Monday, December 31, 2018

Venger's Options

Okay, that last post was not as popular as I hoped.  I tried hard not to come off as a smug, superior bastard but it was text, this is the internet and I have a reputation.  My goal was to explain how I see things differently ... it was not to minimize DMWieg's unpleasant experience or that of anyone who read that post.

I've had bad nights.  We all have.  But our experience and ability isn't about a bad night or about bad players.  We build ourselves on what we've done well and how we step up when the going gets tough.  When you have a bad running ~ and you will ~ then dig the fuck in.  There's no nice way to say that but there's also nothing else that's really going to help.

I did get one comment, from Venger Satanis.  I don't much like Venger.  On the whole, I think he represents the toxic male side of role-playing.  He thinks the goal is to "Game Master Like a Fucking Boss."  His presence, however, proves that I'm not a social leper because I'm a fucking dick.  You can definitely be a fucking dick and be popular:

No, I'm a social leper for other reasons.  Allow me to demonstrate.

Let's take some time and discuss Venger's advice:
"You could offer patrons name recognition of some sort, ways to collaborate with you creatively, or partner with an artist who can bring your writing to life."

Name Recognition

As good a place to start as any.  I'm watching people on videos post the names of their supporters online with every video, which makes some kind of sense.  At the start of a film we list all the people who gave money as "executive producers."  I've resisted this kind of call out because, frankly, it feels like outing people who may want to make their contributions in private.  That is probably my prejudice, however.

If I pay for a friend's windshield, I don't want my name tattooed on the side of his car.  If I have the money to take friends to dinner or I treat them to a movie, I'm not looking to be called out on Facebook the next day.  And if I was, I'd be embarrassed.  Not for doing the wrong thing but because I don't want to be measured against how much money I had in my pocket.  I want people to respect me for what I say and what I accomplish ~ not for what I have.

I grew up with money.  I grew up in a great big house with parents who owned two cars, a huge cabin on the side and could afford to take their kids and their grandkids off on vacations.  Two well-off, tight-fisted, selfish parents who never gave a fucking thing to anybody but themselves, justified because they grew up poor and climbed one class up from dirt.  If they had ever given something to someone ~ which they never did ~ they'd have definitely wanted their names on it.  Not to prove they were generous, no; to prove they were the ones that really mattered.  And their resistance against that impulse?  That's how they judged what good people they were.

See?  Prejudice.  I'm fucked up.  I didn't respect money because once I had it.  When it was gone, I didn't fight to get it back because I equated that bullshit with turning out like my parents.

If you want name recognition, say so.  I appreciate and thank every one of you who gives to my patreon every month ... I'll post your name on this blog.  Proudly.  I'll do more than post your name.  I'll write your biography as a post if you want recognition.  I'll call your boss and tell them what a good guy you are.  You can use my name as a reference.

But I won't add your name to a list to prove I've got supporters.  I won't trade my name on your generosity.  That sounds like a shitty, selfish thing to do.  I've never had a single supporter say, "Hey, where's my name recognition?"  Not one.

Ask and you can certainly have it.

Collaborate Creatively

I have tried.  Here are eight podcasts I did last year.  I asked others to come in with me on my wiki.  I tried to establish a group wiki all the way back in 2011.  I've encouraged comments.  Privately, I've suggested collaborations ... and, in fact, there are two that have a distant chance of evolving into something, though there's no time line.

I have been collaborating with people one way or another since 1985.  I took my experience as a DM to encourage my friends to create performances, which gave me the experience to get into film making and film producing.  Trust me, there's nothing like film and theatre when it comes to collaboration.  After four years of working on the university newspaper, I worked with others to get a zine on the streets in the 1990s.  For a time we sold ads, published 10,000 copies of a 12 page coffee shop magazine and technically made a profit.  I went with collaborators to the Edmonton Fringe Festival in 1997, the largest in North America, performing shows on stage and getting great reviews.  I collaborated with others to make this film, Coil, in 2001.  You'll notice I'm the lead supporting actor.  The film won at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and at the Toronto City Film Festival that year.  Sadly, it is an impossible film to find just now.  I have a VHS copy, but no DVD and even I haven't seen the film since 2009.

See, I really can act.  If you were putting together a cast right now, and I had the time, I'm a good pick for your villain or your tough old wise voice.  I can write like a storm.  I have skillz.  But here's the thing about collaborations:

They go nowhere.  At least for me.  Barbara Beall, who played the lead in coil, is a hell of a fine person and deserves the career she has.  I am damn glad for her.  She wanted that career and I promise you she has fought to have it.  But a person has to make a certain kind of sacrifice to make success out of a collaboration and that doesn't describe me.

