Character Development

One of my favourite geeky pastimes is participating in forum-based (also know as play-by-post) role-playing games. For those of you who don’t know what those are, think of it like a collaborative story. Some forum RPGs are based on existing worlds (Harry Potter or Twilight, for instance) others are completely original. Basically, you create a character (physical description, history, personality, you get the idea), and usually once a moderator approves it, you are free to add that character to the world and start making posts.

Currently, I’m only on one board, and I have about thirteen (!) characters. I usually find that they’re on a certain rotation, and sometimes I’ll want to play one, then another. Right now I’m not doing a lot of RPing, but eventually I’ll start tossing out a few posts again.

Now, you might think that since these characters are so planned out and players tend to talk about what will happen in a given thread between two (or more) characters that there wouldn’t be a lot of room for character development, and to some extent, this is true, at least if you’re the type of player who really likes to plan things in advance, but sometimes you start playing, and the character will turn out to have different ideas.

I’ll use an example of one of my characters. I decided to create a blind character because I wanted to experiment with writing a character who didn’t rely on visual stimulation. Besides his blindness, one of the things this character was really adamant about was that he was definitely, without a doubt, 100% heterosexual (in a culture where practically everyone is at least bisexual, being monosexual is a bit of an oddity).

As time went on and I started picking up more threads with other players, a funny thing happened. Despite his LOUD insistence to the contrary, he didn’t seem to have any interest in women. At first I chalked it up to this character’s inexperience, but when he just couldn’t bring himself to be with a courtesans (courtesans being a respected and normal part of any young noble’s sex life) was when I started to say: “Are you in an armored closet, by any chance?”

His reaction to this was an immediate “NO!” of course, at least, until he met his first male courtesan and felt that first rush of desire, and then, suddenly the refrain of “I like women, dammit!” became less and less so until it stopped altogether, and he said (very quietly): “Fine, maybe I like other men….a little….”

The funny thing about this whole turn of events was that I didn’t plan it. Sometimes you start writing, and it occurs to you that your character would say something different. Sometimes it’s just a matter of someone saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, a turn of phrase that they think is innocent but that your character takes in the entirely wrong direction.  Threads can start out as planned affairs and can quickly be derailed by sudden reactions from characters.

I meant to talk about my writing writing in this post, but those characters aren’t really “talking” to me right now.

RPGs do Norse Mythology

I thought I’d take some time out of talking about serious business to talk about video games, specifically video games that I’ve played that draw heavily on Norse mythology. This brief survey will mostly be limited to RPGs (specifically RPGs that I have played) but of course, the use of mythologies in general is not exclusive to RPGs.

Also note that there will be MAJOR SPOILERS for every game/series I discuss, so read with caution if you’re thinking of playing any of them.

Valkyrie Profile

The original Valkyrie Profile was released for the PS1 and an updated version was released for the PSP. It has a sequel (Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria) and a not-quite sequel spinoff game (Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume) for the Nintendo DS. My comments will mostly concern the first game, and Covenant of the Plume, because those are the one’s I’ve played.

In the first game, you play the titular Valkyrie, Lenneth, whose job it is to gather Einherjar for Ragnarok. Each of the Einherjar you recruit has their own story, and since Einherjar need to be dead before you can recruit them, you end up seeing a lot of death scenes (this game is not a cutesy anime thing). You can choose to keep Einherjar in your party, or send them to Asgard (in which case, you can check their progress and view scenes of them interacting with the gods). If you do send them to Asgard, I believe they do have a chance of dying (again!) before the endgame, but I never had that happen to me.

Deity-wise, you have the usual suspects: Odin, Tyr, Thor Freyr Frei (who is a girl for some reason), Ullr, Hermod, Hodur, Eir, VidarLoki, and Freya. Freya’s role in the game can basically be summed up as “if you screw up too badly, she’ll destroy you”, and she will, even if you cheat and use codes. The other deities mainly show up in those scenes with the Einherjar that I talked about earlier. Odin has an important role in the end, but I’ll get to that in the moment. I should also note that the game confuses “Vanir” with “Jotun” which leads to the amusing assertion that Surt is one of the Vanir, just roll with it.

