Social Justice Monopoly

FACT: Monopoly is a terrible board game.

 

Oh sure, you enjoy playing it with your family on holidays or whatever, but it's still terrible.  By every objective standard of board game design, Monopoly is awful.  There's no strategy.  Randomness far outstrips player choice.  Players can and will be eliminated before the end of the game. 

 

(The game does have nice goober, though, so maybe not EVERY standard.)

 

But that's because...

 

FACT: Monopoly is not a board game.

 

Monopoly, as originally conceived by Magie Phillips in 1903, was an educational tool.  It's an elaborate illustration of the trouble with unfettered markets.  Inevitably, in Monopoly, one player will gradually suck all the money out of the economy (except that everybody gets bored and quits before that).

 

In a board game, that's a win condition.  In real life, it's terrible because all the people who lose all their money just have to wait around and starve to death.

 

So, inspired by Ms. Phillips, I've created some house rules for Monopoly.  These rules are meant to help explain how systemic racism works in America.  

 

 

1) Instead of normal pieces, use chess pieces.  You'll have two kings, two queens, two bishops, and two knights.  (You could use rooks, but they're boring.)

 

2) Get rid of hotels.  That's not part of the Social Justice rules.  Hotels just ruin monopoly.  They put houses back into circulation, meaning the game takes longer.

 

3) There is no money on free parking.  That's also just a bad idea in Monopoly.  It makes the game go on longer to no effect.  Also, that’s the actual rule.  I don’t know what moron came up with money on free parking, but it’s terrible.

 

4) Players with black pieces receive one bill less of each denomination at the beginning of the game. (http://inequality.org/racial-inequality/)

 

5) Players with black pieces only get $100 for passing Go. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/01/racial-gender-wage-gaps-persist-in-u-s-despite-some-progress/)

 

6) Players with black pieces are not allowed to buy property until they have crossed GO once.  Players with black pieces can never buy utilities or railroads. (http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1111&context=bjalp)

 

7) Players with black pieces go to jail upon rolling their second consecutive double.  The fine to get out of jail for black pieces is $100.  Black players must roll doubles twice, consecutively, to get out of jail without paying the fine or playing a Get out of Jail free card. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/18/chart-of-the-week-the-black-white-gap-in-incarceration-rates/)

 

Now, since I'd never actually make anyone play Monopoly, don’t feel like you need to break out a set and try this.  Just answer one question: Which color piece is most likely to win?

 

That's systemic racism.  Without any of the white players ever trying, they're automatically going to crush the black players just because the odds are stacked that way.  It's not about hate, so much as about unexamined assumptions.  Imagine playing this game, but the banker passed out all the money and adjudicates all the rules but somehow keeps the changes hidden from the players.  If you have a white piece, you might wonder why the players with black pieces don't buy property, or how they end up in jail so often.  You might assume they're bad players, because clearly you're not a bad player and you're buying property right and left, and hardly ever end up in jail.  (And when you do, you can afford the fine to get out.)  You could go the whole game, and never realize the reason the black pieces ran out of money so fast wasn't because they were too stupid to buy properties-- they just couldn't afford it.

 

The links I provide just barely scratch the surface.  I encourage you to look into the history of Redlining in particular.  Owning a home has traditionally been the best way for families in America to build wealth, and black families were barred from that for far too long (and still are, to some extent).

David Sort of Reviews... Ghostbusters (2016)

Friday night, my wife and I saw the new Ghostbusters.  It didn't suck.  Here are some mostly random thoughts about the relative lack of suckitude.  There are some minor spoilers.  This is the only warning you'll get.  This is more of an essay for people who have seen the movie than an attempt to get people to see it.  (Go see it.  At least when it comes out at the dollar theater, or On Demand or something.)

 

In the Beginning

The internet said there was a Ghostbusters remake in the works.  I thought "No, please don't do that."  Intellectually, I have decided not to oppose remakes, but Ghostbusters just seemed like such a poor choice.  The original was lightning in a bottle, combining some of the best comedic actors ever at the height of their talents with a story unlike anything that had come before.  It wasn't really a comedy.  It was a fantasy story with comedic elements, and a nice side-serving of horror.  But once Ghostbusters existed, any other comedic dark fantasy was not as original as Ghostbusters had been.

 

Further, Ghostbusters wasn't going to benefit much from better special effects, and I didn't think there were really any comedic actors who could do what Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Hudson had done.  SNL hasn't been good for more than 20 years, after all.

 

Then the internet said the cast would be all female.  I was moderately intrigued.  I still thought the movie would be superfluous, but an all-female GB team was interesting.  Nobody thought an all-male team was weird, so why should an all-female team be weird?  When your enemies are incorporeal, the fact guys tend to be physically stronger doesn't even matter much.  Normalizing inclusive roles for minorities and women is important, so even if I wasn't interested in the movie personally, I wanted that to happen.

