mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So, last weekend I spoke at a local sci-fi con (about actual science) and attended some of the workshops before vegging out in the anime room and watching Bodacious Space Pirates.  One workshop I attended was simply called "Combat for Writers," whose appeal to me should be obvious.  Trained martial artists (Western, mostly) acted out various scenarios so we scribbly types could see things play out in 3D.  Pretty cool. One attendee wanted to know how an unarmed "street thug" or two would fare against any random person with a sword and moderate training.  In the opinion of the workshop leader, it was an easy answer.  Your stereotypical low-level thugs, he said, operate on the following principles:

1) They work in gangs to outnumber their victims
2) They don't expect anyone to actually put up a fight

It's not about actual combat, it's about numbers and terror.  They're bullies punching down.  A decently skilled sword user walking into a street tough scenario with the intent of giving them a fight has everything on his/her side.

That got me to thinking about the oh-so tiresome opening chapters to most FE games, which tend to consist of BANDITS!  and MORE BANDITS! and DIFFERENT BANDITS!!! (apologies to [personal profile] hooves ).  But even given FE's bandit/pirate/brigand thugs are armed with shitty axes, having them as your opening opponents really is ideal to ease the player and cast into the game.  Your OP crutch character (Seth, Evayle) can dispatch a BANDIT without breaking a sweat.  Your moderately experienced characters (Christmas Cavs, someone like Chrom or Sigurd) can take on bandits and triumph without much trouble.  And these unskilled bullies are ideal as a whetstone for your genuine nooblets like Eirika and some of the random kids you get in opening chapters (baby cavs, baby archers, baby peg knights).  Sure, your lordling might get killed in Chapter One (Leif, I am glaring at you), but overall your playable cast should fare well against no-name loser thugs who are used to pissing on unarmed civilians. They're punching back, even if some of them are punching up.

I think pondering this helped give me clarity on why the H5/Lunatic modes of the DS/3DS era feel so unfair and un-fun to me.  Why are these damn no-name bandits so ungodly hard that even someone like Jeigan or Frederick can't take them down in one hit?  Actually, even FE11's H5 I can kind of understand, since these particular pirates have overtaken an entire country.  But those stupid bandits in FE13's opening chapter?  Having them be anything other than a cakewalk for even a fraction of the Shepherds pits storyline sense against gameplay mechanics in a way that just doesn't sit right with me.  

IDK.  There's got to be some ideal "this is hard as hell but fun" balance that takes the good stat-based parts of FE11's H5 and the good bullshitty parts of
Thracia 776. Right?
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Took a stab at the ending-sentence meme the rest of y'all are doing and realized a few 'fics in I end things with dark/light imagery waaaaay too often. C'est la vie.

Anyway, how 'bout this: closing sentences to WIPs I would rather like to finish some day?

Stuff. Spoilers for 'fic that may not get published, in a sense. )

The last of these being a piece of period-appropriate sentimentalism IMO.

mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
My word, I've some catching up to do reading everyone's posts.

For 2011's Meta Month I did a post on the issues surrounding bodily resurrection in Fire Emblem. Today I want to address the other half of the equation-- how does the spiritual side of resurrection work? Basically, where do our heroes go when they die, and how do we get them back? For this, I'm mainly going to be looking at the good, Naga-approved resurrection as featured in Archanea, Barensia, and Jugdral, rather than the sketchy Bramimond kind or the outright unclean grotesqueries of Magvel-- though Elibean resurrection a la Bramimond is certainly relevant.

So, where does the soul, or the essential Aegir that makes a person who they are, go when someone dies in Fire Emblem? We know a bit about what various characters believe (often revealed in death quotes), but aside from Seliph's oddball encounter with his parents in Chapter 10 of FE4 we don't have a lot of direct evidence for what becomes of humans. If anything we know more about the well-nigh-indestructible souls of dragonkin, which can persist for millennia and reincarnate even when the physical body is thoroughly trashed. FE13 may tell us even more, but we ain't got there yet.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
10) A "serious" Smash Bros story that's like, in-character and canon-compliant and explains things, man.