For me to succeed in a collaborative D&D effort, I'd have to burn this blog to the ground.  Delete everything, change my name and then start quietly creating 5th Edition modules.  Treat the 5E rules as written and start building illogical dungeon rooms with really clever monster combinations and traps.  Never talk about myself.  Never buck the trend.  Join an Adventurer's League group and put my brain on a shelf.  I figure, as obvious as the rooms are, I could steal my way into a half decent reputation in less than two years.  I could write some suck-up letters to the WOTC, submit what they want to see and maybe get myself added to a writing committee for some future AL adventure by 2022.  Maybe I could write a dimwitted blog reviewing crap.  A podcast is out of the question, however, so faking popularity on that front is dead to me now.  I have to do it as Alexis or not at all.  I've burned that bridge.

But if I stay in writing, then maybe I could build a reputation as Seth Momford.  Or Adam Grange.  Scott Yell.  James Broom.  Any easily remembered 9-11 letter combination will do.

I'm mostly done with collaboration.  Nice thing about being a writer.  It gets done alone.

Partner with an Artist

Technically, that's collaborate creatively.  One thing I hate about these suggestive lists is when the suggestor runs out of new ideas after the second one, but pretends its an new idea with different words.

Bring My Writing to Life

Now.  That just hurts.

It's nice to think my writing lays dead on the page because there's no artist to paint it up for you.  Like Frankenstein's monster, sewn together with graveyard flesh, waiting for a spark. Without that, my writing is a rotting carcass.

The internet has created more writing work than any technological revolution since the printing press.  I only have books because the internet has shattered the repressive publishing industry of the 20th Century ... and is on the verge of shattering the laws surrounding publishing.  But the Glory Holes of Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram have stolen all the thunder because any dumbfuck spoiled brat empowered by her parents can cruise her way to super stardom before her 16th birthday (and destined to die an overdose before her 24th) and rule eyeballs far and wide.  To hell with finding an artist to bring my writing to life.  I need my writing to be screamed out of the mouth of a 14-year-old open-toed ungulate.  With balloons.

Sorry if that wasn't sufficiently visual.  I haven't an artist to paint the picture.

Let's get down to it.  It isn't that my writing isn't sufficiently alive.  It's that my writing isn't saying what's popular.

And I'm a miserable curmudgeon because I didn't take Venger's advice and say, "Wow, that's amazing!  First I'll post a list of my sponsors, then I'll take a creative person out of my back pocket to start a collaboration, an artist naturally, and bring my work to life!  Damn, if only I had thought of that!"


Collaborating is a good idea.  Trouble is, I don't collaborate because, well ... I am on the fringes of role-playing theory and just at the moment, without more research, even I don't know where I'm going.  I shot a few guidelines out into the void but hell, I don't know if they're going to attach to anything.

Who am I going to collaborate with?

Vengers advice is to basically lean on other people and let them do the work.  I have no one to lean on ... except for my sponsors, who kindly put up with me like Julius II with Michelangelo.  Not because I'm warm and fun and occasionally useful, but because I'm so crazy in the head there's a chance I might be onto something.

Investing in my blog is not like investing in Amazon.  It's like investing in the Hadron Collider.  We don't know what the fuck its going to accomplish but, maybe, someday, it might change our view of the universe.

People really hate that collider.


Ozymandias said...

Shoot, if having less than 700 subscribers on YouTube is enough to be considered "popular," then there's hope for us yet. These guys having been tooling around since the days of the BBS and the most they've been able to accomplish is someone going, "You mean the alt-right D&D fascist? I blocked him months ago."

Stealth said...

I say you don't need anyone else to help "make your writing come to life". Your writing, at least to my eyes, IS alive. I read your work because it's often informative, detailed, entertaining, and opinionated. I enjoy your work because it is challenging. It challenges me to think deeper about the game and life in general.

I appreciate your efforts, whether your work is ignored or praised, financially profitable or not, you continue to write. You dig in and keep going. If you were a boxer, I'd be proud to step into the ring with you or train with you. We're both probably a bit too old and frail for that sort of thing now, so let us stick to your writing and my reading.

Here's to another year! Welcome to 2019 Alexis, and fellow readers. May our ventures succeed beyond our expectations through diligence and hard work.

Rob Schwarz said...

Regarding the Name Recognition thing, musicians often come up with group names for their big fans (KISS has the KISS Army and Lady Gaga has her little Monsters), rather than naming them individually. I suspect this still helps the folks feel included without the issues you listed. Not sure how to work that in but I thought I'd mention it.

Alexis Smolensk said...

My favorite Paul Simon lyric:

"In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains, mm hmmm"

So, yeah. Praise to 2019 and to all fellow readers. I thank you for your kindness and your memory.

Alexis Smolensk said...


It's a pity monsters is already taken. But I find that presumption patronizing too.

Vlad Malkav said...

I concur with Stealth. No need for another artist, you're more than enough for your work, and it is alive.
And you already changed many views of our RPG universe, during those years. Multiple breakthrough, innumerable inspiration fits, insightful advice ... You're good, don't stop.