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My Life In Neon http://www.lifeinneon.com Sci Fi / Fantasy writer Autumn Nicole Bradley - Dream in digital, live in neon Fri, 08 Aug 2014 00:34:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.7 Trash Magic and Queer Love at Trashmance.com http://www.lifeinneon.com/2014/01/27/trash-magic-and-queer-love-at-trashmance-com/ http://www.lifeinneon.com/2014/01/27/trash-magic-and-queer-love-at-trashmance-com/#respond Mon, 27 Jan 2014 17:30:18 +0000 http://www.lifeinneon.com/?p=1274 Autumn Bradley banner Trash Romance, Parts: A Steampunk Tale of Love and Mechanomorphosis, Tales of Delmyria

Support Trash Romance on Patreon!

Trashmance.com is now live!

Trash Romance is a serial romance fiction available for free at Trashmance.com. However, in order to keep it free for everyone and keep new updates rolling in several times per month, I need the support and patronage of folks like you.

From the patreon page:

The coolest thing about magic? Duh, it’s magic. The worst thing about magic? It’s magic. No one understands how the fuck it works. Yet for Mackenzie Chen, whose magic power is limited to manipulating the broken, cast-off junk of society, it’s hard to not feel the world owes her an explanation. Or an apology. But when she meets magical girl-turned-barista Natalie, she learns just how valuable broken things can be.

Contributors get access to a DRM-free monthly digest in any eReader format, as well as free copies of my other short fiction: “Mercy Killing the Dragon”, “The Last Warband”, and part 1 of “Parts: A Steampunk Tale of Love and Mechanomorphosis”.

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Girls With Slingshots http://www.lifeinneon.com/2014/01/27/girls-with-slingshots/ http://www.lifeinneon.com/2014/01/27/girls-with-slingshots/#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 16:03:37 +0000 http://www.lifeinneon.com/?p=1266 Anyone else seeing something familiar about the new girl in Girls With Slingshots?

Lydia Neon in Girls With Slingshots

A curiously familiar face…

Maybe this will help…

 

Lydia Neon

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Player 2 Shirts Now On Sale http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/08/30/player-2-shirts-now-on-sale/ http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/08/30/player-2-shirts-now-on-sale/#respond Sat, 31 Aug 2013 01:48:23 +0000 http://www.lifeinneon.com/?p=1247 Show your support for Player 2 by picking up an “I deserve” shirt, based on the “I deserve all that and more.” passage in the game. You can order any of the tops Zazzle has in stock, not just the one in the image:

 

This is the back of the shirt:

Player 2 Shirt Back - Click to Enlarge

Player 2 Shirt Back – Click to Enlarge

 

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Player 2: A game by Lydia Neon http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/06/12/player-2-a-game-by-lydia-neon/ http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/06/12/player-2-a-game-by-lydia-neon/#comments Thu, 13 Jun 2013 04:04:06 +0000 http://www.lifeinneon.com/?p=1227 Play Player 2

Play Player 2

Player 2 is a game about resolving conflicts with others that involves the real experiences of the player as an experiment into exoludic games.

Player 2 was created for the “Your Enemies Don’t Have To Die For You To Win” #CreativeConflictJam

 

Play Player 2 here

 

Update 8/30/13: Player 2 shirts are now available!

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Creative Conflict Jam Games http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/06/12/creative-conflict-jam-games/ http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/06/12/creative-conflict-jam-games/#comments Thu, 13 Jun 2013 03:34:44 +0000 http://www.lifeinneon.com/?p=1225 Your Enemies Don't Have To Die Game Jam June 7 to June 11

 

 

The Entries

 

Choice by Matt (@MatthewWWillard)

Free Balloons by STREAM KING CNIAngel (@CNIAngel)

Laika by Misty De Meo (@MistyDeMeo)

Player 2 by Lydia Neon (@LifeInNeon)

Projection by Zoya Street (@rupazero)

Pure by Devon (@lalanl)

Resolving Conflict By Acquiescing To The Overwhelming Violence of Time by Cameron Kunzelman (@ckunzelman) and Tara Ogaick (@inspectorbeans)

Waiting In Line by BaguetteShark (@baguetteshark)

 

Thank you to everyone who participated!

If you participated but didn’t finish in time, just link it below and I will add it to the list!

If you participated but you don’t see your game on the list, please let me know!

