Friday, April 28, 2017

Microreview [book]: Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

Not enough wickedness in these wonders.....

In Wicked Wonders, Ellen Klages’ new short collection, women usually take center stage: young girls idolize villains, an astronaut finds out she’s pregnant while heading to Mars, a young student falls into living board games and must figure her way out. The stories often fall onto the side of the fantastic, but they also look at real dynamics of womanhood: friendships, relationships, work.

All of these things are things that draw me in normally. Dynamics of gender, especially when speculative elements come with them, are some of my favorite things to read. However, something in Klages writing managed to push me away. I kept wanting to like these stories far more than I liked them. The ideas and relationships in them feel more surface level and oftentimes I found myself unable to connect with the characters or their emotions. It’s hard to pin point exactly why, though.

In the opening story “The Education if a Witch,” a little girl becomes obsessed with Maleficent at the same time that her family welcomes a new baby. The story is dark in the right places but always feels like its holding back a little too much, even as the ending becomes more sinister—it still feels uncomfortable with its own darkness.

In another story, “Goodnight Moons,” a female astronaut discovers she is pregnant and the media storm around her pregnancy means she has to keep the child—on Mars. I wanted to love the story so much: female astronauts, agency of women and their bodies, Mars. Yet, again, the story felt a little too neat and tidy and, dare I say, sweet?

That sweetness might be what keeps me from enjoying these stories. Every one of them feels safe and many feel sweet. I’m all for kindness and empathy towards characters and their situations in stories. But Klages takes that one step further and seems to go around any sort of depth, danger, or dilemma.

While on the surface level, these stories can be enjoyable enough, they won’t be ones you return to over and over or think about later.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 4/10

Bonuses: +1 for being so centered on women's lives

Penalties: -1 for not living up to their promise

Nerd Coefficient: 4/10 "not very good"


POSTED BY: Chloe, speculative fiction fan in all forms, monster theorist, and Nerds of a Feather blogger since 2016.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

International TableTop Day 2017

This Saturday is one of the greatest holidays in the history of the universe.  Of course I am talking about International TableTop Day!  Not only is it a great excuse to play some games, but you can score some sweet promo items by playing games at a participating store.  I don't know if my FLGS is officially participating this year, but it won't stop me from playing games all day long.  When you approach something as big as International TableTop Day, you need a plan of attack so you can properly sustain yourself playing games all day long.  With two young kids at home, I can't embark on an epic game of Twilight Imperium and must come up with a specific game plan.  Below I will share my schedule for a full day of gaming fun.

Morning Games:
As we start our day of gaming, I want to make sure that everyone in my family is on the same page.  I don't want to see one of my kids start off the day with a bad loss and have it sour their entire day of gaming.  To start things off on the right foot, we are going to open the day with some light, cooperative games that will either result in a thrilling win or a team loss, which is much easier for a 7 and 9 year old to deal with.  My guess is we will start our day off with a quick game of Castle Panic, followed up with Carrotia and then wrap up the morning session with Forbidden Desert.

Midday Games:
After kicking things off as a team, a little healthy competition is in store.  Since we aren't even to the half-way point, I find it is good to play some lighter games that are fun for the whole family and a breeze to play.  Making the transition from co-op into competitive games, titles like Sushi Go, Unspeakable Words, and Cat Tower till find their way to our table.  Nothing too serious, but a nice appetizer before sinking our teeth into some more challenging games.

Pre-dinner Games:
At this point in the day my daughter will likely be gamed out and will play with toys while the rest of us pursue slightly more complicated games.  Prior to the kids going to bed and prior to the hardcore gamers arriving, I find that the early evening lends itself to gateway games.  Those games that you use to lure non-gamers over to the darkside of tabletop gaming.  My current gateway games of choice include Machi Koro, Splendor, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle.

Post-dinner Games:
Now that we've had a solid dinner and the kids are getting ready for bed, it is time to get a bit more serious and break out some of the heavier games.  My gaming crew doesn't play anything too heavy, but we definitely enjoy some of the more strategic offerings without the distraction of the kids.  For this time in the evening I find our group playing titles like Istanbul, Mystic Vale, and Stone Age.

Late night fun:
With the end of the day racing to a close and your brain cells hurting from thinking strategically, a good party game is a great way to take the edge off and finish the night with a laugh.  This is also a good way to bring in some of your friends who are checking out TableTop day but aren't too keen on learning anything complicated.  Secret Hitler, Sheriff of Nottingham, and Coup have been gracing our party table lately with great success.

Even if you stick to the roll and move games from your youth, play abstract games like chess, or go the role playing route, make sure that your Saturday is filled with plenty of games and happy gaming to you all!  May the dice rolls be ever in your favor!!

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Thursday Morning Superhero

If you are in the same boat as I am then you probably felt that yesterday's San Diego Comic Con Hotelpocalypse went off without a hitch.  This year the hotel sale mimicked that of the badge sale in that individuals waited in a virtual waiting room and were then sorted at a random order to the "sale" page.  Instead of racing to fill out the form as fast as possible, forms will be accepted based on the time stamp from when the person had access to the form.  It was low stress and seemed to be a much better system.  Now we wait.

Pick of the Week:
Old Man Logan #22 - Jeff Lemire is one cruel dude.  In case you forgot, Logan is lost in the time stream per Asmodeus' trap.  This forces Wolverine to relive his past in his attempt to locate the amulet at each stop in an insane attempt to return to the present time.  Er, uh, present time after the initial shift that took him away from the wastelands that he had partnered up with Asmodeus in an attempt to return to save Baby Hulk.  Anyhoo, the first stop for Logan is his first encounter with Hulk, which isn't too bad and pretty entertaining, but that is when Lemire decides to turn on Wolverine and write this book to force Logan to witness Jean Grey's death yet again.  Ouch.  Lemire does reward Wolverine in the last stop in this book, but I won't spoil what happens.  This is must read material for any Wolverine fan and has been a lot of fun.

