What The Guild Said to Me about Indies, Fame, and Frittata

The Guild: Season Five is being re-released on the Geek and Sundry YouTube channel. I watched the season on Netflix as soon as it was available, so consider this a Spoiler Alert!! I’ll be discussing aspects of the show that have not aired yet in their new home, so please – watch then read! -aniko

Season Five, like all of The Guild webisodes, spouts clever dialog pertaining to funny scenarios. It is an entertaining, giggle-inducing foray into a gamer convention replete with coffee-scented farts, steampunk, and frittata.  If that’s all Season Five offered, it would be a likable frolic.

Season Five didn’t stop there. Instead, it took on bigger questions. What is the relationship between creator and fan? Do fans have warped perceptions of famous people? Are indies offering unique content that can’t be duplicated by bigger companies, even if they acquire the rights to indie-produced content?

To maintain the fizzy-fun of the show without sacrificing depth, the examination of these questions is incorporated organically into the plot. The Guildees are at a convention, MegaGameORama-Con(!). Baldezz and Vork team up to make money off of Bladezz’s minor celebrity as an internet meme. Zaboo is organizing Seat Savers to help fans get into the sessions they want to see. Tink indulges in cosplay to hide her identity, a fact that turns out to be hugely revealing about her identity. Meanwhile, Clara wanders around with a bad case of “baby-brain,” which results in a hilarious dalliance with corsets and a flying-gondola-blimp-thing. Codex, the narrating protagonist, struggles with an unrequited crush. That’s the light stuff.

The story-within-the-story is a bit heavier. It starts when Codex deeply insults the creator of The Game that brought The Guild together. Here’s a snip:

(These may not be exact quotes; I watched the show twice to catch the phrases, but mistakes are as unavoidable as they are unintentional!)

Codex is playing a sneak-peak trial of the newest version of The Game:

Codex:  “What are they, smokin’ crack crazy?”

Random Guy, Who Turns Out To Be Designer: “The creator oversaw the changes personally.”

Codex: (lots of vitriol about how stupid the changes are)

Random Guy: “I spent hundreds of hours on this, and you spend like two minutes and start to tear it apart.”

The conversation continues, ending with the designer pointing out to Codex that she has “trolled” him to his face. He invites her to create something better, and then leaves. In a later scene, the designer says that it’s hard to take the daily personal attacks. He appreciates some of Codex’s criticism, and incorporates her suggestions in a revision of the game – but even valid criticism can hurt when delivered with the delicacy of a blunderbuss. The creator is a human being, with feelings. Fame is not a shield from negativity.

Season Five goes on to show this is not only true for creators of content, but also for actors portraying content. A side-plot has Vork meeting an actress of whom he is a fan; in fact, he launched her fan club. Vork was crushed when, many years prior to their meeting, the actress chose to leave the show which made her famous. Her explanation is that her character was just a prop in gang-rape scenes, and she no longer wanted a job portraying the character. Vork reacts with near-religious zealotry. The divide between idolatry (Vork’s view) and “just a job” (actress’s view) is quite a deep. The skewed nature of their relationship illustrates the acquisitive tendencies of fans, which encroaches on a sort of ownership-at-distance of another person.

This sets the backdrop for an examination of the distorted perceptions of fans towards the famous. One of my favorite scenes in Season Five is a party full of famous people to which Bladezz wrangles an invitation. In addition to being chock full ‘o guest appearances (Eliza Dushku!), the party scene portrays the huge delta between what a fan perceives and the reality of life for a star. Bladezz critisizes the snack food, and a star replies that he got a great deal on them by buying them in bulk. Bladezz responds with incredulity, “Famous people don’t buy in bulk.” A series of short conversations with different stars results in the progressive dismantling of the myth of fame. Famous people aren’t always partying; they eat healthy food, like spirulina, which is “a party for your colon.” Their houses get leaky roofs, they suffer from eczema, they go to the dog park, and they turn in around nine. Famous people are… human beings! Stars face the same mundane problems that plague everyone. In addition, stars are expected to be a commodity for fans to consume. Once the veneer of misperception is removed, it becomes clear that fame is a nasty side-effect of doing or creating something unique.

When it comes to unique, think indie. This is a premise behind both the main plot in The Guild: Season Five, but also behind the creation of The Guild series itself, which started out as entirely indie produced. The theme of the relationship between creator and fan ties in with the examination of indie vs. corporate because the creators are always people – living, breathing, feeling people. The strain of the false idolatry and subsequent trolling has driven The Game’s designer to consider selling The Game to a big company. In one scene, a representative of the big company cajoles, “No matter what you do, you’re going to be dogged for it. Cash out, man.” The designer says he’ll sleep on it, and leaves the bar. The big company rep pockets money out of the tip jar, a not quite-sly commentary that is seen only in the background of a dimly-lit scene.

