The New Year – 2016

 

Blog Segment - Peeking Through The Window copyYou know, typically, I’m not big on the whole New Year’s Resolutions thing. It has always felt a little bit weird to me to have a specific time of the year to say “Things are going to be different, now!” when that’s generally the sort of thing that I would assume we should be ready to do, and be serious about, on any given day. If anything, having a national holiday (kinda) for it makes me realize all the more how bad I am at keeping “resolutions.” Despite this, I find myself here about to write down a little bit of a wrap up for last year, and a look ahead to this one, with a little of resolve for solutions thrown in the mix. So let’s get started.

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Mass Effect 3 – The Review, The Endings, The Controversy


Hello, everybody! I know there are some of you out there who are really looking forward to the next post of the “New Canon” series, but there are some minor hurdles that need to be dealt with before we can post it. Not to worry, though! It’s day will come.

Until then, however, I can’t just let the blog lie fallow, and I have a topic of some interest to me I want to discuss. So let’s get to it, shall we?

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Just the other day I finished up Mass Effect 3. If you want to know my full and detailed feelings about the game, just click on over to my Review. It will come as little surprise that I loved the game immensely. However, on top of all the amazing experiences and emotions that game gave me, there is some sour as well. That sourness, the ending, is what I wish to discuss today. As much as anything else, this post is partially to sort out my feelings about the ending, as well as parse my thoughts on the surrounding controversy, the petitions, the “indoctrination theory,” all of it.

For those of you who think I’m going to be all rage and nonsense, I assure you that there are things I feel the ending did well. For those of you who think the ending is blameless…. Actually I really want to hear from you because I only hear from the ragers (this IS the internet), and I want your perspective too.

Oh, and it should be obvious by now, but there are going to be major spoilers incoming, so don’t read on if you don’t want to know ahead of time. Play it and come back. The discussion might help more people deal with it besides just me. At least that is my hope. So…

**********************SPOILER WARNING**********************


(Before we start, here are some details about my playthrough that my help contextualize the following material, though I will talk about all possible “Best” Endings – I played a Female Shepherd Paragon who only did Renegade Actions to save the lives of friends and innocents. My Shepherd romanced Liara and chose the “Synthesis” ending.)

I think it’s important to start out by talking about what the ending did well. Partially to remind myself that I do, in fact, love this game despite what I’m going to get into later.

The sacrificial element was well done. Beautiful even. The entire game talks about the costs of war, the price of peace, and the sacrifices and lives it takes to get through it all. Shepherd’s sacrifice to either control the reapers, or synthesize all organic and synthetic life was moving to me. I was literally in tears over it. If there was anyone who deserved that retirement, that joy in victory and life at the end of the game, it was my Shepherd. And she would never get it. The thought of all of Shepherds friends living on without her was heartbreaking, especially in Liara’s case (Shepherd will never get to see all the little blue children!).

Shepherd’s sacrifice was also built up to well, if a tad obviously. The growing sense of dread, desperation, and despair combined with the talks with all of her past crew-mates that felt very much like last good-byes, all pointed to a conclusion that wouldn’t see Shepherd alive on the other side. In this respect, at least, it seems like the developers were trying to bring closure to Shepherd’s story. You say your last good-byes and then go save he universe by sacrificing yourself. These little moments with her friends were touching to me.

Of all the endings, I feel that the best ending was the “Synthesis” ending. I’ll get into some of the specifics later, but part of the reason for me was that it touched on three things that I always like to see. First of all, I’m a sucker for stories about the plight of true AI. The idea of this new creation finding life and love, and yet being feared and despised because it isn’t a “real person” is always a touching story for me (I don’t know why, it just is). I also love things that tickle my imagination with the possibilities of a new and different future. And the last is the successful union of love over boundaries that might seem insurmountable. All of these things were addressed in the Synthesis ending.

Specifically, EDI and Joker are able to actually share a future together. In the simple “Control” ending, EDI and Joker, despite their relationship and survival, are still distant and separated by the boundaries of artificial life and the difficulty, no, impossibility of emotion. In the “Destroy” Ending, EDI isn’t even alive anymore. But in “Synthesis” there’s that magical moment when you see Joker’s glowing green irises and realize that Joker’s DNA has been rewritten into a new form of life. The synthesis of synthetic and organic. And then EDI emerges from the Normandy and immediately you can read the emotion on her face. Joker extends his hand to her with a smile and helps her out of the ship. They both shimmer with the newness of their beings, and they embrace lovingly on this garden planet.

Seeing EDI overcome the limitations of her synthetic design, to carry emotion, was a beautiful sight. Seeing Joker up and moving around (I think he may already be healing from his disease) and embracing EDI… well, If there was any one thing I enjoyed more about the ending, I don’t know what it is. And of course I want to know what the combination of these two forms of life mean for the Universe. How does this change things? I could speculate, but that isn’t what this post is for, and the possibilities are endless.
"Yeah, a synthetic/organic relationship. Whatcha gonna do bout it?"
Those are the things I like and love about the ending. Other things, not so much. Before I get into them, I think I should point you over to my Post on the Rough Writer’s Blog where I analyze the ending from the perspective of a writer and what I think went wrong from a technical point of view. I think that discussion really influences all of this, but I understand if some don’t want to go into the writer’s element specifically.

