Tagged: Decemberween 2017

Decemberween: Zandra!

Okay, so you remember those Amerimanga covers I sometimes make as a joke? Turns out that someone took those jokes to suggest they were My Thing, and that meant she, very kindly, this year for my birthday, made me a manga cover –

-which I have wasted time making look like an actual book, because it’s the afternoon and I’m not good at managing my life. This image then led to people who followed her asking why it’s not a real book. this then led to her, as a lark, making a light novel. This then led to her selling that light novel, and people liking it and people asking for more and –


Zandra’s a light novel author now.

It is very, very hard to not be jealous, I’m not gunna lie.

Zandra is enthusiastic, creative and energetic. She seeks to do things that make people happy and promote a kinder world that is more conducive to people being able to make good choices about what’s good for them. You should check out Zandra’s work.

Decemberween: Sav Ferguson

Yes, Christmas is passed, but that doesn’t mean we’re done with Decemberween. C’mon. Decemberween is a spirit, Decemberween lasts all the way to July.

Also, one thing this exercise has shown me is how few people I like and respect keep good online portfolios or presences. How many of us treat our twitter page like it’s our dang home page? That’s weird. Anyway, SAV FERGUSON!

Sav is a game developer, writer, radio presenter, and – albeit I believe amateurly – philosopher, who I met I think three times before finally, at GaymerX AUS 2017, we finally had a moment where I could finally remember who the hell I was talking to, because my memory is garbage.

A few weeks later, a Event in Games happened, and it hit close to my knuckles – and I angrily spat about how the people talking about it had no idea about the experience, because it was something I lived, and nobody I knew was talking about it from that perspective…

And Sav popped up and said ‘yeah, I know what I’m talking about.’

And then we talked about it and dissected the discourse going on around us.

Now I want you to understand how hard that particular exchange is for guys. Because I had just effectively challenged him – heck to you, you don’t know what you’re talking about – and he very legitimately shot back, saying that actually yes I hecking do. We could have just clashed against each other and stopped – but Sav’s more mature than that, and we were able to find our common ground and talk about a deeply troubling thing. I was impressed, genuinely so, especially in the middle of a time when everyone around both of us was shouting about a thing that upset us.

The most recent game release from Sav is That Boy Is A Monstr, a game about being queer and dating on a website. Check it out.

Decemberween: Fox

Awww, yeah, yeah, yeah. Duh.

Of course I’m going to spend some time this month talking about Fox.

Fox Lee, my partner, is an artist, designer, writer and web developer. She manages our websites, writes ad copy, edits rulebooks and creates entire games on her own. Fox has made a free otome game, which is great, and I recommend you go try it.

This year, we released a game called Cafe Romantica, and I want to underscore of this 120-card, big card game, I did so little of the total product it is dizzying. Fox did the art, the backgrounds, the card faces, the wording structure and wrote the rulebook – even up to the night before the game launched.

Fox is great. Fox works hard, Fox holds work to a high standard, and Fox is often sharply contrasted with my positions – where I’ll work hard to get a product finished, she’ll hold things back to make sure they get done right. I love Fox, and you should check out her great work so you can send us money for how great she is.

Obviously I had to put this one up here, today, on Christmas Eve – because Fox sharing her life with me is the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

Decemberween: Carmel Morris

I make games using cardboard, paper, dice and tokens. I try to make spaces out of things that aren’t spaces. When I was young I would draw videogame maps on paper and describe how you fought through them. When I was older I would write up plan files and documents for

I have, my entire life, been invested to some extent in the transformative ability of representation in everyday objects. Simpler: I have always loved blank pieces of paper.

When I grew up in the church, there were a lot of conventional things we couldn’t have. Lots of conventional TV was monitored, group sports and play were limited access, and I didn’t have any friends who I could socialise with. I did however, have access to paper – blank paper that I could turn into things.

