Sympathetic Antagonists

Is it okay to have an antagonist you can understand?

Those who have been reading the Footsteps of the Prophet story will have noticed that I have made a few unusual storytelling choices. One of them, and the one I want to talk about in this post, is my choice to make a couple of the TDO characters a little more complex than the average side character.

A little bit of backstory. Footsteps of the Prophet is a spinoff or fanfiction of sorts based in and around Poseidon Simons’ Dragon Isle universe. The TDO is the approximate equivalent of the Klan here in the States.

I’d written a couple other stories before this one, all following the same standard theme. Lacking any other strong villain or group, I allowed the TDO to serve as the primary villains, and they were more or less your standard fare. Evil, twisted, and willing to destroy a family. Not a group you wanted to support.

But for this story I did something a little bit different. FotP has some of the same characters as the first two stories, and their backstories and motives have not changed, but many years have passed. Life has become more complicated. The reader is allowed to learn why the characters made the bad choices they did. They don’t have to agree with them, but they are given the opportunity to see the characters as the individuals they are.

Then there is the character Ryan, introduced early on as an acquaintance of Judas. Now, Judas is supposed to be the object of Ryan’s hatred, but he can’t express those feelings, and he begins to question why he’s involved in that organization in the first place. He loses his friends, loses his family, and is taken in by a family he is supposed to dislike (and who does not necessarily trust him), and all this leads to his growth as a person.

And yet, he still does not want to leave the organization, even though it’s obvious he should, because he isn’t sure what to do.

Now, the story is not posted to the end yet, so I will not say how it is resolved. However, readers should have noticed a change in his character from the beginning.

What other examples of sympathetic antagonists have you come across in your reading? Do you write them? I’d like to hear what you have to say.

On being a gay Christian

A few days ago, the Ask Papabear column featured a letter from an individual with some very good questions, but I didn’t feel he got the best answer he could have. So the following is my attempt to add to the initial answer and correct a few errors in Papabear’s response.

 

Wolfthorne,

I saw your email to Papabear, and you ask some really good questions. I understand the tension between what the scriptures say about this topic, and what your body says and also what our culture today says.

But sadly, Papabear did not provide the best advice and I’d like to offer an alternative answer that better answers your questions.

If you don’t mind, you say you are an apostate. Why is it you have walked away from the faith? Is it because you do not like what you believe it says about your orientation, or is it some other reason? Have you been able to objectively falsify it, or do you believe it to say things about you that you do not like? I realize this is a very personal question, but it’s an important one to know the answer to.

To be clear, I am answering your question from the perspective of a “walking talking duck” Christian. Like your mother, I am very committed to the faith and fervently believe it to be true, and proclaim it as such. I do not keep my faith to myself but am very public about it. You’d also consider me a very theologically conservative type.

And I will tell you the Bible does not say you have to give up “being gay” in order to be a Christian. It simply is not there. What is there, and this is where a few too many people are turned away, is that it does set certain standards of behavior and considers all sexual activity outside the marriage covenant to be wrong. When you strip away all the details, that is what you have left. By all means make of that what you will.

The Bible does not say whether or not “being gay” is a choice. That’s irrelevant from the perspective of Scripture. It has nothing positive or negative to say about being emotionally or romantically attracted to people of the same sex as you. (I would dare to say the authors weren’t quite aware that was a thing.) It does not say this attraction is a choice or something you are born with. What it does say is that you are not to have sex with anyone who is not your marriage partner. And I trust you’ll agree that whether or not you engage in sexual intercourse is a choice you make.

As someone in a similar situation to you, I recognize there is more to life than sex (something I agree with Papabear on) and pursuing sex is not something I want to do. I recommend you pursue a deep, intimate friendship with someone whom you trust, and leave sex out of the equation altogether.

There’s something Papabear touched on but got wrong about that. He’s right that way back when, adelphopoiesis was a thing. But it was not, as he claims and as Boswell claims, an endorsement of a gay relationship with sex expected. Boswell has been rather thoroughly refuted when it comes to this (1). Adelphopoiesis was a formal recognition of kinship, and it had nothing to do with sex. For that matter, quite often the two parties were already married–to women–and might even have had children. For a scriptural example of two men who would have been united in this way, had the ritual been around at the time, look to David and Jonathan. They were very dear friends, they viewed each other as brothers, but they were not lovers.