The most obvious problem from the endings, and I do want to emphasize that this affects all of them, is the lack of closure. The “good-bye” chats with the various crew members were good. No question. But they are a sad excuse for closure. I don’t know what happened to any of those people after the fight with the Reapers. None of them. I don’t even have hints to go off of. I don’t know what happened to the galaxy fleet. I don’t know what happened to all those people, or Admiral Hacket – Hell, I don’t even know what happened to Earth! I mean, I assume they survived and rebuilt, but I have little to base that off of. There are exactly three people I KNOW survived. Joker, EDI and Liara. But I’m left with questions there too.

It seems like they crash landed on some sort of alien garden world, so… How do they get off? I don’t think the Normandy is fast enough to get to another planet ahead of that green wave of energy, so that means they did a Mass Effect Relay jump trying to escape. In that case, doesn’t that mean they are stranded? All of the relays were destroyed by the energy. So are they stuck? Forever? Nobody is likely to get to them any time soon. And if you want closure, at the very least, on your Romance choice (assuming they didn’t die earlier in the game) well, you’re screwed. The only reason I know Liara survived was because she climbed out of the Normandy after EDI. Assuming they do get off the planet they are apparently stranded on, what happens to her? Does she ever have any little blue children from that one beautiful night with Shepherd before the last mission?

There are so many questions. What happens to the rest of the galaxy? What happens now that everyone is cut off from everybody else due to the loss of Mass Effect Relays? Where are the Reapers going now, anyway?

The idea that the Normandy crew is stranded, and what happened to Liara, are my biggest issues with the lack of clarity. A lot of the other things don’t have to be explained. It is important as a writer to hold some things back to keep the audience invested in the world long after the end. But these are gaping black holes of depression that need to be filled. If we don’t assume that they are somehow magically saved, the Normandy crew are doomed to a life of isolation and starvation in at least a portion of the crew.

But those are just the obvious issues. Then you get into the plot holes.

How exactly was Liara able to get back on the Normandy when she was down on Earth with me during the final push? Why didn’t the destroyed Mass Effect Relays destroy all life in the galaxy (It’s been established that blowing one up destroys all life in a system)? Why did the pistol have unlimited ammo just before Shepherd went up in the beam to the Citadel? Why was the citadel so different from how they remembered it? How did the Illusive Man get there too? How was Shepherd able to breathe when he was with the Catalyst? Why did the Catalyst look like the little boy who died on Earth at the start of the game?

Let me make something clear before I continue. I have no real issue with “Space Magic” or “handwavium,” or whatever you want to call it. Hard Science Fiction is cool and all, but I prefer good drama to good science. So I don’t consider the “Synthesis” option’s impossible science (as far as we know) to be a plot hole. Same with the “Control” option’s ability to maker the Reapers just sort of fly away. The “Destroy” option, however, is problematic.

In the “Destroy” option, why does the Crucible destroy all synthetic life? How would it not also destroy all technology if it was that far reaching? If so, doesn’t this option reduce everyone to the bronze age again? Furthermore, it implies that Shepherd is still alive somehow. Since we witness the destruction of the Citadel, and it looks like Shepherd is on Earth, how does she survive the fall through the Earth’s atmosphere? She’s not Master Chief, and even if she rode some piece of the citadel through the atmosphere, the crash at the ground would surely have killed her. If some part of the citadel survived and was floating in space, assuming she somehow has atmosphere, doesn’t she now die a slow death there? Remember that the “Destroy” option has eliminated technology, so how is anyone supposed to get to her?

So, now that I’ve finished the game, and there are all of these unresolved issues, I find myself aghast that I have to ask the question: “Did I win?”

I mean, I saw the credits. There was even a bland after-the-credits sequence that rubs the fact that what happened was fiction in my face (another issue), but I still don’t know if I actually won anything. As far as I know, everyone died. Most died fighting the Reapers, some died stranded on a planet, For all I know, Earth is stuck in the bronze age with the remains of a galaxy fleet falling from the sky, and Shepherd died, for what?

Did. I. Win. I’m shocked that I don’t know the answer at the end of the game. Everything I love about the ending is possibly invalidated by this singular problem. Did I win? Was there any way to win? Was the whole point from the developers to say that no matter what, Shepherd loses? I don’t know. And looking over everything, this is why I still feel so upset. Why so many people are upset.

This of course is the source of the “Indoctrination Theory” that has sprung up in response. What this theory states, is that the end of Mass Effect 3 was an indoctrination dream. The scene in the “Destroy” ending when Shepherd appears to wake up, actually happened right after getting shot by the Reaper (Harbringer, by the way) before going up the beam to the Citadel. Everything between getting shot and waking up in that ending was a dream sequence.

What shocks me most is how much this makes sense. A lot of the plot holes of the ending are explained by this. The dream-like walk to the beam. The way Anderson is always miraculously slightly ahead of you in the Citadel. The whispers. The appearance of the Catalyst as the boy from the beginning of the game. The sudden switch of priorities from killing the Reapers to letting them live. A lot of the “space magic” plays into this too. If you want to read or watch good analysis of why this might be real, a quick google search will reveal the best laid conspiracy theories about it.