Anyways, big revelations concerning the deities only really happen if you get the “best” ending of the game. So here are some MAJOR SPOILERS in quick succession: The reason Odin is king of the gods is because he is really half elf, one of the characteristics of deities in this universe is that they are static, they don’t grow and change, but Odin is different, he changes, he learns, he can adapt, that’s what makes him so powerful. He also hates humans and views his fellow Aesir as expendable (don’t worry, he ends up dying).

Anyways, if you play your cards right (you need to lower a particular rating on your status screen, until Freya says “I am very disappointed in you,” and you also need to send Lucian to Asgard at a certain point) and you’ll end up facing Loki (who now looks like this). If you end up facing Surt, you did something wrong. Before facing Loki, however, you need to take care of his children. Jormungand is replaced by Bloodbane, who is HARD (his attacks WILL instantly kill you, so the only way to survive to the end is to make sure each party member has the Guts! ability and some really hard-hitting attacks) and Fenris is easy peasy (seriously, he has nothing on stupid Bloodbane) and then Lenneth goes on to rule the pantheon (or Freya does, or something).

Covenant of the Plume, in case you’re wondering, has Hel as a major character.

Shin Megami Tensei

SMT (and its spinoff series, Persona) is one of my favourite series. Unfortunately, many SMT games never make it out of Japan (it’s a niche series to the max) which is a shame, because the first game has a crazy Thor trying to cause a nuclear apocalypse (I’m serious).

Fortunately, there’s still Nocturne.

Nocturne’s Thor has a small role to play in the story, he’s an early boss (Boss #4, actually) and is best known for…taking exception….when one of the main antagonists tries to make him an offer he can’t refuse. An epic pwning ensues.

BTW, he looks like this.

While I’m at it, here are some more Norse deities and other beings:

Skadi

Odin

Loki/Loki redesign/spoilery appearance in Devil Survivor (when he opens that eye, you are in TROUBLE!)

Hel

Balder (Beldr in Devil Survivor for story reasons)

Elf

Skogsra

Those are the main ones I remember.

Skyrim

Skyrim is awesome and you must play it.

In Skyrim, you will find the manliest of manly Vikings (magic, as my character was told repeatedly, was for wussies, REAL MEN use swords and axes) and there are dragons, and the main gameplay mechanic works by killing dragons and eating their souls!

And for some reason, giants are way more powerful than dragons. I’d killed seventeen dragons before I managed to kill one giant (btw, did I mention that there’s an infinite number of dragons, and that dragons are completely unscripted?).

Here’s a random screenshot of a dragon. Yes, those hands with their wussy magic are mine. I tried to run away and the dragon roasted me (don’t worry, I came back and killed him).

Religious Studies 101

I know you’re probably waiting for part two of yesterday’s post, and I’ll get to it, but first I wanted to pause and talk a little about religious studies, since it was my major in university (undergraduate level) and I have a feeling I will be bringing it up a lot. So, without further ado, here is a (quick and dirty definitely not academic) summary of my experience in one religious studies program. (Please note that I attended an average size Canadian university, so what I say might not apply to your educational institution.)

What is Religious Studies?

Religious studies is the academic study of religion. (Here I should note is that every first class in almost every course I took tried to define “religion” and usually could come up with a standard working definition. Choose one you like and stick with it.) Religious studies is multidisciplinary and many courses cross-over into other fields (including but not limited to archaeology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, women’s studies, classical studies, etc.)

Oh! Religious Studies! Are you training to be a minister/nun?

No. What you’re talking about is theology, which is an entirely separate program from Religious Studies. At my university, theology was taught in the Lutheran seminary on campus. Religious studies, on the other hand, was taught in the regular campus buildings with the rest of the arts programs.