 

Then the trailers came out, and mostly I thought the movie would still be bad, but there were just a few little touches here and there that made me think the female leads might be interesting.  They interacted with each other just a little differently than a bunch of guys would.  I can't even really put my finger on the exact difference, but it was just a little intriguing.

 

I decided I'd maybe catch the movie at a matinee or something.  And when Marie said she wanted to go on Friday, that was enough for me.  The movie might not have been worth full-price tickets, but making my wife happy and getting the chocolate chip cookies from SMG was.

 

And so, in the fullness of time, I saw the movie.  And it didn't suck.  It was even pretty good, if not great.

 

As I said previously, there was no way the new Ghostbusters could be as good as the original.  Even with a stellar cast and really awesome writing, it just wouldn't be as original.  We'd all go in kind of knowing what was going to happen.  Hearing a shaggy dog story you already know can be really fun, with a good storyteller, but it's never as good as the first time.

 

So it wasn't going to be the amazing bolt from the blue of the original.  But it could still be pretty good.

 

Here's why it was:

They didn't slavishly follow the original.  Melissa McCarthy didn't try to imitate Dan Aykroyd. Kristin Wiig didn't try to play Bill Murray.  KateKcKinnon didn't try to recreate Egon Spangler.  Leslie Jones' Patty had more than one significant line to deliver.  The actresses were also genuinely good.  I didn't even want to hit Melissa McCarthy in the face with a cricket bat, which I frequently do with her roles lately.  Abbie was a role that fit right into her wheelhouse, but was also sympathetic almost immediately.  She's kind of a jerk, but she has good reasons to be.

 

Chris Hemsworth was a trip.  Kate McKinnon was awesome (if a bit overplayed).  I want a Screw U medallion.

 

The writing was snappy.  The original was kind of deadpan.  The humor was in how calmly the Ghostbusters dealt with the otherwise ridiculous situation they'd created.  This one was more Whedon-esque.  The characters seem to sense that they live in a ridiculous world, and rail against its ridiculousness while still having to live within its constraints.

 

The SFX were solid.  They looked somewhat better than in the trailers, which is normal in the digital age.  The ghosts may have been a bit too bright, but they didn't ruin the experience for me.  I liked the look of the new gear.  I liked the way the gear developed over the course of the movie.

 

Here's why it wasn't great:

The script was sloppy.  Chekov’s Gun didn't make it onto the mantle until the middle of act 3.  The villain was kind of lame, and not developed well enough.

 

I didn't like the action figure accessory toys.  They didn't really add anything to the story, with the possible exception of Holtzmann's dual-gun proton pack.  That's exactly the kind of thing the gear-head tech geek would do.

 

The cameos from the original cast were inelegant, except for Ernie Hudson, who was perfect.  Annie Potts was also okay.  Bill Murray, in particular, stood out.  He was in there either not long enough or just a little too long.  Dan Aykroyd's just interrupted the scene.

 

Here's what was interesting and random:

The villain could have used a little better development, but he was interesting.  The feminist critique of a basement-dwelling troll was pretty obvious, but there's also the fact he was basically a domestic terrorist who was (a) white, and (b) not religiously radicalized.

 

These Ghostbusters had different goals than the originals.  In the 80s, making the greatest discovery in the history of science and religion was an excuse to cash in.  Now, it's about women making advances in science in the face of the patriarchy (And Andy Garcia played the Patriarchy wonderfully).

 

I may be alone in the world in thinking that Jillian Holtzmann is both on the autism spectrum and somewhat sexually attracted to Erin Gilbert.  There's nothing overt, but one little facial expression when they first met gave me that impression.  Holtzmann saw Erin and was just briefly wowed.  Then she went back to being a mad scientist, since that's all she knows how to be.  (Well, really more of a mad engineer, I suppose...)

DFWCON Retrospective

The DFW Writers' Conference was this past weekend.

It was awesome.  I'm still tired.

Last year, I was a speaker at the DFW Writers Conference, but only kind of.  I'd signed my book deal, but not gotten the advance (and I had to use most of it to pay off debts anyway).  Money was still tight, so I hadn't planned to go. 

The Conference Committee members didn't know that, and since I'd been every other year since I joined the DFW Writers' Workshop they figured I'd be there with bells on.  So they asked me if I'd be a facilitator at one of the Read & Critique classes.

When I told them I wasn't going, they offered to comp my registration if I'd do some Read & Critiques.

So I was kind of a speaker, but not really.

This year, I was officially invited as a speaker to moderate panels and be a panelist on the Children's and Middle Grade panel. 

It was really cool.  I started to feel like I might be a real writer who people would actually want to listen to.

