Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On Homosexuality In Sports: A Fabulous Pursuit!

So, the NFL is doing a thing about Jerry Smith, one of the first Football players to come out (even anonymously) and talk about homosexuality in the NFL.  You can find a link to the source video I stumped upon here.  What's fascinating is that, at one point in the film, Charley Taylor (a former Redskin) is talking about the Redskins' reputation for having the most gay guys.  He says, "we had like 12."  Not only did Jerry's teammates all know he was gay, and not only did they fail to give a damn, but other teams knew it and didn't much care, either.  I had to stop in the middle of the video simply because I got lost in a train of thought, and I therefore needed to ramble!

Jerry Smith; image courtesy of Redskins.com

Gays in Sports - Who cares?  Well, sometimes, bad people do.

If you somehow think this is a new thing, or that somehow the NFL has regressed in terms of gay-to-straight ratios, or that the old line about the Quarterback loving when he gets the snap by putting his hands between the center's legs, near his rear end, think again.  His team-mates may have known, but Smith was deeply afraid of the media finding out and publicizing his true self.  It turns out he had good reason!  People often forget that Glenn Burke was the first active-roster, publicly-acknowledged homosexual of at least the modern era (late 1970's) to play in Major League Baseball.  He claimed his team didn't care, but the managerial staff certainly did - he was traded, his playing time was cut, and he was given little opportunity to rehabilitate from a knee injury before being cut.  Whatever his team-mates may have believed,

To even be affiliated with the struggle for equal protection for homosexuality can severely cripple a career - just ask Chris Kluwe!

Chris Kluwe is one of my all-time favorite sportsmen, even though he has effectively retired from the NFL.  Aside from being a World of Warcraft player, Redditor, and getting an avatar in Shadowrun Returns, he was two incredible things:  The best punter in Minnesota Vikings franchise history, and an outspoken defender of gay rights.  Kluwe alleges that, as a result of his passionate support of equality, his immediate supervisor - special teams coach Mike Priefer - would frequently launch anti-homosexual tirades, including, allegedly, that gays should be packed together on an island and nuked.

Why Do Sports Matter?  This.

Asking some of my socially-conscious friends about sports is often an adventure in soliciting migraines.  The most popular arguments I hear are about how they get paid so much to play a game, while teachers/nurses/fire-fighters/cops make so little money.  There's a valid point there, but being a professional athlete affords people a platform.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia; underneath that helmet is one handsome, hot man.  I'm okay with that.

Sometimes, that platform is just used to make money; maybe the player uses it simply to escape their own impoverished backgrounds.  Other times, it's to raise money for former athletes who didn't make the same mega-bucks, but did come away with a larger share of life-long injuries; or, they donate it to their high schools, as I've seen numerous times in Freeport thanks to Clifton Smith and D'Brickashaw Ferguson.  Still other times, a sportsman will stand up and speak out in favor of equality, or perhaps they'll promote children's gym classes.

For what it's worth, Kluwe is married with a child.  I raise this point solely because his activation has fueled speculation that he, himself, is homosexual.  Speaking one's mind carries risks, I suppose?  Admittedly, Kluwe's career prospects may been damaged as a result of his speaking out on a "political" issue.  (How is equal protection political, again?)  Even if the Vikings owner was encouraging of his behavior, other teams might not have been so generous, as Glenn Burke found out the hard way.  Kluwe also may have signed, as part of his players' contract, some form of rules-of-engagement with the media - I don't know, I'm not a contract lawyer.  That's not the grounds he was originally let go under, of course, so at this point it becomes too much of a speculative ramble for it's own good.  All I can do is say he's fighting for what he believes in, and he has surely given up on a great deal of money to do so.

The Image of Athletes in Society Always Changes.

Let's instead bring this back to where we began:  The premise of gays in sports.  The truth is, these players are not "converting" to homosexuality after they play.  Smith himself never acknowledged his homosexuality in public; it was only after his death at the hands of AIDS that his nature was revealed.  While those close to him knew, his fans were surely surprised to hear it.  I think, ultimately, that's what it's about.