The Rest:
Darth Maul #3 - I have really enjoyed Cullen Bunn's take on Darth Maul, and this issue sets the stage for what should be a brutal issue #4.  This series has been a nice balance of Maul attempting to assert himself, but it is clear he has much to learn and respects the power that Darth Sidious possesses. Maul, despite being ordered to remain low by Darth Sidious, is planning on seizing a Padawan who is up for auction.  His goal is to satiate his desire to kill by having a duel with the Padawan.  Lacking the funds to outright purchase the Padawan and wanting to keep a low profile, he enlists the help of Cad Bane and Aurra Sing.  What could possibly go wrong?

X-Men Blue #2 - It is a good week when I get to read multiple titles penned by Mr. Bunn and X-Men Blue continues to be a lot of fun.  After getting sent forward in time, the original X-Men pair up Magneto, which is a surprising ally for this group.  In order to gain their trust, Magneto allows Jean Grey to read his mind to ensure that he is honest when he says he wants to help them pursue Professor X's dream of man and mutant living in peace. Things seem to be off to a good start, but as the X-Men are on a mission against Sentinels in Spain, it seems that Magneto might be up to something a bit shady.  This would be enough of a story to keep my interest, but when the Sentinels are confronted they refer to the X-men as fellow mutants.  Fellow?  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.  I don't want to wait for the next issue to find out what this means.  Well played Mr. Bunn.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

DYSTOPIAN VISIONS : Nineteen Eighty-Four

Dossier: Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four [Martin Secker & Warburg, 1949].

Filetype: Book

File Under: Statist Dystopia

Executive Summary: Winston Smith, a worker for the oppresive Oceania state, helps in the rewritting of history to support the Party's propaganda. The population is divided into the Proletariat and the Inner Party members, whose iron fist bans any rebellion or sedition, even in an individual's mind. An endless war with the other regions on earth and a constant barrage of misinformation on enemies of the state ensures loyalty to the mythical leader, Big Brother. Smith begins small acts of rebellion which psychologically-coalesce into a secret love affair with a young woman from the Junior Anti-Sex League and discovers what may be the truth behind the Party's lies. Meanwhile mysterious Party official O'Brien and the Thought Police close in...

Dystopian Visions: The Party, and, one assumes, its two counterparts in the other regions, have absolute and immortal power over society, through a perpetual police state which extends its powers to controlling our very thoughts and desires. Family members shop each other in for Thought Crimes, work is unrelenting, a pointless charade, and prevents a private life of any note, culture and fun are replaced by rallies and all jointly staring in pure hate at a face on a big screen. 

Utopian Undercurrents: Even the Inner Party officials like O'Brien enjoy no seeming freedom of thought, and although they might go off and enjoy a glass of wine behind the scenes, our only viewpoint is from a prole, and for them life offers no hope or joy (if you don't count a cheeky painting, looking at a field and a few shags before being tortured and beaten for months). Even the gin is crap. Only the human hope in small moments like Julia's note of "I love you" shines through bleakly as a flickering flame of humanity, long after the story is over. I still see Orwell's statist hell as an allegory rather than a real possibility, that humans' individual spirit will out. But then maybe I just need some gentle rat-in-a-cage educating...

Level of Hell: Sixth. Or Tenth. There are no mutants, no everyday threat to life for most, and food (albeit shite) is available. People still hang out washing in the sun. People still make coffee after (illegal) sex. But when thought itself is controlled, does it matter how nice the coffee is or how warm the sun is? Any idea of hope is crushed in the final part, forever. It's almost worse that no physical apocalypse occured, that it was all the result of power-obsessed politicians and the blind nationalism of the masses. So Tenth.

Legacy: I was ready to find a disappointment in me at the end of re-reading this, one of the more astonishingly-bleak and impressive books of my childhood years (and I have read all of William Golding, so...). I based this mainly on its legacy. Endlessly-referenced phrase like 'two and two make five' , 'freedom is slavery', and 'Big Brother is watching you', and lines such as,'imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever', had made Orwell's final novel close to a self-parody in my mind. However, the depth and detail of the discourse here, and political world-building, outshine any senses I had that perhaps its originality was buried under its own subsequent fame. Everything from V For Vendetta to The Handmaid's Tale to Children of Men in our season on Dystopian Visions owe a huge debt to this novel, and I would suggest his warning - initially praised (and indeed marketed as in the U.S.) as an anti-communist one - has influenced us all, even those who who have never read it. The fear of loss of individual thought, the fear of the loss of diversity of culture and country, the fear of dictatorial control, all were ancient notions before Orwell even began writing, yet his masterpiece raised the flag of 'where-never-to-go' over so many minds that it can only be hoped that his vision will never see the light of day.

In RetrospectIn popular understanding, this is the benchmark of dystopian fiction, and this stems partly from the unrelenting grey hell it promises us. Even as the numerical year of the title is left far behind us, the threat of a time where power wins over individuality utterly and forever is a constant fear. ' What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?'. Reading this line again in our current times of false-populism, fake news, revised history and a revival in personality politics, I shudder with that same fear. 'America First', 'Brexit means Brexit', and anything by Le Pen et al. Philosophy of almost calming horror fills the pages that Eric Blair ended his days by filling. He was writing not just from the experience of WW2, Nazism and Stalinism, but of the failure of the British Left to uphold values in the pursuit of power, and his own personal experiences of the totalitarian Soviet machine lying to the people and creating false enemies while fighting in the Spanish Civil War. 
On reflection, I discovered a Smith-esque rebellion against the authority the book's renown held over me, an authority ordering me to respect and adore it. I found fuel for this rebellion in its partial, and ultimately slight, failings as literature - the one-dimensional supporting characters, the lack of recognisable everyday human warmth in interactions (which of course is the point, but the film with Hurt and Burton did much to overcome this through the actor's eyes) and the determination in its singular purpose - the scream as hope is crushed. However, like Smith toward the end, but without the need for dials of torture, I found the last gasp of my resistance collapse under the sheer excellence in the piece. It is that rare thing - a classic that should by now bore with obviousness due to its novel ideas rendered into cliche, its fame the killer of its verve, but which flares out at you still, even decades on from your first experience of it. More than this it is greater than merely a dazzling prose exercise, or a political nightmare. It was often mocked as one of those books you 'had to' read at school here in Orwell's home country. Yet like fellow standards of the teenagers' curriculum like Lord of The Flies, it shows our darkest natures back at us and dares us to fight the hard fight to resist the darkness. This is a harsh lesson we would do well to hear loud and clear in the coming years.


