No, Aven Colony is Not the Next Outpost 2

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Yesterday morning, I received an unexpected burst of surprise. I was browsing r/games on Reddit when I came across a notification of a Science-Fiction colony-builder survival game titled Aven Colony … certainly enough to pique my interest. But the real shock came when I saw that the (then) top comment was “I’ve been waiting for something to fill the void that Outpost 2 left in my heart for so long.

Yeah, that snapped at my attention right away. I spent the rest of the day (I was busy doing other things) already planning to check to see if that commentator was correct. As you may recall, I’ve written about Outpost 2 before and why I’m waiting for a successor of some kind, and to my surprise that post continues to be one of the most regular reads on the site. Scarcely a day doesn’t pass that it doesn’t get one reader (other posts get many more readers, but in batches, this one is about as stable as my home page).

Now, I know I tend to talk more about writing than anything else one here (though again, I’m always open to branching out), but since gaming is one of my biggest hobbies (not surprising, as I did study at creating games and even founded a game studio that went nowhere), occasionally snippets of that might leak through.

Like right now, when I’m reporting back on Aven Colony. I had to know: Was it truly a successor to Outpost 2? Was it a game that filled a niche that has been empty for almost two decades? Was it what this obscure reddit commentator was hoping?

I did some digging. Watched a video. And now I have an answer.

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The Problems with the Arguments Against “The Great Wall”

So, you may have heard of a movie that’s trailer dropped this weekend called The Great Wall. If you haven’t, you should go give the trailer a watch. The film, as you can probably guess, is about the famous landmark of China, and asks the question “What was it built to keep out?”

It turns out, the answer is dragons. Yes, this is a fantasy flick from the director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers (movies that are a bit more known over here, so far from his home). The great wall is built to keep out dragons. I am completely sold.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so impressed. In fact, some people are angry at the film. Why?

Because one of the stars is Matt Damon. Who is, as the detractors have pointed out, white. Which in their eyes makes the film racist. No joke. You can read some of the fire about it here (and I recommend this article over the USA Daily one because this article at least did some research and points out the glaring flaws in the stance, while USA Daily, in what I feel is likely their usual sense of journalistic integrity, couldn’t be bothered to fact check anything).

Now I’m not going to get into the factual inaccuracies of the mud being slung at Hollywood for this, except to point out the obvious: This is a film made in China by film production companies based in China. Not Hollywood. They have little to do with this outside of distributing the film in the US. So the blame for them is pointless.

No, what I want to point out is the delicious hypocrisy of the backlash against this movie, which is, alongside the everyday usual racist commentary, declaring that movies should be more diverse in their casting and look outside their box.

Completely missing that this is what the film is doing.

Let’s look at this for a minute. We have a film made in China by a talented Chinese director. The movie stars a number of major film stars in China, who are all—wait for it—surprisingly (yes, that is sarcasm) Chinese. And alongside those individuals, for diversity (oh, that beloved buzzword), Zhang has also cast someone who isn’t a major Chinese actor: Matt Damon. Along with three other actors from around the world such as Pedro Pascal and Numan Acar.

So we have a movie set in China, filled with actors from China, and one “white man” (Wu’s words, not mine). Plus the three other actors from around the world. Which … oddly enough, would be diversifying the cast a little.

So, surprise surprise, the backlash against this film doesn’t pass the flip test. Yet again.

As for me? I look forward to seeing the flick. Dragons versus The Great Wall. I’m sold on the concept, and I’ve quite enjoyed some of Zhang’s other movies, so I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy this one.

Whether or not you want to see the film, just … do yourself a favor and ignore the made-up, hypocritical “controversy” that really boils down to an American Social Justice movement attempting to exert control via it’s values over a foreign film studio (Oh hey, that sounds a lot like western imperialism …). It’s hypocrisy, it’s pointless, and it’s really not worth much of our time.

Unusual Events Has Been Removed From SPFBO 2016

All right, guys, it’s official. I just heard back from Mark Lawrence, the head of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and now that the competition has begun, my book could not be moved to another reviewer, so instead, I’ve elected to withdraw my entry from the competition (for the reasons for doing so, see this post here). It’s sad that it had to be done, but I feel my reasons were sound.

