shady is going on in the upper echelons, and no one is sure who can trust who anymore. After a strange discovery is made while a low-ranking magician is out on assignment, the council is suddenly divided even further, and then one of the council members mysteriously dies...

The Characters

The cast of Aikonia is fairly large, and no particular focus has been put on one character over another yet. However, the developing character relationships and twists have been interesting so far, and I would safely assume that they will continue to develop like that.

As this is a relatively new webcomic, the story's really only gearing up just now. But the plot seems interesting and the premise is pretty solid. If the game that follows is anything like the comic at all, it should be pretty good.

Both of these update every Monday.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Easy Way to Annoy Fanfiction Writers

In my last post, I briefly mentioned my soft spot for the losing side of a love triangle. I also mentioned that this was not the case for Final Fantasy VII. Then I remembered an old post that I made on my Live Journal account back when I used the thing, and thought 'I could update that, and post it here! Who would know?'

And then I told you that, so now you all know I'm lazy, but I doubt that you're surprised.

Anyway, the post concerned the numerous 'shipping wars' that spring up in fandoms, particularly in the fanfiction aspect. An interesting minefield to navigate, I've been fortunate to only receive a few (poorly spelled) scathing reviews concerning my choices of pairing. Others... are not so lucky.

Shipping and the Snobbery, Snapping and Snarling Therein

I only really became familiar with the concept of shipping a couple of months after I started writing fanfiction. Even then, it was only after I joined the Genesis Awards that I learned exactly what it was. Now, thankfully GA is fairly neutral territory when it comes to shipping, but elsewhere, be prepared to be virtually mauled for even daring to suggest that X is in love with Y, or Y with Z, or even Z with X.

I. The 'You Don't Like It, You Suck' Problem
As I have mentioned, I'm secretly a bit of a squishy romantic type, and as a result, I do lean towards writing romances rather a lot. These days, they don't tend to be quite as mushy as they used to be (cos I can actually write emotions now), but still romances nevertheless. My favourite pairing to write has always been Tifa and Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the victorious childhood friend relationship, I don't know, I just really liked those two together. However, I was aware that not everyone might want to read that, so I politely put a note in the summary saying what the pairing was. Then, I received this review:

'it sucks!!
cloti sucks y cant people know that!

This was my first realisation that some fans, and in my experience, quite a lot VII fans, can be rather irrational about the pairings they support. The Cloud/Tifa/Aerith argument seems to me, at times, to be completely blown out of all proportion, and this attitude towards pairings seems to transcend into other fandoms also. Of course, I'm not saying the problem originated with VII; it's just the most prominent example I know of. In any case, I have my own reasons for supporting the Cloud/Tifa pairing, and I'm quite happy for someone to disagree with them as long as they're at least polite about it, unlike 'CLORITH' up there (yes, they named themselves after the portmaneu name of the rival couple, just to let me know how much they hated my pairing choice)

Another, much bigger example which I'm sure a lot of the older GA members would dearly love to forget is the lovely incident that led to us losing half of the admin staff back on our old board. Over a pairing row. About characters in a video game. Of course, it wasn't quite as simple as that, but a lot of it was caused by people who got so defensive over fictional characters and fictional relationships that they thought that it was perfectly acceptable to be extremely rude about it to everyone and anyone who so much as hinted at disagreeing with them. There's nothing wrong with a good debate, but I do not see the need to verbally abuse someone for not liking the same pairing as you do, and especially without any good justification for doing so.

There are numerous other examples of this problem, and I received a similar review to the one above for a Kingdom Hearts story I wrote, since apparently it was not acceptable for me to pair Sora with Kairi because 'she doesn't deserve him; she's always taking him away from Riku' This also leads us into the next problem.

II. The 'True Love' Problem
Now, going back to VII again, Cloud's feelings were initially left completely ambiguous and open to interpretation, unlike, say, Zidane and Garnet from IX or Tidus and Yuna from X. Square Enix only recently released material finally stating that Cloud and Tifa are the canon pairing of the VII compilation (along with Zack and Aerith). Of course, canon relationships mean nothing in fanfiction if you don't want them to, which isn't always a bad thing. However, this is one of the issues that just plain baffles me. Sometimes, pairings seem to come from nowhere, based on nothing, and yet they have an entire fanbase ready to defend it to the death, as it were, because it's totally true love and don't you dare say it isn't.

Now, for me, this includes many yaoi pairings, especially Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts based ones, and I'm not about to tell anyone that they shouldn't enjoy them, but they do not make the least bit of sense to me. From what I can identify, these seem to be the main causes for support of these pairings:

1. The Main Protagonist and the Main Antagonist (Cloud/Sephiroth etc.)
2. The Best Friends/The Bromantics (Roxas/Axel etc.)
3.The Hero and the Rival (Sora/Riku etc.)
4. TheTwo Hot Guys who Totally Looked At Each Other That One Time (any number of random pairings that make your head hurt)

There are probably others, but those are the ones I have seen the most often. And they don't just apply to yaoi either; heterosexual or yuri pairings often fall under these headings as well, with their own variations thrown in. Now, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with supporting them, and I do know many yaoi fans who I get along with absolutely fine (you know who you are). In fact, this really all boils right back down to the whole 'you don't like it, you suck' thing. Some fans get snooty about it, and proceed to give you a swift tongue lashing about why you are wrong. This brings us on to...

III. The 'My Canon is Better than your Canon' Problem
This is the argument that nightmares are made of. I touched on it a couple of times already, but this is the big one and so it gets its own special section all to itself.

Anyway, this one comes up damn near everytime shipping gets mentioned. But of course it does; shipping is built on personal fanon. Where I see Cloud and Tifa as a canon pairing because a) I know that relationships based on friendships can work and b) Aerith is out of the running because she's a teensy bit dead (and I don't like her, but that's a whole other bag o' gerbils) and c) Square Enix have finally said so, other people think that they would be awful together, and Tifa doesn't deserve Cloud anyway, what were you thinking? (and other, much more reasonable arguments). In any case, pairings, and character interpretations by extension, are pretty much all subject to personal canon; 'fanon' in more casual terms. However, that's not where the problem really is.

The problem is that some people aren't content with fanon; they want their pairing proven, and will support it with whatever piece of evidence they can get from the subject matter, no matter how flimsy or insignificant. Now, the only real experience I have with this comes from FFVII, although I have seen it in Kingdom Hearts also. Anyway, since the FFVII Ultimania was published (and I have never read it by the way), it seems that there's even more of a scramble to grab what they can get. Cloud/Tifa fans jump on the 'Under the Highwind' scene and the cut 'Chocobo Stable' scene while Cloud/Aerith fans continually bring up the fact that Tifa 'lied to Cloud' and various other things (I'm not as familiar with this side of the argument). And then the yaoi fans jump in with the fact that Cloud is obviously just not interested in women. Or they just go another way altogether and say that the Ultimania/Compilation/whatever just doesn't count because it wasn't there to begin with shut up (again, there are more rational arguments).

I find it confusing, and all a bit silly. It's useful to have things you can interpret as support for a chosen pairing, yes. It's handy for fic writing if nothing else, but where is this idea that one must use all evidence possible to support one pairing and shoot down any opposing party? I can only really repeat my sentiment that they are fictional characters. There is no need to get so bloody worked up.