A freshman psychology student could figure out that fans build an image of their sporting idols in their heads, and that image is acid-etched into the fan's mind.  They imprint themselves into that image, and draw parallels between their heroes and themselves.  I happen to love Peyton Manning.  His style of football is just my kind of game, since he thinks his way to victory.  Seriously - watch him call plays!  He reminds me of Bart Starr, not that I was alive to watch him play.  I see that he doesn't have the same physical gifts he did a decade ago, but he makes up for it with his knowledge.  I like to believe I do something similar in my own life.

So, how would I feel if I found out Peyton was gay?  ...I wouldn't care, except perhaps that I'd be proud to hear he was so brave.  But, rest assured, lots of people would see their "reflection" in Peyton crack as their idol suddenly becomes something they aren't quite as comfortable with.  Maybe they don't hate homosexuals, but they just don't know how to deal with this sudden paradigm shift.  (As an aside, I guess my worst "fear" for Peyton would be to discover he was on performance-enhancing drugs.  Remember the Alex Rodriguez backlash?  Yeah, that, only for Peyton.  My Peyton!)  (As another aside, I also only care about PEDs in the context of everyone having equal access; I imagine a future where players have computers in their heads, doing physics equations on interception patterns, and having cybernetic limbs to boot, so that's me.)

Yet, underneath it all, I like to imagine that when an NFL player is ready to come out, they will ultimately find an opportunity for relief as they can finally be true to themselves.  Jerry Smith did an anonymous interview with a reporter where he described the horrible reality of his situation:  Sure, those who knew he was gay didn't outwardly care, but he knew that if the wrong people found out, his career could be in serious trouble.  He'd soon see this fear was justified!  But an end to the double-life?  An end to the anxiety, the edginess, the fear of being outed?  The certainty of knowing, instead of worrying?

Well, maybe that's what a fan should want for their sports star, no matter how vividly we use them as an object of fantasy, and no matter how vicariously we live through them.

Jesse Pohlman is a writer from Freeport, NY.  He is the author of Physics Incarnate, a science-fiction novel available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle formats.  Or, click this link to check out his new webpage!

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Five Suggestions For Rimworld!

Hello, video game fans!

Thanks in large part to perhaps my favorite Lets Player of them all, Scott Manley (best known for his work playing Kerbal Space Program and being, y'know, a real astrophysicist), I discovered a new game called Rimworld.  It is produced by Ludeon Studios, in particular by a gentleman named Tynan Sylvester.  It's an extremely early-stage game, having just completed a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for its development.  They've released a pre-alpha build to donors, and it feels more complete than many might suspect.

Lots of fire?  That's about right for a first colony.  Via RockPaperShotgun.com.

The Basics Of Rimworld

You, as the player, start off with three folks who crash-land on an alien planet.  You get to click a "randomize" button until you get three colonists you're happy with, and this is important because those first three guys will determine if you live or die real fast.  If you somehow get three people who cannot build, you're done.  If you get three who cannot serve as a warden for captured enemies, you will never be able to recruit new allies.  Over time, you eventually can recruit new allies and expand your colony.

As for the threats you'll face, they are generated by a "storyteller," similar to the AI Director in Left 4 Dead.  This is probably an early-in-the-cycle AI setup, and the number of situations you can expect are slightly diverse, but begging for more variety.  Your main enemy will be the raiders who invade on a regular basis.  Fine!  When they start off way too strong for you, that's not so fun.  And, the fact that they're usually the only actual threat to your colony is a bit disappointing:  Solar flares prevent all electronics from working (with no defense against it), eclipses cut the power production of your solar panels, and random short circuits keep you patching things up...But that's not a threat, really.  Then again, the fact is, this game is very early in development.

