On Oracle, Batgirl, and Disabilities

Okay, folks, time to get up on the soapbox a little bit. This is something that’s been in the back of my mind for some time, and something I saw on Twitter brought it back to the front of my mind. Also, it relates to one of my current writing projects, so it’s time to get it off my chest.

I do not like the fact that Barbara Gordon stopped being Oracle to retake the mantle of Batgirl.

First, a little public disclosure: I happen to have a disability myself. A relatively mild and hidden disability, but I do have one. It’s called Hemophilia B.

Now, as for Barbara, I’ll admit right up front that her disability was a lot more serious. But the fact that the writers “fixed” her can lead to a lot of other things.

First off, not all disabled people want to be “fixed.” Many disabled people, like myself, are just fine being who we are. Our disabilities contributed to the person we are, so we really don’t want to change it. For me, the fact that I couldn’t run and roughhouse with the other kids in school kinda pushed me into doing a lot more reading (where I could have adventures), and that’s what made me the writer I am today. Of course, there are those who want to regain a “normal” life, and we should celebrate their successes, but they should not overshadow those like me.

Second, the fact that the writers felt compelled to “fix” Barbara shows a deep-seated attitude about disabled people: that you’re not a real person unless you’re “fixed.” Oracle was, honestly, a beacon of hope to disabled people, a story telling us that even though we’re not “normal” (whatever normal is), we can contribute to society. I’ll drop just two names here to show just how big an impact disabled people can have on the world: Stevie Wonder and Stephen Hawking.

Although I hesitate to use the term, this is actually about inclusiveness. Disabled people need and deserve to be included, just as women and people of different faiths and skin tones deserve to be included. What DC did was take one of the leading disabled heroes — in fact, the only major disabled DC hero I’m aware of — out of their lineup. They decided this was the one group they no longer wanted to include, they wanted to exclude the disabled.

This is shameful. And it needs to stop. Just as we need more heroes of different backgrounds, we also need more heroes of different ability levels.

As an addendum, I mentioned that this relates to a work in progress… I do fully intend to write a superhero story with an Oracle-like character at the center of it. I’ve tried a couple different approaches and haven’t been too happy with any yet, but I promise I will keep trying and will get the thing written someday.


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A NaNoWriMo Decision Has Been Reached!

With about a month before NaNoWriMo 2018, I’ve decided what project I’m going to work on this year.

I’ll be (finally!) writing an idea I’ve had in the back of my head for some time, about a magical assassin, alchemist, and necromancer turning into a good guy. Since it’s been in my mind for a while (years, actually), it’s the most fully fleshed of all my ideas and thus will be the easiest to write. It’s also the one my personal muse has been giving me the most ideas about recently, so I think this is the one I’m meant to work on.

In keeping with a promise made to Stephen Coghlan (@WordsBySC) and Dorian Graves (@DorianGravesFTW), I will be reusing an old character as well, just not as the main character. My disabled protagonist from my first serious writing project Librarian (that never really worked out the way I wanted it to) will now be my main character’s mentor as he starts to learn about doing things to help others. I might still rewrite Librarian someday, but not this year.

Now, I just need a good name for this necromancer/assassin/alchemist.

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Confessions of a 50-something Wizard 101 Player

Yeah, there it is, right out for everyone to see. This year I’m 52 years old (same age as Star Trek, as I like to remind people), and I play Wizard 101. Quite a bit, in fact. Sit down, young people, and let me tell you a story.

It was many years ago that I got started, and it was because of a friend of mine named Dana. She had cerebral palsy, and so she couldn’t play most MMOs, because her manual dexterity wasn’t the best. However, she discovered she could play Wizard 101, and immediately became addicted to it. She and I spent many pleasant hours exploring the Spiral together.

Sadly, she passed on a few years ago, but I still play, and Wizard 101 is still going strong despite currently celebrating their tenth anniversary (with a redesign of many of the common areas earlier this year).

So what brings me back? There’s quite a few things, which I’ll list in no particular order.