Papabear also doesn’t seem to know how we got the Bible. It was not edited by committee, and no groups of humans sat down and decided what books were in and what books were out. Development of the canon was a process that did indeed take centuries, but it was a matter of tradition and consensus. For the New Testament it was like this. There were certain books that everyone agreed on right away (the four gospels), some books that were less certain (Hebrews, 2 Peter, Revelation), some books that not everyone agreed was scripture (Shepherd of Hermas), and some books that everyone except the fringe groups who wrote them recognized as fake (all the various gnostic gospels and books). The Old Testament followed a similar path. Over the centuries you had the books everyone recognized (the Torah) and the other books which some accepted and some didn’t. In both instances, after consensus was reached, they held councils acknowledging that they’d reached this consensus. There was no formal decree of what belonged and what didn’t.

There is some disagreement today on what books belong in the Old Testament, and the rejection of apocryphal books is something the Protestant churches get wrong, but it is incorrect to say there are multiple versions of the Bible. By and large, everyone is using the same source documents to translate the Bible from. (It wasn’t a game of telephone or translations of translations. We have accumulated enough manuscripts by now to trace the history of any changes that took place, and we know what the original documents said with a very high degree of certainty.)

In conclusion, Papabear does have some good points, but what he says is incomplete, especially from a Christian perspective, which is your background. You do need to tread carefully, but there is a wholesome, fulfilling answer to your question to be found in friendship. I think you will find all you are seeking in a relationship there.

  1. Why Boswell is wrong. http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?print=1&did=1294-viscuso

Edit: Fixed the link at the top so you can actually see it exists.

Furry Fiesta Con Report

Those who have listened to the podcast will have already heard my thoughts, but those who choose not to listen or who would like to read a report rather than hear it may find this useful.

I attempted to leave Dallas for Houston a little after 3PM on Thursday, but before I got more than three miles from the apartment I remembered something and had to turn around and take care of it, which added at least a few minutes to the trip. It took two hours to finally get away from the Houston area (including The Woodlands) and I don’t think those 10 minutes were the entire problem, but they certainly contributed. By the time I got out of Houston I was beginning to fret because I was not sure if registration would still be open by the time I got there nearly six hours later.

It was.

They also had quite a lot working against them because as a rule I am biased against hotel conventions, finding them somewhat dull most of the time and not something I like to submit myself to. But I was quite happy with my decision to go.

Rather than give you a daily play-by-play of events, I would rather mention a few things and say what I did and did not like about them (consider this my late contribution to the similarly-themed panel at the end of the con, which I couldn’t make since I had to leave at lunch Sunday).

Registration: As alluded to, this went quite smoothly. Since I got in late there was not much of a line, so that sped things up even more. It also helped that I had the paperwork already printed and signed. What surprised me was being able to choose the badge design, which I had never encountered before and momentarily confused me.

The Hotel: My understanding is this is the first year in this particular hotel. I had no complaints about it, or anything particularly great to say about it either. I’ve been in a lot of hotels thanks to business and so they all start running together after a while. As long as the basic needs are met, I’m fine.

The Convention Space: I liked the layout. Although the convention had a lot of attendees (upwards of 1800), it didn’t seem crowded and it was not hard to navigate. Most of the main events were on a floor easy to get to.

The Elevators: Perhaps I just instinctively know the best time to go to the elevators because I never had any trouble. There was never a wait of more than about five minutes. Granted, the last day was nightmarish since everyone was trying to leave. I waited probably thirty minutes or more then.

Food: Possibly my one gripe. There were many options but they were not all easy to get to and required crossing a busy street.

Panels: I didn’t go to many this year.

Communication: This is where things were lacking. They did communicate what was needed eventually, but there was a little bit of confusion as to just what was where and when. Perhaps gag the hyena during the convention so he can’t say things?