What are the differences between theology and religious studies?

The easiest way to remember the difference between theology and religious studies is to remember the phrase: Theology teaches religion, religious studies teaches about religion. Religious studies students typically will not learn the “basics” of a religion, like how Christians, Jews, and Muslims are monotheists or that the Vedas are important texts for Hindus, that sort of stuff is reserved for a “religion 101” course. In religious studies, by contrast, you may learn about how Christianity impacts popular culture in North America, or how Hindus and Buddhists fare outside their country of origin. One course may be a cross-cultural examination of women in religion, another may look exclusively at new religious movements and the challenges that their adherents face. One course I took was entirely devoted to religion and food, another was entitled “God as Goddess” and was basically a whole course devoted to looking at goddesses in various contexts.

Beyond that, here are a few specific differences between the two traditions:

a) Perspective

Theology classes tend to assume that its students are either Christian, Jewish, or Muslim (although usually the assumption is that theology majors are Christian). Religious studies does not assume that it’s students will be a particular religion (if any). I had classmates who were Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, atheist, agnostic or just not particularly religious. Likewise, my professors (when they chose to divulge their religion) were similarly diverse. Of the ones I know, two were Buddhists (one Mahayana, the other started as Mahayana but started attending a Theravada temple) one was Pagan (unspecified), and one was an atheist.

b) History

It’s complicated, but basically what you need to know is that theology as an academic discipline dates back to the Middle Ages. Religious studies grew out of theology, but is only about 60-70 years old.

c) Privilege

This is related to perspective, but I decided to give it its own section. Put simply, religious studies does not take faith-based statements at face value, and it doesn’t privilege any one religion over another. It might be correct to say that it takes a secular or atheistic approach to the study of religion. This, understandably, can be quite shocking to those (particularly Christians) who are used to their religion having a privileged place at the table, and few Christians in the courses I took over the years were quite irate that their “truth” was not blindly accepted as fact.

That’s religious studies in a nutshell, now, here are some things I have learned in this program:

There are no sacred cows.

No belief is immune from examination or critique, that includes beliefs you regard as “true”.

Your profs. are insane.

Individual profs. who have taught me have done the following:

One professor learned Japanese archery from the man who made the bow and arrows for the Japanese Imperial court. She also demonstrated how Rinzai Zen monks are disciplined using my back (ow!).

One professor knows Sanskrit, her research specialty is women in Medieval India, but she taught my course on religions of China and Japan.

One professor can speak French and English and read Koine (New Testament) Greek AND Coptic like it was written in English. He also briefly held a position at the American Academy of Religion.

One professor really wanted to teach us how to speak Sumerian, but that was never worked out before I graduated.

One professor has been in places from the American Southwest to India, and was very excited by the prospect of taking her students to Bhutan (Bhutan is freakin’ expensive.

Insane, I tell you, every last one of them.

If you want to pursue a higher degree in this program, learn a language or two.

I applied for a master’s degree in religious studies (rejected, *sighs*), and the recommendation was to learn at least one other language and a couple “research languages” (reading and writing) depending on your area of study. For instance, a lot of Pagan material is in English, but if you were studying a tradition like Vodou (and other African diasporic traditions), French, Kreyol, and Spanish would be useful languages to learn.

You will notice religion will start cropping up a lot in conversations.

You have no idea how much this happens to me, seriously.

That about wraps up what I wanted to say about my BA. If anyone has any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Treasures

Dive deep

without stopping to take a breath.

See the ships in the harbour.

Some are old,

barnacle encrusted.

Others are new,

 primed for battle,

high tech

the works.

It’s a collection, almost,

a collection of ships

but not the kind you stuff

in bottles.

That’s how Goodfather likes it

these treasures,

floating free.

There are other treasures too

but you have to look for them

pirate gold,

a figurehead,

shaped like a mermaid

(if you wink at her, she might wink back),

and also, brightly coloured fish,

coral,

oysters that make pearls,

when annoyed,

these things,

are treasures too.

