The Adventure Zone: a hymn to the power of story

Note: this essay does not contain explicit spoilers of any kind for the first campaign arc of The Adventure Zone podcast, even if you have never listened. However, it does contain “conceptual spoilers”, which may or may not be a thing, including for the *finale* of the Balance arc; therefore, proceed at your own discretion. There is also a reference to a not-that-cool musical act. You have been warned. 

Full disclosure: I can say with absolute certainty that The Adventure Zone has brought me to tears more than the sum of its closest fictional competitors. And I mean really cry, honestly and unexpectedly in the way that you can only do when you genuinely connect to a character’s heart, beyond a phantom of your own. Sad is easy; it’s much rarer for fiction to manage to roll a crit on your full range of emotions and draw out reactions you didn’t know were there. And it’s certainly the last thing I expected when I followed up on a lot of word of mouth about a podcast of some dudes playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Continue reading

VanCon 2015 and carrying your words like a torch

At one of my colleges (long story), a professor told me that I didn’t say much but that when I did speak, people listened. I once forgot to do the reading and faked my way through a roundtable discussion on medieval Japanese court poetry, so I hope he was talking about another time. But I’ve always hoped he was right, in spite of assuming 99% of what I say is nonsense and no one is paying attention.

Most people already know that aside from having a fabulous VanCon, I went Supernatural set stalking on Monday. Because apparently we couldn’t think of anything better to do in the pouring rain than take a taxi to the far suburbs and walk for half an hour on residential roads with no clue where we were going. To our credit, we laughed the entire way. We stayed for several hours after everyone else left and there was little to see – but just before wrap, Jared waved us across the street onto the set and showed us around the Impala. He had us sit in the actual Impala. And Jensen heard him rev the engine and came out to check on his “Baby”, and I briefly thought Dean Winchester had manifested into reality to kick my ass. Look, I left “speechless” weeks ago. You all know, details or not, that we were incredibly fortunate and fans could not dare to dream of anything better. Last VanCon was my first Supernatural convention; I knew no one. To have come to that place in a year was, and continues to be, simply staggering.

But I’m not sure that was the most unbelievable thing that happened while I was in Vancouver.

Continue reading

The Snail and the Well (or: the Good, the Bad, and the Journey)

I had an odd birthday this year. I have not had a birthday worth reporting on in a long time; one of the side effects of the internet is forming relationships with people who are far away. So I was okay with not doing anything “special”. I even wrapped my head around spending the day doing unpleasant prep for a test that was the polar opposite of “fun”, without sleep or food. But toward the end of the day, the cognitive dissonance of getting a stream of birthday wishes from friends while sitting in a clinic discussing whether I wanted to “preserve fertility options” was more than I could really process. (I have to say, because everyone always goes there – I am dying, but not any sooner than previously scheduled when I was born. It’s only the circumstances of the parts in between that change.)
Continue reading

GISHWHES on Team Shatner.

item692014 was my third year in GISHWHES (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen), the madcap international scavenger hunt devised by actor Misha Collins of the CW show Supernatural. I will leave you to look at the site and then Google in mix of confusion, horror and glee if none of these words make sense to you. In 2011 I watched from the sidelines, wondering what the heck this thing was on Tumblr. In 2012 I was ready to join alone, but a dedicated friend joined with me and then recruited 13 more in a jiffy. in 2013 those people couldn’t join again, and I made good friends from total strangers via Twitter. In 2014, I kept talking to William Shatner and for some reason he kept talking back. On a long road, that led to me being on Team Shatner for GISHWHES 2014.

Continue reading

Failing with Style: Lessons from Toy Story

Possibly a controversial opinion, but I don’t think Pixar has made a film that was more elegant and complete than Toy Story. They’ve addressed bigger ideas, in more ambitious settings; but Toy Story is the building blocks of many of their other stories without any fat.

If you haven’t seen Toy Story, I’m at your door with the DVD* right now. So let’s not bother with recapping the storyline. The film is obviously built around the conflict between Woody and Buzz. Woody is a catastrophist with low self-esteem, and Buzz is the polar opposite: an egotist who is so wrapped up in his own world that he’s basically the only toy who DOESN’T know he’s a toy. Naturally, all the circumstances aside, characters who are opposites tend to clash.

Continue reading