Throughout Season Five, there is a running discussion about how The Game, an indie-produced platform, will be ruined by acquisition by a big corporation. The assertion is that making things “glossy” for marketing kills the original spirit of the thing independently created. Codex pleads with the designer, “Look, it’s not easy to do what you do, but no one else can do it.” Isn’t that the essence of any creative endeavor? It has to start with the passion of an individual, or a group of tightly-aligned individuals. It can’t be created by a formula, and one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to either art or entertainment. Season Five could only have made its point stronger if it had a banner somewhere that read, “Yay, Indie!”

Best of all is that the serious issues are chased by a double-shot of laughter. One of my favorite phrases in Season Five is, “pre-owned frittata.” That’s what’s essentially lovely about The Guild: there’s plenty of fun to go along with the thought that it provokes.

My takeaway from Season Five? First, remember that creators are people. Give them your thoughts respectfully and with empathy. Second, remember that what we think is true may not be the reality, and try not to make assumptions about other people, even if they are famous. Third, support an indie!

Watch the Guild

 

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This Woman Can.

If you were on the internet at all in the past two weeks, it would have been hard for you to miss the links to Atlantic’s cover article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All by Anne-Marie Slaughter. The bold claim in the title piqued my curiosity, and I started to read. My unease grew with the page count, mostly because the ‘all’ described in the essay has nothing to do with my life. I don’t want children. I don’t want a high-power job running either a country or a company. I don’t want advanced graduate degrees. I don’t want to need a job that pays me enough to hire a nanny to step in when I’m too busy running whatever it is I’m supposed to want to run. I don’t want Slaughter’s ‘all,’ at all.

I celebrated my thirty-fifth birthday at the end of June. I’m old enough to have had dreams that didn’t come to fruition. Old enough to know that there are hard limits to what can be attained by me, given who I am. Old enough to find joy, rather than despair, in those facts.

I lead a simple life. I like to go to sleep early. I like to stay in at night. I like to eat lunch at a picnic table. I like to walk my dogs. I like to talk with my husband, laugh with him, sit quietly with him. I like having a place to think. I like day dreaming. I like to travel, but not too often, because I love being at home. When people ask me if I’m doing anything exciting on the weekend, I always say no. I don’t need to do something special or ‘exciting’ because I’m fulfilled by what I have. I love the way I spend my days. Not one of these factors was part the ‘all’ described in the Atlantic, but they are each essential to my sense of fulfillment, my sense of ‘all.’

I don’t run a company or country. I don’t even lead a team. If I change the world, it won’t be in the boardroom or public office; it’ll be one human kindness at a time.

I’m not rich, but my bills are paid. I don’t frequent fancy restaurants, but I always have food. I don’t drive a luxury car, but I have a reliable vehicle with working AC. I have a book budget, but with indies producing quality books for reasonable prices, I haven’t even come close to my limit.

Writing is an important part of who I am. It is a huge piece of my ‘all,’ an integral act of devotion to the mystery of being. I could lose almost everything, but if I keep my freedom and ability to write, I will thrive.

Sure, there are always nicer things, fancier places, more ornate houses on less run-down roads. But the boring, simple fact is that I’m happy with the ‘all’ that I have, even if it doesn’t measure up to someone else’s estimation of what ‘all’ includes. This is a powerful, freeing realization.

Aniko Gets Kreativ III:  I can have it all.

I’ve fallen behind in my Kreativ Blogger nominations, but I’m exited to tell you about my newest, wonderful nominee! Jacquelyn Smith is a fantasy author. Her blog , Wayward Scribe, is entertaining, encouraging, and responsive to commenters. Please join me in congratulating Jacquelyn! If you read fantasy, I’m sure she’d be thrilled if you joined The Tribe of the Wayward Scribe to receive newsletters & a free download of one of her stories!

Until next time, jazz hands! xoxo

 

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Summer Solstice in a Small Town

I like to take road trips, and the stranger the destination, the better. I like small towns that literally aren’t on the map. Breaker, Texas is one such town.

In Central Texas, scrubby trees grow up twisted from constant wind. The farther West you go, the hardier the stunted trees – at least, until you get to Breaker. There are no trees within the Breaker city limits, and no other vegetation of any kind: no grassy yards, no prickly pears, not even any potted plants. Breaker wasn’t always barren, but it is now.

That makes it all the more remarkable that the Makepeace Orchard survives at the edge of town. The peach farm has been continuously cultivated since 1822. Prior to that, a tribe known as the Cayalanzuvan grew sytra there. Urban legend links sytra to the bloodier aspects of atavistic paganism, and Goddess worship in particular. If that doesn’t compel you to put FM-6060 on your itinerary, consider this: a petrified tree stands just inside the gate. It is bone white, but certain sensitive people report seeing a black haze rise from the surface. Touch the tree, and those people say they hear a woman talking. Spooky? Perhaps, but even if you aren’t the type to enact your own personal episode of Supernatural, you can get a good deal on peaches. What’s not to love?