Beyond Mother Goddess Monotheism, Part 1

My introduction to feminism was via the Women’s Studies department at my alma mater. Actually, that isn’t entirely true, I was aware of something called “feminism” in high school, but I basically summed it up as “a movement which believes that women should be equal to men”.

It is that, but it is so much more, and is vastly more complicated than that simple definition would have you believe. My WS classes introduced me to the idea of intersectionality (A.K.A playing “oppression Olympics” is not helping). Unfortunately, my perception of feminism was largely tainted by the words and actions of some of my professors. One in particular would repeat the same tired old urban legend about the origin of the “rule of thumb” (a man could only beat his wife with something that was no thicker than his thumb). The most common origin for the phrase is as it relates to wood-carving, not beating the crap out of people. This same professor would also treat the term “popular culture” like a communicable disease, as well as critiquing concepts like marriage and romance. Now, that is not to say that these institutions and cultural ideas should not be held up for critique, but it was the way she went about it, declaring that these things were Always Oppressive to women, and that no woman could ever possibly enjoy something like pornography. Regarding religion, she was very interested in the activities of Christian women, but when asked about feminist Goddess worship or Paganism, would reply “I don’t like that”. When I expressed an interest in writing a paper on the movement, she insisted that the paper should be primarily a critique. In short, it bothered me how she (and some of the other profs.) could talk about women having “agency” and how “women’s experience” is not just white, middle class women’s experiences, and then turn around and say “but only these experiences are valid”.

Anyways, my point is not to bash my professors (they did teach me a lot) but to give you an idea of my mindset during my four years of undergrad. Through high school, I had been mostly interested in a very eclectic form of Wicca, but as I began to identify more and more as a feminist, I became more and more interested in Pagan traditions that explicitly embraced feminism as a political movement. For me, this meant exploring Goddess worship in general and Z. Budapest’s Dianic witchcraft tradition in particular.

I’ll get to my issues with “feminist Goddess worship” in a moment, for now, let’s just say that I found Budapest’s tradition attractive for a number of reasons. Although I’d hate to encourage the stereotype, I think I was a bit POed at men in general. There’s only so long that you can listen to the refrain of “Patriarchy, patriarchy, PATRIARCHY!” before you start to get a little miffed at menfolk (more on this later). I’ve already touched on how the melding of the personal with the political was another draw. Another appealing aspect of the Budapestian Dianic tradition was its de-emphasis on polarity. The Goddess represented wholeness in and of herself, there was no need for a “balance” of energies (based more, IMO, on stereotypical constructions of gender). The way in which it was female-body centric was yet another thing that was, if not entirely unknown to Wicca, was certainly foreign to the Catholicism of my childhood. Fun fact: Breastfeeding is one of the few “womanly” bodily functions that Mary was allowed to display. She is never depicted menstruating (menstrual blood is “unclean” after all) and if childbirth is shown in paintings, Jesus is pretty much always out already. The Goddess was different, menstruation and childbirth were not dirty or shameful, they were sacred. Imagine being told your whole childhood that your only options are 1) Marry a nice man and have lots of babies 2) Join a convent or 3) Stay celibate for the rest of your life. If you suffer from “same-sex attraction”, your only option is pretty much celibacy. These people, if they follow the teaching to the letter, will NEVER know what it is like to love and be intimate with someone of their own sex. Oh, they might feel desire for someone, but the proper response is to grin and bear it, to “take up that cross” or suffer eternally in Hell. Now imagine if someone comes along and tells you “You don’t have to be like this, you can be a mother, a priestess, a wise woman, be brave, be silly, be independent,” for all it’s flaws, Dianic witchcraft is one of the few traditions that is explicitly inclusive of lesbian and bisexual women  (we’ll get to the “T” in LGBT in a moment), although the focus is definitely on women who love women.

