Paperback Revisionary Comes Out Next Week

Wait, how is it February? I don’t understand!

Revisionary - Cover Art by Gene MollicaBut since it is February, that means it’s only five days until Revisionary comes out in paperback. The release of the mass market edition means the price of the ebook should drop as well, which I know some people have been waiting for.

I’ll be giving out one autographed copy to a random newsletter subscriber next week. Or if you’d prefer, you can pre-order the paperback right now:

Amazon | B&N | BAM | Mysterious Galaxy | Schuler Books | Indiebound

And with that bit of shameless self-promotion out of the way, I have to get back to work on Terminal Alliance now. Happy almost-weekend, all! Remember to breathe!

Guest Post: On Representation in RPGs, from Monica Valentinelli

I met Monica Valentinelli years back … I think it was at GenCon. We got to hang out again last year at Launch Pad. (Confession: I might have name-dropped her from time to time when I wanted to impress people by talking about how I was friends with someone who co-wrote the Firefly RPG.)

She’s a full-time writer of stories, games, essays, and comics for media/tie-in properties and her original works from her studio in the Midwest. She’s also a former musician of 20+ years. She’s the developer for Hunter: the Vigil Second Edition, and was the lead developer/writer for the Firefly RPG books based on the Firefly TV show by Joss Whedon. Her book The Gorramn Shiniest Dictionary and Language Guide in the ‘Verse, featuring the work of the show’s original translator Jenny Lynn, debuted in April 2016 Titan Books.

In other words, she knows a lot about media properties and RPGs. In April of this year, she’ll be teaching a class on Writing Inclusive Games. Why does that sort of thing matter? Read on…

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Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories. The characters they choose (or build) allow players to perform heroic acts with their group, and they’re crucial to a player’s ability to have fun. There’s even a joke told about this at conventions. What’s the best way to get a player excited to talk about their game? Ask them about their beloved character!

Characters are important, and I feel it’s a game designer’s job to acknowledge different styles of play to offer a broad range for players to choose from; the other side of that coin, however, is to remember that players also possess different identities. In order to consider both in the games we make, developers, designers, writers, and artists address inclusivity through the lens of representation.

Representation intersects into a game’s design and presentation in a few different ways. The first and most easily visible method is through the art; the decision-makers for the art will vary widely, however, and will depend which company you work for. The second way that representation comes into play is through the game’s design itself. An alternate history game with magic that intentionally limits the role of women, for example, is not well designed, because you’re sending a message to players that the female identity is sub-par to their male counterparts. Often, the argument used to justify designing games based on a player’s identity is: “Well, it’s not historically accurate!” Only, historical accuracy doesn’t apply once dragons are involved. Even so, designers opting for realism know that many history books have erased or ignored the contributions and presence of women and minorities. So, in some cases, when a designer is making decisions that are historically accurate it might appear to be “wrong”, because those details are not what a player or reviewer had internalized as true.

Lastly, representation is incorporated into the text itself. The text, which includes rules, setting, and fiction, is what the players and gamemasters of the world cue off of. While it’s true that some players and GMs absolutely take a game and modify it for their table, over time I’ve found that many players want a fully-developed and well-researched world before they’ll do that. Most players place a lot of trust in the material, and when those details are done well it can have a huge impact on their creativity and the time they invest in that world. RPG enthusiasists tend to be avid readers, and many will read more on a subject (both fiction and non-fiction) to prepare for their games because they’re inspired by what the designers wrote. Mind you, there are games designed with different goals in mind, so including detailed setting isn’t a one-size-fits-all-games approach or solution to representation. In general, however, representation is addressed through the game’s text to varying degrees, and the setting portrayal and characters are an important part of that effort.

If done well, corebooks, supplements, and adventures will place a player in that world, entice them, and get them excited to play. Most players won’t notice when representation is done well, because different identities will be ingrained into the worldbuilding and presented in a natural fashion. Thus, players will be able to spot themselves in the game, and won’t feel excluded. The game’s design will clearly say: “You can slay the dragon. Can you see yourself wielding that sword?” “Yes!!!” If done poorly, however, representation can cause harm by perpetuating stereotypes and by hurting a player who either sees themselves represented badly—or not at all. A game that falls down on representation can do significant amounts of damage, because there is a strong, social component to playing games.

The good news is that there are more resources and tools to facilitate better representation in RPGs than ever before. Those tools include the classes conducted by K. Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl. I have the honor of teaching a class in April with K. Tempest Bradford, lending over a decade’s worth of experiences to address the issue of representation and help you be successful working in games. If interested, please consider registering for our class called: “Writing the Other: Writing RPGs Sans Fail.” Together, we will show you how to address representation in RPGs, and how to be inclusive so players say “Yes!”

Writing Inclusive Games: Creating RPGs Sans Fail

Highlights from Trump’s January 25 Interview

The full transcript of Donald Trump’s interview with ABC News is available online. There’s also video of Trump talking about how he “can be the most presidential person ever,” with the possible exception of Lincoln.

