Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"The Prestige" ~ A Tale of Two Shadows

Note: This post contains extensive spoilers for The Prestige. If you, like me, are one of the last people on Earth to see this movie and don't want spoilers, please do not read ahead.

The other day, I decided to take a nice, relaxing break from convention prep by watching The Prestige -- a good old-fashioned tale of love and revenge. Right up until David Bowie walks out of his lightning machine and turns it all into sci-fi, anyway.

The Prestige was one of two historical fiction pieces about magicians that came out in 2006 -- this was the Armageddon to The Illusionist's Deep Impact. That is to say, it was The Good One. It also features Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale destroying each other's lives and Michael Caine doing his best Michael Caine impression. But all silliness aside, it was a dark and enjoyable piece of work that really allowed Christopher Nolan to let his grim flag fly.

Whenever I walk into anything involving rivals, especially if the core story is the heated rivalry -- ding. Shadow story. Considering the film's entire story has an underlying current of doubles, it looked especially ripe for this sort of analysis.

Then, as with all good magic tricks, it threw me for a loop. This wasn't a traditional Shadow story -- this was two Shadow stories. One succeeding, one failing.

Where's His Brother?

Your typical Shadow metaphor flick makes use of two characters, opposites in many ways but similar in key ones. See my recent addition to the Sartorial Geek blog where I discuss coming of age in the MCU's Black Panther. The earmark of a Shadow metaphor is those two opposing but inherently linked characters, placed in a situation where one has to kill the other (see most fantasy/action) or where they have to resolve themselves to each other (see most buddy cop films -- Lethal Weapon is textbook).

The immediate invocation of pairs of birds, one having to die for the other to be "the prestige" (a beautifully double-bladed term in this movie), and our protagonists being tested to see if they're willing to kill off that first bird? It's like someone placed a road map to a character development story.

And on the surface, it's fairly straightforward. Two magicians. One down-to-earth and one well-to-do. One local, one foreign. One driven by the craft, one driven by emotion. One willing to shed blood, one looking for a way not to. Theoretically, one would be tempted to see Christian Bale's Borden and Hugh Jackman's Angier as each other's Shadow. Especially since their aim is overall the same: the perfection of the Transported Man trick.

But the movie pulls one over on us: for once, this isn't a straight Shadow metaphor. Rather, it's two dueling Shadow metaphors -- each man coping in their own way, and the upshot of those techniques. What they do, and how they choose to do it, is reflected in everything they do onstage: from birds in cages to the Transported Man trick itself.

Of Birds and Clones

Before we talk about the characters, let's talk about the birds and the use thereof. Because how each of them handles that one rather nasty trick will inform what each man's internal struggle is.

As explained early in the film, the ever-present bird trick -- bird in a cage, cover the cage, smash the cage, reveal the unharmed bird -- works only because there are two birds. In order to achieve the Prestige, one bird must be smashed in the cage. It is simply the way of it. 

Borden is willing to do anything for the perfect trick. But Angier demands no blood on his hands, and works to engineer a trick that will not kill any birds. Now, from a 21st century standpoint that's pretty admirable... and sort of what we'd want a magician to do simply based on the modern ethics of magic. But that aside, we'll be looking at all these things from a storytelling standpoint. In other words, don't @ me about believing we should actually be killing people and animals for entertainment, because we're addressing the elements as metaphors, not as real stage presences. Anyway.

To get a sense of the movie, we have to break down the bird and Transported Man trick into what it really is in the Victorian sense: a sacrifice of one half of something in order for the other to be successful. For the bird, it's a literal sacrifice of a life. In the case of the Transported Man, it's one of a pair sacrificing the applause, the ability to be the Prestige.

But bear in mind that the two bodies serve as one in both tricks. As far as the audience knows, there is only one. Frame the tricks like that, and we see the message: we are watching two men cope with the knowledge that they must be willing to sacrifice a part of themselves to gain enlightenment -- "prestige."

Borden: Hiding the Truth

Borden's secret to the Transported Man trick is a simple one: he's actually a pair of twins carrying out a lifelong ruse so their perfect trick remains safe. Both men are present at all times, however -- one in heavy disguise, speaking little and acting as a silent second, one as the "real" Borden.

Having both Bordens present at all important times is a key move: this really drives home the sense that your Shadow is not truly a detachable part of yourself. It is always there, following behind, even if you have your best face forward toward the world.

Which Borden is the Shadow? In the end, funnily enough, both were each other's. One was devoted to family; the other was devoted to magic. And in a world where magic had no ethics and there was a deadly rivalry at play, only one could exist. Both were a danger to the other's way of life, and both kept the other from living fully.

Even so, Borden (because it is fair to speak of him as one entity in this analysis) opted not to resolve his two halves. Why? Well... why do any of us? Because it's hard. Because it means we have to make a sacrifice. Because it means looking at ourselves critically.