One of the things I loved to turn them into was paper airplanes. I was really lucky that at some point my parents bought me a soft-cover book called Fold Your Own Dinosaurs  by a guy called Campbell Morris, and another book, later, The Best Advanced Paper Aircraft, by a dude called Carmel Morris. I read these books and their sequels obssessively, and I practiced and practiced and practiced. Ironically I rarely, if ever flew the planes – that would be disruptive. But I was always fascinated with the way paper could be made to make locks and keys into itself, the way you could make a structure that wouldn’t deconstruct on its own.

This year I bothered to google Carmel Morris, wondering if he was still alive, and if I could email him thanks for the childhood books.

Turns out that my entire life I’d been mistaken. Carmel Morris was a woman, and she was still making books about paper airplanes.

The last news story I found about Carmel Morris, she was auctioning her electric car off to raise money for environmental charities. Now there’s a message about the way that my upbringing hid the influence of women who were important to me, but that’s for another day.

Thank you for helping to instil in me a love of blank pieces of paper, Ms Morris.

Outsider possibility is that Ms Morris is trans, and that I’m deadnaming/misgendering her in the opening segments or bringing up an old identity that is past. I genuinely do not know and I hope that is not the case. However, attempts to research this couldn’t provide an answer and I didn’t want to dig too deep and be creepy.

Decemberween: 0xabad1dea

As with Rachel and Clay before them, I once more turn to point to someone I know, and love, and care about, who hasn’t had a fair shake.

Melissa Elliott, two ls, two ts, is one of those people who, if the 17th century wasn’t just the most awful, would have been one of those academic thinker types we sit around now wondering where they find the time. She’s done infosec research, drawn comics, built a twitter brand, built videogame AI, done some work on videogames, reverse enginered some things, won a My Little Pwnie award for her work in information security –

er, specifically for writing a silly song –

and  she’s written a gaslamp fantasy novel, which is part of a series, as well as a web series I’ve spoken about on the blog before.

Now, none of these are raging successes, by the standards we use to determine success. This is in part because none of us grew up in cultures that value artistic expression, and I know that moreso of Melissa’s upbringing because she and I shared a particular horrorshow that was American Fundamentalism. This is not an experience and a place that, let me tell you, does much to encourage the creative efforts of young women.

I am grateful this year that Melissa has been part of it – the whole way. I feel like a walking firework alongside her, where she needs some degree of quiet, some emotional space, and I, with my big loud idiot elbows smack into spaces that can distress her without even trying – but despite it, she still shares with me what she makes, and what she wants, and what she’s interested in, and that means a lot to me.

Incidentally, she hates card games, and that’s okay – because when I share what I do with my friends, I don’t do it because I want them to feel obligated they should like them.

Decemberween: Can I Pet Your Dog?

The mighty Maximum Fun podcasting network may host the entire McElempire, with both MBMBAM and their related shows of which there are roughly a fifty hojillion fold (and I like that, that’s cool), but there is one show I found from an ad in My Brother, My Brother and Me, and it’s Can I Pet Your Dog.

Can I Pet Your Dog is almost impressively nothing. It is a short podcast of two people talking about their dogs (in early episodes, they did not both have dogs). They are not exceptionally or exquisitely funny. I mean, they’re funny, but it’s not uproarious comedy; I don’t find myself quoting it or recommending it (except here, I guess).

Can I Pet Your Dog is, however, inoffensive, sweet, and comforting. It is funny without reminding me of gross comedians; it does not feel I’m about to stray into realms of vile jokes or random political stuff about this person or that person and how dare they. It is, when I do find the time to sit down and tune in, a balm of comforting, simple, pleasures of owning a dog.

Decemberween: Clay!

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m fond of someone I record a podcast with. To counter the claims of nepotism, I want it known that I love Clay despite him routinely making fun of me for being related to a ventriloquist.

Now, Clay’s situation is such I feel reluctant telling anyone how great he is. I don’t feel comfortable waving my arms in the air and shouting about the glory of this wonderful friend, this thoughtful man who has had to learn twice as much as I did in half the time with worse handicaps.