I find it sad that this ending is the most compelling to me. It’s probably more sad that I hope it’s true. The mere prospect of DLC that actually does a better job of ending the series has me salivating. Here, Bioware, take my money! But if this were true, it would be a lousy move on the part of the Developer. Ending the game with a “fake” cluster of endings is like pulling a prank on your customers. And DLC won’t save people without internet access, immediately solidifying a large portion of the player base away from any sort of closure. If this is true, and was planned, then it was a really crappy move.

But that’s why I think there’s no way the theory is correct. I simply think the writers at Boware made some dumb choices and mistakes. It happens. Writers screw up. Believing the Indoctrination theory is reading too much into it.

So we’re stuck with the endings we have, flaws in all. Or are we? Right now there are petitions going on, and organized movements to plead with Bioware to change the endings by providing DLC revisions. Initially I thought these efforts were stupid and misguided. Trying to get a company to change its product through a petition? Silly. What right do these people have to ask for something like this?

But I looked into it further and I’ve changed rather drastically on the issue. First of all, after examining the endings closely, there is no doubt that the fans are right to feel betrayed by them. This Article from GameFront examines why, and talks about many of the same things I’ve mentioned here. Furthermore, the petition isn’t just a bunch of ragers and entitled kids. The petition they’ve begun is also a drive for charity. You can read up on them in this Forum Post and see their progress (over 23k raised as of this writing) Here. I’m so impressed at the level of respect and dedication of the group that I donated a bit myself. Even if nothing is ever done, at least the children get helped out.

Do I think it’ll work? No. Not really. But I think there is one way I might get something out of it. There might be some way for one of the future DLC packs to at least have some kind of “Afterwards.” Something that shows that Shepherd’s choices throughout the game mattered. That people were actually saved. That the Normandy crew was rescued. That Shepherd won.

I cannot express how badly I want this.

Now as for whether Bioware “has to change it” or not – No. Of course they don’t “have to.” Even with its heavy flaws, it is their game, and they don’t have to do anything. But should they? I think so. Their audience has put substantial investment in this series. Not just emotional, though certainly that, but financial as well. These are the people who have gone out and bought it day one. These are the people who buy the merchandise. These are the people who tell their friends, their family, heck probably even their enemies and complete strangers to go and buy this game.

Does Bioware “Owe” this player base something? This is a question whose answer relies on your view of the relationship between the customer and the producer, or the recipient and the artist, or, as I talk about at the Rough Writer’s Blog, the audience and the writer.

The fact is, the process is a two-way street. The customer gives up money in exchange of a product that will keep its promises as advertised. This is easy to discern in a physical product. A toaster that doesn’t toast is a breech of that contract between buyer and maker. A disc that doesn’t play music is a breech between a production company and the listener. The path forward is clear. The producer, the maker, must make amends.
Let's all dream together. ... Of what might be...
When it comes to the more abstract promises, however, in terms of story or quality, things become dicier. There is no question that Bioware broke the promises of its story, but these are abstract promises. So should they “Owe” their audience for it? Should they make amends?

I say “yes.” And the reason why I say so is because that the demand of the maker, the publisher, the producer is in itself becoming more abstract. They demand more than money. They demand mindshare. They demand control over the products they sell. They demand strict DRM and invade the social space of our lives. If companies are allowed to make abstract demands on their audience, then the same may be demanded the other way.

Of course, the demands both ways, being abstract, also mean that there are no legal demands that may be made. Bioware doesn’t have to do anything. They probably should do something, but “have to” goes too far.

For one additional look at the problems of the ending in video commentary format, here’s a guy who puts the heart of the matter in a very concise and clear way:

Now, since the reader is asked to fill in so many of the blanks. I figured I might as well give you my personal rosy and cheery ending, in which I filled in a number of holes according to my own preferences.

It may not be right, but it helps me sleep at night.
Ahem…

When Shepherd Sacrificed herself to synthesize synthetic and organic life, the process evolved life to a higher plane of existence. The basic necessities of life are minimal for these new heavenly beings. While they can enjoy food and water and such, they no longer require it. The Normandy crew, now being immortals are eventually rescued. And go on to live happy lives. Liara has a daughter whom she raises on the stories of her other mother, Nova Shepherd (my Shepherd). The combined galaxy fleet begin the long FTL flight home, but are able to make it within the next few decades with little issues due to their new immortal state. Living as elevated beings, they continue to get along in peace and harmony FOREVER.

SO THERE!

The fact that I have to say this to myself to make the ending bearable says something, I think (and not just about me, to all you smart alecks.)

Here’s hoping Bioware listens.

Edward L. Cheever II

P.S. To those of you who think I may be too down on Mass Effect 3, keep in mind that I love the game until the final 10 minutes. It’s one of the best series of all time, in any medium. I love Mass Effect. Please go read My Review to find out.

A Continuing Series: The New Canon – Fantasy Part 2

Edward: “Hello everyone! We’re back! If you missed the first entry in this series you can find it right Here. Now um… where were we?”

Scott: “Oh yes, our hopefuls. These are a few of the books that we’ve admired over the years, but doubt they’ll meet the cut.