Bearing in mind that in a recent Reddit AMA the designers of Kerbal Space Program, Squad, said one of their top pet peeves was when fans say, "just do this one thing, it'll be so easy!," here's my five suggestions for the long-term development of this game as it moves from a pre-alpha to a finished product.  After all, I put my money into their project, I get to have my say even if I know I might later be overruled!  Plus, the game can use the buzz.  ;)

#1:  Technological Development

Research exists in the game, of course, but it is largely ornamental.  The basic elements of your colonists are already developed - they can mine into solid rock as soon as they land, apparently Minecraft style.  You can research advanced picks that speed up the mining process, but you never have to produce or equip them.  Your characters might be bad shots, but they can quickly acquire firearms either from dead raiders or trade ships.

I picture a game where technological development is a little more essential.  Imagine if you were stranded on an alien planet with nothing but some raw materials from your crash-landed ship.  Even if you have the talent to build a hut and start developing technology, it might be tough for you to get all that done, all at once.

My suggestion here is simple:  Start folks off at rock bottom.  I'm not saying we need to stay at the bottom long - especially if we have a scientist in the group!  I'm just saying we need to have a little balance.  Instead of having wildly available firearms (Except perhaps in an "easy mode" setting), have characters start with bows and arrows or swords.  Colonists should have to produce their gear.  Speaking of...

#2:  Equipment Management

Again, this is a very early build.  Right now the only equip-able items are firearms.  That's fine!  But, as the game develops, the following slots should open up...

 - Armor (Possibly even powered armor at some point).
 - Melee weapon (including mining pick, because a mining pick to the head fucking hurts!).
 - Ranged weapon, perhaps even including stun guns.  NOT including grenades, though.
 - Miscellaneous item, such as ground-penetrating radar for finding mineral deposits, or fragmentation grenades.

The idea here is not to over-complicate matters, but rather to include additional immersion and options into the game.  Instead of having equipment presumed to be on a character, like how the "pneumatic picks" technology simply adds 20% to mining effectiveness, they should be items that are physically equipped.  Again, if it'll split a rock, it'll serve as a melee weapon!

Also on that note, a colony should be able to produce many of its own goods and needs, equipment wise.  As the tech tree advances, it may be hard to advance the research cause too quickly.  Just getting up to automatic firearms may be tough, and a player might wish to invest in food growth and processing instead.  So, they can produce basic arms but if they want to really upgrade their armies, they should have to trade for it.

#3:  Expanded Storyteller Elements

So, we know that there is an AI storyteller that governs matters, but there's plenty of ways that the game can be expanded and improved.  Right now, the main threat to your colonists is raiders.  They come in waves, and usually the first two are single-sucker affairs that end quickly.  The third wave, inexplicably, can be six raiders strong - six raiders who are all very skilled and very well armed!

Instead, assuming we're working from a lower technological level to begin with, the storyteller AI could decide that there is a nearby group of natives who might be exiled from their main group.  These one to three people could be approached and either recruited to join the colony, or - if they are hostile, or if you lack a socially talented colonist - could need to be eliminated before conflict emerges.  Later on, that native group might come by to inquire what happened.  If they're dead, that may be a problem - or, they may thank you, as those three may have been crooks!  If they're alive, well, they might demand you release them, even if they choose to be with you.

Other possibilities include adding predatory animals that can provide an early-on threat, meteor showers that damage equipment and reveal new sources of minerals, or waves of sickness which incapacitate your colonists and throw off the flow of work.  Also, instead of always getting raiders, you might watch as another group of colonists arrive to build their own base, and you might have to decide if you can live together - or, if you have to become the raider, yourself!

Much of this leads to...

#4:  Improved Use Of Colonists

Right now, I feel like my colonists are only under my control when they are drafted.  Sometimes this is simply because they follow what is honestly pretty impressive (if under-optimized) automated scripts.  Others, however, I feel like it's because some of my colonists don't really, uhh, do much.  I have a noblewoman, for example, who does nothing but sit on her rear and eat our food.  She doesn't build things, she doesn't haul them, and all she does is play warden to any prisoners we get and maybe call up a visiting star-ship.  She used to do research, but we're done with the tech tree, so she's pretty useless day-in and day-out.  Fun, huh?