In other words, this isn’t satire or fake news. These are the words of the President of the United States of America. People keep telling me I have to give him a chance to see what he does as President before I judge. That’s what I’m judging him on! On his words and his actions. On interviews like this, which continue to demonstrate his shocking ignorance and fragility.

If you have the stomach for it, go ahead and read the whole thing. Here are some excerpts. My interjections are in blue.

Comments are turned off. I have a deadline to meet, and too little time and energy to deal with trolls this week.

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Back from ConFusion

Despite the fog that descended upon Michigan some time on Saturday, I made it home from ConFusion 43: Friendship is ConFusion. It was an amazing and wonderful weekend, as always. And as always, my biggest frustration is that there just wasn’t enough time to talk to and catch up with so many cool people.

A few random highlights…

  • Doing the Steven Universe Discussion Squee panel with Amal El-Mohtar
  • Nabbing copies of books by Kameron Hurley and Mishell Baker
  • Reading a bit of Terminal Alliance and having the audience laugh in the right places. (And not laugh at the other parts.)
  • Lots of hugs!

The hardest part of the weekend was the loss of Larry Smith, a convention book dealer who passed away unexpectedly on Friday. I met Larry and his wife Sally when I was first starting out as a writer, more than ten years ago now. He was a great bookseller, always doing his best to make sure he stocked up on titles by guests and attendees, and very knowledgeable about the field. Midwest conventions aren’t going to be the same without him.

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I also put the new Canon 6D through its paces. I had a little bit of focus trouble with the new lens, but the camera did much better in the low-light environment, which is what I was hoping for. I could take higher ISO shots that would have been far too noisy on the old camera. And I got to do author photo shoots for two friends, which was fun.

Pics are up on Flickr. Here are a few of my favorites…

Mishell Baker Cherie Priest Navah Wolve and Amal El-Mohtar Vacation Santa and Hellboy Delilah Dawson

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My thanks as always to everyone who works to make such a fun, welcoming, well-organized convention happen year after year.

Novelist Income Survey Update

We’ve gotten almost 350 responses to the 2016 2016 Novelist Income Survey. Huge thanks to everyone who’s shared their information and spread the word.

As with all things, I’ve seen ways I could have improved the survey and questions, but overall we’re getting a lot of useful data, and I’m genuinely excited to jump in and start playing with correlations and graphs and all that good stuff.

I’d been planning to end the survey at the end of January, but I’m continuing to wrestle this novel deadline, which has now moved to the middle of February. Meaning I probably won’t go data-diving until then. Meaning I can go ahead and keep the survey open until February 14. Because what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by sharing some data?

Thanks again, and please share the link with anyone who had at least one published novel by 12/31/2016.

ConFusion Schedule

I’ll be at ConFusion in Detroit this weekend. It’s one of my favorite cons, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing everyone. (Even though I know I won’t get to see everyone, and I’ll come away on Sunday being frustrated that I didn’t have time to chat with Person X, and only saw Person Y in passing, and hoping they all know it wasn’t a deliberate slight or anything…)

They’ve posted the programming schedule in several formats. If you’re looking for me (or looking to avoid me), here’s where I’ll be.

Friday

  • Nothing! I’ll just be hanging out and socializing LIKE A BUM!!!

Saturday

  • 10 a.m. – Social Media Tips & Tricks for Authors
  • 11 a.m. – Steven Universe discussion with me and Amal El-Mohtar!
  • 5 p.m. – Autograph Session
  • 7 p.m. – Reading with me, Mishell Baker, and Janet Harriett

Sunday

  • Noon – Here’s What They Did to My Baby! (I think Baby = Book, but you never know…)

Who else is going to be there?

Excerpts from MLK’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured…

-From Letter From a Birmingham Jail
Written by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 16, 1963

Blood Donors: Want to Join Team Hellspark?

For those of you who donate blood and use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, I’ve created a team called Hellsparks.

It’s named after the Janet Kagan book. At 4′ 11″, Janet didn’t meet the weight requirements to donate, so she posted a request on her website, asking others to do so and offering a special gift to those who did.

I figured if I was going to create a blood donation team of my fellow SF/F folks, it was fitting to name it in her honor. (My thanks to Ricky Kagan, who gave his blessing to use the name.)

Consider this your official invitation to join the Hellsparks and save some lives.

Cover of HellsparkTo encourage folks to spread the word, I’ll be giving away two Kindle copies of Hellspark. (One of my favorite books of all time.)

  1. Leave a comment on this post, and voila! You’re entered.
  2. If you join Team Hellspark, mention that in the comment for a second chance to win!

I know not everyone is able to donate blood, and not everyone who does donates through the Red Cross. (Which is why I decided to give away two copies instead of just one. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel excluded!)

Thank you.

Jim C. Hines