This con had the distinction of being one where I actually knew several people attending and was making tentative plans to meet up with a few of them (not all were a success). It makes quite a difference when you know people, and it is always the determining factor in whether or not I will even try to attend. Did I enjoy this year? Without a doubt. Will I go next year? I’m not sure. I will consider it, and there was nothing that made me not want to return (unlike FWA which I have no desire to go to again no matter how much you pay me, or AC which has grown too busy and crowded for my liking).

As long as getting the time off is not a problem and I can find someone to room with, odds are good I will be back.

Secret Santa

The Wagz crew is organizing a Secret Santa-type thing just in time for Christmas. This is especially good for those of you in the US who will soon be dealing with the insanity that is Black Friday, unless you’re usually wise enough to avoid all that.

However, this year you have a reason to go out! If you go to the WagzTail Secret Santa page, you will see a sign-up option in the menu on the right-hand side. Go ahead and fill that out, and then start looking for a gift! When you’re ready to send it, we’ll tell you who to send it to.

You don’t have to be a regular listener to participate in this. You don’t have to have listened at all! It’s open to anyone who wants to participate, provided one has a mailing address.

Here’s the link again, in case you missed it in the post: santa.wagztail.com

New Way to Stalk Me

There’s a new way to stalk me, for those so inclined. A few days ago I created a Google+ page for Levi, since I like that network much more than Facebook and had been thinking about adding Levi there anyway. So the other day I created a page (not profile) for him.

You can find the link as the newest addition to the “Find Me” tab. If you’re on Google+, feel free to add me there.

A Bizarre Dream

My dreams are often either confusing or the type that would cause a mental breakdown in normal people. Below I am giving a summary of one or two dreams from last night, adapted from a Skype conversation I had with a friend earlier.

I suppose we should begin with the first. It involved some sort of altercation involving the police, at night. The setting was near Clemson University, I think, although it looked nothing like the university campus. The police were randomly checking and interrogating people who passed them on the street, and there was something I wanted to keep back, although I do not know what it was. We had an argument because I was not going to tell them whatever it was.

I woke up after that one, on the verge of overheating and unable to sleep for a couple hours afterward, although I am not certain of the time. I just know it was a little after midnight when I looked at the clock, because I wondered if it was time to get out of bed. I did this a couple times.

Then comes the next dream, or maybe two dreams. Exactly what is uncertain.

They were also both at Clemson, although involving different people maybe. It was hard to tell. After reading this, if your mind has not imploded, you may be able to resolve some of the conflict, although something tells me it’s impossible.

I was exploring the library from the top level to the bottom. Now for those of you who do not know, the lower levels of the library are underground, and feel it too. No windows, no natural lighting, just cinderblock painted industrial white with old carpeting and no attempt to make the place look like something other than a dungeon. In the dream, they had done some renovating work on the bottom floor, converting space into a Confederate history museum and adding a student lounge that looked more like a prison cell, although it did have some old chairs and couches in it. The museum had no lighting, and there was a secondary lounge at the end of a curved hallway. This lounge was painted dark green. No one seemed to care how oppressive the room felt.

In the museum part, I was with a couple black students dressed up in white sheets, and was talking to them about how this wasn’t here at one time and wondering why it was added. Someone saw us and accused us of being in the Klan, so I pointed out that the people I was with were black and the accusation made no sense. I recalled later on in the dream that they had been wearing pointed hats. I have no idea where that came from.

About that time the second plot went underway.

Someone with a gun and intent to kill was pursuing me, although I was not running and neither was he. Instead, I used the library layout and shelving to my advantage, keeping just out of sight and the line of fire. We went through this on several floors. Strangely, no one else noticed what was going on, and I didn’t warn anyone. I was the only one in danger.

The dream shifted again, and introduced a Digimon theme into it. A few other people were at the student center and were concocting a way to merge with digimon and become digimon themselves. I shifted back and forth from being one of the participants, to being a disembodied observer unconnected with the whole thing. This segment of the dream came complete with an anime-style segment where the desired merge and result was shown. (I have not watched Digimon in months by the way.) A couple characters from the show were involved.

The library chase and attempted murder changed settings to the student center (there were some in-between scenes I will omit – but by now it was daytime). There are more people there, and not as many places to hide.