Well, we also just recruited a former raider whose ability to work is even less.  Literally, he exists to shoot things.  That's fine!  It would be nice, however, if I could assign my soldier guy a place to patrol.  Maybe his job is to stand guard at the gates of our town and make sure we're safe?  That'd make sense, right?  Instead, he wanders aimlessly around unless I draft him, at which point I forget to un-draft him and he starves himself and fails to sleep.

By adding in other factions, like natives or other colonists (and possibly even raiders!), having a nobleman-type character would be essential because they could negotiate from a point of advantage.  Obviously the other faction may be biased against me, but at least they'd have something useful to do.

#5:  More, more, more!

Yep, that's about the best I can come up with.  The important thing with a game like Rimworld, now that it's made over 250,000 Canadian Dollars on Kickstarter, is that it needs to put out content.  It has a ModDB page, but no mods yet - and unlike Kerbal Space Program (we'll get to you!), it doesn't seem very mod-friendly, so far.  But, I could be very wrong.  I'm not much of a coder.

When a good, well-reviewed mod is produced, it could be incorporated into the game's official build.  Maybe some of that kickstarter money could be used in a "bounty" system.  No, not like the New Orleans Saints!  Instead, if someone makes a very good mod, it could be brought into the game and the mod's developer could be given either some sort of promotional award, or a small payment for services rendered.  That would really set the community going!

Well, that's it for me.  Try Rimworld, it's a great time sink with incredible promise!

Jesse Pohlman is a writer living in Freeport, New York.  He's self-published a number of novels available in Paperback and/or Kindle.  You space fans might enjoy Protostar:  Memoirs of the Messenger, a Kindle exclusive!  Or, if you'd rather something a bit present-tense, try the super-hero stylings of Physics Incarnate!

Thank you for reading!

Friday, November 1, 2013

National Novel Writing Month 2013 Begins!

Hello, everyone!

It's that time of year again!  I'm gonna be blogging my progress as often as I can, when I make some!  This weekend'll be tough; tomorrow I'm actually doing an interview for a webTV show!  So, expect me to be in catch-up-mode on Sunday!  This is my third time doing NaNo, and in 2011 I "won" it!  Read all about it here.

For now, my word count is:  1,743!  That's juussttt ahead of the 1,666.6666666~7 you need to break even by the thirtieth!  But, rest assured, I'll make it.  I've done this before, and I know what I plan to write and how!

I look forward to seeing you all!  I'll also be heavily using the Twitter hashtag #NaNoFreaks, so get ready!

Ramble About Writing is produced by Jesse Pohlman.  Jesse is a freelance writer working out of Freeport, NY.  He writes books - Just check out his Amazon Author's Page.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Five Ways to Improve Grand Theft Auto Online!

It may come as a surprise to you, but there was a brief window of my life where I was an avid World of Warcraft player.  Yes, I know, the roleplaying-and-writing nerd played the legendary MMORPG for a bit - shocking, huh?  I really only played the Cataclysm expansion, and had retired long before Mists of Pandaria came out.  What was initially enjoyable and challenging became repetitive and pointless once grinding for gear became a central focus; if I wanted to try something different for a change, I had to go through a bajillion steps I'd already undertaken...

...Whatever.  We all know the MMORPG score.  It's a formula designed to make players into addicts, and to drag out the experience so as to consume time, thereby extending the value already present in the game and squeezing more paid subscription days out of users.  Consider the months of work it takes to get a character to level 85 90 just so they can begin the process of getting geared up appropriately!

