Author Archives: Gene'O

On Gaming and Cultural Literacy

If you are a parent or you plan to be one, you’re gonna need a gaming console unless you absolutely can’t afford it. Sooner than you think.

Gaming has been a pervasive part of the culture for so long, it’s not unheard-of to meet a 50-something gamer. Half of hardcore gamers or former gamers are women. So there’s a good chance that once your kid starts school, he or she will have at least one friend who’s not only REALLY into gaming, but has a parent or grandparent who actively encourages the interest and is willing to share tricks.

The old stereotype of the gamer as a disaffected white teenage boy using the games as an escape from society hasn’t held for at least 15 years, if there was ever any truth to it at all.

basement_cheetos

An old, old line by internet standards. The “serious intellectuals” were calling bloggers basement-dwelling cheeto-eaters when the blogosphere first became a thing.

Lots of successful, well-adjusted people of all backgrounds are gamers. It’s a legitimate, mainstream social activity.

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Summer of Sandman: Favorite Places

Sandman covers by Dave McKean. Collage discovered at The Book Wars

Sandman covers by Dave McKean. Collage discovered at The Book Wars

The Thursday 13 is a meme that Part Time Monster does often. I enjoy writing them but don’t have the time to do them every week. When I agreed to blog about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series here back in February, I decided to sit down and write a few of these.

Here are my 13 favorite Sandman locations. You can also check out my 13 favorite characters and my favorite stories.

1. Hell — Described as a warped reflection of The Silver City. Visually, it’s a horrific landscape of twisted flesh with rivers of various bodily fluids. Dream comes into possession of the Key to Hell at an important point in the series, and it has diplomatic repercussions. Death describes Hell as “the most valuable piece of psychic real estate in the universe.”

2. The Necropolis Litharge — The ultimate mortuary. An entire city on another plane devoted to disposing of its clients’ remains in a dignified manner according to their last wishes. The citizens are apprenticed from a young age and those who don’t develop the skills to qualify for citizenship are sent out across the worlds to become great morticians. Citizens sleep on stone slabs, are fed by offerings from clients, and are clothed in garments left behind by the deceased.

Denizens of Litharge performing an air burial. Image via Comixology.com.

3. Faerie — Just Faerie. It isn’t featured in many issues, but I love the artwork and the denizens. It’s connected to various other planes by portal stones which can only be activated with the consent of the King and Queen of Faerie.

4. Fiddler’s Green, aka Gilbert — Described as the heart of the Dreaming. Originally, the place where sailors who die at sea go (though possibly much older). A lush, green place populated by animals where music is forever playing. Incarnates itself as Gilbert and has an adventure in the waking world early in the series.

5. Nowhere — This is actually a place. There’s a panel in Brief Lives in which Dream and Delirium are traveling, and they’re standing together against a white background. Delirium asks where they are. Dream replies “Nowhere.”

6. Destiny’s Garden — The bulk of Destiny’s realm is garden with ever-branching paths which everyone walks. Every decision everyone ever makes represents a branch in the path. The centers of all the labyrinths that ever existed or ever will intersect in the Destiny’s Garden.

7. The Earth of Boss Smiley — Featured in a stand-alone story in World’s End. Boss Smiley is the prince of this Earth, and functions as both God and the Devil. He’s drawn as a man in a suit with a huge smiley-face head. He has a Heaven which people go to after they die and sing his praises.

The Threshold. Image via Comicvine.com.

8. The Threshold, the Fortress of Desire — Desire’s realm is a Fortress surrounded by empty mist. The fortress is a colossal statue of Desire himself/herself with accurate internal anatomy. It’s described as having eardrums the size of ballrooms. The circulatory system is corridors, and you could wander them your whole life without once re-tracing your path. Naturally, Desire lives in the heart.

9. The Library of Dream — An important part of the Dreaming. Contains all the books that were never written. That’s quite enough to warrant a place on this list.

10. The World’s End Inn — An inn that belongs to no world, where travelers take refuge when something so cosmically huge happens that it sends ripples across time and through the various worlds which disrupt the order of things. Having taken refuge, the travelers then tell stories to pay for their drinks.

11. The Land — A dream-skerry. Basically, a self-contained dreamworld represented as an island just off the Nighwtward Coast of the Dreaming. Setting for much of A Game of You. Dream functions as its creator deity.

12. The Soft Places — Places where the Dreaming touches the waking world. The center of the Gobi desert is one such place. Mortals can get lost here and wander for centuries without aging. Dream comes to the Soft Places to think from time to time. He encounters Marco Polo here at a pivotal moment early in the series, and an exiled Chinese civil servant in one of the final issues.

13. The Realm of Despair — A realm of mist, with rats scurrying around under foot, hung with endless mirrors. The Realm of Despair is the space behind every mirror. Despair of the Endless peers into the mirrors and whispers to people in moments where they are trying to decide whether to recover from some catastrophe, to lose all hope, or to take their own lives.