This is my fifth summer in Texas. I still haven’t made it to Treeletting, Breaker’s annual Summer Solstice celebration. Treeletting is a multi-cultural event held in the orchard, and gives prominent place to Cayalanzuvan ritual. The allegations of human sacrifice making the rounds of the tabloid circuit booked Breaker’s only hotel, The Gauss, for this whole week. I know because I tried to make reservations. Even without the (probable) journalistic embellishment of cannibalism, the true tragedy of 2007 is probably enough on its own to draw a certain kind of crowd.

Dubbed  “The Treeletting Tragedy,” the events of 2007 resulted in multiple deaths by fire and a possible abduction. Helena Makepeace, a mentally unstable young woman with ties to the orchard, is still on the Missing Persons register. You’ve probably seen her on those sad brochures that show up in the mail, the ones with a time-lapsed photo and information about what the missing individual was last seen wearing; she’s the one who would have been beautiful, if not for the accident that mutilated half of her face.

There is also bounty out for a father and daughter who disappeared shortly after the  ’07 solstice. The tabloids occasionally run with that, too, purporting that a small religious group known as the La Zaliites is behind the reward money. The La Zaliites think that the daughter, who was only three at the time of the incident, is the human incarnation of their Goddess.

If Breaker were on a map, it would at the epicenter of strange.

Happy Summer Solstice!

PS If you liked this post, consider adding Stolen Climates to your Goodreads bookshelf. You can also click Like on the book’s Amazon page. Neither costs you anything, but they mean something to me. Thanks!

Rumor Has It That I’m a Kreativ Blogger!

The nomination comes with a badge:

It also comes with rules, which I am going to (sort of) break.

 

Rule 1: Mention the person who nominated you, and link to her blog.

Rule 2 : Post seven things about me that readers might not know.

Rule 3: Nominate seven other bloggers for the award.

The first rule I won’t mess with, not only because I adore Kim and think you will, too, but also because I’m grateful she thought to nominate me. You may know Kim Koning from #storycraft,  as a member of #TESSpecFic, or as a contributor toTales for Canterbury. Kim is a wonderfully emotive writer, an authentically engaged member of the world-wide writing community, and a friend.  Please check out her blog, Wrestling the Muse, and follow her on Twitter at @authorkimkoning.

Rules Two and Three, I’m going to bend. Most Kreative Blogger entries give a bullet-point list of seven disembodied facts or tidbits about the writer. Instead of listing seven things, I’m going to write seven vignettes illustrating something interesting. In addition, while the standard Kreative Blogger response lists seven nominees in the same post, I will list one per post. This is mostly to give me time to find seven bloggers I enjoy who are not already nominated. If you have suggestions, please send them. I will consider any entries, writing related or not, provided that the blogs are fresh, enjoyable and, of course, creative.

 

The Faerie or the Dinosaur?

Aniko Gets Kreativ  #1

I have two nephews. The oldest is almost ten, the youngest has just turned five. The difference between their ages is almost exactly the difference in age between my sister and me. In a sense, watching the boys is like getting to look back in time to how my sister and I must have been when we were children. If we were boys, that is, and if I had been the younger of the pair. I say that because my younger nephew’s dreamy, imaginative approach to the world strikes a chord of recognition within my soul. I know him because he is like me.

My writing room is filled with trinkets and baubles that have personal meaning. My desk faces a bank of windows, and on the sill is where I keep my talismans. Last weekend, my younger nephew found a little sponge amongst the trinkets. It came from one of those capsules that looks like a pill, but when you soak it in water, the gelatin capsule dissolves and the compressed sponge blossoms. I’ve seen them sold in packs at the grocery store, often claiming the sponges will look like farm animals. The pack I got, though, was supposed to look like mythical creatures. The sponge my younger nephew found was a faerie.

DinoFaerie

He held the faerie up to me and said, “What kind of dinosaur is this?” I said, “That’s not a dinosaur, it’s a faerie.” He wasn’t convinced, so I pointed to each part of the sponge and explained what it was. Here are her wings. Here are her legs. Here are her arms, and this is the book she’s reading.  He watched patiently, carefully, thoughtfully. Then he said, “Well, why does she have a dinosaur tail?” He pointed at the draped hem of the faerie’s dress. Suddenly, I understood my mistake. What I called ‘wings’ were really the bony plates on the back of a stegosaurus, the ‘book’ was a spindly leg, and the ‘dress’ was a stubby tail.

My first Kreativ blogger fact is this: I have seen a faerie turn into a dinosaur.