9) Boy, Minerva and the Whitewings do make some pretty hot Sailor Senshi.  

8) Reincarnation fic.  As in, characters with a suspicious resemblance to characters from other FE games really ARE just that, in some fashion.

7) That plotbunny featuring MyUnit!Chris as Ranma and Palla, Catria, and Est as the Tendo sisters.

6) Lingering illnesses in 'fic-- too much "consumption," not enough venereal disease.

5) Accident at the cloning lab.  Starring Anna.

4) A Western inspired by the Dylan song "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts."  Camus was the Jack of Hearts.

3) The drunk!fic to end all drunk!fics.

2) Evil Overlord Ephraim.  With sparkles.

1) Eva Peron!Serra brings down Ostia.

[No, really.  All of these reached the planning stage and some of them got to a second draft.]
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)

Before I delve into Tellius for this series of posts on love 'n' stuff, let's talk about what makes canon gay, well, canon. In a series like Fire Emblem wherein a lot of canon het is left ambiguous and declarations of eternal togetherness rarely surface in the form of "I love you," how do we recognize same-sex relationships when we see them?

Defining my terms in TL;DR style! )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Shouzou Kaga's final Fire Emblem game was the ambitious and underperforming Thracia 776.  With former driving force Kaga gone to pursue other things, FE went in a new direction-- handheld games instead of console games, with a new system of support mechanics.
Cut for length, again )

Since FE8 and FE7, with their similar support systems, were the first to be released worldwide, many fans have the idea that these A-B-C supports with paired endings are simply how Fire Emblem works.  Clearly that is not the case.  You may like it the best, but that doesn't make it the norm.  

The next continental saga challenged that assumption, hard.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I'd kind of like the next FE to be a "small scale" guerilla-style war instead of "continental/intercontinental epic" warfare.

But not like FE7, because having to hew to FE6's canon AND GBA-era gameplay opened too many plotholes and gameplay moments of silly, IMO.

Also, while I'm not bowled over by FE7, this has to be the most amazing, incredible, astonishing piece of wank in FE meta.  I think the TC usually has his head up his ass, but GOOD LORD, people.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I'd been planning this for a while too, but... life.

And death!

Presenting Mark of the Asphodel's favorite Fire Emblem death quotes!

Read more... )
mark_asphodel: (Dead Heero)
So, I've been scrounging around in the FE department of pixiv, looking for something to satiate my Jugdral fix.  It's amazing how we learn to recognize characters (favorite and otherwise) based on cues-- color schemes, hair styles, design elements, proportions.  Take this mini-celebration of red and green cavs that Sriya and Raphi reblogged on tumblr-- fans know who's who and who's what.  To non-fans, it might look like four variations on the same two characters.  Raphi and I also had a conversation recently regarding a mis-labled picture of the Senior Jugdral Lord Trio (Sigurd, Cuan, Eltoshan) which was identified as the Junior Lord Trio (Celice, Leaf, Aless).  Believe me, I can see how people make the mistake (especially with Elto and Aless).  There are simple things like "Cuan wears black, Celice has a headband," and there are these other nuances of what defines a character that we as fans internalize and learn to apply across all kinds of different styles and media.   

It allows a Marth fan to recognize Marth when he's sporting Ephraim-teal hair, while an Ephraim fan still zeroes in on Ephraim! when a non-fan wouldn't know him from Geoffrey.  It allows someone looking for pictures of Tate with a a certain red-haired cavalier to glance past pictures of, say, Catria with that other red-haired cavalier.  It enables someone to tell Lugh from Lleu from twenty paces away-- even if they're identically dressed in that picture.  And good fanart, IMO, somehow captures that essence of a character, communicating the crucial personality difference between Lleu and Lugh, even in low-res and at thumbnail size. Recognizing fanart relies on "anchor" points in the way that fanfic does, IMO.  The personality traits of the "adorkable" mage or the brooding turncoat wyvern rider come through somehow... or perhaps get delightfully subverted in ways difficult to express in text.  Either way, we know "our" favorite characters when we see them. 