Want to join us for #SummeroOfSandman? Here’s how: Write a blog post about Sandman between now and Aug. 1. Long or short, any format. Share your link with us on a Sandman thread here or on Twitter using the hashtag #SummerOfSandman. It’s that easy.

Summer of Sandman: Favorite Stories

Sandman covers by Dave McKean. Collage discovered at The Book Wars

Sandman covers by Dave McKean. Collage discovered at The Book Wars

The Thursday 13 is a meme that Part Time Monster does often. I enjoy writing them but don’t have the time to do them every week. When I agreed to blog about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series here back in February, I decided to sit down and write a few of these.

Here are my 13 favorite Sandman stories. I’ve also got a Thursday 13 coming on my favorite places from the series, and you can read my 13 favorite characters here. The numbers are original issue numbers, and they are ranked in order of publication.

1. “The Sound of Her Wings” – (8) Features the first appearance of Death in the series. A single-episode story that occurs as a sort of epilogue to Dream’s imprisonment, escape, and re-establishment of his realm. This is first story where we see the Endless interacting with one another as emotional beings.

Dream and Death, feeding pigeons. Image via Comicvine.com.

2. “Collectors” – (14) Features the first appearance of The Corinthian. It’s an episode of The Doll’s House that occurs at a serial killer convention. It’s fabulous.

3. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – (19) The real story of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Explains why that play and The Tempest are so different from the rest of Shakespeare’s work. Won the World Fantasy Award for short fiction in 1991 and touched off a controversy. There’s a possibly-apocryphal story that the room fell silent when the award was announced. Then Harlan Ellison laughed like a maniac.

4. Season of Mists – (21 to 28) Lucifer empties Hell, abdicates his throne, and gives Dream the key to dispose of as he will. Asgard, envoys from the ancient Japanese and Egyptian pantheons, emissaries from the courts of Faerie, Order, and Chaos, and a host of others show up on Dream’s doorstep. Diplomatic hi-jinks ensue.

Lady Johanna in “Thermidor.” Tell me you don’t want to read these stories. Just tell me. Image via goodreads.com

5. “Thermidor” – (29) Dream sends Lady Johanna Constantine to revolutionary Paris on a secret mission which I can’t explain, because spoilers. She interacts with many historical figures, including Thomas Paine, and accomplishes her mission. She is also instrumental in ending the careers of Robespierre and Saint-Just.

6. “Three Septembers and a January” — (31) Explains how the career of His Majesty Joshua Abraham Norton, the one and only Emporer of the United States, came about.

7. Brief Lives – (41-49) Delirium decides to go looking for her brother Destruction, most-loved of all the Endless, who abdicated his realm sometime in the late 16th or early 17th Century and declared he was no longer a member of the family. After Desire and Despair refuse to help her, she visits Dream. He’s at a moment in his life where he needs a diversion. He accompanies Delirium, and gets more than he bargained for.

8. “A Tale of Two Cities” — (51) A Lovecraftian story from World’s End in which a man wanders out of a real city and into the dream of a city. He eventually finds his way back to the waking world, but is done with cities forever when he returns and ends up retiring to the outskirts of a small hamlet off the coast of Scotland. Because if you can wander into the dream of a city, that means the cities are sleeping. And where will we be if the cities ever wake?

9. “Cluracan’s Tale” — (52) Also a stand-alone story from World’s End, as are the next two. Cluracan is a hard-drinking, omnisexual courtier of the Faerie Queen. She sends him hither-and-yon across the planes as her diplomatic envoy. The Internet will tell you that the word “Cluracan” is associated with “Leprechaun.” This is a simple tale of adventure and prophecy that shows you exactly what happens to corrupt officials who mistreat envoys of the Seelie Court.

10. “The Golden Boy” — (54) Tale set in an alternate United States in which first generation youth voters change the constitution to allow the election of a young president. They elect Prez Rickard, and he becomes a Messiah figure with a tiny bit of help from Dream and Death.

Prez celebrates his election to the Presidency. Isn’t he beautiful in a stereotypical way? Image via comicvine.com

11. “Cerements” — (55) A story set in The Necropolis Litharge which explains how Litharge functions. Also, it’s quite a spooky tale, and Litharge is important to the plot.

12. The Kindly Ones — (57-69) Dream .v The Furies. That’s really all can say about it without going massive on the spoilers. Possibly a subversion of tragedy. If so, Gaiman is making a point about justice. Or maybe about Justice.

13. “Exiles” — (74) The penultimate issue of the original run. Occurs in the Soft Places. It involves an exiled Chinese civil servant, a kitten, Dream, and a centuries-lost Roman cavalry unit.

Want to join us for #SummeroOfSandman? Here’s how: Write a blog post about Sandman between now and Aug. 1. Long or short, any format. Share your link with us on a Sandman thread here or on Twitter using the hashtag #SummerOfSandman. It’s that easy.

Summer of Sandman: Favorite Characters

The Thursday 13 is a meme Part Time Monster does often. I enjoy writing them but don’t have the time to do them every week. When I agreed back in February to blog about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series here , I decided to sit down and write a three of these for it. Here are my 13 favorite Sandman characters. I also have lists for my favorite Sandman stories and places.