My nomination for the Kreativ Blogger award is my friend Mari Biella. Her blog is thoughtful and well-written. She recently published her debut novel, The Quickening – if you like haunted house stories, you’ll love Mari’s story.

The Real Hercules Would’ve Listened to Felicia Day

I have been sick.

The pain started innocently, just a slight sensitivity in my teeth. I thought I’d been drinking too many waters with lemon, but even after stopping the citrus wedge habit, the pain grew. A week into the illness, and it spread from two teeth to five, then up into my cheekbone and down into my lower jaw, threatening to get worse. First, it hurt to smile. Then it hurt to talk. Finally, it was agonizing to eat.

I kept masking the pain: Motrin by day, wine by night. I believed the sickness and pain would abate, that I just had to tough it out. I was too busy to be sick!  Two weeks after that first ominous tooth-tingle, I gained intimate knowledge of the phrase “writhe in agony.”

I ended up in the ER, with an IV of super-charged antibiotics. It turns out all I had was a sinus infection, but by letting it go so long, there was danger of it spreading to somewhat important items. Notably, my brain.

How did this happen, and why didn’t I listen to Felicia Day?

When I first started feeling off, perhaps a week or so prior to the beginning of the pain in my teeth, I had the following items on my To Do List:

  • Slay a lion, a hydra, and a flock of sharp-beaked birds.
  • Capture a deer, a boar, a bull, and get a monster to give me his cattle.
  • Take Cerebus to the bark park.
  • Steal apples to feed to the people-eating mares that I, for some reason, must also steal.
  • Buy a bra fit for an Amazon Queen.
  • Re-route a river to clean a stable that hasn’t been mucked in thirty years.
  • Find my way out of the Ambition Room.

Okay, so those are euphemisms for the actual items, but the magnitude, oh! – the sheer weight of all those deadlines, promises, expectations! When I stepped out of the Ambition Room, I sloughed off a passel of Sisyphean tasks. That helped just about as much as hiding under a bunch of balloons while Stymphalian birds attack: it was colorful, but didn’t do much to protect me from the poisonous dung and sharp beaks. I was still balancing the equivalent of two full time jobs, a house to tend, a marriage to nurture, friendships to sustain, and two rowdy dogs that need an hour of walking each day. People laugh when I tell them I have my day scheduled down to the minute. I’m not joking; even my lunch hour from my day job is an hour dedicated to my writing job. There is no rest for the wicked, and no breaks for this writer. That’s why I couldn’t be sick. I looked at my mental calendar and saw my days booked, from now until forever, from 5AM to 10:30PM. Literally: booked solid. When could I possibly squeeze in a visit to the doctor? Much less take a day to recuperate?

I learned that I cannot be booked that full, for months on end, and not get sick. Just writing two books in four months is enough to exhaust me. Add everything else to my list (which, of course, kept growing), and I was on a crash-course with physical burnout.

As Felicia Day says in an interview with Riki Lindhome, “Hospitalized for fatigue is not a joke.”

I wasn’t hospitalized for exhaustion, but in the Emergency Room for running myself into the ground comes too close for comfort.

I stumbled across that interview at The Nerdist maybe a week or so before I got sick. I was fascinated by Felicia’s story. Her candor is heartening to those of us going indie: writers, actresses, heck, indie mathematicians – every one of you could benefit from hearing Felicia Day’s journey, in her own words. I love it that she takes the focus of creativity off of finding fame and onto doing what you love.  She says, “Do what is special to you, and do it even if only five people ever watched it.”

Part of what makes Felicia Day outstanding is her authentic engagement with her fans. She tweets, attends cons (game and comic), and takes the time to connect with individuals. In the interview, she talks about having to learn to say no to pretty much everything in her inbox, stating, “It’s either you or sleep, and I have to choose sleep.”

My interpretation? That as wonderful as it is to be asked to speak, or participate, or just simply be told you’re awesome, it all takes a little bit out of you to interact. A tiny bit of time here, a minuscule amount of soul-stuff there. Put enough infinitesimal together in one place, though, and you have the universe. In other words: you can work yourself sick.

Now,  I am not even remotely famous or well known. I have nothing like the social obligations of an actress/screenwriter/YouTube channel producer. Yet already I have felt the totally welcome, utterly exhausting invitation to authentically interact with peers and horror enthusiasts. I appreciate the attention and the validation. I believe each small bit of exposure is another chance to help readers find my work. I’m happy if only five people ever love my work, but I suspect that there are a lot more out there – if only I could reach them. My drive to push forward, to expand my bookshelf, to accept every request – that drive is strong.

Yet by delaying medical attention for what was an insignificant ailment, I managed to lose an entire week of revision time on my next book. Worse than that, I worried my family, weakened my body, and suffered needlessly. I did not do myself any favors.

Next time, I’m going to listen to Felicia Day.