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I’ve got a new article up over at Geeks Out! It’s a snarky but loving look at Extraño, mainstream comics’ first gay superhero. (Yup, he beat Northstar’s coming out by almost five years.) Extraño has taken a lot of guff over the years from those who think he’s too much of a stereotype, but I adore him. This is the first of two parts, covering his initial appearances in the DC Comics limited series Millennium. Take a look!
I’ve got a new article up at Geeks Out! Selling Yourself at Flame Con: An Insider’s Guide covers my experiences as a vendor at the queer comic convention, and offers some tips for anyone who might consider getting a table next year. Take a look, leave a comment, show your love!
I’ll be at Flame Con in Brooklyn all weekend (this weekend, that is – Saturday and Sunday, 8/20 – 21/2016, in case you’re reading this in the fuuuuuuuture), selling and signing books. I made a little map to show you where I’ll be, at table 86. It came out kind of horrible but I made it and I’m sharing it.
I’m going to be selling an e-book only, Flame Con-exclusive novelette, The Unnatural Haunting of Mrs. Beverly Snow. It won’t be available elsewhere until October!
Flame Con is a queer comic/SF&F con – I went last year, and it was an absolute blast. This year has expanded to two full days in a bigger location, and I’m excited as heck to be exhibiting. Pre-sale tickets for Saturday are sold out, but you can get Sunday only and full weekend passes, and they say you might be able to get Saturday tickets at the door if you get there early. If you’re in NYC, and you like geeky stuff (whether you’re queer or not), it’s a great way to spend a weekend.
Tickets and all the info at www.flamecon.org. Hope to see you there!
Saturday morning, 10:30am
I’ve finally done it. After going my whole life without playing a Pokemon game, I’ve downloaded Pokemon Go. I was too old for the mini-monster mania the first time around, but I’ve been looking for a new game to play on my phone and it seems like everyone I interact with on social media is talking about this game. There must be something to it, right?
So the game is installed and I open it up. Hello, Professor Willow! He’s kind of hunky. I move on to customizing my trainer – not a whole lot of options, there. I usually make my game avatars as cute as possible, because I like to live vicariously and pretend I’m not someone who stands in his kitchen in his underwear eating toast over the sink at 10:30am on a Saturday morning. But I guess my trainer will have to settle for being exactly as cute as everyone else’s.
Name my trainer? Oh, crap, I hate this part. I don’t know if you can change it later so the pressure is really on. Brian is taken, obviously, as is Beastmaster. (It seemed appropriate, plus I had a thing for Marc Singer in the 80s.) I settle on BrianBooks, which matches a lot of my other online names but doesn’t have a whole lot to do with capturing and enslaving tiny aliens. (That’s what this game is about, right?)
There’s a Pokemon near me! There are three showing up on my little map, so I click the nearest and boom! There’s a blue turtle in my bedroom, perched on top of my comic book longboxes! It doesn’t seem to be doing much – just kind of looking at me. I can only see it through my phone’s camera – are Pokemon some kind of Lovecraftian eldritch horror thing where they’re all around us, invisible, at all time? Just how long has this adorable abomination been lurking in my bedroom? What nightmares has it seen? (I’ve done some things I’m not proud of.)
There’s a red and white ball at the bottom of my screen. Okay, I know this, I’ve picked up enough from cultural osmosis and an obsessed nephew over the years to know I’m supposed to chuck the ball at the monster. Well, first I try tapping the creature a couple of times, then shaking my phone, then yelling at it, but eventually I figure it out. I swipe the ball a few times and get it on my third try. Then the game freezes.
Dum de dum. Twiddling my fingers. Eventually I close the app and reopen it, and Professor Hottie is there to inform me that apparently I’ve captured a Squirtle, which sounds like something a hustler might do on a glass-topped coffee table. Yay?
All right, that was sort of fun. Let’s do another! The game tells me to go for a walk, so I walk into my living room. Apparently that’s not far enough. I have to go outside? Ugh. What kind of game is this? I guess I should put some pants on.
I found something called a Pokedex, where my lonesome Pokemon lives. Wait, you can rename these things? Okay, I need some kind of naming convention, something that’ll give me a long list of unique names. I’m a big Doctor Who fan, so I settle on companions, starting from the beginning of the show. There’s a ton of them, and I can go on to characters from the books and comics if I have to. So I dub thee Susan. Susan the Squirtle.
Susan is a Water type. I don’t know what that means. She has 100 Stardust and 3 Squirtle Candy. I don’t know what any of that means. The options to Power Up and Evolve are grayed out, so I guess I can’t do either of those things, which is probably for the best as I don’t know what they mean.
Still no pants.
I put on some shorts and venture out on my first hunting expedition. My kill zone: the Laundromat. (I’m multitasking.) I walk down the street, my face buried in the game, completely ignoring its warning to pay attention to my surroundings. I discover that the elementary school at the end of my street is something called a Pokestop. The game just calls it “The Cross.”
I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to do with this. There’s something about installing a module, but I’m clueless so I just continue. I’m seeing a lot of rustling grass on the little map, but nothing happens when I click on it. There’s a park across the street and it’s apparently a Pokemon Gym, but Professor Sweetcheeks tells me I need to be level 5 to use it. Elitist.