So, when Rockstar Games announced an MMORPG-caliber Grand Theft Auto, inventively titled "Grand Theft Auto Online," I was skeptical - especially since it was built into GTA 5.  But, I love me some GTA 5, and the ensuing industry standard launch-day-apocalypse got me thinking it might just not be terrible.  Once I got in game, I discovered its capacity to be fun and engaging without half of the gearing-up bullshit most MMORPGs deal with.  I fucking love Rockstar to begin with, and GTA 5's unprecedented success coupled with GTAO's availability has presented them with a chance to seriously contend with WoW and its dozens of would-be competitors.

That said...There's room for improvement.  Here are five ways GTA Online needs to be upgraded in order to realize its potential as a breakthrough MMORPG hit!

#5:  Special Skills

In Rockstar's GTA 5, our three protagonists each have a special talent; Franklin, for example, can slow time down while he drives so that players can execute insanely complicated techniques.  It's true that GTA Online can't capitalize on such "bullet time" mechanics, since all participants have to be on the same clock, but that doesn't mean there can't be special abilities.

Here's one example:  A character with a sufficiently high Stealth score could have an ability which, when toggled, removes the player's icon on the radar for a short time; say, one millisecond for every point of Stealth the character has.  A Stamina special might be a double-speed sprint, causing enemy fire to be less likely to hit; or, perhaps, a character's health regeneration might advance beyond the halfway point.

Unlocking these skills would require a bit of game balancing:  Perhaps a side-quest or two has to be completed?  Of course, characters could only know one ability.  Maybe they could delete it and/or overwrite it, but - again - it should not be a task undertaken lightly.

#4:  Improved Customization

Following up on our fifth entry; Rockstar, let's face facts.  I don't so much mind this "hereditary" system you whipped up for character creation, but let's get at least a little organized.  Different heights?  Body shapes?  C'mon!  This is the best chance we, as players, have ever had to interact with the crazy-ass world you've created.  Let us have a little control over ourselves?  Please?

Another thing:  This system of picking what your character does with their time, and having that decide what a character is capable of?  I dunno.  Wouldn't it just be easier to use a stat-building system?  I guess it was nice when I was rolling up my character, and it helped my sense of immersion, but then I found my character's clothes changing drastically and erratically based on half an hour here or there?

While we're on the topic; make customization options a little less based on rank?  Like clothes - having a random-looking shirt unlock at rank 80 when a button-down high-end suit unlocks at 10 just makes no sense, to me.  Why is it so hard to have an RGB-style color wheel for clothing?  That would be awesome!  Instead, I'm 90% satisfied with the attire my character started with, and I feel no inclination to change it.  I dunno.

#3:  Make Money Make Sense

Okay, Rockstar, now we're gonna get into one of the biggest annoyances there is in this game - Money.  It's not that you don't kick out okay money per mission, depending on the mission.  A friend and I spent, like, half an hour chasing a car literally across your continent for a measly $1K when a ten-minute run can net me upwards of $5K, but that's beside the point.  When I died at the hands of another player who just popped up and killed me as soon as I left a mission, then killed me two or three more times when I respawned, I lost a few hours of work.  And I don't just mean the money from the mission I was on - I mean I lost a couple thousand out of my bank.

I'm told (we'll get there) that this has been addressed in a patch.  Maybe; I've been careful not to die, since.  But, even deaths during missions or - get this - deathmatches have the perception of overwhelming loss.  I appreciate feeling a need to conserve ammo, but I shouldn't feel like using my SMG is a travesty!  It just feels like resources are too scarce - and, to top it off, it even feels like I can't carry around much ammo.

I mentioned earlier how games like World of Warcraft exploit the need to get gear (and gold) in the interest of making players spend massive amounts of time and therefore expend their monthly subscriptions; GTA Online is free, so why not be a bit more liberal with the...Oh.  Oh, yeah - they want you to pay for your in-game money.  Still, have fuckin' mercy.

#2:  Improve Matchmaking!

Rockstar, I honestly don't know which to make the #1 or #2 suggestion here, but I feel like this is a problem that follows, at least for me, from the one I'm making number one.  Now, I play on X-Box 360.  I play on X-Box Live.  In fact, I only bought X-Box Live Gold so I can play GTAO.  I'm not really regretting that decision, but I am slightly annoyed because - either for XBL-specific reasons or GTA-specific ones - I can't seem to find a good match.