And I don't just mean in flattering situations.  We "know" them in the skeevy pix and the wtf pix, the ones of Hardin and his men celebrating Halloween, or of Dr. Celice getting naughty with Nurse Yuria.  That's why they work-- we might have to think for a couple of seconds about what the hell the picture is about, and what the artist was smoking, but we know exactly who that is in the cow costume.

And when fanart doesn't work for me, it's not always a question of aesthetics, exactly.  I just don't think that some fanart shows anything close to the character I like-- you know, the reason I'm hunting fanart.  I could point out lots of "eh, no" artwork depicting Marth, but I'll illustrate my point with something less obvious.

See this.  A pretty youth, messy hair somewhere between lilac and blue, details of outfit vague.  Which Fire Emblem cutie is it?  

Any takers?

Well, it's Finn, but I wouldn't have known it for certain without cross-checking the name.  I mean, it's not a displeasing picture by any means, but if there's only the vaguest suggestion that it's Finn and not some kid from some random anime series or whatever... well, it doesn't work for me as fanart.

But this pic is by CrossEMPIRE, whose stuff I don't care for in general.  Most of it is sketchy, messy, sloppy, with arbitrary choices about recoloring characters' eyes and such.  There's a lot, and I mean a LOT, of art on CrossEMPIRE's old site, but only a fraction of it works for me.  
Take this one.  (Not graphic, but fairly suggestive and arguably not the best thing to be viewing at work or at Grandma's house!).

Adult male with a young woman over one shoulder.  The impression I get from this image is that the girl is being hauled away for a spanking.  Something like that.  The guy this time is at least recognizable as Finn, but the chick over his arm is... I dunno, Lily Evans Potter maybe.  Oh, wait, that's supposed to be Altenna with green eyes?  Why green eyes?  Where's her headband?  Where's her attitude?  Seriously, what?

Artistic license is one thing.  I prefer dark-eyed Camus to blue-eyed Camus, but it doesn't make the dark-eyed version "better" or more canon.  But if I can't tell who I'm looking at, much less what I'm looking at, without some detective work, something just seems a bit off.  And I pretty much feel that way about all CrossEMPIRE's work, from the Michalis/Minerva pix through all the FE4 stuff through the Elibe artwork.  I don't feel that I'm really looking at Hector chillin' with Eliwood.  It's a red-haired dude and a blue-haired dude, and... eh.

Back to pixiv for lulz, I guess.      
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Fire Emblem: it's got incest.  I don't know about you, but I'd heard about that one long before playing a single game.

I'm not going to wonder why this is so prominently featured, to the point where FE4 was allegedly toned down prior to release yet still contains it as a plot point.  But, let's explore it a bit, and not in the kink meme way.

Humans appear to have a mechanism, or mechanisms, to avoid boinking their siblings.  Have you ever seen a romantic couple where they looked, and even maybe acted, like siblings and yet weren't?  They're pretty common.  In fact, there appears to be a phenomenon known as genetic sexual attraction where people do indeed click in every possible way with close blood relatives-- provided they've been strangers for the early part of their lives.  The Westermarck effect is thought to have developed to defuse that attraction; basically, if kids are raised together, they end up not being interested in one another in that way.  Even if they're not blood relations.  There's a critical period for this reverse imprinting, though-- the kids need to get desensitized to one another before the age of six or seven.  

This is analysis of the topic and not a celebration thereof. )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I said I wasn't bringing headcanon into this.  

That doesn't mean that some characters didn't take a fair amount of consideration before getting on this list.  A little thought, a little reflection, a bit of compare/contrast with others of their "type."

Case in point, #7: Eliwood.

Psst. He's the actual main character of his game, too. )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
 Boy, [personal profile] raphiael  has some good memes going on her tumblr, and some really good material posted to cover them.  I stole this one, too.  

