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Posts tagged “Arts and Entertainment

Gary Joseph Bourgeois (1953 – 2017)

Gary Bourgeois has passed. Gary was a fellow New Orleanian sf and fantasy writer. His work was a foundation on which I built two steampunk fiction anthologies. I had planned to ask him to write the introduction to the third. When I felt the need to step back from the role of facilitator for the New Orleans Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Group, it was Gary who took up the slack and provided focus and organization to that group.

Gary Bourgeois was particularly proficient with the long story. It was my hope that, over time, we would refine the form and format of the long story together with other New Orleans sf and fantasy writers so that one day there would a type of long story in the sixteen thousand word range that would be known as the Bourgeois.

My upcoming projects may be more focused on the novel than short or long stories for the near future but work towards a regional variant of the long story continues to be part of my dreams as a writer.

Goodbye, Gary. I hope you reached whatever afterlife you sought and that your gods continue to watch over your soul. Blessed be.

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Gary’s obituary from the newspaper:

Gary Joseph Bourgeois, age 64, went to heaven on Thursday, October 19, 2017. He died 6 months after diagnosed with bladder cancer. He was the husband of 41 years to Deborah Campos Bourgeois. He was the son of the late Harold and Lois Bourgeois, oldest brother to Michael Bourgeois (Marilyn), Philip Bourgeois (Carlen), the late Robert Bourgeois, Ann Bourgeois Schmidt (Scott), cousin to Will Dermady (Julie), and uncle to Moira, Erin and Tommy. Treasured brother-in-law to Rhonda Campos.

He retired from Entergy Nuclear and Jefferson Parish Westwego Library. He graduated from UNO, and he led the fiction writers West Bank group at the Westwego Library, and the science fiction writers group at the East Bank regional Library. Writing and mentoring others were his passion. Every member of his group was prized. He wanted to encourage everyone to succeed. He was published in short story form and placed in a writing contest. Rescuing, loving and caring for over 100 cats in his lifetime demonstrated his endless compassion.

He leaves behind a large feline family, two in particular; Jolson and Pogo, in heaven now, will be the first to welcome him. Gary’s every day was spent centered in kindness. He was never judgmental to others, always caring for other people’s feelings. A more loving husband does not exist. Our years together will never be enough.

Relatives and friends of the family are invited to attend the Celebration of Life on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at the Garden of Memories Funeral Home, 4900 Airline Drive, Metairie, LA from 5:00 pm until 7:00 pm. In Lieu of flowers, donations to Jefferson Parish Friends of the Library and Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO) may be made in his name. Online condolences may be offered at www.gardenofmemoriesmetairie.com. The family would like to express their sincere thanks to the Ochsner Oncology, Cardiology, and Chemotherapy Infusion Clinic physicians, all nursing and support staff and especially cardiology nurse Raj for the outstanding care and comfort provided.

Published in TheNewOrleansAdvocate.com from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25, 2017

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A new voice in the field of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy fiction, New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His most recent story, “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” was published in Dark Oak Press’ Capes and Clockwork II, edited by Alan Lewis. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon lives with his guardian and protector, Battle-cat Princess Kaleidoscope, in his home town of New Orleans, Louisiana. Find out more about Brandon’s work at http://www.brandonblackonline.com.
All original text copyright Brandon Black 2017.
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The Nature of Good and Evil in Dungeons and Dragons (and what to do about it)