For its time: 5/5
Read today: 4/5, for it cannot help but slightly pale as history and literature catch up and overtake its ideas.
Oppressometer Readout: 9/10.

Posted by English Scribbler, who lives in hope, and in a flat, and has contributed to Nerds of A Feather since 2013.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

DYSTOPIAN VISIONS: Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (Guest Dossier by Rob Bedford)

Dossier: Sanderson, Brandon. Mistborn: The Final Empire [Tor, 2006]

Filetype: Book.

File Under: Fantasy Dystopia.

Executive Summary: The Final Empire is the first installment in Brandon Sanderson's mega-popular, multivolume Mistborn Saga. The world presented is sugaring under the heel of the Lord Ruler, a creature believed to be evil for the power he wields over the populace on the world of Scadrial in the land known as the Final Empire. The Lord Ruler was once the Hero of Ages, a figure out of legend who became a god when he quelled an ancient evil at the mythical Well of Ascension. Of course quelling the evil force may have been the easy party. Keeping it at bay for a thousand years changed the Hero of Ages (doesn't that just sound optimistic?) into the creature who took the name Lord Ruler (less optimistic, no?). The novel begins here, as a group of rebels led by the charismatic Kelsier (the only known person to escape the Alcatraz-like Pits of Hathsin), try to break the Lord Ruler's tyrannical hold over the people he rules over as a creature just a half-step removed from being a god.

Dystopian Visions: The Hero of Ages thought he was doing the right thing by becoming a god to keep evil at bay, but now the people who know of the mythical Hero of Ages see him as an evil dictator. There are strange mists constantly floating in the shit, ash fall from the sky and the sun is blocked from view. Not exactly an uplifting setting. The Lord Ruler also has in his employee the Koloss, monstrous figures with spikes in their body who serve as the muscle as well as the policing force of the Inquisitors, imposing figures with spikes driven into their eyes. 

To put all this briefly, the Final Empire of Scadrial is oppressive to all but the most elite. 

Utopian Undercurrents: The Lord Ruler, like most “evil” antagonists think they are doing good and saving the world. By novel’s end and later in the series, what he was doing may just have been the right thing in spirit. Who doesn’t think vanquishing the force of evil and destruction is a bad thing? Unfortunately for the people who live under his rule, the execution and aftermath of the “saving moment” spiral way from the “right” thing drastically.

Level of Hell: 7th. The levels of hell embodied best in this book would be the Seventh (Violence) and Eighth (Fraud). The world is rife with violence through embodied by the Koloss and Inquisitors and Fraud by the Lord Ruler.

Legacy: Mistborn isn’t so much a dystopian work, at least the whole series, but The Final Empire runs strong with dystopic elements. In the grander Epic Fantasy field, the books are modern classics. Even though Sanderson’s first novel Elantris was a fine novel and received some nice buzz, when The Final Empire hit shelves, he took another leap. Fans of Heavy Metal music might make a parallel between Iron Maiden and Brandon Sanderson in that The Final Empire is like The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden was well-respected after two albums with lead singer Paul Di’Anno, but Bruce Dickson replaced him on The Number of the Beast, the album that launched them into the stratosphere of Heavy Metal music. Likewise, The Final Empire helped to set Sanderson on the path to one of the now elite practitioners of Epic Fantasy. As many fans of Brandon Sanderson may know, and fans of The Wheel of Time likely know, it was The Final Empire that Harriet McDougal read (Robert Jordan’s wife and owner of The Wheel of Time copyright) before agreeing with Tor publisher Tom Doherty that Brandon Sanderson was the person to finish The Wheel of Time.  

In Retrospect: In the decade since The Final Empire first published, Brandon Sanders has established himself as one of the brand-name powerhouses in epic fantasy. The venerable Adam Whitehead, purveyor of the estimable Wertzone blog, has been laboriously gathering lifetime sales numbers for SFF writers, with his initial list in 2008 and updates in 2013, 2015 and at the end of 2016. Sanderson doesn’t appear on the first list in 2008, which is not surprising since he was new to the scene with only three books on the shelves. In 2013, he ranks 48 with approximately 15 million in sales and the most recent ranking (three years later) he ranks at 40 with approximately 22 million in sales. Moving seven million books in with your name on them in three years is no small feat. Granted, three of those titles also had Robert Jordan’s name on top of them so had a built-in audience but Adam estimates nearly half of those sales (10 million) come from his solo titles. Suffice to say, a book with “Brandon Sanderson” landing on the bestseller list during its first week of publication is a safe bet. 

The series is often placed on “Best Fantasies/Series of the 21st Century” or whatever specifically the list-creator comes up with to differentiate his or her list from the three “Best of …” list the previous month. 

It is safe to say that The Final Empire is Brandon’s break out novel, the one that opened the door to The Wheel of Time for him, and led to his success. The great thing? It is only a hint of amazing novels of worldbuilding and storytelling to come from an author who will be regarded as a Master of the genre in the years to come, if he hasn’t already.


For its time: 4/5
Read today: 4/5.
Oppressometer Readout: 8/10.

Rob Bedford lives in NJ with his wife and dog. He has been a site editor and book reviewer for SFFWorld since 2000, wrote for SF Signalfrom 2013 since it sadly closed in 2016, occasionally for, and has a slowly dying blog about stuff. He is also, as his wife calls him, a beer snob. If you want to read random thoughts about books, beer, or his dog you can follow him on Twitter: @RobHBedford

Monday, April 24, 2017

DYSTOPIAN VISIONS: The Handmaid's Tale

Dossier: Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale [McClelland and Stewart, 1985].

Filetype: Book

File Under: Statist Dystopia

Executive Summary: Offred is a handmaid, which means she has proven fertile in a time of rampant infertility, and has therefore been deemed worthy of being assigned to one of the top officials in the Republic of Gilead, so that he might be able to reproduce. Referred to in the book as "The Commander," but ostensibly named "Fred," since Offred's name indicates that she belongs to him, her master's marriage to Serena Joy has proven childless. So once a month, in a ritual of the theocracy that is Gilead, Serena Joy holds Offred's head in her lap as The Commander attempts to impregnate Offred.