Edward: “Yes indeed. This is our time to name works that sit in the Canon of our hearts, though not, perhaps, one day in the Literary Canon as a whole.

My first pick is easy –

Edward’s Pick That We Aren’t Holding Our Breath For #1:

Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces Cover Art
“Don’t get me wrong, I think that Till We Have Faces is easily of a high enough quality to be considered for the Canon. Lewis’ fantasy work, a new take on the story of Eros and Psyche through the eyes of Psyche’s sister (a character compiled from Psyche’s sisters in the original tale), is Lewis’ best fictional work. It is a masterpiece of storytelling, with compelling and strong, but deeply flawed, female characters that is a must read for any fan of fantasy, Greek myth, or C.S. Lewis. What will ultimately keep this choice from entry into the Canon is its obscurity. You never hear it mentioned whenever anyone talks about Lewis and his work, and that is an utter shame. I do not know how many can lay claim to having read it, but I assure you, it is not nearly enough.

“Now I’m intrigued, Scott. What is your choice going to be?”

Scott: “I truly haven’t read your first choice, but this back-and-forth has given me a lot of great recommendations.”

Edward: “Good recommendations are half the fun of lists like these!”

Scott: “And here is mine:”

Scott’s Pick That We Aren’t Holding Our Breath For #1:


The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett

NightWatch Cover Art
Scott: “The Discworld series is a vast collection of books written about a world laced with myth, legend, and fun all rolled into one. Personally, I’d love to see these wonderful books in the canon, especially Nightwatch, which is a personal favorite of mine. Pratchett is really able to not only access a large variety of myths: trolls, dwarves, ogres, vampires, zombies, Egypt, and really anything you can think of. However, he stacks them together in a world where myth meets the day to day life of cities and there aren’t enough hills for mad scientists to build castles. One of the reasons I doubt this will be added is because of its humor, it is masterfully done, but the canon tends not to lean towards the comic.”

Edward: “Another tragedy, in my book, Scott; I completely agree that it faces a steep climb to Canon-hood. It’s strange for a Canon that includes such humorous entries as Gulliver’s Travels and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to snub modern humor. Another unfortunate sign of the Canon’s dwindling relevance.

“My second pick was hard, deciding between my final choice and The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss (which I ultimately decided against because I think it does have a shot at Canon-hood.)

Edward’s Pick That We Aren’t Holding Our Breath For #2:

The Mistborn Trilogy, by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn Trilogy Cover Art
“The Mistborn trilogy is excellent in a number of ways. First is its impeccable world building. Sanderson knows how to create a unique and immediately identifiable landscape, culture and mythos, not to mention a very inventive magical system that is as tactically interesting as it is cinematically described. Secondly, it has very well drawn characters that, while occasionally bordering on stereotypes, land more firmly on the archetype side of the fence, with the important characters especially going through interesting growth and changes. Thirdly, Sanderson does a marvelous job of undercutting some of the foundations of the fantasy genre. One of the major influences on the story was the simple question, “What if the hero lost?” This sets up a fascinating plot that is unique in the genre.

“What will keep this out of the Canon is ultimately the fact that as interesting as the series is, it doesn’t have nearly the impact or weight of the heavy-hitters in the genre, and outside of some interesting musings on religion, it has little commentary or importance outside of itself. The events and plot are great, but they also feel somewhat remote from the reader, and don’t have much relevance in real life. This is not a knock at the story’s quality, but it is a problem when it comes to inclusion in the Canon.”

Scott: “Sanderson has been truly impressive with the additions to the Wheel of Time, but I personally haven’t read the Mistborn trilogy. Even though these books aren’t exactly our primary choices for the canon, they are all fantastic books with many others out there.”

Scott’s Pick That We Aren’t Holding Our Breath For #2:

The Crown of Stars, by Kate Elliot
The Crown of Stars Cover Art
“Elliot’s series examines a world reminiscent of our dark ages; a land controlled by religious paranoia and the fear of war with an unknown force. Though this work will not be familiar to a large group, Elliot’s introduction of magic into a medieval world makes it a highly philosophical series, but not without a dramatic story of war and feudal honor. Those with historical training will be able to understand the full extent in which the series mimics the Church’s overwhelming influence over Europe. Unfortunately, I doubt it’s inclusion in the canon because, although Elliot creates a vivid and complex world, the story sometimes becomes bogged down with too much complexity and extensive description. Even so, I would recommend this as this has been one of my favorite fantasy series.”

Edward: “Yeah, that’s another one that I’ve never really heard of before. The middle ages have been a source for fantasy inspiration for a long time, and the politics of the Catholic Church is full of material for plots and world scenarios. It’s always good to see it when somebody does it right.

“Well, I’m sure we could go on and on about specific works in the Fantasy Genre, but it’s time we turned our gaze elsewhere. To the stars!

“… Next time!”