Top Eleven Fire Emblem Characters.  The catch here is that I'm not bringing headcanon or ficcing potential into it, so a character whose appeal to me derives largely from what they could be instead of what they are on the screen (Lilina), or who annoy me onscreen but are redeemed by meta and fanfic (Eirika) will not place highly.  Or place at all.

#11: Serra and Lute (tie)

Words of explanation )

I would probably not want to spend time with either of these girls in real life, which is why they're down at eleven.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
One thing I see Ike criticized for, a lot, is his distinct lack of prejudice.  To have Ike emerge from a world as screwed-up as Tellius with such an egalitarian attitude (especially when he grew up around people like, uh, Shinon) strikes a good many fans as unrealistic.  Fair enough, though really it kind of goes with the role of being the Game Hero, at least as far as Fire Emblem is concerned.  (Eliwood's own egalitarian bent could be deemed equally unrealistic, but I guess the "common touch" thing goes over better than "the not-racist in a totally racist world" angle.)  

It wasn't motivated by species hate; that xenocide kind of just happened along the way. )

TL;DR, cut Ike some slack, I guess.  At least in a big-picture sense, as you can still argue that the characterization doesn't entirely work.  But he's hardly an isolated case.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I've been wanting to talk about this for a while, and conversations with [personal profile] amielleon  and [personal profile] scarletmorning  spurred me to post it now.  Now, originally I had the post formatted in a proper fashion, defining my terms and explaining the difference between fandom "theories" and a true scientific theory, but I'm guessing nobody cares.  If you want to go into that sort of detail, please ask.

Anyway, use of Occam's Razor in fandom (or anyone else, really) amounts to this: the more complicated an explanation is, the more machinations it requires to work, the less likely it is to be true.  Doesn't mean it can't be true; some "elegant" explanations are wrong.  But the "elegant" explanation is more likely to be the correct explanation for whatever it is you're trying to explain and/or predict.

As Ammie said here (locked post), one explanation for Ike's FE10 ending is that he's a selfish character.  Well, that's pretty simple and to-the-bone.  But accepting that Ike is fundamentally selfish above all else requires ignoring, or bending, a great deal else in Tellius canon.  It's a seemingly elegant explanation that requires pretty complicated machinations to work, and is therefore suspect. 

Fandom isn't science, so perhaps it makes sense that we've borrowed terms from religious debate for fandom discussions.  We invoke "canon" aka "Word of God" to indicate that we get material from a media creator that can't be overturned, but creators can be sloppy.  Creators can change their mind  Creators can give supplemental materials to explain (or contradict) what's in the text.  Things can get altered in translation (see: when Ammie exploded my nice little idea that used the wording of the NoA FE8 script as opposed to the NoA FE7 script to explain the relative ages of the Lord characters).  

And then we can always play "Death of the Author" or exploit readings of the text that are likely unintended but nonetheless make sense on some level (ex: Kirby is the true villain of the Kirby games).  That's part of what makes fandom compelling for those of us who are into the meta and fanfiction.  But the basic rules of constructing a logical argument shouldn't be ignored, even when it's all in fun.  Delightful crack theories are delightful precisely because they make an alarming amount of sense.  Delightful theories exploit "gaps" in the canon, or explain things that hang out there unanswered.  Ideas that exist completely inside a gap in the canon with nothing to support or contradict them, or that explain things that don't require an answer, don't have quite the same impact on a reader. 

Example: Raphi and Sriya were batting around the crack idea that Lyon somehow got transformed into Legault.  It's cute, there's not really anything to contradict it, and Raphi even made a 'fic out of it.  It doesn't really shed any light on Elibe canon or Magvel canon, though-- it's a self-contained little bit 'o crack.  Whereas the idea that [personal profile] kyusil  proposed regarding Roy and his marriage options (that Roy's various unromantic matchups are in fact a demonstration of his alleged political ability in action) is, to me, a highly compelling one.  Do I think that it's necessarily what the scriptwriters intended?  No, I think they were likely just being sloppy.  But the political angle is to me a very interesting one that a 'fic writer can (and should!) exploit to good use.  It offers a new way of examining Roy that takes two things from canon (his diverse marriage options and his stated political skills) and unites them in a way that can be used to shed light upon the characters, their world, or both.  And with Roy being the arguable central figure of the entire Elibe saga, something that illuminates his character "matters" a great deal, inasmuch as any meta-fun "matters". 