Some highlights:
* Trying to convince Christopher Golden that he really needed to buy a Stetson hat to commemorate his trip to Cowtown.

* Whispering to Bree Ogden on the Child Lit panel and finding out she knew both my agent and my editor at HMH.

* Actually having useful input for the Child Lit panel.  I mean, seriously, I've only sold two books.  I really feel like a total neophyte in this business, but I've had so much help getting to where I am that it's awesome to be able to pay that help forward.

* Liz visiting from Houston.  (You Houstonites better darn well appreciate how awesome she is)

* My Read & Critique panel, which had all Children’s and YA readers.  (Evidentially, that was just a coincidence.  I think it was totally awesome, though)  Afterwards, having some of the readers catch me in the halls and say the critique was helpful.

* Leveraging my awesome (nearly non-existent) literary connections to hook up some friends with Tina P. Schwartz, who reps the kind of stuff they write.

* Deep Dish Pecan Pie.

* Mastering, or at least Journey-manning the skill of panel moderation.  My first panel went okay.  My second was actually pretty good (Even though I'd prepared for the wrong topic).

* Having a fan.  I have lots of fans (More than five, maybe!) already, but they're family or fellow workshop members.  This is the first time in my life that a complete stranger has come up to me and said "Hey, you're really cool."  I is flattered.

* Jenny Martin's Digging Deeper class.  Jenny is so passionate about good writing that it's fun to just listen to her talk.  The fact that she has interesting things to say is just a bonus.

* The uncomfortable pause between sex and death.


* Dinner on Saturday with Sally, Rosemary, Mark, and David at Taco Cafe where we geeked out about comic books for an hour, and the quesadillas were pretty good, too.

About the only bad thing was how utterly exhausted I was.  Being around a bunch of strangers sucks the life out of me, and there was a lot of walking for my out-of-shape, middle-aged body.  Every year, I think about getting a hotel room, and every year I talk myself out of it because a 30 minute drive isn't all that much.  But it really is.  It means you have to get up 30 minutes earlier to get to the workshop, and that you're driving home after a tiring day.

Now I'm mostly rested up and riding the wave of enthusiasm from the conference.  I didn't teach a class this year, feeling like I really didn't have much to teach.  But now I'm thinking that maybe I do have 50 minutes worth of stuff to say that someone else might want to hear.

That could just be the euphoria and sleep-deprivation talking, though.

Against the Gold Standard in Fantasy Literature

I’m gonna rant a little here now.  I don’t know why this particular thing bothered me enough this evening to rant about it, but I just feel the need.

I read a lot of fantasy novels.  I love them.  I cut my teeth on Lord of the Rings and Narnia.  I read David Eddings in high school and all the other not particularly greats in high school.  I bought every D&D novel I could get my hands on.  Loved Codex Aleria.  Tried really hard to love Song of Ice and Fire, but holy crap George, it’s okay if one nice thing happens every three hundred pages or so.

I am not bashing on fantasy here.  We clear?

There’s this thing.  When I pick up a new fantasy book, or when I hear one read in my critique group, I can tell really quickly whether the author learned most of his world-building from Dungeons & Dragons or not.  Someone gets paid to do something.  That thing is not “be a baron in my holdings” and the person is paid multiple gold pieces—sometimes hundreds of gold pieces.

A gold piece in the hazy middle-ages Europe of most Tolkien-derived fantasy worlds is worth (very roughly) fifty thousand dollars.

That’s a wildly inaccurate estimate, because the value of gold went up and down depending on how much gold was around, but for a big swath of time it’s how much a lord probably paid a knight for a year’s service.

If you hire a group of plucky adventurers to go raid your enemy’s base and you pay them 1000 GP, you could have hired a small army instead.

You can also tell who knows what gold is when you get to the scene where someone carries a bag of it.  Here’s a quick experiment.  Get a bag full of pennies.  Pick it up.  Now get another one, and another one about half full.  Pick up all three bags.  That’s roughly the weight of the first bag if it was gold coins.  Gold is REALLY heavy.

Silver weighs about half of what gold does.  (Atomic weight of 107.8 vs 196.9)  It was also a much more reasonable currency.  You bought things like manor houses and suits of full plate armor with gold coins.  You paid your craftsmen and soldiers in silver.  You paid your peasants in copper.

(Also, it’s really hard to do price comparisons between a pre-industrial and post-industrial society.  Things cost more when they’re harder to make.  So stuff like basic food stays pretty constant, while manufactured goods get less and less expensive over time.  I’m carrying a knife I bought for the price of a cheap dinner for two that would have been a major expense for someone in the 12th century.  In fact, it might not have been possible to make then.)