This is from 5th Edition D&Ds Basic DM Rules: “Humanoids are the main peoples of the D&D world, both civilized and savage, including humans and a tremendous variety of other species. They have language and culture, few if any innate magical abilities (though most humanoids can learn spellcasting), and a bipedal form. The most common humanoid races are the ones most suitable as player characters: humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings. Almost as numerous but far more savage and brutal, and almost uniformly evil, are the races of goblinoids (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears), orcs, gnolls, lizardfolk, and kobolds.”
I’ve been unhappy about racism in D&D for some time. It didn’t take me long to see the connections between how humans treat orcs in D&D and how the British treated the Scots, the Irish, pretty much everyone else on the planet. ‘They’re evil. They’re inferior. It’s okay for us to conquer them.’ In D&D, you can kick the door in on someone else’s home, kill them and take their stuff and it’s okay because ‘they’re evil.’ That’s just nuts.
So — what do I do about it? I had planned a D&D world that was much more cosmopolitan, where different races got along, at least in some locales and when they didn’t, it would be absolutely clear that it was because of simple racism. I never thought I’d like a racist character but I’ve got an elf mage I’m working on who’s totally racist and yet, works for me as a character. He’s got the whole snooty elf superiority complex thing going on and he’s a wandering mercenary. I like it because it explains what such a character is actually doing. I mean, after all, if elven society is so much better than any other society on the planet, why isn’t he back there instead of wandering the world? The answer is: he only considers his actions as a mercenary acceptable because he ISN’T visiting death and destruction upon fellow elves for money. Killing humans, or orcs, or dwarves, or trolls, well, that doesn’t count. As long as he isn’t killing elves, he’s free to wander the land, blasting people with magick and getting paid to do it.
Drow, in particular, or rather their depiction, pisses me off too. The only dark-skinned race in D&D to get any depth of culture or politics or religion and they’re evil. They’re a subterranean race but they are dark-skinned — because they’re evil. Logic would make them albinos as they are in Warhammer but evil trumps reason in D&D — they have to be marked with dark skin like black people in Mormonism.
5th edition FINALLY made playing Drow a standard PC option. I remember when 5th edition first came out and I was so excited to see that and I looked forward to playing a good Drow character and then when I got to +1 Gaming, Jeremy Henson (and I’m not picking on him) was trying to persuade people to play anything BUT drow because drow are traditionally evil — even though a few good individuals are known to exist. I didn’t listen and played a good drow anyway. I’ve spent too many years playing a black human in D&D from Fabled Offmapia because neither commercially created fantasy worlds nor DM homebrewed worlds had an African continent equivalent. Dark-skinned people have a right to play heroes that remind them of themselves too.
Anyway — my doubt. I was cool with just making a cosmopolitan world where different races can get along or not as they see fit and it isn’t because one side is automatically good and the other automatically evil, except I read this article where someone was complaining about the “Klingonization” of orcs. He was referring to orcs in World of Warcraft being treated as people and not monsters and they’re not being ‘evil’ just a barbarian culture that’s been in opposition with humans and dwarves and elves for so long that it’s become habitual. In other words, exactly the kind of thing I was planning on. Except it reminded me of how I feel about demons.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its sequel series, Angel, watered demons down into aliens. They weren’t manifestations of supernatural evil. They weren’t all inherently evil. Many, if not most of them, were just people who wanted to live their lives and not be noticed. Yes, there were some who had great power and abused that power for their own desires but there’s people like that too. I hated that view of demons, not because of it’s symbolic portrayal of diversity but because you took a fearsome category of monster and turned it into a homeless guy who just wanted to be left alone. And I can see how some people would feel the same way about orcs.
You could say the whole utility of orcs in a game like D&D is that they’re supposed to be irredeemable and they are a continual menace, like they are in Warhammer 40K and thus there can be no peace with them and thus “There can only be war.” And that’s entertaining and this is supposed to be entertainment so it’s okay. “They’re supposed to be monsters; let’s treat them like monsters.”
So I’m not really sure now. I like the cosmopolitan world but fantasy is ultimately about — well — fantasy — sex and violence — killing the bad guy, getting the girl, tossing gold coins and gems into the air and partying well into the night to celebrate your victory. What do we lose if we make fantasy mirror the real world and every enemy is only an enemy because they look different from us or because of their deep-seated psychological problems stemming from childhood?
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New Orleans-based fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Black is the editor of the By Gaslight steampunk anthology series. He has a Bachelor’s in Military and Political Journalism and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Oak Press’ Dreams of Steam III and Seventh Star Press’ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. Brandon has just published a short anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fiction short stories entitled Mechanical Tales and is working on completing his first novel. His most recent story “The Night Mississippi Declared War on the Moon,” has been published in Capes and Clockwork 2.
All text copyright Brandon Black 2016.