A Continuing Series: The New Canon – Fantasy

Welcome, friends! Today we’re doing something a bit out of the norm. The bloggers of EdwardCheever.Wordpress.com and NeuroReverb.Wordpress.com have joined forces to have a special discussion about the future direction of the English Literary Canon. This post will go up on both sites, which we recommend you visit in the future. 🙂

Edward: “Alright, shifting out of the “We” business, let me get to the heart of the matter. This will be something of a conversational blog post in which Scott and I talk about the future of the English Canon. Now, to put things into perspective, we’ve already talked a bit about this. Modern inclusions into the Canon are growing thin and wane. Yes, you get your DeLillos and Pynchons in there, but two or three major Literary I-Just-Saw-Them-Mentioned-On-Double-Jeapordy authors since the 60s? Them is slim pickins’.

“The Canon is many things to may people. To some, it is the definitive list of “good and respectable” writing in the English language. To some, it is a list of the works which have had the broadest impact on culture. To others, it represents the jewels amongst the muck. To some, it represents the finest examples of wordcraft. To others, it is a list of the greatest stories ever told. To some, it is an arbitrary list created by elitists in the polished halls of expensive Universities. To others, it is a guideline for teachable materials. To still others, it’s that list of English reading homework that they never did exactly get around to, ‘You know… I was kinda busy that night, and…’

“No matter what your personal feelings about the Canon are, in practice it is the definition of “artistic merit” and “high culture.” So when works we feel need to be added to the Canon are pushed aside as rubbish, well it rubs some of us the wrong way. This hard-nosed, elitist and close-minded feel to the Canon has, along with various other factors, led to the disintegration of the relevance and vitality of the Canon, starting as early as the post World War II generation and before. That is why Scott and I think that the only way, the natural way, for this to change is for those in charge of the Canon (so to speak) to get over themselves and seriously consider the inclusion of excellent representatives of Genre Fiction. Take it away Scott!”

Scott: “Thanks Ed.
“The literary canon for the past century has had many representations of what people believe to be ‘Great Literature’, but what I’ve primarily seen in the canon are books that represent cultural ideas and beliefs of the day. If there’s one thing that has blossomed in the 21st century it is Genre Fiction. I think we have some biases in the literary world against anything sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or graphic novel related. However, the thinking is beginning to shift.

“Genres have become a large part of the literary market. Fiction has become an overall classification for the many different genres, as many of the books being published are a part of these genres. Without Genre fiction, we will miss out on a lot of the great literature that should be recognized.

“While content is of primary importance, medium can make a difference in the way a work is received. Graphic novels are beginning to deal with more than just the simple superheroics of the Biff-Boom-Pow! variety, and are beginning to deal with lasting issues. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi, deals with modern issues and has become a new medium for great works. I’m sure Ed has some Graphic Novels he’d like to talk about too.”

Edward: “Absolutely, Scott! But we’ll get around to Graphic Novels later, (we may even have to save it for a “Part 2” if this gets too long). Let’s start with what kicked off this discussion, my pick for our first Genre.”

Fantasy:
“Fantasy is one of the oldest genres, with close ties to the English Canon going back throughout the history of English lit. Classic novels and poems like Beowulf, The Faerie Queen, or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight have made an indelible mark on the Canon. This is why it stumps me that starting around the turn of the century Fantasy has been relegated to the rubbish heap as far as the Canon is concerned. It is probably connected with the gritty realism of the Modernist and Postmodernist periods and the rise of suburban lit like that of my relative John Cheever. Either way, this gap has gone on too long, and it is already being closed by my first choice for Fantasy works of this last century to make it into the Canon.”

Edward’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #1:

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Lord of the Rings Cover Art
“Sorry I took the easiest one on the list, Scott. But I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that no work of Fantasy in the past century is as immediately obvious in its inclusion to the English Canon as the monumental work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Even if we were judging by mere impact alone, we would have to include LotR, which is the father of the modern Fantasy genre and still remains the standard by which all other works in the field are judged. But impact is not at all the end of what Tolkien’s work offers. It is a work of terrific scope and impeccable writing skill. It is a story with character and implications that are as applicable to the human condition as anything in the Canon. What Tolkien accomplished is not some throwaway novelty of a fad, it is a work of art, and its why we’re having this conversation in the first place. Wouldn’t you agree Scott?”

Scott: “I’d agree. Fantasy is one of the oldest Genres and LotR definitely takes a prominent place in the new canon. Tolkien links the old fantasy to the new. It represents some of the timeless characteristics of great literature. Well Ed, I have to agree with your first choice. However, there is another book series which may become influential in the Canon. My choice for fantasy is a difficult one, as some of my favorites tend to stray into other territory. With the Fantasy genre in mind there is one pick that stands out to me:

Scott’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #1:

The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan
Eye of the World Cover Art
“Though this series hasn’t gained as much literary fame as Tolkien, I believe that Jordan has been tremendously influential in the fantasy world. I believe you are a fellow fan of this series, just as I am of Tolkien. I balanced my first and second choice for this genre against two considerations: impact on literature versus reflection of society. I choose The Wheel of Time as my first consideration for the canon because of the tremendous impact it has had on much of the other literature in the field, just as Tolkien has. I believe Tolkien and Jordan are both excellent examples, but I’m curious as to your second choice. Do you think it’s more difficult to place a first or second choice in this genre?”