However, my enchantment with Goddess-centric traditions ultimately did not last. I could just list the reasons why, but each one probably deserves an essay of its own, so I will go into a bit more detail. These are in no particular order of importance:

Poor Scholarship

I think to say that the Goddess movement relies on scholars whose research has now been thoroughly called into question is a bit of an understatement. For a quick and dirty summary of some questionable research that is still being taken as fact (not just by Goddess worshipers, mind you), I recommend the site “Wicca for the Rest of Us”.

For a good example of this sort of research in action, here is a quote from Barbara G. Walker’s The Essential Handbook of Women’s Spirituality and Ritual (previously published as Women’s Rituals: A Sourcebook):

Two or three thousand years ago, women’s rituals were conducted in splendid temples dedicated to their Goddess. Women’s holy dances were performed on marble floors among beautiful carved pillars, illuminated by jeweled lamps, before magnificent statues of the original Queen of Heaven, crowned with stars, enthroned on the moon, holding forth her gifts of fruit and flower, animal and child. She was invincible, subject to no god. On the contrary, all gods owed filial devotion to her and swore by her name. Priestesses governed her worship, settled legal and moral problems by her authority, taught and counseled and administered her religion throughout the ancient world.

Most of that was destroyed in several centuries of relentless attack by the early Christians, who were adamantly opposed to every manifestation of the Goddess, and determined to set up a wholly male-identified religion. Christians tore down her temples, passed laws to make her worship illegal, persecuted and killed her priestesses, burned the books from her sacred libraries, melted down her gold and silver lamps, stole the jeweled eyes and adornments from her images and battered the remains to powder. (p 28)

This is from Z. Budapest’s Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries:

“The Runic language is all that is left of the ancient Wiccan language that existed in the time of the matriarchies…” (2007 edition, p. 214)

I’m going to give my Northern-based Pagan readers time to stop laughing.

….

….

Done? Good.

I could go on about bad scholarship (this calls for another post) but for now, I really should move on.

Gender Essentialism

This particularly applies to the Budapestian Dianic tradition, but isn’t exclusive to it by any means. In a nutshell, this is the idea that women are inherently “nurturing” and “cooperative” whereas men are “aggressive” and “competitive”, men should therefore only be taught the basics of the Craft, because, being men, if they are taught anything more powerful, they will attempt to steal it from women (because all men are “He Man Woman Haters”). To be fair, I don’t think it is unreasonable for women to want their own niche (living as we are in a patriarchal society) but there’s no need to paint such a diverse group of people with such a broad brush.

Transmisogyny

This was something I didn’t really catch onto until it was mentioned in one of my religious studies classes, but Budapest has always specifically noted that her tradition is for “women-born-women” (or “genetic women” to use the term she used at Pantheacon) only. It strikes me as very hypocritical to say that “all women are daughters of the Goddess” and then to say that some women can’t join in because they weren’t born with the right bits. What makes a woman? Is it the presence of a uterus? Breasts? A vulva? My cousin lost one of her breasts to breast cancer and my mother had a hysterectomy, are they “half-woman” and “not a woman” respectively? What about these people?

Every single person in that photograph has androgen insensitivity syndrome. Genetically, they are XY.

That’s right, folks, genetically, everyone in that picture is male.

Anyways, I’m digressing a bit, but the point I’m trying to make is that the relationship between sex and gender is much more complicated than simply “men have penises and women have vulvae”, which is the kind of thinking I was seeing over and over in Dianic circles. These were just a few of the reasons I stopped referring to myself as Dianic and began referring to myself simply as a Goddessian.

Now, some of you might be wondering why I’m writing a couple posts on this topic. The fact is, as much as I am repulsed by the awful scholarship, the essentialism, the assertion that trans women are “mutilated men”, feminist Goddess worship has had a big impact on how I have developed spiritually, and I think it’s time I start unpacking the reasons why it appealed to me  and the reason it no longer appeals to me–yet I still pick up Patricia Monaghan’s The Goddess Path from time to time.