In the end, Borden's choice isn't really his own, but the choice is made. Only one side of himself can happily survive. He can have the magic, the rivalry, the deadly thrill -- or he can have a life and a family. Unsurprisingly, it is his magician side that dies (with a final magic word, "Abracadabra," in case you lost track of which Borden is which), and his caring side that goes to retrieve his daughter.

Angier: Finding Another Way

Angier's desire not to shed blood in the birdcage trick is, to our 21st century mindset, an admirable one. And so in many ways -- and largely because we follow him and because it was his wife's death that set off the rivalry -- we see him as our hero.

Throughout the movie, he is innovating: trying to find a way to perform a trick in which sacrifice is a necessity without the sacrifice. He nearly succeeds with the bird trick. But -- and this is wildly on the nose from a psychological standpoint -- the complicated cage he's required to build to make this happen ends up hurting others. And that, just with a little prod from an outside source.

Then comes the Transported Man. He can do the trick and do it beautifully, but only if he is willing to not receive credit for the illusion at the end of it. Not only that, but it puts him in a position of high vulnerability. The scenes in which Angier and his double do the New Transported Man use one of my favorite pieces of imagery: lower levels of buildings to depict the subconscious. When Angier is below the stage, when he is moved backward and the arrogant showman doppelganger is front and center, he has no control.

There is no Transported Man without sacrifice. But instead of acknowledging this, he creates an even worse scenario, with the help of David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. Every night, he copies himself off -- both the bird in the cage and the bird in the hand -- both the sacrifice and the Prestige.

But this, quite obviously, is not a solution. In the end, contrary to one of two Bordens surviving, we have zero of dozens of Angiers surviving. Because his fix is not a fix at all. He simply drowns himself below-stage (or in the subconscious), over and over, completely unaware of how many times he's killing himself under the table simply because he's so focused on revenge and prestige.

How to Win

So here we have two men, each fighting internal battles. One believes he can simply coexist with his problems while digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself. The other looks for any alternative but the obvious one, forcing others into making his solutions for him, harming others and quietly suffocating himself all the while.

The illusion of the Transported Man is the sticking point for both: a double-sided trick that, in its performance, obligates sacrifice and self-examination. And when (or if) the illusionist finds themselves in a place where they have come through their internal strife? They no longer perform it.

Another read could see Borden and Angier as each other's Shadows: one willing to make sacrifices, the other shooting himself in the foot as he tries not to. But it's so much more appealing to see them as two people fighting the same battle at the same time in their own ways, and providing an insight into two common routes taken by people who want to do anything but change.

In the end, neither Borden nor Angier has a choice anymore when it comes to their end result. And that happens, too; in the real world, people who refuse to grow and change, or look for alternatives, will often find themselves with their back against the wall. Then they have only two choices remaining: adapt... or drown.

Metaphorically, of course.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

My (Re)Generation Who 4 Schedule and WAIT WHAT

So Wednesday, I'll be rolling into Baltimore. I'll leave you all with something to read while I'm driving (unless I just get too damn swamped with work -- a potential reality), but I want to get this cranked out before I forget: my weekend schedule.

Since I'm community manager and Various Other Assorted Things, I will be running around like mad in addition to these times. But if you'd like to see things I'm involved with, I highly encourage you to hit up one of these events.

Heck, I just encourage you to hit up the con in general.

We Are (Re)Generation Who: Friday 3pm, Panel Room 1

I'll be joining the con chairs to take them through a discussion of what (Re)Gen is, what to expect, and how it all started. Bring your questions, comments, and curiosities. And if you've never been to a (Re)Gen before, it's a great idea to come to this to get your bearings!

Friday Evening with the Companions: Friday 7pm, Large Panels Room

After the second years of this panel, I informed our Head of Programming that I was never giving this panel up. We always get a different mix of companions coming in to chat, and something crazy and hilarious always happens. This year I'll be chatting with William Russell (Ian Chesterton), John Leeson (the voice of K-9), and Mark Strickson (Turlough).

The Dave Ross Variety Show: Friday 9pm, Large Panels Room

Terry Molloy is back with his evening variety show! I will be present (at least for the first bit), along with dancing, comedy, drama, skits, and God knows what else. I promise you will have a good time.

Writers on Deck! Late Night Reading: Friday 10pm, Panel Room 1

Paul Magrs and I had this idea a few months ago, and it's come to pass. Join us for a late-night get-together and listen to some of our writer guests read a bit of their Who and non-Who writing!

Big Finish Interview: Jason Haigh-Ellery: Saturday 10am, Panel Room 2

Joining one of the fellas behind Big Finish to talk about his career, the trajectory of the company, and what to expect next from their many lines!