I’m excluding the the Endless from this list because there are so many good secondary characters to choose from, and I’m writing a short series on the Endless this month, anyway. If you aren’t familiar the series, here’s a quick, spoiler-lite synopsis from The Book Wars that discusses its significance and has the added charm of being a Banned Books Week post.

My 13 favorite characters.

1. Hob Gadling – A 13th Century mercenary who Dream and Death overhear telling his friends that the trick to living forever is “just don’t die.” This amuses Dream so much, Death agrees not to touch Hob until he wants to die. Hob lives into the 20th Century and becomes one of Dream’s few friends.

2. Lady Johanna Constantine – Ancestor of John. Trained in espionage, a skilled cross-dresser, and like John, she hunts infernal beings. Dream sends her on a personal mission to Revolutionary France and by the time she’s done, no more Reign of Terror.

3. Rose Walker – Central character in The Doll’s House. She first appears as a teenager, later as a twenty-something. She is so important to the plot, and so entangled with the Endless, I can’t say much about her without spoiling everything. She’s one of the most real characters in the story to me. She’s also utterly cool.

4. Wanda – A transgender woman who hails from a small midwestern town but lives in New York. She’s well-fleshed out and the story she’s a part of is extremely honest about how society was treating transgender people in the late 80’s. See this post from Hannah Givens for more on Wanda.

Gilbert, via Comicvine.com

5. Gilbert, aka Fiddler’s Green – A dream who takes human form and wanders into the waking world while Dream is imprisoned during the early 20th Century. His human form is a kind, portly older dude with somewhat Victorian manners. Friends with Rose Walker. I’ll discuss Gilbert’s Fiddler’s Green aspect when I do my list of places.

6. Mad Hettie – A homeless alcoholic Londoner who has supernatural longevity. She’s around from at least the late 17th Century into the 20th. She recognizes the Endless and other immortals when she sees them. She notes at one point that Dream always speaks to her and gives her strange coins.

7. Barnabas the Talking Dog – Companion of Destruction, later of Delirium. He’s a bit of a smartass, and quite capable of looking after himself. It’s unclear whether he is a creation of Destruction, a real dog who has somehow become super-intelligent, or a reincarnated human (as Dream’s Ravens are).

8. Thessaly – A witch from ancient Greece who has a deal with the Hecate for supernatural longevity. She looks like a librarian, but she is utterly ruthless, and is likely more powerful than some of the lesser immortals in the series.

9. Matthew the Raven – Dream always has one raven. It’s Eve’s raven (yes, the Biblical Eve), but also Dream’s. Dream’s ravens are humans reincarnated as dream-ravens. When they tire of being Ravens, he allows them to move on to other things.

10. Lucien the Librarian – Keeper of the Library of Dream, which contains every book that was never written. He’s tall and butlerish. After Dream returns from his imprisonment, Lucien is also Dream’s chief lieutenant. He reminds me of Alfred from Batman.

The Corninthian, via Comicvine.com

11. The Corinthian – A nightmare created by Dream to be “the dark reflection of humanity.” He has white-blonde hair and most of the time, dresses in sleeveless t-shirts, jeans, and sunglasses. His eye sockets are mouths lined with fangs. He’s a cold-blooded killer and he will eat your eyes.

12. Nuala the Elf – A gift to Dream from the Queen of Faerie. She serves him well, and when she is recalled to Faerie, she doesn’t really want to go. She’s one of the more sympathetic of the fantastcal/immortal characters in the story.

13. Eblis O’Shaughnessy – A golem created and given life by five of the endless near the end of the series. His name is so odd because it is bestowed upon him by Delirium. He’s an extremely minor character, but he’s just too cool to not make the list.

Want to join us for #SummerOfSandman? Here’s how: Write a blog post about Sandman between now and Aug. 1. Long or short, any format. Share your link with us on a Sandman thread here at CompGeeks or on Twitter using the hashtag #SummerOfSandman. It’s that easy.

#SummerofSandman — Because #EndlessSummer is Taken Already

Sandman covers by Dave McKean. Collage discovered at The Book Wars

Sandman covers by Dave McKean. Collage discovered at The Book Wars

Diana, David, Holly and I started discussing a run of Sandman posts for Comparative Geeks back in February, and those are coming soon.  Since we’re publishing so many Sandman posts this summer, here’s an introduction to the series for those of you who haven’t read it yet.

The Sandman is a comics series by Neil Gaiman with various artists published by DC Vertigo between 1987 and 1996. It defies categorization. Fantasy-Horror-Supernatural epic is the best I can do for a descriptive label. The original run was 75 issues. It spawned various spinoffs, derivative works, etc.

Dream of the Endless, known to the Romans as Morpheus, is the central character. He is one of seven anthropomorphic personifications. He has two older siblings – Destiny and Death – and four younger ones – Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium. The Endless are aware that they are anthropomorphic personifications. They are as powerful as gods and demons.

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