D&D also simplified the exchange rate a lot, making everything in multiples of 5 and 10.  In the real world, coins were measured by weight, and thus tended to have values divisible by 4.  (It’s easier to measure out half of something over and over again than to divide it into 10s.)

The British system, for a long time was 1 gold Pound = 20 silver Shillings = 240 copper Pence.

Also, coins were smaller than you think.  A friend gave me two Roman Denarii (the equivalent of pence.  When the widow gave her two mites, they were Denarii).  Each one is smaller than my pinky nail.

(Wikipedia tells me the Denarius was originally silver, but gradually debased, reducing its value.  See how easy it is to get this stuff right?  I just needed to look up the plural of Denarius and I learned that Denarii were silver, not copper.)

So anyway, all this might not matter much in the grand scheme of things.  If you create a fantasy world with wonky currency, only a handful of your readers are going to care.  But it’s also not hard to get it right.  You could put together a pretty functional price list and currency system after a day of poking around with Google.  And yours doesn’t have to be strictly accurate.  It just needs to be well thought out.

Gold is valuable because it’s pretty and rare.  Silver is less valuable because it’s not quite as pretty and not quite as rare.  Copper or bronze aren’t very valuable at all, and are mostly introduced because people need pocket change.  (Although they might not have pockets)

Coins weren’t inherently valuable until fairly recent in history (in Europe).  They were just conveniently sized pieces of precious metal.  You could pay for something that cost a pound with an actual pound of gold, but you’d need a jeweler’s saw and a scale.  And a merchant who had a scale would probably weigh your coins to make sure they weren’t debased if he could.

Getting this kind of detail right can also give you chances for drama in your story.  How cool would it be if your hero slew the dragon, but could only get a fraction of the beast’s horde out of its cave?  Now he’s got to figure out how to get the rest without anybody else finding the cave.

And what happens to the kingdom where he brings the gold?  Remember, gold is valuable because it’s rare.  If your hero hauls in the equivalent of the entire Roman treasury, he’s going to start an economic depression or an outright war.

Isn’t that way more fun than just another bar fight?

If I Only Had The Time (and money. Mostly money)

This writing gig seems more viable than it has ever been.  That's totally wild.  But there are so many other creative things I'd like to do.  They just all cost money and take a lot of time.  Here's a small sampling.

The TARDIS Shed

I'm not a huge Whovian, but I like me some Doctor, and I like fandom-related objects that are also practical.  For instance, I wear a Green Lantern ring.  I probably wouldn't wear a T-shirt with Green Lantern on it.  I might wear a green T-shirt with the GL log on it, though.  I'd totally hang a replica of Cap's shield on my wall, but I probably wouldn't hang up a Captain America poster.

Which brings us to the shed.  The Tardis is a real thing representing Doctor Who.  And I could make it practical.  I have a notebook full of sketches of a TARDIS garden shed.  It's not screen accurate, but anybody looking at it would say "Hey David, that's a TARDIS."

It'd cost somewhere around $500 in materials and require a bunch of tools I don't have.  And I don't know how to keep it from falling over.

ALL the Hirst Arts Molds

I love gaming terrain.  I don't do the right kind of gaming to use it.  Nevertheless, I kind of want to make a huge mass of modular dungeon terrain.  Then I'd want a huge mass of town terrain, and cave terrain, and SF terrain, and city street terrain, and...

Each mold costs around $30.  I have a list somewhere of the essential few that would let me make a bunch of what I'd actually use in gaming.  There are ten molds on it.  Then you need a vibrating table, materials, paints, and if you want to cast very quickly you need a dehydrator.

Podcasting

I used to podcast.  I don't know if Radio Free Hommlett is still available on iTunes, but if it is, or if you used to be a fan and were really wondering, yeah-- that's me. 

I want to do another podcast.  I have this great idea called "Geek Out with David Goodner."  I'd get people who are famous (or at least internet-famous) for something, and talk to them about something else.  Like I know a few game designers who are also huge SCA geeks or musicians or whatever.  I know lots of writers.

Podcasting isn't really all that expensive.  You can do a crappy podcast with your iPhone.  Youcould do a pretty good one for around $200.  What kills Podcasting for me is time.  For every minute of sound you hear on a well-done podcast, someone has spent three to five minutes working on it (at least).  Doing a weekely podcast of about a half-hour a week would kill one, maybe two nights a week. 

I only get four nights a week to myself for writing and stuff.  I just can't justify the time.  But if there's some crazy person who wants to do all the production stuff, I'd be happy to do all the fun, easy parts.

Justice League Versus

Just cataloged a nifty little children's book called Justice League Versus.  It's one of those cheap-to-produce, marketed at kids kind of things that I sort of wish didn't exist, but this one amuses me.  Basically, it puts a Justice League member up against a villain with some description of what the two characters can do and a simple scenario-- the reader is invited to decide what would happen.