It is somewhat of a disappointment, however, in more ways than one. First, it’s a shame that it had to come to a removal. I was really interested to see what reviews would have cropped up from the SPFBO, as well as what sort of extended audience I could gather. But in light of their review practices … no gain would have been worth throwing my support behind it. Secondly, it is a shame that such review practices are even a small part of the SPFBO. Perhaps that will change, I would put my voice out as saying I strongly encourage them to do so, but I’m not holding my breath.

So, that’s the bad news. Sort of. I can’t help but feel it’s a good thing, in the long run. There are some things one just shouldn’t associate with, and reviewing and rating books with the focusing lens of “Is the character/writer X race or not?” is one of them.

In other news, the book in question can still be read and enjoyed by those of you who won’t care so much what Samantha’s, Alma’s, Jacob Rocke’s, or Mathoni’s gender or ethnic heritage happen to be over getting a great story. You can find the book here.

Thanks for the advice, guys, and thanks for standing with me on this one. I’m glad I’m not the only one who considers this important.

 

EDIT: Whoa. This blew up. This was just supposed to be news for my regular readers. So let me make something very, very clear, just in case. This was a news post keeping my readers up to date. I voiced a concern about one of the sites in the larger picture, and when SPFBO couldn’t bump me to a different review site, decided to withdraw. That’s what it is, please don’t make a mountain out of a molehill or put undeserved antagonism on the wrong party, and keep a level head.

The Loud Neighbor

So my neighbors make a little bit of noise. Sometimes a lot of noise.

That’s fine. I’m okay with this. They have several kids. They live above us. Sometimes they have parties and want to play music. They laugh, they watch movies, they have an ordinary life. Sometimes that ordinary life is a little loud.

Again, I’m okay with this. Because I know, and am quite aware of the fact, that myself and my roommates are fairly loud as well. I know that most of the time our noise is kept at a sufficiently low volume that they don’t hear us, but then there are the times that we have parties, that we have late night movie showings, and we want to hear that T-Rex roar from Jurassic Park in our bones. And I’m aware that at those moments, they can probably hear us. I’d be surprised if they couldn’t.

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The Season

Today is December 21st. Four days until Christmas day.

I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to write for today, and I do mean a lot. I had a lot of drafts that I went over in my mind, debated, discussed with myself, and eventually discarded. I even debated sitting down and writing this all out in advance. But … I never quite did. Instead I waited until this exact moment to write this out, because while I knew what I wanted to say, wasn’t sure how I wanted to say it, what method I wanted to use to present what’s taking this week’s place from Being a Better Writer. I spent a lot of time thinking over it, weighing the various things I could say, the topics I could tie in—and make no mistake, there were plenty of those this last year. More than anything else, now, I think the world needs the message that the celebration of Christmas reveres and brings once more. This last year has seen hatred piled upon hatred, vitriol on vitriol. The world at large … well, it wouldn’t have us think kind things, or even good things. The message from it has been that we must hate those that disagree with us, and revile against those who are different then us.

It’s sad. Now more than ever, I think, we need to remember what Christmas is truly about.

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Discussion: What’s the Book You Enjoyed the Most in 2015?

Thought I’d try something new as we come to the end of the year, something special to replace the usual repost of an older Being a Better Writer.Today I want to see if I can get a discussion going in the comments. A discussion circling around one simple question: what is the book you’ve enjoyed the most in 2015?

Now, I don’t mean by this that you need to confine yourself to just books. Short stories count too, as does fanfiction, and well, anything really, as long as it’s a written text, long-form that you received some enjoyment of that you read in the year of 2015 (preferably one that was written with the express purpose of being read by a number of other people, rather than a personal letter).

It’s all subjective here, I just want to see what everyone comes up with. What were we reading this year, and looking back, what did we think of it? Let us know what you loved about it, why it mattered so much, and what you took away from it! Let’s see what we were reading!

For myself, the best book I’ve read this year is easily Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam.

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Being a Better Writer: Always Keep Learning

Shorter post today guys, one in line with some thoughts I’ve had over the last few days. Let me start by telling you a story.

There’s a writing convention near where I live called Life, the Universe, and Everything, or LTUE for short. It’s a bit of a Science-Fiction and Fantasy convention, which isn’t exactly unexpected when you consider who’s attending, but part of its core—a large part of it—is the pursuit of the arts of writing. Lots of authors attend (including ones like Brandon Sanderson), panels are held (you might remember I was on a few last year) and in general lots of talk about writing is had.