And then there's the deep end of fandom meta.  Or the "off the deep end" sector, the kind that constructs amazingly elaborate theories, air-castles of assumptions piled upon tiny projections of canon, just begging to be demolished.  Harry Potter fandom was terrible in this regard.  Please look up "Archiving the Banana Peels of Imagination" if you want to see some of this in action; I will say for this particular theorist that they seemed to be a very nice and enthusiastic person, but their meta was just... incredible.  In the original sense of that word.  The problem with a lot of the HP meta crowd, both the cheerfully zany sort and the oddly... malicious... sort, was that they started with one assumption, slapped another upon it, and then another upon that, and finally they had this great towering edifice of headcanon that made sense to them but had little to do with the actual, you know, books.  Whether the idea was "Dumbledore didn't really die" or "How Snape will save everything" or "Dumbledore is evil" or "Ron will become a Death Eater," they cherry-picked canon (took what they wanted and ignored the rest) and employed complicated machinations to make everything work.  We're talking Rube Goldberg contraptions, if not MC Escher mechanisms.

Well, elaborate contraptions, whether physical constructions or meta constructions, break down easily.  These meta writers had made themselves the meta equivalent of the Space Shuttle-- magnificent and fundamentally faulty.  And when their meta-shuttles exploded, many of them had the nerve to get pissy with Rowling.  If they'd showed respect for basic logic and the principles of argument on the front end, not to mention a bit of respect for canon, they might have come up with sturdy and functional vehicle for their meta instead!

By all means, ignore Occam's Razor in fandom if it's all fun and games.  But if you're expecting to convince other theorists, or if you're trying to provide a serious explanation of a problematic text (film, book, videogame, TV script...), or if you're so invested in your pet theory that it makes you upset and angry to see a rebuttal[*], it's good to keep the basics in mind.  The more convoluted your pet explanation is, the less likely you are to convince anyone, and the more likely you are to be entirely wrong.

And we've all gotten things entirely, 110% wrong. 

* Not kidding about the HP crowd when it comes to anger and vitriol re: exploding headcanon.  Not kidding at all.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
 #10: Something you want to change in any of the games:

I'll narrow it down to a couple of things.  In FE8, I would've liked to see more differentiation between the routes-- have Glen and Selena each recruitable on one route, perhaps.  Have different "destinies" for the twins, with Eirika actually becoming a ruling queen after her route and Ephraim accepting his own responsibilities after his route.  Go for broke and make them two truly separate timelines instead of a sort of muddle. Also, some, ah, conversations or explanations or something with the bonus dead characters would've been interesting.  

As for FE11-- I like that game, really I do.  But if they were going to do FE12 as a "reboot" instead of a remake and throw all kinds of weird new material into the mix, then IS probably should've gone further and deeper with tarting up FE11... which might have made the fanbase more satisfied with FE11, and maybemaybemaybe encouraged NoE/NoA to release FE12.  Maybe.  Anyway, the juxtaposition of "remake" and "reboot" is very strange, and the presentation could've been more coherent.

Then again, if they'd tarted up FE11 with moe bullshit, I might not have liked it.  

By the same token, FE7 could really have been better integrated with FE6.


#16: Least Favorite Character

Ah, that's too broad of a question.  A character I despise because they fail me in gameplay?  An intentionally unlikable villain that I don't like?  An allegedly "cute" or "funny" character that gets under my skin?  

How about Roro from FE12?  WTF, man.  Just go away.  I mean, I'm not pleased with Aine and Kleine and the rest of Eremiya's Orphanage Kill Squad, but Roro is too WTF for words.   

Also really disliked Sylvia but I now believe that to be the fault of a skewed translation and should not reflect upon the actual character.


#27: Scene/moment that made you go RAEGQUIT

Spoilers for FE12, if you care. )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
 So, back to the meme.