As Rachel, Clay is someone who makes me sure the world would be better if people like them just had the freedom to make things, to tell stories, to care about the things they care about and not deal with malarkey like the right change for the drier and washer.

Three years ago I was told it was important for men to foster stable, emotionally mature relationships so they didn’t rely on women to take care of them. I tried that, I joke, then it turns out they were all girls. Despite all that, standing out from that, there’s Clay – who has had his own path through life from similar spaces as me, making him one of the few people I know who can get a lot of the things I normally need to spend so long explaining.

Decemberween: Ex Manus Studios!

This year has been our most active convention-going year. We have gone to almost a convention every two months – and every time, this year, we have done it with the company of Pendix, of Ex Manus Studios.

Now obviously I like Pendix. We’ve been friends for years, almost since high school. But it isn’t just that Pendix is reliable, and kind, and thoughtful – gee, I like a lot of people with those traits. What I want to highlight here is that Pendix is a person who craves to create.

If you sit around Pendix, idly, if there’s a table on hand and there’s just free time, he will have plastescine in his hand, and he will be sculpting. There’s a drive, an energy, a want to create going on there and I really admire and respect that. I work with fast media, I can see the results of what I do, and yet at the same time I can save almost everything I do. Pendix works in a medium that is slow and at times impermanent. If something goes wrong, the entire thing has to be destroyed.

It might just be that the man is patient beyond the measures of saints. I mean, he’s put up with me for years.

There is however, a lesson from him I want to impart: Wanting to create is enough reason to create. Pendix spent a lot of time practicing his craft before he started making models he could sell – I mean, like a decade of just hobby practice, doing things to see if he could do them. Your hobbies grow, and help you grow. They give you skills. And if you want to make things, you can just make them. Maybe one day they’ll take you places, but it’s okay if they never do.

It’s enough to love, for now, the doing of the act itself.

Decemberween: Ettin!

I am loath to be too nice, too quickly. I worry sometimes if this means that my first impression to Ettin was that I was a standoffish dick. In my defence, Ettin likes Death Note and FATE, two things I’ve been noisome about making fun of.

As a peer, Ettin is impressive. He has built community, and interest and fanbase for his work; he’s monetised it successfully, and he’s proven that he’s capable of repeating the success. He’s got good advice for anyone trying to do that and he expresses himself directly, honestly, and fairly.

He’s also done sterling work pushing back against pro-harrassment elements of the tabletop games industry. Without going into specifics, Ettin has tried to get rid of broken stairs in the industry as best he can, even when that involves endangering his own online space and infringing on his own potential for success. No, not everything is fixed, but I at least know where Ettin falls when there comes a time to Say Nothing And Get By or Tell Evil To Go Fuck Itself.

When I approached Ettin with ‘I’m thinking about X-‘ his immediate response was to try and set up a plan. He wanted to enable what I was trying – and even when it wound up not working out with the timetable we had in mind, it was still done helpfully and enthusiastically.

Ettin may have this form of deliberately self-deprecating humour that resists praise, but seriously, I’m glad Ettin helped me out this year.

Decemberween: Ted

How to lead into a discussion of Ted… oh. Okay.

Ted is many things. Ted is an artist. Ted is an academic. Ted is a father, a fishmonger, a mormon, a missionary, and a friend. Ted is a person who, by the sheer mathematics of my own upbringing and perspective, I should not have become friends with. I’m a militant (!) anti-theist atheist (booo, throw rocks at him), and even then part of my upbringing included a section on hunting the cult of Mormon.

I am so glad none of that took.

Ted is a wonderful person. I talk to Ted most weeks. We talk about marking or students or research or applications, or we talk about anime, or, more often than not, he expresses incredulity at the utter ridiculousness of the latest thing I mentioned. Sometimes he consults on Asian history for game design. Sometimes he reality checks me. Sometimes we console one another about the way things are that shouldn’t have to be.

Ted is a good person, noble, and someone I am proud to know.