It’s definitely worth going to if you can swing it (and their website is here, just in case you’re curious about looking into it). Lots of authors, editors, and publishers talking about writing stuff in dozens of panels.

Right, so my story. Each time I’ve gone to LTUE, I’ve attended panels. As many as possible. And last year, that got a question from someone I was talking with. Upon hearing the subject of the rather basic panel I was attending, they looked at me in surprise and said “But you’re published and you’ve written great stuff, why are you going to that panel?”

I think my answer surprised them, to say the least. Maybe it diminished my stance as an author in their eyes, or maybe they reflected on it and walked away impressed. I don’t know. But I looked at them and said something along the lines of “Everyone does things differently. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to keep brushing up on the basics in case I missed something.”

As I said, I have no idea what that fan thought of my response. I don’t remember how the rest of it panned out. I just remember that shocked look on their face when I told them I was going to be attending a panel that covered a very basic writing topic.

But I went anyway. And I sat through a panel given by a bunch of other authors that I could have just as easily volunteered for and given. Instead, I sat in the audience, listened to them as they presented their topic, listened as younger writers asked questions, and did my best to learn something.

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Delayed! Or Flying Standby Has Its Drawbacks

You may have noticed there’s no Being a Better Writer post this morning.  And that there was nothing said about Thanksgiving on here.

Neither of these things was planned. It’s just a cautionary tale about the dangers of traveling for Thanksgiving.

Now before you get the wrong idea, my Thanksgiving was wonderful. I managed to make it to a family reunion (for my grandparent’s 60th anniversary) and had an absolutely wonderful time catching up with cousins and aunts and uncles I hadn’t seen in decades. It was a great time, and truly something to be thankful for.

But not owning a laptop and staying in a beach house with internet of questionable access (I got it working after a few days, but not well), I wasn’t able to get much done or even log onto my site. Which initially wasn’t a problem, as the plan was to be home this morning.

That didn’t work out, though. Flying standby has its drawbacks, and while I’d hoped to be back and writing today, it looks like Wednesday will mark my return.

So this week’s post is delayed but not skipped. And coming with it some post-Thanksgiving thoughts, the lead-in to Christmas (hooray!) and more book news. Unusual Events is going into Beta! Cover coming soon!

Best wishes to all my readers, and I hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine.

The Shrimp Trip

If you’re reading this I’m currently either high in the sky on a flight home or in an airport as some small part of the journey. The important thing is, though, I’m on my way back. Hurrah!

This picture is not me leaving, however, but arriving!Better yet, thanks to the help and support of readers and fans, I managed to hold out and over long enough to make a small stockpile of cash on this trip. It means pushing all my releases back a month or so … but given that the alternative was pretty much indefinite/long-term delayment, this is the best option. I’d still like to try and get both Unusual Events and Colony released this year (after all, that’d bring my published fiction wordcount for the year to something like 775,000 words, which would be awesome) but it’s quite possible Colony will end up being an early release next year instead.

Anyway, that’s all stuff that extraneous to this post. You see, I figured if I was going to be gone for so long, I might as well give you guys a bit of an idea about what it was I was doing. As kind of a thank you for being patient. And for helping out.

I can’t say that last part enough. Thanks to everyone who supported me on Patreon or purchased/reviewed one of my books over the last few weeks, or even just sent some kind words. Thank you.

Now, what was I up to in Alaska?

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Casual Readers Not Welcome

Some of you might remember a post I made a few months back, during the lead-in to the whole Hugo Awards Fiasco, that asked the question “Am I a fan of Science-Fiction and Fantasy?

Well, to my surprise this morning, I have an answer.

According to George R.R. Martin, I am not. You probably aren’t either. Instead, you are a “casual.”

At least on the one hand, we can all nod and applaud for consistency. Martin’s comments about people not being “true” Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans was what prompted my first post on the topic, but now, in a comment saved by Dawn Witzke over on her blog, we have a very direct statement addressing Mr. Martin’s exact thoughts on the nature of things:

You’re making the same mistake that many of the Puppies did — assuming that more voters would make the award more relevant.

If it were only the number of voters that mattered, the People’s Choice Award would be more important than the Oscars. It’s not. The Academy voters are fewer in number, but they bring more expertise to the decision. Same’s true of worldcon fans. These are people who live and breath SF and fantasy, for whom “fandom is a way of life,” not casual readers.

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