I get that a simultaneous session is limited to 16 players.  I'd heard rumors it might be at/get to 32, but at least for now it's 16.  I understand that, and that's acceptable to me.  What makes no sense, however, is that - in my pursuit of a 16 man death match - I feel like I am constrained to only the 15 other people I'm in a session with, plus or minus my online friends.  There are suggestions, vis-a-vis the "skill-matched players" panel, that matchmaking looks for more than just a dozen-and-change people, but I don't feel it.

Let me pull another example from WoW:  When I search for a random dungeon or PvP map (think "mission" or "Deathmatch," or "Race" in GTAO), WoW searches over each and every server in my region for any player looking for any suitable game.  This allows it to query literally millions of players, and - in Raid Finder's example - usually lets me into a 25-man raid within a minute or two.  Neat, huh?  Forming up an in-game team in WoW is easy; I don't know how to do something so essential in GTAO.  Who is that talking over my XBL headset?  Why doesn't the game tell me who, at least, has an active mic?

Why isn't GTAO the same way?  Is it just XBL?  I don't think I should feel like I'm limited to 16-20 potential candidates when I'm searching for a 16-player match.  Given the way Rockstar's servers were overwhelmed, I feel like I should have thousands of possible players - teammates, or enemies.  I get that some of these gripes come off as spoiled PC gamer gripes, but let's be real here - some of these problems were solved back in Everquest.

#1:  Tell Me What I'm Doing!

Seriously, Rockstar, here's the deal:  GTAO has incredible potential.  I get that you haven't released Heists yet, as Heists in GTA5 are reminiscent of "end-game" raiding to me.  I get that you can't make it too easy for players to acquire new assets.  What I don't get is why it feels like I'm signing up for game sessions with the objectives list covered up.

Let's start with the "Missions" that you can sign up for.  "Missions" is a very vague term - many of them are player-versus-player missions!  Two teams fight over one McGuffin.  In principle, this is a great idea!  But, it's also PvP.  When I think of "Missions," I think of PvE - Player Versus Enemy.  Still other "missions" are called "Last Man Standing," which is actually a form of deathmatch.  Meanwhile, Deathmatches come in many shapes and sizes - that's good!  But they aren't well-categorized - that's bad!  Do I land in a team match, or every man for himself?

Moving on, now we'll look at the actual job rewards.  What the hell is "JP?"  Nobody seems to know.  How much money and reputation will you get for a mission?  No idea, it varies from assignment to assignment (good!), and you aren't told anything in advance (bad!).  What are your objectives?  Well, you're sometimes assigned to chase down a car that spawns halfway across the map on you, doesn't give you a GPS reading, and - even if you assign one manually - moves so that by the time you reach where the car once was, it's halfway across the map again!

And then you get a pittance of $1,000 for chasing it?

Worst of all, however, I think is the lack of communication from Rockstar to players on the matchmaking issues they've experienced.  Never mind what's gently called "Disappearing Character Disorder!"  How about a solid explanation as to why GTAO created a disastrous bottleneck in the first couple missions?  How about details on what jobs are available when?  How about a cohesive story line for our silent protagonist?

How's this for an idea, my oh-so-beloved Rockstar - how about, when I post this article to your twitter feed, you guys actually read and respond to it?  Hah!

Jesse Pohlman is a writer and gamer hailing from Long Island in New York.  He's an independently published author, as well as an educator and ski bum.  Check out his Amazon Author page and buy a book, stop by his Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter.  Or, y'know, just anonymously gripe in the comments section.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I've been interviewed about Physics Reincarnate, by J. Chris Lawrence!

Hello, all!

I'll keep it short and simple:  J.  Chris Lawrence, an amazing writer and a staple over at Every Day Fiction, has taken the time to engage in a genuinely awesome interview with me.  Check it out below:


Thanks for your time, and make sure to spread this around!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Committing to NaNoWriMo 2013!