A poem before dying

MASS EFFECT 3 SPOILERS

I had planned to write a full review of Mass Effect 3 — which is weird in and of itself since I’m not playing it; I’m watching a full play walkthrough of the game. The relationship content in this game is frakking astounding (no pun intended). They have a lot of gay content in the game. That’s not a euphemism nor do I mean anything untoward by that. It’s set in the future and in this future, no one seems to think anything strange about gay relationships and there are a lot of single-sex relationships and marriages mentioned. I wasn’t expecting that in what’s basically a third person shooter. I mean, I know I showed up for high-tech explosions and shit like that. I’m surprised Bioware would risk alienating their audience with this content.

Shepard passes this conversation on the Citadel and it plays over again every time he passes. It’s between “Wife” and “Mistress.” The first time I heard it I thought “Holy shit–this guy’s off to war and his wife and mistress are having a civil public conversation.” And then, maybe the third time or the fourth time I got that she was the wife’s mistress and the wife was leaving her husband for her. Which sucks, cause, you know, the poor bastard’s out saving the galaxy and all.

I misread their play of romantic relationships entirely. The Mass Effect games let you make decisions and then those decisions have consequences — not only in the game you’re playing but in subsequent games. It was this “morality engine” that caused me to want to write a review of the game in the first place. These guys used to do the Star Wars Knight of the Old Republic games and had the old “Light Side Points” and “Dark Side Points” mechanic. And they’ve brought it over as “Paragon” or “Renegade” points. And I entirely disapprove. The Mass Effect universe is a very grey universe and they give you some very controversial decisions to make and to include grey moral content and controversial issues and then empower you by giving you the choice, only to tell you if you decide to do something they don’t agree with that you’re just WRONG cause you get Renegade points instead of Paragon points — that’s just a dick move. (And yes, gamers, I know it could be seen not as ‘making the wrong choice’ but as making the choice that’s perceived by others a certain way but it’s still quantified as being in one of two pools and it’s still a dick move.) Case in point — at one point, a man asks you to pull the plug on his life support system and if you do it, you get Paragon points. The other option, to simply call over the nurse, is the Renegade option. So if I literally decide “hey — I’m not a doctor or a nurse, I’m just some guy off the street and I shouldn’t be deciding if people should live or die, let me call the nurse over here,” I’m a bad person. And the guy playing the walkthrough just flips the Paragon option and says, “Well — there you go. Bioware officially supports assisted suicide” and goes on. One last point on this before I shut up about it. The most damning thing I’ve seen against the Paragon/Renegade system is the walkthrough guy’s attitude about it: “I want to be a Paragon so I almost always pick the Paragon option whatever it is.” No matter how controversial, when he flips the Paragon option he’s okay with it. Whenever he chooses the Renegade option — as what he would himself choose to do as the morally correct option even — he feels the need to defend himself.

Anyway — I noticed that in all of Shepard’s close relationships, there was a subtext that if you chose to read it as such, you could see the groundwork being laid for a romantic relationship. I thought this was a brilliant move on the part of the game programmers. I figured that keeping up letting you make major plot choices and having those choices play out differently in game after game after game had to reach a critical point at which it would no longer be viable. You can’t have fourteen options based off which character you got involved with or didn’t or which guy you left behind to guard the rear and got killed, etc., etc. So I figured they came up with the brilliant shortcut of having close intimate conversations with all your important friend characters and doing it in such a way that you could imagine for yourself that they were a couple if you wished. But it was just smoke and mirrors. Or, more accurately, foreshadowing.