What follows are spoilers. 

Green Lantern John Stewart vs. Joker in Arkham Asylum

I'm giving the initial round to the Joker.  John is not noted for his outside-the-box thinking.  The Joker's going to be an out-of-context problem for him.  John will be overconfident because the Joker is "just a psychopath" and will get whammied.

Of course, dramatic necessity dictates that John will eventually get his act together and defeat the Joker.  The good guys always win in the end.  That's what makes fiction better than real life.

Wonder Woman vs. Atrocitus on Themiscaria

Wonder Woman kicks his shouty red ass.  Atrocitus is no pushover, but Wonder Woman spars with both Batman and Superman, and she's on an island of warrior-women.  It's an epic throwdown, but the conclusion is obvious.

Nightwing vs. Catwoman in Gotham City

I'm sorry, Dick.  She's going to get away.  You're good, but she's escaped from Batman.

Green Lantern Hal Jordan vs. Captain Cold in Coast City

This one is cool.  (I'm sorry for the pun.)  Captian Cold is just a guy with a gun, but he's beat the Flash before.  He's a guy with a gun who can draw a bead on the fastest man alive.  And the cold gun is unusually useful against the Green Lantern's ring.  If it fired beams of ice, that'd be one thing.  GL could make shields.  But the cold gun just reduces molecular motion to zero.  The ice is a side-effect.

I'm betting that GL takes a beating, but is eventually able to turn the tide.  Hal Jordan doesn't go down easy.  (At least that's what Carol says.) 

(Yes, I'm a terrible person.)

Cyborg vs. Manbat in Hub City's football stadium

The set-up hampers Cyborg.  The text specifically calls out that he can't just blast the heck out of everything because the stadium is full of civilians.  That gives Manbat a fighting chance, but the stadium would also limit his mobility.  Just chasing Manbat off is probably a win for Cyborg.

I'm guessing Cyborg modifies his sonic cannon to screw with Manbat's echolocation so he crashes into a wall.  Victory: Cyborg.

Firestorm vs. Firefly in Hub City

Firefly goes down like a chump.  He's a dude with a jetpack and a flamethrower.  Firestorm (a) is immune to fire, (b) flies better, (c) can stop chemical reactions with his brain.  When you rely on making things combust for all your powers, don't fight a guy who can turn oxygen into something else.

Zatanna vs. Scarecrow in Bluthaven

Okay, so the text calls out that Scarecrow got the drop on Zatanna and hit her with fear toxin.  She believes her mouth has been sealed shut.  That's the only reason he has a chance.

I'm giving him the early rounds, but Zatanna has (iirc) managed to do magic without talking before in extreme circumstances.  And she actually CAN talk, she just doesn't think she can.  So she needs a few minutes to get her head together and remember that this is just a guy with fear gas.  Then she can meditate and stuff.  Then she says "Worceracs emoceb a daot," and the fight's over.  But it's a close one.

Red Arrow vs. Poison Ivy in a hospital

Roy's a chump.  Ivy gets away.  One interesting advantage Roy has, though, is that due to his years of drug addiction, he's probably somewhat resistant to Ivy's mind-control spores.  So she doesn't just get to roll over him without a struggle.

The Flash vs. Bane

Bane has planted bombs all around the city.  Flash has to find them before they blow up.

Really, there's no challenge.  Wally is so fast that in an emergency he can stop time, and has several other speedsters on (sorry here) speed dial.  Barry is one of the smartest guys around.  Bane learns to stay out of Keystone.

(I'm reminded of a fight between Quicksilver and some annoying mutant with predictive telepathy.  Sure, the guy knows every move Quicksilver is going to make, but that doesn't help when the moves themselves are so fast that you can't react to them.  And Quicksilver is REALLY SLOW compared to the Flash.)

Robin vs. Hush inside a prison

One of the two of these people was trained by Lady Shiva.  It's not Hush.  When Hush has time to set everything to his own advantage, he's a pretty serious threat.  When he's locked in a room with Robin is not one of those times.

Hawkgirl vs. Cheetah in a rooftop battle

This is a pretty good fight.  The scenario starts with Cheetah having grappled Hawkgirl, which eliminates a lot of Hawkgirl's advantages.  Cheetah regularly doesn't die while fighting Wonder Woman, so she can take a hit.  But Hawkgirl has an Nth metal mace if she can get it into play.

I'll ultimately give the fight to Hawkgirl.  She can levitate without using her wings, and can probably breathe in thinner air than Cheetah.  It's a close one, though.  Could really go either way.

Black Lightning vs. Killer Croc in a sewer

I'd normally say Black Lightning, but this specific scenario says his blasts can't penetrate Croc's armor.  I call BS, but I'll go with it for now.