There are a lot of things I've wanted to get accomplished, both throughout my life and in the last year or so, that I haven't.  Things come up, things slip the mind, whatever.  Excuses are excuses, and while there is a difference between "excuses" and "explanations," I'm guilty of a little of each.  However, despite an abortive attempt in 2010, I succeeded in completing National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, in 2011.  I produced a little-known work called Protostar:  Memoirs Of The Messenger, released it on Amazon's Kindle, and it's probably my best-selling novel to date.

It was genuinely a blast, and while I'm too much of a coward to venture into the public, in-the-flesh NaNoWriMo gatherings (and I question the sense of having them during the "contest," when everyone is wired on the fifty-thousand-word deadline!), I certainly enjoyed the self-imposed challenge of writing 50k words in thirty meager days.  I took 2012 off for many reasons, not least this - let's be polite! - unpleasant woman named Sandy who strolled through my town, but now I'm back, baby!

For 2013, I plan to pen a sequel of Protostar!

I've written some notes.  I'm assured that isn't cheating!  So far I think I want to go with a sort of jarring start, and while I plan to feature the same cast of characters (the crew of The Messenger), I'm going to make the first chunk of the book about solving a riddle trapped in Captain Lahira Ocean's mind.  At least, that's what I'm thinking I'll do!  Once that's deciphered, her team will have to put that solution into practice - a completely different scenario!

Will Humankind survive it's war against the Orphans?  Well, when the first novel ended we were assured that Lahira had succeeded in creating allies among her former enemies, and a rebellion was afoot in the alien ranks.  Whatever the exact state-of-the-war, this isn't one of those tales where last-minute heroics is the only hope of our future-species.  At least, not yet!  Remember, dear reader, that there are in fact three other alien species out there:  The fish-like Aquarians, the brutish Firions, and the artificially-intelligent Automatons.  Despite Mankind's good relations with all three (and even with military aid coming from them!), is it possible that they could somehow change this war's course for the worse?

Outside of the realm of plot devices and character arcs, I also want to experiment with more editorial precision when it comes to creating the final, distributed product.  Protostar is probably the least-edited of my more recent books, since it was written in under a month and all.  There was no ongoing proofreading process.  Things just got, well, written.  Publication was never a major consideration!  This time, it is.  So this time, after November is done, it will be heavily redacted processed.

As always, I'll blog about it!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why I Fight To Bring Back Old Shows

Hey everyone!

One of the trends that I have, when writing on this blog, is to cover old television shows and video games I liked as a kid, and to explore why.  Once in a while, like with Arrested Development, there's a level of success that's achieved!  It's sort of like bringing back the dead, in a sense, so let me ask a simple question:

Why do some people like myself get caught up on bringing back old programs from their heyday?  And why, in particular, am I so caught up with it?  Maybe it has something to do with this:

See, I'm a creator.  In particular, I'm a 28 year old creator.  Ten years ago, in 2003, I was an 18 year old wanna-be creator. Two years before that, some other 18-something year old wanna-be creator got a TV show approved by MTV.  It's a complicated story, but in 2001 this Pete Williams guy, along with Josh A. Cagan and Andy Rheingold, basically got this show off the ground.  It was immensely popular...In Canada.  In America, well, MTV didn't want to keep their animation department.  So says Williams in a recent interview on the "Guys With Pencils" podcast!  Plus, I've already looked into other reasons it was unfairly handicapped.  But this doesn't answer the underlying question of, "Jesse, why do you keep attaching yourself to these crazy creative causes!?"

Personal Identification

Well...There are two fundamental reasons.  First off is the fact that this show had an impact on me.  It aired just as I was getting ready to go to college (It aired 2001, I started college in fall 2002).  It's main creative drive was a few years older than me and a local native.  It was, tacitly, about a close-knit group of friends based on real people; and it was a group who, even dramatized, I found resembled my group of friends.  So there's just a great deal of personal identification, there.  Maybe, in my starry-eyed brain, I wanted to be like this Pete Williams guy.