 

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The “Your Enemies Don’t Have To Die For You To Win” Game Jam! http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/05/30/the-your-enemies-dont-have-to-die-for-you-to-win-game-jam/ http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/05/30/the-your-enemies-dont-have-to-die-for-you-to-win-game-jam/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 21:38:45 +0000 http://www.lifeinneon.com/?p=1219 Your Enemies Don't Have To Die Game Jam June 7 to June 11

You don’t need to sign up. Just create!

Share or Reblog using the #CreativeConflictJam tag on twitter and tumblr.

If you need hosting space, you can find my email address on my contact page.

 

The Theme: Conflict with creative resolutions

(Alternative Theme: Consequences of the protagonist’s violence)

 

The Dates: June 7 – June 11.

(It’s a jam, so think about what you can do in a weekend. No guilt if you need to start early in order to finish in time; I want to make this accessible to everyone!)

 

The Tools: Anything you want.

Credit to Pauli Kohberger for this list:

  • TwineHub is a great place to start if you’re interested in playing and making Twine games. Its resources section is really helpful. If you want a good starting place, definitely check out Anna Anthropy’s Twine tutorial. Leon Arnott’s blog has some fabulous Twine scripts as well to add a little extra functionality, as well as easy to tweak CSS.
  • Ren’Py is a great visual novel engine, and it has a pretty good Quickstart guide on the website. If you want to do more complicated things or just make your game a little jazzier, I’m really fond of the Cookbook as well.
  • Need some music or sound effects? Try nosoapradio.us or Freesound!
  • Need art or fonts? Try Openclipart and Lost Type!
  • Yes, you can use concepts and artwork you’ve made in the past as a starting point!
  • Yes, you can collaborate!

Other options include:

  • Construct 2 is free for those who feel inclined to dive into HTML5 games
  • One of the most tried-and-true tools out there: RPGMaker! (I would personally love to see some examples of using JRPG combat mechanics in creative ways that are not combat as we think of it)
  • Or something else entirely!

The WhyDoom gave us conveniently inhuman, mindless hordes of monsters to kill. Wolfenstein 3D gave us hordes of mindless Nazis to kill, as though the average soldier weren’t human. Deus Ex made us choose between violence or stealth, and to Human Revolution‘s credit, there was the moral nudge of more XP for non-lethal “takedowns”. In CounterStrike the only way to deal with terrorists is to kill them, because their ideology is inherently evil and wrong, right? Bioshock and Spec Ops: The Line tried in vain to tell us violence and obedience are a choice while only allowing the player to kill to reach the end. Even JRPGs have elaborate combat modes. Their tabletop RPG cousins like Dungeons & Dragons focus almost exclusively on combat, even when stats are nominally available for conflict resolution without it. In Anita Sarkeesian’s latest video, Tropes Vs Women: Damsels in Distress pt 2, she takes aim at the way developers box themselves into a corner by making combat the core mechanic: keep swinging that hammer because this level is just full of nails.  Why do games make us kill the bad guy before we can call it winning?

This is where you come in!

[Edit 6/8/13: Correction to the title of Spec Ops: The Line.]

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My Queer Identity Labels (According to YouTube Captions) http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/05/03/my-queer-identity-labels-according-to-youtube-captions/ http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/05/03/my-queer-identity-labels-according-to-youtube-captions/#respond Fri, 03 May 2013 19:02:23 +0000 http://www.lifeinneon.com/?p=1209 So, a while back I did a Seven Questions video for the We Happy Trans project. A friend’s fun with her YouTube captions made me decide to check out my own. So I grabbed my most-watched video and turned captions on:

2013_05_03 - 001

Bustin (Lesbian)

2013_05_03 - 002

Holly Harris (Polyamorous)

2013_05_03 - 003

Alone (um)

2013_05_03 - 004

Transactional (Transsexual)

2013_05_03 - 005

Androgynous woman (Hey, they got this one right!)

All of this is perfect. (Yes, yes it is)

All of this is perfect. (Yes, yes it is)

]]> http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/05/03/my-queer-identity-labels-according-to-youtube-captions/feed/ 0 Genders Are Categorizing Heuristics http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/04/06/genders-are-categorizing-heuristics/ http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/04/06/genders-are-categorizing-heuristics/#comments Sat, 06 Apr 2013 16:02:18 +0000 http://www.lifeinneon.com/?p=1206 Genders are categorizing heuristics, not categories unto themselves. As such, they fall prey to the same problem all clustering algorithms do: poorly segregated datasets yield many false positives and negatives, and there may exist more viable and clearly separated clusters when one increases the number of potential clusters. When the dataset is {All human behavior}, at best they can be used to determine centrality of certain clusters, but not their boundaries.

