Sexism in video games, cosplay, etc

Sexism is a disease; a mental illness with a pronounced component.  In theory, it could be considered a sexually-transmitted mental illness.  It is an inability to recognize an individual as a person, and instead seeing them only as a collection of sexually-desirable elements.

To present this another way, tell me what you see:

Do you see a duck? Or do you see a rabbit?

Now, take a look at this one:

Do you see an impressive costume worn by a beautiful woman dedicated to her craft?  Or do you see large breasts?

In essence, that’s sexism.  Everybody looks the same picture of the highly revered cosplayer Yaya Han.  But some people see a cosplayer at the height of her professional craft.  And some people see large breasts.

One of the great dangers of sexism is how poorly it is understood.  Sexism comes in a lot of forms and a lot of varieties, and manifests itself in many ways.  However, it all boils down to a single question that might as well take the form of an optical illusion: do you see a woman, or do you see boobs?

Men – not just quasi-sexists but also legitimately good and decent men – turn a blind eye to sexism and its resulting debate because they do not understand it.  Most men cannot quite grasp the difference between appreciating beauty – especially sexual beauty – and sheer objectification.  And it is that objectification that is the key to sexism: the reducing a person to a thing, the reducing of an individual to an object to be possessed.

This isn’t about ‘the Disease of Sexism’.  This is about ‘the Cure of Sexism’.  Sexism, viewed as an illness, cannot be treated with a vaccination or any other tangible medicine.  It can only be treated with awareness, acknowledgment, and vocal opposition.  Not from women alone, but from men as well.  A lot of good men are staying quiet in the sexism debate because they don’t well enough understand the situation, or they feel this is a fight between women or bigots.  Or worst of all, they fear they are hypocrites if they decry sexism and still enjoy sex and sexuality.  The thing is, men, you don’t have to trade in your love of sex and sexiness to oppose sexism.  You should just do what one should always do: behave respectfully and speak up when you see wrong being done.

Revenge of the SIxth

This past weekend was May the Fourth, a celebration of geek culture in general and Star Wars in particular.  Most observances were small and subtle, little more than the sharing of memes on Facebook and the like.  Others were a bit more involved (if you don’t get it, don’t worry; you have to be a regular follower of the whole site for it to be funny).

I used to like Star Wars – love it, even.  Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, lightsabers, the Force.  It was really rad.  Even though I identify with Star Trek more than Star Wars, I always enjoyed the Holy Trilogy.  But something has happened to my enjoyment of this franchise, something that has marred and marked this icon of geekery.

The franchise itself.

It seems unfair to dump all my dislike on Episode One and the Prequel Trilogy as a whole, but that’s really where it started.  Episode One was so subpar, so mediocre, it hampered my enjoyment of the franchise as a whole.  And subsequent releases only further distanced me from the series.  Once the entire Prequel Trilogy had been released, I found myself disillusioned with Anakin Skywalker and the efforts of Obi-wan Kenobi.  Darth Vader no longer seemed like an elite and revered warrior; he seemed like an easily manipulated goon.  He stopped being the Big Bad and became Oddjob or Jaws from James Bond.  The reverence and awe I once had for Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith, was completely undermined by what I now knew about Anakin Skywalker.

Obi-Wan Kenobi was ruined in much the same way.  Whereas I’d once thought him to be a noble icon of intelligence and mastery, I now had learned that he was kind of a moron.  He was being actively sought the universe over and he hadn’t even changed his last name?  And was living down the street from the family of the guy he was hiding from?  So much respect was lost.

But the Prequel Trilogy only started it.  In the wake of the Prequel Trilogy came the video games.  Unlike pre-Prequel Trilogy games that expanded on the Original Trilogy (tales of the Rogue Squadron or referenced battles in the movies), these games sought to expand on the mythology.  The result after seeing games like Knights of the Old Republic was to dismiss the entire universe as living in a stagnant death.  The universe in KotOR was almost identical to the one in the Original Trilogy, yet it took place a thousand years prior.  If technology was the same across a millennial gap, then how could one take seriously a political upheaval?  That wouldn’t be news; that would be inevitable.  Seeing the story of KotOR unfold, I suddenly WANTED the Empire to take control because then maybe they could get something done!

And then there was the animated series. While I loved Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars series set between Episodes II and III (which very nearly redeemed the Prequel Trilogy), the current running Star Wars: the Clone Wars series was okay, but was just like the movies it was based from: maybe worth a watch if nothing was on but nothing remarkable.

And it was on this most recent May the Fourth that it occurred to me that I really don’t like Star Wars anymore.  Something I used to really love had been retroactively ruined for me by sequels, video games, and an expanded universe that seemed destined – or even designed at times – to ruin these three films.  I couldn’t recall the last time I talked to anybody about Star Wars that didn’t center on Anakin Skywalker instead of Luke Skywalker.  In some ways, it almost seems like the collective geek culture has just decided that the Original Trilogy never existed, perhaps because to do so would be to admit just how much the franchise has deteriorated.
There was a time when sci-fi was ruled by four stars: Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica.  And looking at the four now, it would seem the light of Star Wars has burned out for at least this fan.

Internet Explorer

I had several dozen other things I wanted to talk about today, but given recent events*, I thought it appropriate to tackle this one.