It helped that the show was about an awkward college guy who was trying to become something of a new person, but at the same time tied unbreakably - and pleasantly! - to his friends.  That's the life I wanted, in essence, and to this day I'm proud to be close to many of my old friends.  I could name them, but they'd kill me, so I won't.  I also loved the music; most of it was spot-on, which is actually a surprise given that the show aired on MTV.  The animation was notoriously flawed, having been produced in a korean lab that didn't quite "get" what the show was going for; in fact, a fan going by Steffan B had to actually re-edit the ending to get the damned point across:

So, one thing led to another and, the show died.  At the time I was just sad, and I bought my DVD and wrote my e-mails to MTV without anyone knowing, at the time, just how vain that second prospect was.  And, then, I got older.  I always kept an ear open, but until 2012 I sort of assumed it wasn't going to happen - we'd get little tidbits here and there, but I understood better than many that the problem was simple - MTV and others owned the rights, and that was an impossible-to-procure object.  I moved on, in large part because everyone else involved had moved on.  Then, however, Pete made his way to Canada and discovered his canuck popularity!  This guy realized, to paraphrase him, that he actually had been quite successful!  He just didn't know it.  Him, Cagan and Rheingold got a goat (hah!) and appeared at Calgary Expo, and from there shit took off.  Now, there's a vibrant fan community and there is real talk about creating a movie continuation!

Willliams regularly communicates with the fan-base, answering long-standing questions and soliciting ideas for how we can best make things work in the future.  I'm infinitely proud to say I've actually earned some shout-outs, there.

More Personal Identification

But there's an even more fundamental, selfish reason I do this gung-ho stuff.  This second basic reason I push for old TV shows to get picked up, especially Undergrads, is that, well...I want my stuff to get picked up.  You've probably figured out I write, but did you know that I literally released a novel today?  It's called Physics Reincarnate, it's the sequel to my five-star rated book Physics Incarnate, and it's available now in paperback and on Amazon's Kindle E-reader.  If you count my kindle-exclusives, this is the fifth novel I have self-published (Pillars of The Kingdom 1+2, Protostar:  Memoirs Of The Messenger, and Physics Incarnate), not to mention a short story collection.

Moreover, just like Williams, I have plans to revisit my old work.  Even now, I'm re-editing Pillars of The Kingdom 1 and 2 for re-release as Kindle exclusives (the print versions are honestly not worth purchasing except for historical value, perhaps!).  Eventually I will finish the last few chapters of the third installment of that novel.  Protostar was my National Novel Writing Month project from 2011, and I fully intend to make a sequel this November - even if that, too, is a Kindle-Exclusive.

Using my copy of Abnormal Psychology For Masochists (most assuredly written by the author of Abnormal Psychology For Drunks, Rocko's most beloved textbook from the show!), I have determined that I am projecting my desires to be a successful creator onto the people who created Undergrads.  We have similar backgrounds in terms of geography, friends, and age-group.  We have seen success, faced defeat, and we keep going.  We've learned that the best way to help ourselves is to help other creators - writers, artists, animators, musicians, what-have-you.  Is it any wonder that I would have attached myself to someone similar to me, at least in my own perspective?

Sure, I might just be crazy.  I think all creators are crazy because we're standing here and attributing serious value to the stories we conjure out of our brains!  We're standing here saying, "you will be happy if you spend your hard-earned money on listening to our tale, because this tale will leave you changed."  Well, Undergrads changed me.  It served, most of all, as proof that someone could just walk into a room (in Pete's case, enter a contest), prove they're skilled, and actually get something produced!  Isn't that every creator's dream?

That's why I keep fighting to get this show a proper conclusion.  If you watch the show, you'll understand why you should, too!

My new website can be found at http://www.JPohlmanWriting.com, where I'll keep talking about old TV shows quite a bit, among other things...