Peter Capaldi: Saturday 1pm, Large Panel Room

Um. I just found out that this is his first interview since leaving the show. Yeah. No kidding. The Radio Times told me so. So you know. No pressure. Just making history and stuff. (Though in all seriousness I am so pleased he can make it to our event, and am looking forward to the afternoon immensely.)

Making Your Book: Saturday 10pm, Panel Room 2

Ginger Hoesly and I will be reprising our panel from PotterVerse!... Well, we're hoping to get shifted up to an earlier time slot, but we shall see.

And that's... well, I'd say that's "it" but that doesn't sound much like an "it." I'm also going to be running around taking photos and video and helping the rest of staff and guests make awesomeness happen.

Will I see you guys there?

Register now and say hi if you see me!

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Friday, March 16, 2018

FATE/GRAND ORDER ~ "E Pluribus Unum": First Feels

Ah yay. My one sin. There's only so much I can write about Fate/ in general for Crunchyroll without becoming too hard a Stan for it. But over here in my own little corner of the web, I can let loose.

So the concept of the Fate/ franchise, if you've somehow missed me talking about it, is this: an association of mages has learned how to, via ways and means that would take a lot more back story than you need to appreciate this, summon the spirits of great heroes from history, fiction, and mythology. They are each assigned to a certain class -- Saber, Archer, Rider, etc. -- with their masters fighting for possession of a Holy Grail that has appeared in that era. The Grail will grant one wish.

And that's how it works, except when it totally doesn't, like in Fate/Grand Order when the point is to travel through time with a whole clown car full of gacha servants and fix temporal anomalies.

The short version is you get to collect anime versions of famous people and they'll fight for you -- and like seventeen of them are female versions of King Arthur.

So basically, it's a game made for me.

From left to right: an evil version of Joan of Arc, Mash Kyrielight who's a cross between your devoted kouhai and an unnamed Servant, and Mordred who is a girl because lots of guys were secretly girls.

The US localization is about two years behind the Japanese server (which has just launched into its second story arc), and save for the occasional typo on a limited-time event, it's pretty dang good. The battle is straightforward -- easy to learn so that you can then spend time strategizing -- and from there it's a cross between a visual novel and a character collecting/raising game.

So Fifth Singularity. E Pluribus Unum. It takes place in a young United States, where the Civil War is happening 80 years too early, and between the East and West rather than the North and South. The reason for the upheaval? Celtic heroes have invaded and decided they'd like the country for themselves.

Unlike previous Singularities, the Servants you meet are almost entirely unconnected to the time period, coming from well before (the Celtic heroes) and well after (pretty much everyone else) the events of the chapter.

I've not played devastatingly far into this chapter because work, but first impressions of the new Servants you'll meet:

Florence Nightingale: Berserker

Nightingale was soft-launched in the recent event Vengeful Demon's Wail at the Prison Tower, which introduced Edmond Dantès (the Count of Monte Cristo) and the new Servant class "Avenger." Here, she suffered from amnesia and was renamed Mercèdés by Dantès.

In the Fifth Singularity, she's well aware of who she is. Born almost 40 years after the events of the chapter, she's obsessed with an unachievable level of cleanliness for the wounded. She also likes to shoot basically everything.

(It's worth nothing that Berserkers in the world of Fate/ are always suffering from some sort of madness. For some like Caligula and Lancelot, they simply can't speak. In Nightingale's case, she can speak perfectly well, but refers to everything in medical terms and will shoot, like, whatever.)

Her Noble Phantasm is one of the few healing-based moves (with the exception of Medea Lily's "Pain Breaker") that's actually done significant enough good that I actively build up her NP bar. Sadly, she's a Guest Servant and probably very hard to actually roll for myself.

For the dweebs, she was designed by the creator of Jormugand and is voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro (the new Fujiko in Lupin III).

Helena Blavatsky: Caster

Oh my God.

So once in a while, Fate/GO introduces me to an historical figure I wasn't familiar with. Madame Blavatsky is definitely one of these. She was the founder of the Theosophical Society, the great-great-grandfather of what we now know as the New Age Movement. Her teachings included talk of the continents of Atlantis and Lemuria, and the existence of a highly-evolved being named Sanat Kumara who was king of humanity and appeared as a teenage boy.

Incidentally, "Sanat Kumara" is the name of her Noble Phantasm, and shows her boarding a UFO and flying through space before zapping her opponents. So there's that.

Story-wise, Blavatsky is pretty much the token tsundere of this Singularity. She's voiced by Hisako Kanemoto (the new Sailor Mercury in Sailor Moon Crystal), which is cool, but beyond that her main appeal is in all the backwards references to her historical namesake.

Like the little robot dude over her shoulder? Is a tiny Henry Steel Olcott.

Geronimo: Caster

Poor guy is pretty obviously the designated driver of this Singularity. And he definitely did not ask for this.