The story takes place early in the time of the Republic of Gilead, which overthrew the U.S. Government and instituted a Protestant theocracy in which women's bodies are not simply politicized, they are literally the property of the state. Women have no essential personhood in this "republic." Offred is paired with Ofglen, the handmaid of another official, to do the daily shopping and whatnot, and Ofglen slowly lets Offred into her confidence, revealing that there is an underground resistance attempting to overthrow Gilead. Offred also gets an inside seat for some of the other off-books types of activities that take place for the well-placed in Gildead when The Commander sends for her on a night that is not set aside for the monthly ritual. The Commander allows Offred to read old magazines, the kind that have now been banned and burned, and play Scrabble with him. Over time, he even sneaks her to a brothel run by and for the higher-ups in society. Serena Joy, for her part, worries that The Commander may not have get Offred pregnant (something which, officially, can't happen because men don't shoot blanks and any failure to conceive is always the woman's fault), so she arranges for Offred to have a side-relationship with The Commander's driver, Nick. As Offred's entanglements with The Commander, Serena Joy, Nick, and the Mayday resistance become more complex and interwoven, she reaches a point where the center can no longer hold, and some drastic, potentially deadly, upheaval is increasingly certain.

Dystopian Visions: This is a pretty grim vision. One of the things that makes it worse in reading about it, though, is the thought that there are probably a lot of people out there in the real world right now who think this is actually pretty close to how things "ought to be." Women are denied any agency, not permitted to read, let alone have jobs or bank accounts. They are told explicitly what they may and may not do with their bodies. They exist for the pleasure of men and the propagation of the species...or, a certain part of the species. Racial and religious minorities are sent "away," ostensibly to places where they are segregated and "can be together," but it is strongly implied that they are either in concentration camps or killed. 

Utopian Undercurrents: There's not much, unless you're a well-connected, wealthy white guy. In that case, you get a big house, cushy position, a wife, a state-sanctioned concubine, trips to the brothel, and if any of that bores you, you can cash it all in for new models by insinuating that whomever displeases you may not be entirely faithful to the ideals of Gilead. That is, of course, unless someone suspects you of somehow transgressing, in which case it's all forfeit. 
The lower-status men must serve time in some type of dangerous military occupation before "earning" the right to an Econowife, so even the wide latitude and openly accepted hypocrisy afforded The Commander is a luxury.

Level of Hell: Ninth. While this isn't the cannibalistic wasteland of McCarthy's The Road, there are no doubt ways to argue about which society, particularly as a woman, you'd rather be a part of. This book combines the paranoia of 1984 or Arthur Miller's The Crucible with the dead-eyed violence of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, and mixes it with abominable gender subjugation. 

Legacy: I understand that people go both ways on Atwood, and this book in particular. Perhaps because The Handmaid's Tale exists at a nexus between speculative fiction, social commentary, satire, and feminism, there are a lot of very strong opinions about it, both positive and negative. Although none of what's included in the book is far-fetched on its face, one might argue about its likelihood of occurring in this place or that place. It has all occurred, and is occurring right now in some form somewhere on Earth.

In Retrospect
The details within the book, both big and small, are closely observed, and for this reader, at least, powerful. The idea of secreting butter away from dinner in one's shoe in order to apply it like lotion later on in one's room — in a world that still has Scrabble and has had Avon parties and fashion magazines — is hard-hitting, and the idea of religious fundamentalists who have built a society around the sanctity of fornication without lust in order to make acceptable babies also maintaining and visiting brothels reads as revolting but fundamentally true to human nature. So too, the characters by-and-large hover in the vicinity of archetypes, but their relationships read as true, and very recognizable. The resentment the women on the household staff display for the handmaids, for instance, feels painful but probably right. This is a book that takes and has taken its lumps, but as a piece of speculative fiction, is well rendered.


For its time: 4/5
Read today: 4/5.
Oppressometer Readout: 8/10.

Posted by Vance K — cult-film reviewer, sometime book reviewer, and co-editor of nerds of a feather, flock together since 2012.


Dossier: Arkane Studios. Dishonored. [Bethesda Softworks, 2012]

Filetype: Video Game

File Under: Statist Dystopia

Executive Summary: You are Corvo Attano, royal protector, and you've just witnessed your empress murdered by assassins and the heiress kidnapped. You're arrested for her murder and locked in Coldridge Prison. During your interrogation, the Lord Regent reveals that he's framed you for the murder and orchestrated the assassination to further his own agenda. However, before you're execution, you're visted by The Outsider, a mystical being who brands you and grants supernatural powers. Using these powers, and with the support of Loyalists to the heiress, you escape Coldridge Prison and start unraveling the conspiracy and rooting out the corruption the infects the city of Dunwall. Or you can get bloody revenge and murder every single person who ever wronged you, contributing to the rivers of blood that drive an infectious disease that's ravaging the poorer parts of the city.

Dystopian Visions: The world of Dishonored, specifically the city of Dunwall, is a city divided deeply by class. The poor are being wiped out by disease, while the upper classes plot against each other. It's also an industrial world, where whale oil powers everything. This morbid cycle of finding great living things, and literally flaying them alive for the oil that powers everything in the city contributes to the atmosphere of death and decay throughout Dunwall.

Utopian Undercurrents: Dunwall is a city past its prime. The technological advances of the alternate industrial age it exists in are still there, but they're used to suppress underclasses. Parts of the city still reflect the opulence of the peak, and the upper classes are still enjoying the benefits.

Level of Hell: Sixth. You can heal your injuries with a drink if you can afford it, but you'll need those health elixirs whether you're part of the elite or working for one of the many gangs that control the slums.

Legacy: Dishonored took the stealth gameplay of Thief and combined it with the open-ended level design of Deus Ex to create something great. It generally skews towards stealth, no-kill playthroughs or violent, murder-everything playthroughs because it has two endings based on how much murderin' you do, but the gameplay is extremely flexible. It's both an excellent stealth game that nails all of the tools you could want to be sneaky, and a robust action game that gives you dozens of options for killing.

In Retrospect: Dishonored got two pieces of downloadable content that expanded upon the story, which showed the point of view of the Empress's assassins. It also got a recent sequel that received a generally positive if mixed reception. But Dishonored is a fantastic game for all of its world-building. It's beautifully realized in a dark way, and utterly filled with little stories and characters that give it life.