Kaiden, a man, makes an outright play for Shepard’s affections. And the top choice (usually the top choice in any moral decision is the Paragon choice, but not always, at least according to the guy doing the walkthrough) was to go ahead and enter the romantic relationship. The bottom choice was “Let’s just keep it professional.” And I’m watching the walkthrough and I’m like “uh–let’s just keep it professional” and the guy doing the walkthrough not two seconds later is like “Um–yeah… Let’s just keep it professional, Kaiden” and I start laughing cause we both got weirded out the same way at the same time. And I guess this was just the “romantic culmination” part of the game because RIGHT AFTER THAT, Shepard runs into Liara and the conversation there leads to a choice where she says “You’re a good friend” and one of your response options is “We could be more than friends.” Which I would have chosen and which the walkthrough guy chose and come on — she’s a blue-skinned alien chick slinking around in a white catsuit and she has tentacles for hair. Fanboys, gamers, they’re going to be all over that. The guy doing the walkthrough has been crushing on her the whole damn game so it was even sort of a relief that we wouldn’t have to hear about it any more. He likes her so much he keeps taking her on ground missions where she gets her ass kicked. I know that sounds strange. What I mean is that even though she doesn’t seem to be combat effective (or combat effective in the way he uses her — so please don’t scream to me about that, gamers) he still brings her every time on missions just because he likes having her around.

So anyway — you find several people’s dying messages to loved ones throughout the game and return to the Citadel to deliver them. And this happens often enough that the guy doing the walkthrough complains that all he does is ruin people’s day. “Oh hi — you seem to be having a good time — by the way — here’s a message from your dead spouse… “

At one point, you deliver this message from a dead Krogan soldier and this is why I’m writing this. Krogans are brutal, ugly, froggish looking thugs who care only about killing people and taking a lot of other people with them when they die. And when this message from this dead Krogan plays, you’re expecting “It’s bad honey. I’m outgunned and low on ammo. I don’t think I’m going to make it out of this one.” What I got was a poem. A love poem and a beautiful and touching one and I’m tearing up a little just thinking about it, it was SO frakking beautiful. And some Krogan thug wrote that! It was so beautiful it’s changed how I want to die. Now, when my time comes, I hope I have time to write that someone special one last poem before I go. That’s not supposed to be how you’re affected by a frakking video game.

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Fantasy, science fiction and steampunk author Brandon Black is the editor of New Orleans By Gaslight, a first of its kind anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in Victorian-era New Orleans. Brandon is also the web content manager for the Week in Geek, New Orleans’ favourite fantasy and science fiction themed radio talk show, every Saturday at 1 pm CST on WGSO 990 AM. Click here to check out Brandon’s ever-expanding list of published works.


Gundam Build Try Fighters Episode 20 Unbreakable Heart

SPOILER

 

“Jun! Will I see you again? Jun…”

“Don’t worry. You’ll meet again for sure. Because your fist has engraved itself in his heart.”

Aww, so sweet. The Japanese. If only we could emulate them. If only we Americans could learn the secret of punching our affection into people, then maybe we’d have fewer enemies and more friends.

o.0 What?

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Fantasy, science fiction and steampunk author Brandon Black is the editor of New Orleans By Gaslight, a first of its kind anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in Victorian-era New Orleans. Brandon is also the web content manager for the Week in Geek, New Orleans’ favourite fantasy and science fiction themed radio talk show, every Saturday at 1 pm CST on WGSO 990 AM. Click here to check out Brandon’s ever-expanding list of published works.


Strange Frame: Love and Sax

 

This is a lesbian animated science fiction film by G. B. Hajim and Shelley Doty, available on Netflix.

The voice actor cast is kinda awesome: Claudia Black, Tara Strong, Ron Glass, Tim Curry, Cree Summer, Claudia Christian, Michael Dorn, Lena Horne (taken from archives), Khary Payton and George Takei. I recommend it on that basis alone.

It’s got some great ideas and interesting animation and despite a couple of “flaws,” I do recommend you check it out. I don’t want to spell out those “flaws” above the SPOILER alert but they really are a matter of perspective, hence the quotes. Anyway, it’s on Netflix, so give a look-see when you get a chance.

SPOILERS

The film is set in the far future after Earth has suffered some disaster and had to be evacuated. Interestingly, this disaster takes place slowly enough for society and capitalism to remain intact. It isn’t the “we can only evacuate Earth’s best and brightest, whoever they are, to the New World.” It’s “We’ll get everyone off in time — but someone has to pay for this.”