I use Internet Explorer.  I always have.  I like Google Chrome well enough, but it doesn’t do anything IE doesn’t also do, including crash unexpectedly.  I actively dislike Firefox.  I’ve used Firefox on a variety of computers and it’s never run at anything more than a ponderously slow pace, often at a speed that made me feel like I could get faster processing speeds if I was just yelling ‘10101000100100100010101’ through a Dixie cup on a string.

I’ve been well aware that many people look down on IE users and I generally don’t understand why.  There was a hoax awhile back that IE users were proven to have lower IQs than other browser users and that was kind of funny, especially because of how readily everybody who wasn’t an IE user was to believe it.

I don’t quite know why people dislike Internet Explorer so much.  It’s buggy as all hell, sure, but I’ve never used a browser that wasn’t (including Mac’s own Safari).  I’ve seen IE outperform, and be outperformed by, other browsers but never in such a way that impressed me.  They are all means to an end – exploring the internet – and none of them do it staggeringly better than any of their peers.

To me it comes down to a simple question: why would I bother downloading a product that does the exact same thing as what already came pre-installed on my computer by the people who wrote all the programs I use as well as the operating system I’m using it on?  I’m not an elite computer user.  As a writer, my computer is largely a glorified typewriter and jukebox.  The most demanding website I visit (as far as processing power goes) would probably be Youtube or Facebook; maybe Crunchyroll.  I don’t need a super-elite browser; I just need a browser that works.  And having tried all the common ones, IE worked just as good as any of the others but had the added benefit of being right there when I first turned the computer on.

So Internet Explorer is what I continue to use, and will probably keep using for the foreseeable future.

* – The recent events in question was installing an Adobe update that automatically downloaded Google Chrome. That has had a deleterious effect on my computer and I’ve spent several hours today, performing every computer trick I know, just to remove this one program I never wanted to begin with.

Project Update

Last night, I received the first draft of the cover art for my upcoming book, Rhest for the Wicked.  It’s still in the early stages (thus, no teasers, sorry), but it looks very promising and I think it will pair well with the book itself.

I’m quite anxious to return to print publishing.  As many of my long-time fans can probably attest, I’ve been unable to find a comfortable niche since the Fall of 2009.  Having signed with my new publisher, things are starting to ‘get back on course’ as it were.

And in theory, they’ll get back on course quickly.  After Rhest for the Wicked, several more books should follow in short order.  A cyberpunk lovestory is slated for release in September, while the re-publication of Ghee (my oh-so-infamous gay ninja book) should see release this December or January, and lastly Teach The Sky will be in print for the first time around this time next year.  All these dates are tentative, of course.  Publishing, especially in this day and age – and especially with a small press – is a unique and unpredictable beast.  But with each subsequent book that is released, the process should become hopefully smoother.  And from that experience, hopefully more ambitious projects shall follow.

A lot of people have wondered about Crossworld Saga and if it will see redistribution and the short answer is ‘yes’.  The long answer, unfortunately, is ‘yes…in a while’. Crossworld has been released twice.  And the entire Saga was rewritten as a serial.  But both versions were aborted short of their finale because of industry and professional evolution.  My current publisher is quite interested in seeing the Crossworld Saga back in print, and I am too, but it’s a story I first wrote in 2001 and have largely worked on almost continuously since then.  It’s been developing over more than a decade and, quite simply, I’m not eager to go back to the starting point yet again.  This will be the third time I’ve restarted the Saga, and the fourth time I’ve rewritten Crossworld and it’s just a task that I don’t take lightly.  But it will see print again.  I just want to get a few books down first before I start tilting at that particular windmill.

The publication of the serials remains a big unknown.  Writing the Teach The Sky Continuity online constituted a massive undertaking and transferring that to the printed realm is no small task.  I doubt the entire franchise will see print, but what doesn’t see print will be re-released on here as the story unfolds.

It’s a very exciting time right now, professionally and artistically.  I owe a lot of these opportunities to my publisher and their team whom have given me a chance to return to the print world.  There are a lot of exciting projects in the works, with still more waiting in the wings.  I hope you’re going to enjoy them!

Criminal Inequality

It was brought to my attention over the weekend that Tiger Woods has steadily been one of the most hated athletes in the country, the result of his highly publicized philandering and infidelity in years past.  No problem, I understand.

What I don’t understand is that four slots down on that list is Michael Vick, who pled guilty to brutally executing dogs in the process of running a dog-fighting ring.  I don’t understand how these two charges are even remotely equitable, and the killing of an innumerable number of dogs is the more-forgivable of the two besmirching done to these men’s character.

I can understand people taking a dim view of infidelity, especially in a marriage that involves children.  I know some might debate it even being called a crime, but that’s a personal and ethical matter for debate.  What isn’t up for debate is the lives of dozens of animals being viciously and painfully exterminated because they were poor performers in a vicious underground pitfighting ring.  These two things are not the same.  These two crimes are not even on the same scale.  I’m sure the former Mrs. Woods was hurt by her husband’s actions; I’m not even beginning to question that.  But infidelity and mistrust are a far, far cry from the murder of animals.

Even if you aren’t the most staunch animal-rights activist, you must see the inherent cruelty in what Vick was doing for a protracted period.  And if you can honestly tell me you believe the death of dozens of dogs is less serious and more forgivable than marital indiscretion, then you do not have a heart.

I was truly stunned to learn that the stigma of Wood’s cheating lingers to this day, while the reaction to Vick’s animal cruelty is ‘Are we still talking about that?’.  These two crimes are not even remotely similar and to cast them as such, or Wood’s infidelity as the worse of the two, is simply beyond reasoning.