Edward: “The Wheel of Time is definitely a pick that plays a tune I’d dance to, my friend. But Robert Jordan has been criticized for many perceived flaws in his writing, whether it is his penchant for drawn out description scenes, his complex political plot-lines or his portrayals of women, he is a controversial figure.”

Scott: ”Indeed, Jordan may have some detractors; however, there aren’t many figures in the established canon that haven’t had their flaws pointed out.”

Edward: “I absolutely agree. And in my book, Jordan is a master of world building and characterization which cannot be adequately denied. Not only that, but though he is criticized for the ways he tackles certain topics such as gender roles, he has had the bravery to do so in a genre that for many years enforced old-fashioned viewpoints. Add on to that the fact that, as you’ve said, he has had a large impact on modern fantasy and I’d say that he is ripe for entry into the Canon.

“As for which choice is harder, well I’d say it’s probably the second pick. The Lord of the Rings and the Wheel of Time are easy choices, but it’s when you have to sort out the rest that things get complicated. For instance, George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series was really tempting. Nevertheless, I still had little trouble choosing my number two for this category:

Edward’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #2:

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
American Gods Cover art
“Neil Gaiman is a name you won’t see the last of in this post of ours, and for a very good reason. Some authors put out one or two great works and that is all they are known for, and then there are some authors that put out work after work of absolute quality. Gaiman is fully one of the latter. What was hard about this choice wasn’t whether or not a Neil Gaiman work should be chosen, but rather which of his works I should choose. In the end, though, no matter how much I adored Neverwhere, the writing skill and the vision of so thoroughly mixing modern Americana with old world gods, all covering an interesting critique of American culture and themes of where the past and present meet and conflict… well, let’s just say it was a shoe-in.”

Scott: “The first time I read American Gods at your recommendation, I was thrown off somewhat by the style of the writing; however, as the book progressed I really began to appreciate the detail and subtly that went into making the characters. I am personally a huge fan of mythological tales especially those of the far north and Gaiman’s research was not lost on me.”

“For my second pick, I lean towards the reflection-of-society aspect of literature. This second series is not nearly as well know as my first choice (or either of Ed picks) but I consider the message as a look into not only American culture, but western thought:

Scott’s Prediction for Canon Inclusion #2:

The Soldier Son Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
Soldier Son Trilogy Cover Art
“Robin Hobbs is better known for her Farseer books than for her most recent books. However, many of the summaries of this series don’t do it justice. Though the work appears more post-colonial, it represents a backlash of the “ideal” and well written commentary on western thought. But before I frighten people away with too much literary jargon, this series is an a excellent read for both critics and for fantasy enthusiasts.”

Edward: “I’m ashamed to admit it, but I am not familiar with Mrs. Hobbs’ work. Your recommendation intrigues me, though. I’ll have to check that one out.”

Scott: “That’s perfectly alright Ed, I hope you give it a look sometime. Hobbs’ work is still somewhat buried under a few of the larger names and we both know that it’s hard getting to all of them. Well Ed, I think that wraps up our predictions for the fantasy genre’s entries to the canon, but I know there are a few books that both of us would like to see in the canon that probably won’t make it in, our personal favorites besides the big ones.”

Edward: “That’s absolutely correct. Both Scott and I here are genre literature enthusiasts, as you no doubt can tell, but despite the occasional “fan-boy” tendencies we may both have, we are not deluding ourselves into thinking that all of our favorites will make it into the Canon. To that end, we’re including a sort of Honorable Mentions category…

Scott: “Wait a second, Ed. This is getting entirely too long for one post. How about we call it a night and continue next week?”

Edward: “Oh, wow, you’re right. Look at that clock!” *stares at clock his readers can’t see* “I agree. Let’s pick this back up again next week.”

Signing off for the night: Edward and Scott. See you next time.

The Demise of the Summer Writing Challenge and the Return of D&D


So. I’ve pretty much completely dropped the ball on the summer writing challenge for the Rough Writers. I mean, sure, I’ve done some writing. I’ve done a lot of writing, when you count everything I do for the paper especially, but not only is it almost certainly not enough to really have pushed be toward the 45,000 word count goal (all the stories are short), but I haven’t been writing on what I’ve really wanted to work on, namely “Jaine” and this blog.

I take some solace in the fact that I now know the ending and plot progression for Jaine, but mostly I’m just mad at myself for not scrounging a little more time to dedicate to writing. There are lots of things I’ve meant to do. I’ve meant to write a blog about the educational bill here in texas. I’ve meant to write reviews for Kung Fu Panda 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean 4, etc. I still plan to, though I’m a bit behind the curve on all counts. But making myself sit down and do it has been an issue lately.

I was told by a friend that working at a paper can suck your life away. What’s interesting is that it has, but not in the way I was expecting. It takes a lot of energy out of my creative and mental processes. The stress and responsibilities involved, while not anything like overwhelming, are enough that when I don’t have work or sleep, I have very little motivation or energy to do anything more strenuous than play video games.

That’s a bit disingenuous, I know. It’s an excuse. It’s something I could learn to cope with. But at the moment, it’s what’s been happening. I work, eat, sleep and play video games with friends.