If I tell you what I am, I am telling you what centerpoint to use to estimate who I am, not what my limits are.

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Sandals With Glitter http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/03/24/sandals-with-glitter/ http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/03/24/sandals-with-glitter/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 04:22:02 +0000 http://www.lifeinneon.com/?p=1200 Another in the series from my old blog. This pertains to a paper I wrote as a teen in my early college years.

I used to own the comfiest pair of sandals ever made. They were these cheap, $10 things hanging on an aisle end cap that I bought on a whim. I have yet to find more comfortable footwear.

During a performance of the play Prometheus Bound, I was playing the role of Hermes, and so I volunteered my sandals to be part of the costume. I figured, hey, they were $10 and I can replace them pretty easily. (I was totally wrong there, they were sold out and I never found anything like them since.) But it involved painting them with glitter and adding wings. After the show was over, the wings came off but the glitter paint was permanent.

That’s when I said: fuck it; these are the best sandals ever made. I’m not gonna stop wearing them just because of some glitter. People made jokes about it, but my attitude was always one of, “Yeah, there’s glitter on them. And?” And that usually shut it down.

Then, in first semester of my sophomore year of college, I was taking a human sexuality class. I don’t remember what the assigned topic was anymore, but I wrote an essay about the sandals and what they say about gender roles.

While packing to move this past week, I came across that essay:

My first lucid moment on my way to full, conscious memory came when I was less than a year old, standing naked in Nana’s sink, taking a bath. I was still too young to be bathed in a full size tub, so Carol, the next door empty-nester who took care of me while my parents were at work and I called Nana, would use the sink instead. I don’t remember much more than the image of her kitchen as it was two decades ago, being delightfully naked and thoroughly enjoying splashing water all over her counter tops. That would be the last time I was comfortable with my body for a number of years to come.

Children have a way of discovering one’s greatest flaw, whether it was in fact a flaw or not, and amplyfiying it to a size that can only be described in two places: an astronomy lab and an elementary school playground. Physically speaking, I was significantly larger than the other boys in all proportions, and I had a lack of coordination to match. This gave my would-be taunters the advantage of teasing with impunity, for no matter how large I was, I could never catch them. The object of their scorn was my stomach, and I still carry the mental scar of five years of relentless playground harassment.

It was no surprise, then, that my closest friends tended to be female. From R— that lived upstairs in the duplex to J—r, my neighbor, I socialized with girls more than boys. I was fascinated by my babysitters’ skirts, and earrings. For a long time I dreamt of actually being [emphasis in essay] a girl. I wondered why boys couldn’t wear dresses, like pink, or have long hair. My staunch Catholic mother explained that it was because boys just didn’t do girl things, and that pre-adolescent and adolescent girls have a language of their own that boys could never possibly understand. I was suddenly one without a place in schoolyard society. I had earned the boys’ scorn, but I had one penis too many to be one of the girls.

I was not completely without friends, however. One boy that lived on the end of the block named J— was the first to sate my sexual curiosity. I had seen my mother naked before, and knew girls didn’t have a penis, but until J— came along I didn’t know what they did have either. As soon as I heard it, I set about burning the word vagina into my mind so that I could be the one who knew what no one else knew. Knowing the word alone, though, brought a barrage of questions, the most significant of which was: What does it look like?

My physical insecurities plagued me in middle school. The one time I was not keenly aware of my stomach sticking out that unacceptable inch further than everyone else’s was when I was with my girlfriend of ten months, L—. It was an astonishing length of time for a relationship, and what drew us together was that we were both outside our traditional gender castes. She was the tomboy who was always regarded as dirty, or in some intangible, ephemeral way wrong. So we celebrated our relationship in secret, knowing well the social implications it would have for both of us. Our relationship ended when she moved to Ohio, but I knew what I strong relationship was, and suddenly wanted it again very badly.

I saw high school as my chance to start over with others that never knew me as the big kid with the bad temper in elementary school. [“Reaction to harassment?” This was the note my professor marked in the margin on this line. I’ve said elsewhere in this blog that yes, that is indeed the case. No one sees the first punch, they see the second one.] For the most part it was a success, and my freshman year was a year of many firsts. My curiosity was never sated though. Health class was fine if you wanted to know how to conceive a child, but sex was solely for reproductive purposes. When I gained access to the internet, however, things changed significantly. Suddenly I had access to all the information I wanted, uncensored. Sexual health websites offered all the insight I had been looking for all along. While my parents would always have been willing to explain things, they were clearly uncomfortable with the topic, and very biased toward Christian ideals. It was also around this time that I turned away from the Catholic Church, which had a surprisingly large impact on my decisions sexually.