  • It’s a slower paced game. That means I can play it while texting with friends, while dinner is cooking, or whatever. While there is a time limit during battles, it’s fairly easy to stay out of battles if you know you’ll need to step away from the PC in the next few minutes (like if there’s less than five minutes on the dinner timer).
  • Parent company Kingsisle is constantly updating it. The game started with five worlds available, you quested through each world in order, then the game was more or less over. In the years since they’ve added eleven (some larger than others). That’s better than a new world each year. The level cap has increased accordingly, new spells have been added, and lots of other features.
  • It focuses more on strategy than button-mashing.
    Wizard 101 duel
    The combat is based on spell cards, so constructing your deck is of critical importance, and choosing the right card to play from your hand at the right time is also very important. It’s not just who can push the attack button the fastest, or who has the best attack rotation, it’s a game that teaches and rewards thinking ahead.
  • The game pays homage to a number of geeky things that adults will likely get but children might not (depending on their age and level of geekiness). Here’s a few examples:
    Sherlock Bones
    This one is easy!
    Reed Treever
    A play on words in that pug’s name…
    Professor and BOX
    The Professor
    Whovians probably recognize who that dog and his contraption are paying homage to!
    Brandon Mistborn
    Getting a little more obscure now, but fantasy book fans will probably get it.
    Lloyd Fallingwater
    Okay, this one might be too obscure for some folks, so I’ll give it to you. One of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous homes is called “Fallingwater.”
  • The game is also very affordable. A month-to-month membership is only $10 a month, as opposed to $15 or more for many games (cheaper if you buy more than one month at a time). And many of the in-game purchases can be bought with the gold you get for winning battles. If you want crowns, you can either purchase them with cash or play other online games to win crowns, many of them educational!
  • Because it’s a kid’s game, the chat is very restricted based on age. The details are available on this third-party wiki, but the effect is that Wizard 101 has one of the most polite chats available in gaming.
  • I don’t think anyone ever mentions killing opponents… it’s always phrased as “defeat” opponents or similar wording. Some PVE opponents do fall on their back after being defeated, but this could easily be fainting rather than dying.

All in all, I find myself returning to Wizard 101 over and over and over again. Partly it’s in Dana’s memory, but it’s also just a fun game on its own.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 12 or 52, if you want a game that encourages thinking rather than just stabbing buttons, you could do far worse than to check out Wizard 101!

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Back to Librarian!

Okay, this all started at work when I was idly scanning Twitter on my phone (yeah, sorry, boss, if you’re reading this).

That got me thinking about Librarian. I wrote it for a reason, and it wasn’t just cause I was out of work and needed something to do (which I was and did). But that story itself had a reason for being. It still has a reason for being, I think, and it’s still a good one even if it hasn’t been at the forefront of my thoughts lately.

So, my current plan leading up to NaNoWriMo is to go back to that original concept and see if I can do it better this time with what I’ve learned in the intervening years. And this NaNoWriMo I definitely intend to crank out 50,000 words of all new Librarian. Same basic concept, which some people on Twitter praised today, but let’s call it a different take on it.

We’ll see how it goes!

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Back to Blogging!

Well, it’s been a while (looks back at last blog post) yeah, a few years in fact, but I’ve decided to reactivate this blog as a place to share my thoughts about, well, almost anything!

In the interim a lot of things have happened, probably the most important for this blog is that I’m now a volunteer book reviewer and all around writer for the website GeeksUnderGrace.com, whose t-shirt you see me wearing in my profile picture. I mention that because my book reviews will appear over there rather than here, whereas my random ramblings will show up here because they’re not really GUG material.

Did that make sense? Hope so.

Watch this space for future ramblings!

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I Dislike Deleting Words.

But that’s how my day started. Yesterday I wrote some really good stuff, but today I trashed a lot of it.

Why?

Because I decided I was revealing too much too soon. A story has its own timing, and if you reveal things too early or too much at one time, it can be bad for the story (even if you avoid the dreaded infodump).

A writer has to be careful, we have to be sure to control the information the hero needs to finish his quest, not just from the hero but from the reader. Think about it, how satisfying would it be if the writer gave the whole story away in the first couple of chapters?

At the same time, the writer can’t let too long go by without some piece of the puzzle being offered. But that wasn’t my problem today.

In any event, painful as it was to delete my own words, I think the story will be better for it in the end.

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When Characters Introduce Themselves

I just had an interesting experience… a character I didn’t have in the first draft of Librarian came up to Roncen and basically weaved himself into the story. He’s a young thief that will be serving as an apprentice to Roncen. This was a bit of a tough decision for me to make, because as I indicated in the post about how I came up with Roncen (linked above), I said I like playing with (i.e. breaking) stereotypes, and the young thief is kind of a stereotype in fantasy, so in a way I’m bowing to one instead of breaking it.

On the other hand, he’s just come into the story and I’m not really sure how his part of the story is going to unfold yet. I’m hoping I can break away from the usual “young thief” stereotype by making him an apprentice of Roncen, so he’s not the young know-it-all that we see often in other fantasy novels. Or maybe he just thinks he knows it all but will be corrected often.

But I’m getting off topic. I certainly wasn’t expecting another major character to come up and introduce himself, so as I said it was kind of an interesting experience. I’m looking forward to see how he works himself into the story.

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