That set-up really favors Croc.  He's got his favored environment, and Black Lightning will have trouble hurting him.  But BL's a pretty tough dude.  He might risk letting Croc grapple him so he can get a blast into Croc's mouth.

Batwoman vs. Ra's al Ghul in Gotham City

Kate could get away, but I don't think she could beat the Demon himself.  If her girlfriend is handy with her disintegrator pistol, that might change the odds.

Superman vs. Ares in the Fortress of Solitude

Tough fight for Supes.  Ares is every bit as strong, and has magic weapons.  But Superman has the home court advantage.  I'm betting Superman takes a severe beating, but Ares ends up on vacation in the Phantom Zone.

Black Canary vs. Harley Quinn in Arkham Asylum

I know Harley is a fan favorite, but Black Canary was one of the world's best martial artists before she did a training stint with Shiva.  Even without her Canary Cry, she probably wins easily.

Red Tornado vs. Deadshot in Happy Harbor

I'm pretty sure Red Tornado can take a bullet or two before he's seriously impaired.  I think Deadshot ends up back in prison for his next stint on Taskforce X.

Huntress vs. Two-face in Gotham

Two-face has fought Batman, but he doesn't generally win in a one-on-one fight.  And Batman fights with more restraint than Huntress.  I think Two-face might take a few crossbow bolts to his pretty side.

In the end, she'd manage to stop herself from killing him, and thus earn a really serious enemy for later.  And Batman would still complain that she didn't do it right.

Martian Manhunter vs. Bizarro on the Watchtower

This one is a seriously tough fight due to Bizarro's flame breath.  Manhunter's telepathy is either a total game-changer or is nerfed due to Bizarro's insanity.  It's a tough fight, but Bizarro is his own worst enemy.  He's just not smart enough, and Manhunter can phase through walls.  J'ohn doesn't win easily, but he wins in the end.

Vixen vs. Penguin in the Iceberg Lounge

Really, Oswald?  Really?

Vixen is an out-of-context problem for Gotham's criminals.  Penguin works best when he has lots of guys with guns, which he doesn't have in this scenario.  There was a reason he went semi-legit.

(That reason is that he's a fat man with a vindictive streak, not a supervillain.)

Batman vs. Lex Luthor in Metropolis

Lex has power armor.  He does pretty well for himself.  This is actually a solid fight.  But Batman is Batman.  Lex's main weapon is a kryptonite blaster, which doesn't phase Batman.  And Batman went into Lexcorp with a plan.  I'd say Lex gets away, but Batman walks away having dealt a severe blow.

In the next few days, Lexcorp stock probably tanks due to scandal, and Waynetech subsidiaries buy up the assets Lex has to liquidate to stop the bleeding.

So anyway, that was a fun little interlude.  If your household has a budding geek, you could do worse than buying a copy of this for yourself.

If you disagree with any of my choices, nener, nener, nener.  I can't hear you.

Wherein David Buys ALL the Comics

So here's a cool thing: I now have the job of ordering adult and YA graphic novels for my library.  ("Adult" as in "not aimed at children," not as in "porn.") 

(But I can get close since nobody pays too much attention to what I buy...)

On the down-side, I don't get a lot of money.  But still, I got to spend around $3,000 for my February buy.  Even when you cut that in half because I generally buy two copies of everything, that still beats my old comics habit by quite a bit.

(For the curious, somewhere in the neighborhood of $100-120 per month.  Plus another $20 per month on Mage Knight booster packs, back in the golden age.)

I've actually been out of the comics world for quite a while.  Some years ago, I realized I was buying comics and only barely reading them.  They were taking up tons of space and a lot of money, and I wasn't really enjoying them.  In rapid succession, Marvel and DC both kind of went off the rails, and there wasn't much indy stuff I was interested in just then.  I sold off most of my collection to someone who would appreciate it more than I did, and limited myself to the occasional graphic novel. 

Now I feel like I need to be informed about comics again.  I wonder if my accountant could convince the IRS that my comics habit was a business expense...

There's always CBR and Newsarama.  Is there a similar thing for Manga?  What about for non-Japanese Manga?  I want to use my vast (actually miniscule) power to make the library's collection as good as it can be.  Probably 85-90% of what I order needs to be whatever's most popular, but I have some wiggle room for amazing stuff people don't know they want yet.

Time to call up David Doub and some of my other comic nerd friends.

(And by "call," I mean "email.")

(And by "email," I probably mean "think about emailing but never get around to it.")

Fastest Idiot Alive

I'm getting my tax documents together, rather than watching The Flash.  But while I take a break, here's some thoughts provoked by last week's episode.

I love the Flash.  The show is a lot of fun.  I want to get that right out in front.  But geeze, Barry Allen is such a moron.  I kinda hoped season 2 would be where we got to see him fight smarter, not faster.  (Well, also faster since one theme of the season is that Flash has to reach his full potential as master of the Speed Force to defeat Zoom.)