For its time: 4/5
Read today: 4/5.
Oppressometer Readout: 8/10.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tabletop Pile of Shame: New Year's Resolution Update

Welcome to the first entry in my attempt to play through my pile of shame.  With International Tabletop Day right around the corner, I thought it would be good to starting working on one of my resolutions.  For those who don't know what this is, I am happy to explain.  A lot of people in the board game hobby tend to purchase games at a quicker rate then they play them.  I often fall victim to this trap as I am prone to purchase games and then struggle to get my group together to play.  One problem with a pile of shame is that as soon as you take a game off of the pile, another one or two find their way to the bottom (this happened to me as I added Clank! to my pile of shame earlier this week).

One of the New Year's Resolutions I set for myself in 2017 was to play 10 games from my pile of shame and that journey started last week as I played both Abyss by Asmodee and Colt Express from Ludonaute.  These two games were both published in 2014 and were huge hits.  Colt Express even won the Spiel des Jahres as the Game of the Year.

Abyss by Asmodee - Abyss is a simple set collection game that is wrapped up in some of the most impressive packaging I have ever seen.  A clever game from famed designer Bruno Cathala, players find themselves acquiring various allied race cards in order to gain the favor of important Lords who help you control key locations in the kingdom.  On the surface this clever little game feels like it could be created for half the cost, but the over the top production value fully immerses you in this underwater world.  From the pearls that you use as currency, to the stunning unique artwork, and the custom molded clam shell bowls, Abyss is a game that will catch people's eye when you set it up for a quick game.  Really looking forward to getting this to the table again.

Colt Express by Ludonaute - In Colt Express players are bandits attempting to pull off a daring train heist.  Complete with 3-dimensional train and adorable outlaw meeples, this programmed movement game is less strategy and more semi-planned chaotic fun.  Each round players will play cards in order to establish their movement for the round.  Sometimes you see what your opponents are planning, but if you are going through a tunnel the cards are played face down.  I tested this out a second time with my son and it is a fun game as long as you aren't too competitive.  You will be shooting your opponent and sending the deputy after them as well.  I could see some people getting pretty frustrated, but it is a fun little game that looks great on the table.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thursday Morning Superhero

Not only is Free Comic Book Day around the corner (May 6!), we are in early stages of the big summer events from Marvel and DC.  I tend to buy the hype early and end up disappointed, so I hope this year is different.  It am intrigued by both and hopeful that they will hold my interest throughout the summer.

Pick of the Week:
Redneck #1 - This week we are gifted a dark, new vampire title from Skybound and Donny Cates.  The Bowman family and Landry family have a history of bad blood between them that goes back generations.  If the first issue is any indication, we are embarking on a new feud that will severe consquences.  Having been in this small East Texas town for hundreds of years, the Bowman family has learned to live a quiet life in the country devoid from human consumption.  The family does not attack humans and hints to a time when they were hunted.  It looks like there was some sort of truce that was formed to allow them to live in solitude.  In this first issue we are introduced to this gritty world that feels like a cross of True Blood (minus the cheese) and Southern Bastards.  This series looks very promising and Cates does a great job establishing tension and drama in a short amount of time.  Looking forward to this one.

The Rest:
Royal City #2 - Jeff Lemire's new drama continues this week as we learn more about the eclectic characters and the dysfunctional relationships that bind them.  While I am not sure if this is a good comparison to make yet, this series feels a lot like the Royal Tennenbaums.  The characters are good people, but they are not without flaw and are dealing with complicated issues on an individual and family level.  The patriarch of this group suffering a stroke has brought back most of them to Royal city and it will be an interesting read to see how it all comes together.  

Dept. H #13 - I am not anywhere near to winning the super-deluxe Junior Deputy Detective badge that Matt and Sharlene Kindt are offering the first reader to successfully solve this underwater whodunit.  There are some good theories, but I find myself questioning more people as I learn more with each issue.  I guess this is the sign of a good murder mystery and it will hopefully all come together soon.  For now, Mia and the remaining survivors must successfully surface after being exposed to a contagion, despite the threat of being fired upon if they should surface.  Lots of drama, lots of questions, and a series I should reread in hopes of obtaining a badge!

Secret Empire #0 - The introduction to the next big Marvel event is here and it is one that I am quite excited about.  Captain America, still believing he is an agent of Hydra, has declared war on the Marvel Universe.  It is odd watching Steve team up with Zemo and others, but the ramifications that this could have are huge.  I personally enjoyed the twist that Nick Spencer dropped when Cap uttered those infamous words, "Hail Hydra."  This sets the scene for the event that I think will kick off on Free Comic Book Day next month.

Daredevil #19 - We are closer to learning how Daredevil was able to put the cat back in the bag in regards to everyone knowing his secret identity.  Killgrave has trapped his children in a machine in an attempt to usher out his mind control at an unforeseen scale.  Daredevil shows up trying to stop Killgrave, but must first work his way through the mind games that Killgrave is playing with him.  It is difficult to determine what is real and what is due to Killgrave's ability.  While we don't quite understand yet how it all happened, I look forward to seeing how Killgrave and his children played a role in altering the minds of an entire world.

Batman Rebirth #21 - The Button part one is upon us.  DC's big crossover event kicked off in Batman this week as Bruce attempts to uncover the mystery of the Watchmen button that they found in the cave when Wally appeared.  While waiting for the Flash to arrive, Batman is greeted by Reverse Flash and a brutal fight takes place.  Not much is revealed in this issue, but a lot of questions are asked.  Where did this button come from?  Why did it react to Psycho-Pirate's mask?  There is another surprise that I won't spoil, but this definitely has a summer event feel to it and I hope that the inclusion of the Watchmen goes better than the last time I read modern takes on that series.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A(n Even More) Modest Proposal for Hugo Reform

I've previously weighed in on reforming the Hugo award categories, on the following grounds:

  • Awards, whenever possible, should be given to works and collections of works rather than individuals.
  • Criteria for inclusion in any given category should be clear, intuitive and reflect practical understandings of how the field is structured, rather than be path dependent to existing conventions.  
  • Following up on that, reform proposals shouldn't just add categories, but also subtract those that no longer reflect how the field is structured. 