The shooter was annoyed and started to open fire, injuring at least one lady and probably others. I only saw blood from one person. The intended victim was also shot and presumably fatally injured, so the dream POV changed to that of an observer. Somehow, the shooter was also shot several times, and he stumbled to his death somewhere else in the building.

The police showed up with their DO NOT CROSS tape and taped off the path the murderer had taken, and had paper on the floor to collect blood samples from every drop.

Back to the digimon plot. The people involved with that somehow got a hold of the victim, whose body had been reduced to a powdered-sugar-like substance, and only about a tablespoon of that. He was somehow still aware.

My dreams ignore physics and logic.

They put the victim’s remains on some sort of fruit and dissolved the whole thing in some liquid in a 2L beaker. They were hoping to use their merging attempt to revive the guy, and maybe have him end up with the ability to shift to a bluish dragon/wolf thing in the end. It did not work and they could see it was going to go too far. My perspective shifted back and forth from being in the beaker and outside it. The liquid formed two layers, and the top layer had a bluish tint to it. The beaker’s contents began to glow and form a vortex in the container, and the somehow-aware liquid was trying to communicate to the people outside, telling them he was fine. His voice had shifted up several octaves though and he sounded like a child. They were hoping that would make him end up a child- or adult-level digimon, but the victim was too weak and ended up as a jelly-like egg.

Then my brain decided to rescue me from its insanity and woke me up.

I promise I did not consume any unauthorized substance before going to bed last night. My dreams are just this way.

Transformation and Christians — Intent to Write

For some time I have wondered about the appropriateness of Christians partaking in transformation art, not just when it becomes the defining characteristic and a time-waster, but transformation art in general. Some have made comments connecting TF-related media to the Christian faith, viewing transformation in a positive manner, so I have considered those as well. Over the next few weeks you will begin seeing some more detailed thoughts on the matter.

Convention Planning

It’s the beginning of the year, which means it’s time to start thinking about what cons I want to attend, if any. That is not something I have done much of in the past (attended four in the past four years, so averaging one a year) due to a combination of lack of funds, lack of time, and general disinterest. Cons aren’t something that I find fun unless going with a large group of friends — or at least one good friend. Here is a list of some of the cons I have attended in the past or am considering now, along with my thoughts for each:

Furry Weekend Atlanta: Attended 2009, impressed because it was my first con, not impressed enough to return again without going with friends. It was a little too adult for my liking as well, and I don’t particularly like Atlanta. I may return this year because some friends want me to join them, but it looks unlikely.

Anthrocon: Attended 2010, enjoyed being with and meeting new friends, will not attend again without being accompanied by a group of friends. Anthrocon is too big to be fun, and also very expensive. While I won’t deny the fun had, it isn’t worth going up there again.

Megaplex: Never attended, considering this year. I like the thought of a “smaller” con and have heard positive things about it. The downside is perceived close association with the Funday Pawpet Show, which I find sophomoric at best.

Camp Feral!: Attended 2012 with my friend Wolfin, and loved it so much I wanted to return the next year. I gave no promises because of scheduling and cost, but it was worth every cent and every minute. It’s an outdoor con with maybe 100 – 120 people so you get to meet almost everyone, and there are actually things to do, unlike a hotel con. The only way I’m not going is if something major comes up.

Fangcon: Attended 2012 with Tikaani, WagzTail guest. It was a first-year con complete with its own hiccups and quirks, with a lot of room for improvement but not enough to inspire me to return. I was very disappointed in what I had hoped would be a more family-friendly con, but wasn’t.

That about sums it up. Leave a comment below if you’d like to share your own plans.

New Wagz site

I’m going to follow Wolfin’s lead and let you all know about the Wagz team’s new splash page: Wagz.me.

Well, it is not entirely new. It’s been around for a while but was either a list of links (Lucky you, those who did not see. Those who did, reminisce) or could not be reached at all because it was so bad we didn’t want you to see it. Now we do.

Wagz.me will serve as the hub site for all the Wagz products you have come to know and love: WagzTail, FurTalk, ChristianPaws, and FurryChat. Who knows? Maybe there’s more on the way.