#5: Favorite Villain: If we're going with the penultimate Big Bad, the human sort, I have to say Rudolf.  If we're going with the final, not-human, Big Bad, it's harder to say... Medeus (humans have it coming), Idoun (not what was expected) and Ashera (whoa) have their interesting points.  Fomortiis and the Fire Dragon, not so much.  At all.  And if we're just going with a villain, any villain... I do have that soft spot for Caellach.


So, Harry Potter.  Since people on the f-list are getting interested, I will present the following recs.  These are not necessarily the "best" stories out there, as I have only read a fraction of what is available and my tastes are idiosyncratic, but these stuck with me.

"The Shipping Forecast"-- nothing to do with 'shipping!  A glimpse of Snape as a lad looking to better himself.  I really like this author's take on Snape, which was firmly in the "he's lower-class and possibly Yorkshire" camp well, well before HP7.  This writer also wrote some interesting HG/SS and the only HP/SS I've ever liked, but she yanked her stuff off the 'net when she decided to go pro.  Sad times.

"The Scarlet Pimpernel"-- A Percy Weasley redemption story that made me silly-delerious happy upon reading it.  I mean, really, this sort of "behind the scenes fix-it" tale is precisely what fanfiction is about.

"Dark Gods In The Blood"-- My favorite of the SS/HG post-Voldemort epics.  Sucks to be Harry, but oh well.

"Somewhere I Have Never Travelled"-- Another post-Voldy SS/HG epic, with time travel and stuff.  There are parts I loved and parts, like the whole psychoanalysis bit with the healer from Newfoundland, that just tick me off.  (Also contains some bonus HP/HG, which is Fine.  By.  Me.)

"The Prefect's Portrait" by Arsinoe de Blassenville.  Marvelously entertaining, ingenious, Slytherin apologist BS.  There's an illustrated version out there that's quite lovely.  Ms. de Blassenville has a few other equally marvelous and ingenious works of BS out there that are worth a read if you can stand the deconstructionist stance, I mean canon warping

A word on the SS/HG-- it was really kind of a subgenre unto itself, a very literary subgenre whose writers seemed, at the time I was following it, to be mostly adult women.  It's a crack/AU pairing in its very inception, but the good writers recognized this and tried to run with it anyway.  Hermione is, IMO, usually an author stand-in, or some kind of... I dunno, Jane Eyre stand-in subbing for the author.  And Snape is a smoldering wounded romantic hero in need of a right fixing up.  It gets old after a while, but after plowing through highly-touted and bloody ridiculous Harry/Draco stories, not to mention the complete works of Cassie Claire, the SS/HG was a nice change of pace.

There was also a SS/HG one with Hermione as a ghost (death by potions class accident) that was really sweet and moving even if it went kind of fluffy at the end, but the title eludes me and I never did bookmark it.  Oh well.  I was following some interesting Lupin/Tonks stories, too, but after the way they ended up in canon I lost the taste for it.

I also don't actively seek out HP/HG stories, but I do welcome recs on their behalf.  
mark_asphodel: (Dead Heero)
Expiation: (n) an act of atonement

All right, boys and girls: I wrote a Tactician story.  Mostly to get the damned idea on the page and out of my head forever.

'Fic spoilers under the cut. )
I think that's it for now.  I feel purged of a great uncleanliness.

BTW, still no "Katarina" category on ffnet.

Play Ball

Oct. 14th, 2011 11:28 am
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Is is wrong that I'm having to restrain myself from writing a baseball AU wherein awesome pitcher/catcher buddy duo Eliwood and Hector of the Lycian Dukes are the scrappy underdogs facing the well-heeled Magvel Royals?
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
"We're probably wanted for murder and conspiracy. Considering, you know, we overthrew legitimate authority."

Oh, how I love me a subversive playthrough of a video game... 

This gratuitous promo for the current round of [ profile] fe_contest is brought to you by the Committee of Concerned Citizens Who Think That Hector Does Seem Rather Sociopathic At Times.


mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)

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