That’s not to say I’m not shaking things up a bit, or that I don’t have any idea about how to turn this around. The biggest part is learning to budget my game playing time and my sleep time. I’ve made the commitment in the past to a hard bed time hour and it really helped. But, like most things of a scheduled nature, I fell off the bandwagon. But, if I could get back to forcing myself to be in bed by 1 a.m., not getting ready or taking a shower, but actually in bed, then I think my stress levels would ease off, and I would be able to get things done during the day. As it is, I’m barely functioning till about 5 p.m. every day. Being able to wake up and function would help with work, but it’d also help with my writing. when I’m not covering a story I could be jotting down my most recent review, or drafting some dialogue in Jaine.

Of course getting to sleep on time every night is a good start, but actually making myself write stuff is going to be something of a challenge too. As I’ve said, I already do a lot of writing for the paper, and even though I may be very much interested in the stories I would like to tell, the idea of sitting down and typing something out feels like a chore. It always has, but now that it’s associated with work it is doubly so. Why would I spend all day at work typing only to come home and do some more typing? At least that’s how the internal lazy-logic goes.

So Laaaaaaaaazzzzzyyyyy


What’ll be ironic is if I still somehow manage to complete the writing challenge despite this posts’ title.

Eh, but I’ve harped on this for too long, so on to the good news. That being that I’m already cutting back on video game time by getting myself involved in other stuff, namely the return of my D&D game.

Followers of my blog know that I had been running a D&D game with Katie and a couple of friends for a while, and when I mean a couple of friends I mean a “couple” of friends. and so when that “couple” became uncoupled, well it threw a wrench into the semi-weekly game sessions. This was something that we all regretted, as we loved our game, but what could we do, really? And certainly me and Katie weren’t going to try and force them to be around each other while things were bad. So the game went on hiatus for a while. And when I say a while I mean quite a few months. It feels like forever since we’ve last played.

But things are changing. I won’t pretend to know what’s going on between those two friends of mine, but regardless, they’ve managed to hang out together again amicably, and without it getting too weird. Are they getting back together? I have no clue. Are they simply accepting a “just friends” approach? *Shrug* Either way, they both requested that we begin the game up again, so that’s just what I’m doing. I’ve gone over my notes. I’ve gathered up my materials. I’ve built some encounters and drawn some maps, and this monday evening we jump back into the fray.

It has been too long. I can’t wait. ^_^

Time to break out the good ol' dice!


I think I’ve yammered on too long. I’ll leave all the possible blogs and reviews I’ve mentioned above till another time. I hope to start updating more regularly, even if the blog posts start getting really short (as if.) Until next time!

– Edward L. Cheever II

Thor is Hiring Writers in the League of Legends


It has been what feels like ages since I last wrote on my poor lonely blog. Not that I don’t have reasons mind, and I know what you’re thinking, “excuses, excuses…” and you’re right, I should have still found the time to post a tib-bit here or there. Well, here’s to a renewal, eh?

So what exactly have I been up to these past few weeks or so? Mostly, a new job. Yup, folks. I now have a real-world job. I’m still more or less on call for SWAU media, and I hope I’ll have time to help tutor in the Write Spot next semester, but for now I’m working as a staff writer at the Burleson Star, one of the star group newspapers who cover a bunch of cities in north Texas.

I cover the hardest hitting stories, my peeps.


I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the idea of getting out there and getting a real job. I suppose I always had visions of the world being a solidly ugly place where, once you left your comfort zone, you’d be lucky to land a job where everybody just ignored you, and if you were unlucky you were surrounded by incompetent jerks.

Thankfully that is not the case. My boss is great to work with, and doesn’t make me feel like I’m being scrutinized for a deficiency in some vital area, as I have at a job or two on campus. I have some funny coworkers, and while they aren’t the type I really care to hang out with all the time, they’re cool to work with. One guy even helped me find my way around on my first assignment. The only person I feel uncomfortable around in the entire building I don’t see often, and my interaction with him would be minimal anyway (he is way above me in hierarchy, for instance.)

In wind and foul weather!


The work itself is mostly in my wheelhouse. The writing part is more or less easy. Time consuming, sure, but not a challenge. The real challenge comes in attending events. Anybody who knows me off the internet knows I am an introvert around anyone who isn’t a friend of mine (and sometimes I’m introverted around them as well.) So, getting into the reporter mind-set, where you’ve got to sort of be a loud and obnoxious, push-to-the-front type of person, who isn’t afraid to jump into conversations and introduce yourself… well, I find that a tad difficult. I’m managing, of course, but it’s a learning experience.

It seems to require the same mental muscles I exercised when acting as Tartuffe in Tartuffe last year. I’m not sure what that says about the reporting business, or what it says about me. Maybe I don’t want to know? O.o

Aside from that, I’ve been utterly absorbed into League of Legends. and it is times like this when my mental faculties fail me, as I can’t remember if I’ve ever discussed my latest obsession here. Simply put, it’s a free-to-play mostly top-down strategy-like game that is centered around team competition. Each team has a base located in a corner of the map called a Nexus, and that Nexus is connected to a series of three lanes that lead around the map to the enemy’s base. Each team also has three massive towers that guard these lanes, and AI controlled waves of minions that spawn from the nexus and proceed up the lanes. The players control special hero units with special powers and abilities, and the heroes’ jobs are to turn the tide of the battle and push all the way to the opponent’s base and destroy the nexus.