Digital Wrongs Management

It’s Sunday and I thought I would get in some game time with my brand shiny new copy of Assassin’s Creed 2 (Deluxe edition, via Steam’s Summer Sale). I had a chance to play it a bit last night and….wow, AC 1 has nothing on this game.

To make a long story short, the game requires that you sign up with UPlay in order to play it (more on this in a sec), which is something like Ubisoft’s answer to Steam.

To make a long story short, I went to log in to my account, and it says I don’t have the right username and password, which would probably have been the case if I hadn’t changed it just then. I thought “Okay, maybe it needs time to work,” and tried again.

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

I checked the forums, and this is apparently a global issue. The end result is that I won’t be able to play Assassin’s Creed II until someone fixes this.

I don’t even know where to begin unpacking this situation. There is something incredibly broken about a system which requires that users log in to play a SINGLE-PLAYER game. All the files that are necessary to play the game in single-player mode should already be on my computer! I shouldn’t need to be online to play it, I could care less about online multiplayer. If that means I have to download extra files to do it, I will, my PC can handle it, and it’s not like mine’s the most recent one on the market.

Companies like Ubisoft claim that dick moves measures like these deter pirates. NO THEY DON’T! What they do is alienate paying customers who have LEGITIMATELY bought their products and just want to have a nice time running, climbing, jumping, and knifing Templars. It’s pretty much a guarantee that no matter how sophisticated your DRM is, within minutes some hacker with too much time on their hands will manage to crack it, and then you’re right back at square one. There will always be assholes who will opt to pirate games no matter what, the worst thing a gaming company can do is alienate paying customers by burdening them with draconian DRM. Will I think twice before buying another Ubisoft product? You bet!

Fortunately, some companies appear to be listening to users regarding this issue. The CEO of CD Projekt RED (makers of “The Witcher” and “The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings” had this to say about the use of DRM in their games:

“We release the game. It’s cracked in two hours, it was no time for Witcher 2. What really surprised me is that the pirates didn’t use the GOG version, which was not protected. They took the SecuROM retail version, cracked it and said ‘we cracked it’ — meanwhile there’s a non-secure version with a simultaneous release. You’d think the GOG version would be the one floating around.”

….

“DRM does not protect your game,” Iwinski told Joystiq after the presentation. “If there are examples that it does, then people maybe should consider it, but then there are complications with legit users.”

(Source: Link)

It remains to be seen whether the company will follow through on that promise, but they do have a reputation for being very nice to their fans. (A standard edition of The Witcher 2 came with the kind of goodies most companies include in collector’s editions, not to mention free DLC, free upgrades to the Enhanced Edition for those of us who bought the game early.) Also, The Witcher and its sequel are two of my favourite Western RPGs ever. Srsly, if you don’t mind nudity, swearing, and gore, go pick these games up, they’re great games, if a little immature when it comes to sexuality.

This problem isn’t just confined to video games, though. As great as ebooks are (and as someone with a physical disability, my ereader is much easier to carry around than a pile of paperbacks) they have some major limitations that aren’t an issue with print books. If I buy a print book, it’s mine. No one can break into my house and take it from me. I can write in the margins, lend it to a friend, give it away, sell it, do pretty much anything with it except copy large parts of it and stick it online.

If I purchase an ebook, on the other hand, certain services (Amazon Kindle most infamously) can pretty much go in and remotely delete copies of a book at will. I can read any of the books on my reader on any device I want, but since the books are “linked” to my account, I can’t lend out the book in the traditional sense, and I certainly can’t sell an ebook, nor can I scribble comments on my screen (not that I do that, it’s like defacing a work of art to me). On the upside, ebooks are generally cheap, but ereaders? Not so much. At least with print books, you can go to used bookstores, libraries, sales at regular bookstores. I would say if you can afford it, ereaders are definitely a worthwhile investment, but I might be saying that because the used bookstores in my area have horrendous prices (and have always had horrendous prices). Seriously, I know owners of used bookstores need to eat, but when I can get a brand new copy of a book on Amazon for a lower price than a copy at a used bookstore, why would I go for the one with creases and coffee stains and WRITING IN THE MARGINS! GAAAAH!