It's not just the secret identity thing.  That's dumb enough.  Not telling the POLICE DETECTIVE who works with your ADOPTIVE FATHER on the METAHUMAN TASK FORCE, and whom YOU ARE SLEEPING WITH that you are the Flash is just dumb.  It was dumb not telling Iris, and it's even more dumb not telling Patty.

That's just bad writing, though.  I can see the dramatic necessity of not telling her, but she needed to be set up differently: as a tough-as-nails cop who hates all metahumans, Flash included, and is put on the metahuman task force-- but who really likes Barry and wants to be with him.  Then Barry actually can't tell her because she might destroy his life.  Instead, he just spent months treating her like an idiot.

But like I said, that's not the really stupid thing.

The stupid thing is when you decided to fight the guy who could make you stop running the moment he sees you by running straight toward him faster.

You're the freaking FLASH.  You can move faster than the speed of sound.  You could sneak up behind someone and hit them literally faster than humans can react, and the Turtle's power doesn't work unless he actively turns it on.

Some of this is on Jay, of course.  He's an experienced speedster who could tell Barry stuff like "you're not invulnerable.  Sneak up on people.  Hit them when they're not looking.  It hurts a lot less that way.  And maybe carry a weapon.  My hat really hurts when I Frisbee-toss it at someone at Mach 3."

Seriously, writer guys, there's like a zillion really cool genre shows on right now.  I literally don't have enough time to watch them all.  For the first time in my life, I'm having to choose which awesome superhero show to watch, and you guys need to step up, or else it might be Shadowhunters.

Shadowhunters.  Do you want to lose to Shadowhunters?

A Humiliating Confession

Here's a confession.  I suck at writing.

I'm really good at ideas and expression.  At my writers' group I have to pad my read times to leave a minute or two for people who are going to laugh outloud at my jokes.  I daresay I'm pretty good at characters (although terrible at villains.  I just can't see the point in being evil.  Strange, since so many other people are so good at it...)

But when it comes to taking all my ideas and characters and well-crafted phrases and turning them into a coherent manuscript with story beats and pacing and stuff... I suck.

My first successful sales were picture books because I can hold a 700 word manuscript in my head all at once.  But 100,000?  50,000?  Even 10,000 for a children's novel is too much.  I can muddle my way through, but the results are rarely completely satisfactory.

I'm also not very good at revising.  This presents a problem.

So I'm trying to address that problem.  I've tried several other times, and each attempt seems to produce a little improvement, but I'm still a long way from where I need to be.

I'm looking for a system to organize my thoughts and build a story.  I doubt I'll adopt Ms. Dodd's system entirely.  My suspicion is that there are zillions of these "how to write a novel" guides because there's no one way that works for everyone.  The best a would-be writing guru can do is to show you what worked for them.  (I'm jumping on the "them as a gender-neutral singular pronoun" bandwagon.  I fought against it for years, but then I remembered that gramatical conscriptivists are sticks in the mud and stinky goo-heads. [But I'm still trying not to use "hopefully" to mean "it is to be hoped." {Do I contradict myself?  Very well, thenI contradict myself.  I am vast.  I contain multitudes.}.].)

My latest effort is to read The Writer's Compass, by Nancy Ellen Dodd.  I've had this book for a while, and even skimmed it looking for ideas, but I never really read it.  I'm intrigued by the idea of a "story map."  I've tried lots of ways to visualize the structure of my novels, and haven't found one yet.

Here's to hoping.

The Sporadic Update

Hi, poor, neglected website.  I see it's been months since I've posted anything.  That's mostly because my life is really boring.  But here's an update:

The final-ish manuscript for Ginny Goblin Cannot Have a Monster for a Pet has been accepted by my editor at HMH.  I say final-ish because we can actually still make changes, but Kate's happy and I'm happy and they're going to pay me the final part of the advance.  So, yea!  And the chance we'll get to publish in 2017 is slightly higher (but still pretty low).

I'll be attending the 2016 DFW Writers' Conference as a speaker.  I get a cool red badge, and all I have to do in return is stand in front of a room and talk to strangers.  No, I'm not sure why, either.

But that does bring me to my next point.  The Conference Committee seems to think that just because I've sold two children's books I should be some kind of credible expert on children's writing.  And you know, they have a point.  I really should try to be one.

I fell into children's writing kind of by accident.  (With a lot of help, too.)  But I can't really blunder forward without learning anything forever.  So I'm going to start studying.  And I'll share the more interesting things I learn with all you lovely people.  It is to be hoped that by the time I have to teach a class on the children's publishing world that I will know enough to be worthwhile.