For the most part, I stick to the recommendations made in 2015. That said, it's clear that this kind of comprehensive overhaul is unlikely to ever happen. As such, I have a few actionable proposals that could possibly happen:

1. Unburden Readers in the Fiction Categories

Last time around, I suggested adding a category for Best Anthology/Collection and getting rid of Best Novelette. I suggested this because anthologies and collections play an important role in the field, while very few non-professionals think in terms of novel/novella/novelette/story (and instead think in terms of novel/novella/story).

I still think this is a very sensible change. However, I understand that there are many people--professionals, mostly, but also hardcore readers of short fiction--for whom axing novelette would be a bridge too far. Thus I'd suggest the following as a sensible and practical half-measure:

Require all periodicals and anthologies to publish word counts as a prerequisite for consideration. 

While this does not address the issue of mismatch between existing categories and prevalent conceptions of the structure of the field, it does at least make life easier for voters and vote tally-ers alike, while potentially rendering the nonintuitive, intuitive.

2. Add a Category for Original Anthologies/Collections

Putting together a cohesive, high quality anthology or collection of stories is a skill that, frankly, the Hugos should recognize. I'd suggest limiting the award to original anthologies and collections, rather than anthologies and collections of previously published works.

3. Replace Best Semiprozine with Categories that Better Reflect the Field 

Outside WorldCon insiders and hardcore Hugo-obsessives, does anyone know what a "semiprozine" is? Do they care? The answers to these questions, unsurprisingly, are "no and no."

But the category's problems don't end there. I's ridiculous to ask voters (and vote tally-ers) to distinguish who is in or out of that category based on the amorphous criteria of "being professional" and how editorial staff are paid. And it's strange--to say the least--that the field's leading periodicals aren't up for an award of their own. So let's all get rid of this nonsensical award category and replace it with something more sensible and interesting.

Here I'm narrowing the suggestions in 2.0:

Get rid of Best Semiprozine, and replace it with:
  1. Best Fiction Periodical (SFWA Qualifying Professional)
  2. Best Fiction Periodical (Non-SFWA Qualifying Professional) 
While the SFWA is technically an organization for US writers, at this point it's membership is fairly global. And I'm not suggesting that certification by SFWA should be the criteria for inclusion in the former category, but rather whether the periodical--over the previous calendar year--has paid writers by the industry standard set by SFWA (currently $0.06 per word). Which, I'll note, is publicly available information.

In this scheme, popular online magazines like Lightspeed or Strange Horizons would compete with their print magazine peers, like F&SF and Asimov's. This makes a lot more sense to me than the way things look right now.

4. Ditch the Editor Awards

If we are granting an award to anthologists and expanding the fiction periodical categories from one to two, then really there's no reason to give out an award to short-form editors. As I've argued before, awards work better when they are given out for works or collections of work rather than people, as people awards almost inevitably become "lifetime achievement" awards rather than "stuff done in previous calendar year" awards.

And while we are at it, let's get rid of Best Editor - Long Form, since very few people know who edits what, and publishing companies are often not forthcoming with that information. Besides, aren't the editors already awarded via Best Novel?


That's it for now. Or, at least, that's all I'm going to stress for now. Hopefully one or more of these merits consideration at the business meeting.  -G

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Microreview [book]: Madness in Solidar, by L.E. Modesitt, Jr

Modesitt is in fine form with the ninth Imager novel

Most people generally don't begin reading a series with the ninth volume, but we all make different choices in life and that's the choice I made with Madness in Solidar. Madness in Solidar is the ninth volume of L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s long running Imager Portfolio series. Having read all eighteen novels so far published in Modesitt's Recluce series, I was reluctant to begin another impossibly long series from the same author. 

I can't speak to how Madness in Solidar presents to readers most familiar with the eight previous novels in the Imager Portfolio, but it works as a fairly solid entry point because Modesitt tends to set his novels in different eras so that Madness in Solidar stands alone for new readers while enhancing the richness of the Imager world for longtime readers.

Here we are several hundred years after the founding of the Collegium of Imagers (think: magic school) and the power of the school is very much in decline. The school, now led by a man named Alastar, is caught between High Holders (think: land owning nobility) and the Rex (think: a king, but not in a fully absolute monarch). The Collegium is beholden to the Rex for funding, and despite the awesome power the school wields, is in the difficult position of being a feared and persecuted minority living somewhat on the forbearance of others. As the saying goes, people fear what they don't understand and the power of the Imagers is one of those things. This is a recurring theme throughout Modesitt's work, the fear of the magical other. That, and the desire of those in power to maintain their power and command exactly in the manner it has "always" been and without finding a way to work towards a mutually beneficial solution. And so, in life as in a Modesitt novel, death and destruction usually follow a man doing what he needs to do in order to survive and protect his people.

Reading a Modesitt novel is like coming home. It's comfort reading of the highest order. You have a fairly good idea what sort of novel you are going to get and Modesitt delivers exactly that. Alastar may not be quite the prototypical Modesitt protagonist in that he begins the novel with as a full grown adult in command of his powers and maturity (rather than being a young adult cast out to find his own way), but in other ways he is very much that protagonist. Alastar is newly in command of the Collegium and caught between two significant powers pulling him in different directions while Alastar's work is to keep the Collegium whole and perhaps even increase its power.

Madness in Solidar is a deliberate novel that lives and breathes in the details of Alastar's daily life of running the Collegium during this time of crisis. It lives on those moments of the discipline of students, in the correction of the kitchen staff, in the planning of building a road for the rex, and in the strategic planning for how the Collegium could be more independent in the future. This may not necessarily sound like the most riveting stuff for a fantasy novel, but in Modesitt's hands it is compelling and it builds the stage (before setting the stage) for the explosion of novel's looming conflict. It builds, brick by brick.

Madness in Solidar is a slow build, perhaps a little slower than a number of Modesitt's other novels, but this is familiar pacing for longtime readers of Modesitt. The time he takes to set up the characters, the long burn of the story, is time well spent in the world of the Imager Portfolio. I can only imagine readers more familiar with the history of this world will be even more rewarded by how Modesitt builds on the previous novels, but happily Madness in Solidar is a novel which also stands on its own.

The Math 
Baseline Assessment: 7/10 

Bonuses: +1 for Alyna, a character I could have written an essay on.