For more information on DRM as it relates to games, I’d recommend Extra Credits’ video on piracy. It says pretty much what I’ve been saying in this post. I ❤ Extra Credits!

I Write Like….

I inserted a few paragraphs from my story into this generator and apparently my writing style matches….

I write like
Rudyard Kipling

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Rudyard Kipling….

I don’t know what to make of it, TBH. I’ve never actually read any of his stuff.

Just for kicks, I fed it the post I made on Writing Gender in Fantasy Fiction, or How Men are Not Hermaphrodites/Intersex and got this result:

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

WTF?

Try it and see what you get!

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Post to Bring You….

ZOMGs STEAM SUMMER SALE!

BUY ALL THE GAMES!

Erm, *coughs* sorry, got a little excited there. It’s just that there are so many games and most of them are in the $10 – $30 range. I only really want two*, anyways (this is me exercising extreme self control).

Two games (one with all DLC) for $25 isn’t bad, actually.

 

 

 

 

*L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition and Crusader Kings 2, in case anyone is curious.

Thinking Godspousery is For You? Read This.

It has come to my attention that there are certain individuals who seem to believe that coercing a deity into a spousal relationship (assuming it’s even possible) is a good idea. One such individual posted at The Cauldron forum today, bemoaning the fact that they “want Loki to love [them]”, were “looking up new rituals I could use to try to marry Loki and become a godspouse” and  that they were “overcome with jealousy” because they had read about another person’s detailed experiences with Loki.

I did write my own response to this, but TC member Darkhawk said it with way more eloquence than I ever could, so I am posting the entire response here (with permission):

Okay, first thing: back the everliving fuck up and get a grip. You sound like a teenager who wants to know what spells to use to get Tom Cruise to marry her (because hey, isn’t he single now?).

Once you’ve started to get your shit together, actually think about this. You want to have an intimate, mutually entwined relationship with a god. Do you actually have anything to offer that god? Because those kinds of relationships are fucking hard work, and if all you have to offer a god is desperation, you’re not worth marrying. At most, you’re a one-use bit of disposable tool, assuming that you can be aimed in a useful direction before you flame out. To those gods with a more malicious side – and Loki is certainly one of those, at times – you’re just begging to be used as a no-conditions chew toy, in that “It may be your purpose in life is to serve as an example for others” kind of way.

The northern Powers value strength, integrity, and competence. Stuff like this is not going to impress anyone. You’re doing the spiritual equivalent of covering the altar with filthy kleenex here, which is neither hospitable nor impressive. If you want a relationship like that, stop weeping and throwing your frailty at your god’s feet, stand up, and act like someone who might be worth having. Sobbing, writhing would-be consorts are useless, and very few gods will waste time on things that serve no function.

Before you go exploding in seething jealousy over people who have something you think you want, do some reading about what they have to do to hold up their end of the deal. Some people have to do the nun thing and remain celibate. Some have to do extensive, constant ritual work. Some are heavily hemmed in by taboos and will become sick if they disobey. There are codes of conduct, obligations of service, and other things that just come along with that particular gig like acorns come along with oak trees. They are not optional extras.

And no god is going to really put you in a position where you are signed up for those duties and obligations unless you’ve demonstrated that you have a capacity for doing them – that is, except if you’re being set up to fail. If you can’t do the work, you can’t get the job for real. Which means you’re better served getting over your desire and doing whatever self-work it will take to get yourself into a place where you can do whatever work your god will set you without crashing and burning. If you enter into an intimate devotional relationship with a god, it will not be about what you want, it will be about what furthers the work of that god and pleases him. What you want may be taken into consideration, but it will not be the top priority on the list.