Of course, all my readers will already have read everything I learned...

@DFWCON or Bust

There are two days to go until the DFW Writers' Conference.  This is my first gig as a semi-professional writer-type person.  I'll be facilitating some read and critique sessions and monitoring an unknown number of panels.  (I hope just one or two, but the Conference Committee totally let me out of one of the sessions I was supposed to facilitate so I could go to Kevin J. Anderson's worldbuilding class, so I'll do pretty much whatever they ask.)

(The Conference Committee people are awesome.  They do a great job every year.  If you haven't thanked them yet, put that on your to-do list.  Put a little star by it.)

One of the critique sessions is for Synopses, and I also want to give a shout-out to Stephen Barr, my awesome agent, who took out time to give me some great advice I can share with my crit victims.

If you've been thinking about joining the DFW Writers' Workshop and wonder what we do, the Read and Critique sessions will be a great way to try us out.  (Just showing up at a meeting is ALSO a great way to try us out, but this way you get to participate.)  Our regular meetings are primarily devoted to reading and critique, with around 20-30 readers per night spread out in 4-5 rooms.  The sessions at the Conference are shorter than our regular meetings, but they'll be a nice sample.

I hope to see you (the generic "you") at the Conference.  It's a great place to make friends, and I always learn something new.  Usually several things.  One thing I learned is that it's fun to ask YA and SF editors and agents what they think of the Harry Potter franchise.  Some of the other things were more directly useful to my writing career, but nowhere near as entertaining.

Presenting Ginny Goblin

Holy cow!  I'm in Publisher's Weekly!

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/emailtemplates/childrens-thu.html

Here's the really imortant bit:

Kate O'Sullivan at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has acquired at auction Ginny Goblin Is Not Allowed to Open This Box and a follow-up picture book text by debut author David Goodner, to be illustrated by Scott Campbell. The first book tells the story of a box that Ginny is not allowed to open, but she will try. Publication of the first title is scheduled for spring 2018; Stephen Barr at Writers House represented Goodner and Steve Malk at Writers House represented Campbell in the deal for world rights. 

Almost there... Almost there...

Hi everybody!

I think things are just about ready with the web page, and now I'm on the road to making up some content.  I'm going to try to push this post to my twitter and facebook feeds, because I always thought people who could do that were awesome.

So I suppose it'd be nice to say something substantive.  

...

...

Sorry.  I got nothin'.  It's been kind of a bummer week around here.

Just Doing Some Redecorating

Hello, legions of fans.  You might have noticed that things have changed around here.  I'm still fiddling with Squarespace's templates and settings and whatnot.  I think I've settled on the one that will make the site most like what I want.

Still to come is a more robust sidebar, and probably a few new pages.

And then I'm thinking about regular content.  I don't have the soul of a blogger, but I can probably manage some kind of semi-regular updates of content that's more interesting than a recap of my day.

We shall see.

Welcome Back

Greetings and salutations.  After a long absence, davidgoodner.com is back on the air.  (Well, on the world wide web.  I suppose if you're using wi-fi it's on the air.)

Things probably look a little different.  Actually completely different.  That's because they are.

If you're one of my old fans, you knew this page as The Astounding Mr. Goodner's Amazing Electric Widgets.

Now this is The Astounding Mister Goodner's Amazing Electric Imaginarium, home of the author David Goodner.  See, back when I was just gamer and occasional podcaster David Goodner, I could have a plain old blog where I posted whatever came to my mind with no real rhyme or reason.  I mostly posted about roleplaying games and bad movies.

Then the old blog, managed by the inestimable Tim Rayburn, crashed.  And since I wasn't updating it anyway I let it stay dead.

But now I'm this (not really) big author who's supposed to have a platform.  Whatever that is.

(I actually know what that is.  It's a way of reaching people so that when I become a PUBLISHED author, some of them know who I am and maybe want to buy my book.  My mom loves me, but she's not going to be able to buy enough copies to make back my advance)

And so: The Astounding Mister Goodner's Amazing Electric Imaginarium.

It's managed by me now, so if it crashes I'm in a position to yell at people until it gets fixed, and it's not really just a random blog anymore.  It's sort of an advertisement for me.

(One lesson you can take from this is that a person can become a published author and still write sentence fragments deliberately.)

We're just getting started here.  I'm going to try to recover as much of my old gaming content as I can.  Some of it was a few hard drives ago, but I think I still have most of it.  As I have time, I'll clean it up and maybe try to give it a nicer format and a little less random organization.  I'm still a gamer and I still like making new game stuff.

I'm probably not going to use the site as a blog as much, but I might change my mind.  Lately, I've been more inclined to use Facebook for that kind of thing.  I'll probably have to loosen my security a little bit so that more than my immediate friends can read my posts, though.