Penalties: -1 because readers new to the series might spend too much time wondering what references to previous books they are missing and if that matters.

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10 
See more about our scoring system here.

Modesitt, L. E. Madness in Solidar [Tor, 2015]

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Writer / Editor at Adventures in Reading since 2004. Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2015, editor since 2016. Minnesotan.

Monday, April 17, 2017


When thinking about dystopia recently for an essay (which can be read here), our conversation raised the question of whether writers have responsibility in how they depict dystopia and apocalypse. Is dystopian writing a “warning system?” The question intrigued me, as both a reader of and a writer of dystopian fiction, I wanted to think about it deeper. I also wanted to take the question to some writers who tackle dystopia. So I sought out some of the most interesting emerging SFF writers I know, and then barraged them with a series of questions, which they were all considerate enough to answer in deeply thoughtful ways. The writers I talked to were Kate Dollarhyde (SFF writer and co-editor in chief of Strange Horizons), Brontë Wieland (SFF writer and co-editor of the solar punk anthology Sunvault), Phoebe Wagner (SFF Writer and co-editor of the solar punk anthology Sunvault), and Tony Quick (SFF writer).

The first question I asked tackled the question head on. It was a question I struggle with (as I work on revising a dystopic sci-fi novel that tries to be hopeful): where is the line drawn between being didactic (a quality I hate when I read it) and being honest about what people have done to themselves and others? I also have some pretty hard drawn lines when it comes to responsibility in terms of horror: violence should never be depicted for strictly entertainment purposes for example (y’all should hear my very long rant against the torture-porn genre).

What responsibilities do we, as writers, have in depicting dystopia and apocalypse? Should we spend as much time considering the socially conscious aspects of our work as much as the narrative aspects?

KD: I believe writers have a responsibility to reflect an experiential truth in their stories, whether real or imagined. The reality we depict is, I think, a combination of the dystopia or apocalypse the writer is working with and the social reality of their point of view characters.
If a writer's apocalypse is one based in climate collapse, for example, the resonance of the depiction of that event or its aftermath depends so much on the position—both physically and socially—of the protagonist. A rich white man in post-water California and a working class Cuban woman in post-coastline Florida will experience wildly divergent realities, both valid as points of narrative inquiry, informed as much by their social position as by the lack or abundance of water in their particular setting. The reader might not have any experience with climate collapse, but they know what it's like to inhabit a social reality, and one well-crafted will only make more relevant and vital the narrative.
All of that is a roundabout way of saying that if a writer is considering the narrative aspects of their work, they should by necessity be considering the socially conscious aspects of their work. Calamity fiction is about the collapse and radical restructuring of social order. It's my opinion that the writer can't really have a coherent dystopic narrative that leans hard on one and not the other.

BW: I believe that our responsibility is to create depictions of the world as we see it, as we feel it, as we want it to be, and as we believe it may become. Often the issues facing us feel incalculable and insurmountable, and that’s where I believe dystopia has its roots: those moments when the world is overwhelmingly shitty and we begin to believe there’s no other path than something so dark. In that way, yes, I think we are responsible for telling these stories, for depicting the world how it presents itself to us.
The narrative and social aspects of our stories are inseparable, and we should always consider the impact our writing will have.

TQ: I want to be careful about assigning any specific “responsibility” to authors because I’m afraid litmus tests can be limiting. The dystopian and apocalyptic subgenres includes grim, somber novels in the vein of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or José Saramago’s Blindness but also includes chaotic carnivals such as Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist novel Cat’s Cradle or the psychedelic dreamscapes of J.G. Ballard’s novels The Unlimited Dream Company and The Drowned World. We’re standing under a wide umbrella here. We should definitely give serious thought to the socio-political underpinnings of our works but contemporary fiction shouldn’t be a soapbox. The contemporary audience becomes defensive and closed off once they sense unpolished propaganda. As artists, we’re challenged with hitching our larger societal concerns to plots featuring smaller, intimate narratives our audience can relate with. Fiction challenges us to show readers the ramifications of our society’s slow decline and turn statistics into stories.

PW: That's the balance isn't it--which comes first, social issues or narrative? How does one balance those ideas? I don't know. I'm always fighting with being preachy. Dystopia seems to do that well, though. Mad Max: Fury Road always comes to mind when thinking of social consciousness and narrative. While there are differing opinions on Fury Road, I loved the film for its high-octane moments balanced with critiques on everything from gender, human trafficking, capitalism, big oil, environmental issues--the list goes on. I personally believe writers have a responsibility in all their work. If I'm reading a dystopia and they aren't taking into consideration that yes, while rape or torture or INSERT AWFUL THING HERE might happen in an apocalypse, the writer must consider how those ideas will impact the reader. If the writer is casually using the horror of an apocalypse landscape just for its shock value without considering the social implications, I won't keep reading. Conversely, a dystopia offers a canvas to explore the dark side of humanity, which if done ethically and with empathy can be an enlightening experience.     

The next question I asked went back directly to something Philippe had asked me in the previous essay: is the technical accuracy of these depictions important? Again, it’s a question that I struggle with in terms of my own writing. My thought is that good science-fiction should be able to see the steps of how we got to the point depicted, even if those steps are not directly spelled out on the page.

 How much realism (in terms of how the dystopia/apocalypse comes about, but also the fallout of it) is needed in a dystopic depiction? Why? 

KD: I think the writer only needs so much reality as is required to make a dystopia feel truthful to the reader. The rub there is that every reader has a different threshold for what feels true based on their own social reality and how similar to or divergent from the social reality of the point of view character they are.
Reality is, I think, an argument the writer makes to the reader. A woman living in the United States today might not need much of an argument—that is, injection of reality—to find The Handmaid's Tale convincing; Atwood can take her dystopia to extremes of plausibility because her audience doesn't need much help to follow her there. But a cisgender progressive man might take more convincing. (Incidentally, I think that's why Atwood's MaddAdam trilogy has such broad appeal—everyone who lives under capitalism recognizes bits of their life in that dystopia.) You could, I think, make a similar argument for white people in general and Butler's Parable of the Sower. Could things really get that bad? To convince a reader who might ask that question, who might doubt, the writer needs a more exhaustive argument.
So, in short, I believe the level of realism required in a dystopic narrative is answered in who the author is writing for.