After getting my laundry going I sit on the bench to wait and check the game. Ah! My Laundromat has been invaded!
This is something called a Fearow, and I need to capture it before it murders that child. I throw about thirty balls at that god-damned bird before I finally catch it. No time to rest, though – there’s another bird, a Pidgey!
Damn, look at those eyes. Those are the eyes of a killer. I catch that one on the second try. I’m getting better! I go back to get my finished laundry and am assaulted by a second Pidgey! What’s with all the birds in this Laundromat? That’s not sanitary. I’m a little confused, because I already have a Pidgey, but I dutifully catch it anyway, because free-range Pokemon are a safety hazard.
On the way out, I notice that the game’s GPS seems to think I’m in the park across the street and so I stumble across another Pokemon, some kind of flying blue rodent called a Zubat.
It’s half-terrifying, half-adorable, and it takes me another thirty tries to catch the stupid thing. I can’t figure out any ball-throwing strategy, it seems to be pure luck. I anticipate running out of Pokeballs very soon.
Somewhere in there I became level 2. Level 5 seems very far away.
Back home, it’s time to rename my new menagerie. I was wondering if the Pidgeys would stack but they both appear individually in my inventory. Following my Doctor Who naming convention, the Fearow becomes Barbara, the first Pidgy Ian, the second Vicki, and the Zubat is now Steven. Now my laundry is hanging to dry, and…oh dear. I seem to be putting my shorts back on. This is not how I planned on spending my day, but the bloodlust is upon me. I must hunt.
I finally figured out what the Pokestops are for (and by figured out, I mean Googled). So I go to the elementary school, spin the picture, and collect some Pokeballs. Score! I also find a Weedle on the street. He’s adorable! And I hate bugs!
I go for a good long walk and it’s like I don’t even know myself anymore. I really hadn’t anticipated leaving my apartment today. I don’t know what this game is doing to me. I walk around the park near my apartment and catch a few more, including a Spearow, which I learn from the Pokedex is the lesser evolved form of the Fearow I caught earlier. I explain to the game that evolution is not a progressive process and so having lesser or greater evolved forms doesn’t make sense, but I don’t think it’s listening.
All around me the digital grass is rustling, but I can’t figure out how to actually track one of these things. So I just wait until I stumble across one. Fun fact – my neighborhood is infested with Zubats. I have six of the horrible things now. I seem to be getting better at catching them, although I don’t know why, as I haven’t changed my technique at all, my technique being, “push the ball towards the Pokemon until the game tells me I caught it.”
I hit a few more Pokestops and collect an egg, which I start to incubate. I have to walk five kilometers to hatch this stupid thing! Is this game trying to trick me into exercising? I don’t trust that. A lot of the Pokestops are churches. Exercise and religion, my two arch-nemeses! This game is really testing my limits. The other Pokestops I find claim to be a mural and a statue, but I see neither in the real world. I collect the Pokeballs anyway.
I find a Poliwag in the street.
Get out of the street, you stupid Poliwag! You’re going to cause an accident! Drivers will get road-hypnosis from that weird spiral on your stomach!
Outside a church I see a young woman walking around with her phone up in the air, much like I am. I suspect she’s playing the game, as she seems to be tracking something, as if she’s zeroing in on an elusive Pokemon. I want to ask her how she finds them, but I’m shy, and also afraid that she’s just taking pictures of the church and will think I’m a lunatic if I ask her for tips on catching monsters.
The game sucks my battery dry, even with the battery-saving function on, so I head for home to review my catches. I realize I need to rethink my naming convention – if I give each Zubat their own name I’ll run out of Doctor Who companions in no time. I also think I want to give similar names to the different evolved versions. I consider using the full names, but that’s too many characters, so I just add an exclamation point for the evolved versions, and a number for the multiples. So my Pokemon prison now houses Susan the Squirtle, Barbara the Spearow, Barbara! the Fearow, Ian the Pidgy (times 2), Vicki the Zubat (times 6), Steven the Weedle (times 2), and Katarina the Poliwag (times 2). Is that good for a first day? I have no idea. I do know that this might not be the best game to have taken up for someone with a strong collector mentality.
Too late now! Hmm…it’ll be dark soon, and I read that you can only catch some nocturnal Pokemon at night… Better put my shorts back on.
It’s here! My new book, The Dystopia Spell, the first in a new series, is available now, exclusively for Amazon Kindle! Only 99 cents, or free for Kindle Unlimited members!
The Dystopia Spell
Multiverse Mashup, Book One
Are your swashbuckling pirates battling killer robots?
Is a masked slasher lurking in your cozy mystery?
Does your space opera have too little space and too much opera?
When genres collide, Jed is there to pick up the pieces…and have a whole lot of fun in the process.
Jed Ryland is an agent of the Crossroads, always on watch for incompatible universes smashing together. This time out, a dystopian society where teens are forced to battle for their lives is invaded by monsters from a sword-and-sorcery fantasy realm.
Jed’s mission: keep the teens alive, repel the invasion, topple the oppressive government, locate the artifact pulling the worlds together, and prevent the utter destruction of both universes.
Piece of cake.