No longer was I confined to strict rules mandating that sex should only take place within marriage. Armed with my new-found data, I was free to form my own opinions, and make quite a few decisions I still adhere to today. I can say “no” to sexual intercourse, even when presented with the opportunity, and I can offer a stronger argument than just simple religious opposition. More importantly to me, though, is that I can say “yes” as well, and for my own reasons.

Most of my friends are still female, and I admit to having quite a number of so-called “effeminate” habits in my daily life such as the amount of time I spend on my hair in the morning, crying at movies, or choosing female avatars in computer games. However, I am still confidently heterosexual, and I wear sandals covered in glitter to prove it.

Initial reactions:

  • I came right out and said I wanted to be a girl. Seriously. Read it again if you missed that.
  • I am indescribably reassured to have hard copy evidence that yes, it’s not in my head, I have always been this way.
  • The wording is a bit clumsy. This was written almost a decade ago while I was still a college sophomore.
  • There’s an awkward transition that could be misleading. I tied my desire to hang out with girls to the bullying by the boys, but my desire to hang out with girls went back much further than that. So the cause-effect relationship I hint at with that transition phrase simply didn’t exist. If anything, it was reversed; I was bullied because I didn’t identify with the boys.
  • There’s a lot of this that I could clean up and make more clear. It reads like a first draft, and I’m pretty sure it was.
  • One other thing that has always been this way? My love of commas.
  • I forgot the gender flipped relationship I had with L—. I remembered the relationship, I forgot that she was bullied for being a red-haired tomboy, and how we had bonded over that.
  • I didn’t really come out and say this in the essay: my sexual curiosity really was one of wonder and longing, not sexual desire. I wanted to experience vaginas first-hand because I was lacking one of my own, not because of some innate sexual desire to stick things in them. This is one thing I know I’m not playing revisionist history with. I really did spend hours reading womens’ health websites to find out everything about the female pelvic region. I spent hours reading about how the clitoris worked so that I could please a future partner. This was in 7th or 8th grade, contrary to the implication in the essay that it was in high school.
  • Clearly, I was still confusing sex and gender. But c’mon, it was ten years ago and this class was my very first dip in the academic gender studies pool.

What do you all think?

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“I am Zelda, and I’ll be fighting for my own kingdom!” http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/03/19/i-am-zelda-and-ill-be-fighting-for-my-own-kingdom/ http://www.lifeinneon.com/2013/03/19/i-am-zelda-and-ill-be-fighting-for-my-own-kingdom/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2013 23:11:23 +0000 http://www.lifeinneon.com/?p=1181 How a sprite swap changes the story

Yesterday, Leon Arnott dropped several links related to gender-swapped games. Among them was this gem.

(The Legend Of ) Zelda Starring Zelda by Kenna W

According to Kenna, this came in reaction to Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs Women in Videogames – Part 1: Damsels in Distress. (If you haven’t seen it, open it in a new tab and make that the next thing you do today.) In it, Sarkeesian deconstructs the “Damsel In Distress” narrative trope, which is very nearly a defining characteristic of The Legend of Zelda series. Zelda is captured by Ganondorf, Link grabs a sword to rescue her, rinse, repeat.

Yet, this is all in retrospect. When I was a kid, I had no concept of any of the gender issues* with the game; this was just a really cool game. I do recall asking why the title was The Legend of Zelda since it was about Link, and in fact, I discovered the secret Second Quest because I named Link “ZELDA” in order to make the title make sense in my 6 year old head. My most powerful memories of the original game weren’t related to gender theory, my most powerful memories were of playing side by side with my father as we mapped out each dungeon ourselves because I was still getting terribly lost. (For the young’ns, we didn’t have GameFAQs in the 1980s) I learned my right hand from my left hand by telling my dad which rupee to pick in the rupee gambling tree.

(*I recognize that its transparency was due to the normative nature of dominant gender categories, not because I was somehow immune to that indoctrination.)

"I am Zelda, and I'll be fighting for my own kingdom!"

“I am Zelda, and I’ll be fighting for my own kingdom!”

So when I sat down to play the romhack and saw Zelda hoist the sword above her head for herself, ready to take back her kingdom, I cried.

Already, this is not the same game I played as a child.