BW: For me, a dystopia is most effective when I can see clearly how it was once related to the world we live in. In the sense that I want the dystopias I read to be believable extensions of the society they stem from, I think writers should take great care to connect to a world their readers understand. In apocalypse narratives, I think there is greater leeway in the origin of the disaster event, but I still need to feel the way that the apocalypse informs and impacts our idea of the present and its trajectory.

TQ: Realism is subjective. When I read 20th century fiction, I’m  constantly reminded how alien the stories seem in our present day context. Look, I was born in the 20th century but when I read about these characters whose misunderstandings could be cleared up with a text message or read plots that would be resolved with a high speed internet connection and a search engine, I wonder if I have more in common with the science fiction protagonist who navigates a society transformed by new, disruptive technologies. Beyond that, social media has revolutionized how much insight and communication we have with people outside our immediate orbit. We are learning via Facebook and Twitter and comments sections across the internet that many of us don’t share the same reality.
But despite the age of “alternative facts” that dawn’s orange on the horizon, we all should be able to agree that our actions have concrete consequences. Chloe, I think you hit the bull’s eye with the word “fallout.” More important than adhering to an imaginary consensus of realism, we should aim to provide the audience with a sense the character’s actions matter. By proxy, the audience may come to believe their actions have an impact and maybe we can avoid the hammer’s fall. Maybe.

PW: I see that decision as belonging to the writer. Dystopia/apocalypse settings can fall under any of the three major genre branches (fantasy, science fiction, and horror) in my opinion, so the level of realism depends on what the reader needs in order to believe the story. As a reader and writer, I do need realism when it comes to the characters' reactions to the landscape. The environment needs to influence them. If the environment isn't impacting the characters, then why write a dystopia at all?

Finally, I asked the question that gets to the root of all good writing. Why do you do what you do? Why is this important to you? Dystopia is important to me because it shows a path not to take, a warning. It also shows that we do go on, despite all of this, we go on. Dystopia to me has always been a hopeful genre, because it shows we keep trying.

Why do you choose to write about dystopias?

KD: For me, dystopia's appeal lives in the braiding of hope and hopelessness.
Every person's present day—from 50,000 years ago to right now—is all fucked up. Our societies teeter always on the edge of ruin. Our individual lives teeter always on the edge of death. One person in the right place needs only to make one wrong choice to send us careening over the edge of oblivion. Someone launches a nuke. Someone mows me down in a crosswalk. Dystopias reflect that reality, that ever-present possibility of the end of everything. Dystopias say your hopelessness is not insane. You are not alone in being afraid.
But dystopias are not a nihilistic surrender to the uncaring smackdown of the universe, because hope is as much baked in to their narrative structures as hopelessness. A successful dystopic narrative is to me at least in part a promise: we can fuck everything up and still make it out alive. Even The Road, the most relentlessly depressing apocalypse story I've read, ends with hope. Not hope that everything will be as it was, or that everything will be okay, or that we won't lose everything that matters to us along the way, but that it's possible to keep going.

BW: When I write dystopia, what’s on my mind is usually a single action or behavior or sight that has struck me as unexpectedly and scarily oppressive. Often, it’s an everyday occurrence that presents itself in a new light, or it’s something I haven’t stopped to think about before, and I try to see the extension of the action and its consequences. Where will we go if we never stop to consider the ways we behave and let ourselves be influenced? That’s the question I try to answer in writing dystopia.

TQ: There’s this quote by William Gibson I keep coming back to time and again: “Nobody can know the real future. And novels set in imaginary futures are necessarily about the moment in which they are written.” Despite my tendency to draw dark futures, I’m actually optimistic about humanity’s chances of survival. We are a stubborn species who have harnessed nature to the point that survivalist tales are our entertainment rather than, you know, our daily lives. Whether we continue on as tribes of neo-cavemen scattered across a bombed out landscape, as space-faring refugees colonizing the solar system, or genetically altered shades of ourselves retrofitted to fit our new environment, we are not going down as a species without a fight.
I’m concerned about our immediate present and near future, what ways we might maim ourselves on our road to that future and how we might rise above ourselves. Recently, one of my advisers expressed his exhaustion with the sheer pessimism of post-apocalyptic science fiction and a desire to see a return of optimism in the genre. There’s something to be said for this: writers can lean heavy on diagnosing society’s issues and genre’s unique capacity to imagine alternatives allows our fiction to do more. But that said, I don’t see dystopia and apocalyptic settings as a popular, waning trend but instead a subgenre that speaks to a wartime generation raised on Y2K scares, 9/11 fallout, 2012 Mayan calendar predictions, random acts of domestic and foreign terrorism, 24-hour doomsday prophets, and seismic societal changes all streaming to us live. Why are we surprised the generation who has been told “the end is nigh” since we were knee high write about futures where those predictions bear fruit?
Our contemporary society has a number of pressing issues: institutional racism, indoctrinated sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, class inequality, violations of rights, and so on. No one science fiction writer could ever tackle all these issues with depth and sincerity: we need an army. Science fiction is a useful tool for indirectly interrogating how society is organized without limiting ourselves to what “is possible” and “isn’t possible.” Those who are most impacted by society’s problems and are only now gaining a foothold from which we can speak aren’t ready to abandon the dystopian genre when it’s so useful to portraying shades of our unacknowledged reality.

PW: I write about dystopias as a way to explore the near future, a future which seems to be coming closer and closer. What happens when humanity is pushed to the end of existence? What breaks down, what survives? Now, working backwards from those depictions, how can I as an individual work to stop that degradation of society? For me, dystopias aren't fun an games but a way to explore big problems--climate change, the collapse of capitalism, gender, human and nonhuman relationships. If my dystopia isn't dealing with social issues, I usually avoid the setting. There's enough depressing literature out there, I'm not interested in adding to it unless some good might come from it.  

So dystopia creators and consumers, what are your thoughts on these questions (and the thoughts on them here)? I’d love to hear other voices on this, commenting here or discussing on Twitter (@PintsNCupcakes and @nerds_feather). You can also tag in any of the lovely writers above (Kate is @keightdee, Tony is @tonyquickpov, Bronte is @beezyal, and Phoebe is @pheebs_w).