Feral! Report — Day 6/7

All too soon, the final morning came. I had already packed up most everything, so all that remained was to strip the bed, fold up the sheets, and stuff them in the suitcase. Also, Wolfin had passed along a few souvenir-type items that he did not want to take back with him, so they ended up in my suitcase.

After breakfast were the closing ceremony and group picture. It took a few minutes to get everyone rounded up, so quite a few of us sat on the main lodge stairs and waited. And waited some more. Eventually, all the furries were corralled into one location so they could be shot more easily. From what I have been told, usually they spend fifteen minutes or more shooting us with a lot of cameras, but this year they had the idea to coerce one person into taking one group shot, ideally to reduce the time it took. I suppose it worked. There are pictures available online for those who wish to look. I do not wish to link it though.

After that, and packing and getting on the bus, we were ready to leave. Of course, there had to be a roll call to make sure everyone was on the bus who was supposed to be, and no one was trying to stay behind. After all weekend one of them still had trouble with my name. He did get it right though, the second time.

On the trip back, Wolfin and I sat beside each other again, as we did on the way up. We sat in almost the same seat, too, maybe even the same one. We can be creatures of habit I suppose. We made ourselves comfortable, knowing that we had four hours ahead of us, and engaged in conversation with some of the people around us, whom we now knew and were no longer complete strangers. (Blackfeather Tanfur, for example.)

We passed around our camp books for each other to sign, while on the bus. The idea behind that is this: on the bus, they are a captive audience and cannot escape. Perhaps they could simply pass along the book to the next person, but that would be rude, no? I started out with a pen and ended up with someone else’s pencil. Sorry about that, if it was dear to you. I have no idea whose it was and have no way of returning it to you. You can have my pen instead. I placed a contact card in each book I signed, but I’m not sure how many of them stayed in the books. I suspect some of them fell out.

For lunch we stopped at a hamburger place called Weber’s. It was good I thought. Again, we had only 30 minutes to eat, but we were there for about an hour is my guess. It took a while for everyone to get their food. It was there that I finally had poutine. (The camp served some version of it the night before but I refused to touch it then.) Wolfin had all but threatened to make me eat it in the weeks before we left, so he should be satisfied.

As it turns out, I like it. Not enough to eat it all the time, which is probably a good thing because nothing about it is good for you, but I like the taste.

That was about the halfway point, so we got back on the bus and went the rest of the way to Toronto. Somehow, the trip did not seem to take very long in either direction. Perhaps the lack of traffic helped especially, coming back. But when we got to the dropoff point, it was time to unload the trailer and see everyone off. Wolfin took a taxi to the airport and flew out later that evening, and I took the subway to a hotel downtown.

It was a sad parting.

I did not do much that night. Had supper, walked around Toronto a little bit more, and went to bed.

The next morning I was ready to get to the airport, so I could go home. The trip had been quite fun, but it was time to return to the Carolinas. Checked in for the flight, got my ticket, went through US Customs (truly my least favorite part of any international trip… I have never met a US Customs official who was not rude) and finally security before entering the terminal. I had a little while before my flight, so I checked email and talked on Skype with Wolfin and some others, and when it was time for lunch, found something to eat.

Afterward things got a little more exciting. I did not have a direct flight from Toronto to Charlotte, but had one layover in Chicago. Now, this would be fine except the flight to Chicago was delayed, and delayed so much that I would miss the next flight. Now, my bag has already been checked and is no longer with me, so I don’t like knowing that I may be separated from it. After talking to someone at the airline’s customer service desk, they were able to find a direct flight to Charlotte and move my bags to that flight. They also printed a new boarding pass, and it was then the computer system decided to hate me and flag me as needing additional security screening. In order to board the flight, I had to return to security and get them to stamp my boarding pass, so I could board the flight.

I don’t think they’re used to people going from the terminal to the secure area. At least they were pleasant about it.

Once that was cleared up, I went to the new gate and waited to board. Soon I was in the air and on my way to Charlotte, and early enough that I could make it to church that evening, which I had not expected to be able to do.