This idea of a woman doing it for herself brought to mind something else:

How did we get here? How did we get to the point where simply seeing Zelda with the sword is enough to cause such intense feelings to well up? Well, with regards to The Legend of ZeldaSarkeesian makes this point:

“Over the course of over more than a dozen games spanning a quarter century, all of the incarnations of Princess Zelda have been kidnapped, cursed, possessed, turned to stone, or otherwise disempowered at some point. Zelda has never been the star in her own adventure, nor been a true playable character in the core series.”

The eponymous character in a series of save-the-world adventure games has never saved her own kingdom. All of her power as princess, as guardian of the Triforce, and as a person with agency are swept aside every single time. In fact, the very idea that all of her power is useless compared to a boy with a wooden sword makes me doubt every claim made about her ability, wisdom, and magical power. Instead, those sound a lot more like selling points, things that make her a more valuable prize to whichever man (Link or Ganon) has control of her when the clock runs out, and a lot less like reasons to think she’s a person in her own right.

She’s not just any girl, she’s a rich girl with a kingdom and a magical trinket! But don’t worry! She’s not actually powerful enough or willful enough to be a threat to your rule once you capture her.

That pattern of disempowerment and the refusal to give the title character a playable role in the main series can’t possibly send any other message.

More than just pixels

It’s easy think of this as just a simple flipping of the script, or to look at what Kenna W did and write it off as just shifting pixels around. But in fact, flipping the script works as a tool to highlight sexism precisely because it puts front and center the way men and women are regarded and treated differently. It is not, itself, a solution to sexism, but the very idea that a story’s meaning and spirit can be changed by such a simple thing as a sprite swap shows that the language of gender and its related norms are infused into every aspect of our lives.

What changes when it is Zelda firing the silver arrow into Ganon’s heart at the end?

The Legend of Zelda becomes a story about her deeds, not about what men around her do. Perhaps this is too facile, but it really does change the game on a visceral level. No longer are you a boy conscripted by an old man to save a princess from another man (pig-man, I suppose, in this first incarnation of Ganondorf). You’re a woman on a quest to save her own kingdom, her own people, with her own wits and skill.

All those people you meet throughout the game are your people. They are looking to you to save them from Ganon’s tyranny, not to save their helpless, ineffectual princess. It’s easy to picture them not as simply ill-thought game mechanics (why are all these people hiding in caves?) but rather as secretive resistance, hiding in caves to avoid Ganon’s grasp. They’ve squirreled away these items to help you reclaim your homeland, their homeland. You aren’t some knight errant fighting someone else’s battle out of misguided chivalry; this is personal. This is your battle.

It’s easy to picture that old man in the cave as one of your family’s advisers, who spirited you out of the castle just in time and offers the one last thing he can: a wooden sword. It’s not your family’s heirloom blade, it’s not sufficient for the battles you have ahead, but it’s all he can offer. It becomes a physical token of hope. It may seem a trivial thing, since it was just as much a symbol of hope when passed to Link, but in investing that hope in Zelda herself and not Link, it changes everything about the meaning.

That way it changes the context tells us something about what the original story really was.

I'll be taking my Triforce piece back now, thank you.

I’ll be taking my Triforce piece back now, thank you.

When Zelda takes back the second piece of the Triforce from Ganon at the end, she’s reclaiming the power he took from her. When Link does it for her, we see it as a noble gesture that he returns her stolen Ultimate Power That Apparently Isn’t So Ultimate. When she takes back her own power, we see her as deserving in a way that she wasn’t before. When the Triforce was reduced to a bauble to be given to her as a gift, it tells us that it wasn’t anything special to begin with. Or it tells us that Link is that much more chivalrous for magnanimously returning something he has no obligation to return. After all, he did even more than Ganon did to get it. We can rationalize it with magical woo that by keeping it for himself he’d be somehow undeserving blah blah. But that’s an incredibly broken metaphor compared to the unity provided by Zelda proving herself worthy of its power by reclaiming it for herself and by extension, for her people she’s fighting to protect.

Another thing it reveals is just how unnecessary Zelda was to the original story. Being a sprite swap means that the pre-scripted ending sequence just features Link in her place. But now that we know that Zelda has been fighting to save her own kingdom, to reclaim her own power, and to save her own people, who the hell is this dude at the end? She wasn’t fighting to “get the boy.” The purpose of the adventure wasn’t to “win the heart of the prince”, it was to save her fucking kingdom from a tyrant. He’s not a prize, he’s an afterthought.

That disparity between Zelda’s motivation and Link’s should tell us everything we need to know about the Damsel In Distress trope.

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