So debt slavery and indentured servitude have returned as the price of evacuating Earth has to be paid by individuals and their descendants. People have been genetically modified to better survive in different environments — which is basically an explanation for the art style — people with blue skin, people with green skin, people who look like aliens, etc.

Cleverly — well, maybe not SO clever, since it’s becoming kinda standard — the disaster itself isn’t explained or even named. Whatever would cause Humanity to leave the Earth behind forever but cause them to relocate to Ganymede would have to be pretty strange and particular. I mean, if you can make Ganymede habitable, that far from the sun and with no native breathing air, etc., you’d think you could make underground habitats on Earth survivable for a lot less money.

Right — those “flaws.”

“Flaw” 1: The film is about two musicians who fall in love and the evil record company that separates them and exploits their lead singer, Naia. It’s a music movie. Lots of songs, musical performances, music is used as a metaphor for life and love throughout the film. The problem? If you’re not into the type of music used in the film, then you’re nonplussed about the film. I kept watching because I hadn’t seen an animated lesbian sex/love art science fiction film before but the music was a let down for me because I just didn’t like that kind of music.

“Flaw” 2: “Flaw” 2 is more interesting. The film makes use of a common dynamic — there’s the “ordinary/everyday” girl and the “cool” girl. This dynamic works in Scott Pilgrim — one of my favourite movies – because I’m a straight male and I automatically emphasize with Scott as the guy trying to get the beautiful cool girl, Ramona. But the dynamic fails for me here as both the main characters are women. Given an ordinary Caucasian Everywoman (Parker is I think the only unmodified able human visible in the film) and a cool blue skin WOC (despite her skin colouring, her hair and nose make it clear she isn’t of Caucasian ancestry), I’m going to want to follow the story of the cool blue chick every time. And so I did. My interest was entirely on Naia until she disappeared from the film and when she did and we were left with Parker (even her name is boring), I was tempted to stop watching. It was only because I was watching the story as a writer that I kept going.

There’s a political slant on everything in this film. The basic premise is a population under debt slavery. Riots are nearly universal and continuous. The guards/police are depicted as animalistic thugs but even they have a clueless “used as pawns” vibe to them. The captain of the space ship is disabled, he’s lost his legs and uses a hover-chair. Even the ship’s AI has a sad story to tell in that she used to be a “Val,” a type of android, but then there was a backlash against sentient machines called the mechocide pogrom and the Vals were hunted down and destroyed. She’s perhaps the last of her kind and her artificial brain has been wired into the ship to serve as the ship’s AI. She retains her spite and her loathing of organics however, and at one point even tries to kill one of the main characters so she can take control of the ship.

There’s a real “dark age” feel to this film which didn’t always work for me. The whole “building a ship from salvaged parts we can’t build any more” worked beautifully. I loved that. But the “they don’t make this type of booze any more — you’ll never taste this again” thing didn’t reach me at all. I was totally like “well let’s get on making some more of that cool booze.” When they tried to extend the “people use reclaimed things from Old Earth which have become precious” thing to a SAXOPHONE — I was like what the hell? I’ll buy we can’t make top of the line plasma coils or hyperspanners or AI cores — but we can’t make a brand new saxophone? That’s some bullshit. If we can maintain spaceships, we can build saxophones. It might be valuable because it’s old but unless it was of extremely high quality, which I doubt since no one ever tried to steal it, it’s just a saxophone and we can make more — easily.

What’s funny is that there’s no attempt at all to bring down the record company or bring their crimes to light publicly. Naia is rescued, her android duplicate is destroyed and the “death” made public so the company doesn’t go looking for Naia but that’s it. The producer who kidnapped Naia and kept her in a coma while an android copy of her was used to make songs and entertain millions for profit is barely inconvenienced at the end of the film. His car was used for the getaway and they hacked it using his ident codes so he’s brought in for questioning. But this is a rich, powerful man and he’s very well connected with both the record company and rich, powerful high society friends and well-wishers. When he says the words “my car was stolen,” the whole thing is going to go away. Hell, if when he figured out his car was taken, he had the sense to report it stolen, it’ll go away instantly — so the last scene of him being put into a police car to be taken for questioning isn’t very satisfying.