Do your devotions. Dedicate yourself if you feel the need, though I would not recommend doing so while you’re doing the “I am obsessed with this movie star” thing. But – if you want some kind of reciprocal relationship – act like someone with something to contribute. One thing I know from people who deal with Loki on a regular basis: he won’t tolerate you lying to yourself.

 

Link to post is here: http://www.ecauldron.com/forum/showthread.php?3962-Greedy-greedy-love&p=63684&viewfull=1#post63684

I don’t think anything more needs to be said, honestly.

Writing Gender in Fantasy Fiction, or How Men are not Hermaphrodites/Intersex

I’d like to take a break from assorted Pagan ramblings to talk about writing, my writing and others’ writings. More specifically, I’d like to talk about science fiction and fantasy (SFF) and how fantasy in particular can’t seem to break the mold when it comes to sex and gender (with some exceptions).

Recently, I have been (slowly) reading through The Wraeththu Chronicles by Storm Constantine because a friend of mine can’t seem to stop raving about them. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series, the titular Wraeththu (ray-thoo) are the next step in humanity’s evolutionary chain (and as such, destined to supplant humanity as the dominant species). They’re stronger, faster, and have magical powers. Oh, and they’re hermaphrodites (intersex, to use the polite term). Now, at this point, you might be thinking “Okay, this is new! It’s not every day you see a book with intersex main characters!”

Wait, wait, not so fast! See, this is where the books fall flat on their faces, because, when it all comes down to it, Wraeththu are, well, men. Not only are they created from human males (women can’t be “incepted” (or “turned” to use a vampiric analogy) but the text always refers to a Wraeththu as “he”. Granted, gender-neutral pronouns (sie/zie, hir/zir, etc.) have only come into use very recently, but that doesn’t mean the author couldn’t have made up an appropriate pronoun, as she seems to have substituted ‘har’, (pl. ‘hara’) for ‘human’ easily. Instead of electing to use a gender neutral pronoun, so as to say to the reader “these people are neither male nor female, but have something of both” the use of “he” doesn’t require the reader to really consider what it means to not be part of a gender binary. (And, contrary to popular belief, the masculine is *not* gender neutral, it’s just androcentric).

I know that science fiction has been exploring alternate conceptions of sex, sexuality, and gender for a long time, but fantasy in contrast seems to be a genre that is pretty inflexible in this area. How many main characters can you name that are LGBT? How many aren’t white? How many have a disability (extra points if you can name a character who was born with a disability)? If we’re just talking about LGBT characters, I can name a bunch (at least, a bunch of lesbians, gays, or bisexuals) off the top of my head, but start adding categories and my list gets smaller and smaller. I can’t think of a single main nonwhite, disabled, LGBT character in any of the fantasy books I’ve read.

Which brings me to the topic of my own writing. I’m currently writing a story that tries to challenge some of the tropes that the fantasy genre seems to take for granted. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to publish it, but I definitely need the writing practice and it’s a way for me to play with the tropes I just mentioned. In the world I’ve created, the people recognize three biological sexes: male, female, and intersex (pronouns: sie, hir) as well as a gender identity that is separate from sex (the only issue a trans* person might experience is someone accidentally misgendering them). So far, it’s been an interesting experience. I’m having a lot of fun with one intersex character in particular, sie is very grumpy and annoyed and surrounded by imbeciles who don’t know how to do their jobs properly and I kind of wish I could turn hir into my main character, but sie has a city to run and responsibilities and such. I don’t claim that it will be perfect, because, as a white, cis, lesbian woman, my experience with messing around with gender is limited, but if enough people don’t try, the genre is never going to change. I think a lot of authors are scared to write about different people because they’re afraid they’re going to “get it wrong” but that’s how you get better as a writer, isn’t it?

If anyone’s interested in authors who do use gender-neutral pronouns in their writing, I recommend Elizabeth Bear (particularly Dust) and Laurie J. Marks’ The Moonbane Mage.