It’s a simple game on the surface, but there are all sorts of nuances that are introduced by the differences between heroes, and the ways that items, purchased within each game, can affect the strengths of a hero. Trust me when I say that a newbie would be eaten alive by anybody of high level. Trying out heroes, and getting your item build just right, not to mention the adrenaline of competitive play, are extremely addicting. This, combined with long game times, means that much of my days are swallowed whole by this game.

I’m hoping to turn this around, however, and bring some balance back to the force by cutting back on my league of legends play so I can get back to reading some books I’ve borrowed, and hopefully even finish Red Dead Redemption (I’ve been stuck in Mexico forever, and yes, there are some striking issues with the storytelling and consistency of John Marston’s character in those sections.)

On top of that, I’ve really got to get my life in order so I can be ready for the Rough Writer’s summer challenge coming up in a few days.

*scribble*scribble*

Starting the 15th of May through the 15th of June all participants are going to try and write 45,000 words, or 1,500 words a day. I haven’t even put any thought into the outline of the rest of Jaine yet. *SIGH* The work is never done.

All in all, life has been pretty pleasant. I’ve even been able to go and see some pretty great movies as of late. In fact, I think I’ll finish today’s post with a link to my latest movie review.

Son of Odin, lightning it up.

This one is for Thor. Go read it, and have a great day, everybody. I’ll try to be back around more often.

– Edward L. Cheever II~

Rough Writers Teach A Thing or Two and The Political Scene Gets a Run Down

Hmmmm so much stuff has happened since my last post, but what to talk about?

Well, schooling is starting up again, although it is far more different than any schooling I have previously encountered. I’m going through the Alternative Certification Program, which will get me certified to teach secondary school in most states. It’s a distance learning program, and so most of my interactions with the material is at my own pace (and thus subject to my own motivational failings – Katie plans to help me with that) and my contact with the actual professors is abridged at best. Those are challenges enough, but perhaps also opportunities. If I jump straight into the work, I could conceivably plow through most of the classes quickly and have very little to worry about after only a few weeks. We’ll see if I can make myself keep it up for prolonged periods of time.

All this alongside my other concerns, of course. I’m still watching my financial situation to see if I will indeed get aid. I should get enough to cover all my expenses, but we shall see. Besides that, I’ve got an article to write for the Southwestern Spirit and my two jobs (one of which doesn’t start until late September, blessedly.)

But perhaps biggest of my concerns outside of my schooling is the Rough Writers. Our group is headed into its third year, and while I haven’t voiced this out loud, I think this is a crucial year for the future of the club. We have everything going for us. We’re now the official club of the English Department and so we have funding and general support. We have freshmen interested in the group. We have T-Shirts in the works. Great stuff. But this is also my last year in which I’ll be an active force. I’ve been there since the beginning, helping the group. I’ll be glad to pass along the torch so to speak, but I’m hoping that the group has staying power outside of what I’ve been putting into it. I don’t want to leave only for it to die on the vine. The group needs new members, and it needs leaders for the future. Here’s hoping that we get both. This year will either make the Rough Writers a permanent facet of the university’s make-up, or see it disappear.

The Shirts Are Looking Spiffy Though


When it comes to the entertainments I’ve been munching lately, I’ve recently finished Mass Effect 2, I’m about to finish Percy Jackson: the Last Olympian, and I’ve written a review of the first season of Penny-Arcade TV, the reality show about the people behind the company/comic-strip of the same name. I might get around to writing a review of Mass Effect 2 and Percy Jackson, but we’ll see. There’s a lot to do.

Commander Shepherd Wouldn't Wait For My Review. He'd Buy The Game Already.

Passing through politics real quick like, I’m just going to state my official opinion on certain matters and leave it at that.

The Ground Zero Mosque:

Because A Coat Factory Two Blocks Away Is Hallowed Ground

They have every right to build it there. I could go into depth on the reasons, but instead I’ll turn you to a variety of sources I think have already said it better: Roger Ebert, Foster Kamer, Bob Cesca and Gladstone at Cracked.com.

Fox News gets front seat in the white house briefing room:

OMG! Front Row Seats! Must Take Pictures! ZOMG!!!

So, basically, this link goes to a story on Fox News which pats itself on the back. Ridiculous. Not news-worthy. And yet it gets commentary on my blog? ……. Oops.

Rod Blagojevich gets away with it:

Cabbage Patch Kids are dabbling in a new 'Axis of Evil' line of dolls.

This travesty against reason is upsetting but probably not unsurprising. I almost would think that mister or miss single-dissenting-voice on the jury walked out with some extra cash in his/her pocket. With any luck we’ll get some more intelligent or less corrupt jurors when this gets its inevitable re-trial.

Medal of Honor let’s players play as the Taliban in the online multiplayer:

A War Of Beards

While it may be tasteless on behalf of EA, I don’t have a major problem with it. They don’t let you do a victory dance on top of pictures of real-life American soldiers or anything.

Well, that’s the run-down for now. Here’s hoping I’m able to get back to regular blogging after things settle down a bit.

– Edward L. Cheever II