The only real flaw of the film is the ending. After having gone through hell and high water to get Naia back, the film ends with Naia opening her eyes from her drug-induced coma, the screen going black, and a few lines of dialogue. There’s no one, saying “You came for me!! You came for me!!” and “I love you — I’d always come for you, baby!” No crash of bodies running together to rising, swelling music. No real emotional payoff at all — from a film that purports to be about how important the need for love is and how great it is and what you’ll do to get it back once it’s been taken from you, etc. Although I am prepared to posit that “You came for me” and “rising, swelling” music might just be part of my masculine perspective…

The bad guy is left alive and probably completely unharmed at the end of this film. In comparison, take The Running Man, Death Race and Demolition Man. Is it a masculine perspective thing that the System/villain has to be taken down, violently, in some way for there to be an emotionally satisfying ending? Do we need that big orgasmic explosion at the end or it just isn’t worthwhile? This film ends with Parker and Naia together and no one’s looking for them, the end. There’s nothing showy at all. They’ve got their love, they’ve got each other. That’s it. They don’t even say “I love you” at the end. Is that a feminist thing? A feminine thing?

 


Joe Haldeman’s Robot Jox

Just finished re-watching an old scifi movie, Robot Jox. Apparently, the script was written by Joe Haldeman. It’s always fascinating to go back and look at older science fiction to see what people got right and what people got wrong in their guesses about the future. For example, Robot Jox has people wearing masks because of pollution, something that’s occured in China, Japan and elsewhere I’d guess but despite envisioning flying cars with remote controls and giant robots battling in space, still has land line telephones.

What I really noticed was that despite all this technology, Joe pictured a world that still had racism and sexism. I can hear someone saying right now “well that’s just realistic” but I don’t think it’s realistic as depicted in the film. Tex calls Matsumodo a “Jap.” Now, unless there’s been a second war in the Pacific between the United States — excuse me, the Market — and Japan, using a term like “Jap” just seems like a horrible anachronism. But then, so does having the chief engineer of the giant robot be Japanese in the first place. I can only assume that Matsumodo is in fact Japanese and not a Japanese-American because otherwise, it would make calling him a “Jap” even more inexplicable.

The sexism is even more noticeable. The naturally bred robot jocks are being phased out in favor of genetically engineered combatants, one of whom is female. When the possibility — the possibility mind you, of the lone female candidate being chosen to actually fight is brought up, Tex says she has no chance of being selected. When she succeeds in the trials and outperforms her brothers and is chosen to fight, it’s mentioned that she’s the first woman in history to fight as a robot jock. This despite the fact that the whole robot jock thing is based off of the astronaut/cosmonaut US/Russia Space Race rivalry and the communists had NO problem putting women into space long before the Americans. The communists are called the Confederation now.

Both comments come from Tex and so I suppose the argument could be made that he’s just an asshole but no one corrects him or comments. It’s 2014 and we don’t have flying remote controlled cars or flying battle robots and I think someone publicly making comments like that would be noticed and it would be commented on. But then, we’ve got cellphones too.

Now that I think of it, the whole Space Race thing is a bit of an anachronism too — I mean, he deliberately models the future off of how things were done in the past. This is a movie from the eighties after all. Why use the Space Race as your model at all?


New Orleans By Gaslight Book Signing/Release Party

Book Signing/Release Party for New Orleans By Gaslight
Tuesday, October 15th, 7 pm. East Bank Jefferson Parish Library
4747 West Napoleon Avenue, Metairie, Louisiana

You are cordially invited to the book signing and release party for New Orleans By Gaslight, the first locally produced and locally written anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in the city of New Orleans.

https://www.facebook.com/events/636681846350315/?ref_dashboard_filter=calendar