I actually rolled Geronimo pretty quickly, so I don't have to wait to use him as a Guest Servant. I'm leveling him up now to see what he brings to the table. He's voiced by Goldymarg from GaoGaiGar (but he's not nearly as shouty, so it was hard to tell at first), and comes from the same character designer as Martha and Ushiwakamaru.

So far he has been the most intelligent and caused the least trouble of anyone in this chapter and bless him for that, because between the guns and the more guns and the everythings, I could use someone who doesn't explode absolutely everything I'm trying to do.

Thomas Edison: Caster

I'm just now realizing this is a really Caster-heavy Singularity and


Yeah. So. If you're. Uh. Yeah. Thomas Edison is an American light bulb lion. That's not a joke or an April Fool or anything. That's him, straight up.

At first I thought he was an NPC, but nope, apparently you can summon this bad boy. Which... should be interesting. Especially since at his higher ascensions he grows literal rainbow wings.

There are others Servants poking around -- Billy the Kid being just one of them -- but I've not seen enough of them just yet to pass a lot of judgment.

The Bigger Story

In my experience, Mash Kyrielight -- your one constant companion, a Shielder-type who is equal parts human and Servant -- takes time to grow on you. There's nothing particularly annoying about her. She's a fun enough character, and in the one-shot anime made to promote the game, she's pretty cool.

My hangup, I think, was that her growth as a character is directly tied to your story progress. That is, you can only level her up or bond with her as far as each chapter says you can. With other characters, you can put in the effort and max them out however you choose. But with Mash, her strength is a story point.

Now, I can actually appreciate this as a writer, and stepping away from my actual game time on it, I like that the feel of your party actually changes as the story progresses. You don't have to include her. You don't have to use her at all. But what she lacks in attack, she makes up for in defense, so it pays to have her on your team at least at the start.

By the time we hit the Fifth Singularity, we actually start to see a shift in Mash's personality. She's working harder -- and this shows in actual battles, as her fight style and dialogue have changed and (at least for me) she's become overall more useful from a tactical standpoint. We also seem to be nearing a few answers for her: what's her deal, who's the Servant she contracted with to become a Demi-Servant, and what is the true extent of her powers.

The game in the West is approaching the end of the first story arc, which will close out our battle to fix history. And from the brief clips I've seen in doing my various news articles, it seems Mash undergoes a lot of changes of her own between now and Cosmos in the Lostbelt, the second arc of the game just about to kick off in Japan.

I'm actually quite impressed at how these aesthetically different segments are beginning to converge down into the Big Picture. And I'm big time curious to see where it's all going.

If you're a Fate/GO player, feel free to add me as a friend: 175,652,592

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bluetooth-Compatible Grandfather

Not my grandfather's -- found it on Wiki.
I don't remember much of Monday, but likely more than my grandfather does. I didn't sleep much, as expected. We got him to the hospital, filled out his forms, waited with him while he was briefed on all the things.

It was odd seeing someone else get the hospital gown and the yellow slipper-socks. And very odd to see all the changes that have gone into effect since my last surgery five years ago. The hospital where all my surgeries took place has a massive new pavilion. There's a bistro -- breakfast and lunch all day. I got a club baguette too big for me and split it with my uncle, and tried to deal with the tea they had on hand.

It's funny -- pacemakers are pretty run-of-the-mill anymore, but there's still the worry. You get one in a million situations. Maybe this will be that one. Charlie left me with his wallet before he went into surgery (or rather "the procedure"). You know. Just in case something happened.

Having the bulk of the wallet on me was terrifying. It was like carrying around a physical manifestation of that Just In Case fear.

I like this hospital. I like the people there. So my fear wasn't to do with the skill of anyone involved. Just "A family member is having surgery" paranoia, minus the anesthesia I always got so everyone worried while I slept.

We had snacks while we waited. Showed each other silly memes. And, of course, everything turned out just fine. We got the pacemaker equipment as Charlie finished waking up and learned how it all worked. Bluetooth. And very Black Mirror looking. I felt for a moment like I was putting myself in for something akin to "Arkangel" given the slick look of the monitor, but no such thing.

Charlie is excellent now. He's got some slight pain on the incision site, but that's to be expected. I can already tell he's doing much better energy-wise. Now he's trying to find a way to track his pacemaker's information online. I'm wondering if he'll have hacked the monitor and turned it into a pet or something before the week's out.

Thanks so much to everyone -- the people I know and the people I barely know -- for the kind thoughts and well-wishes. I'm not sure Charlie knows how many fans he has via my posts and stories. But it was much appreciated and we felt the love. And he'll be around to give me plenty more weird stories to tell you all.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Not much to say, my grandfather's getting a pacemaker.

Daylight Saving Time is on, and every hour is a lie.

Most of my friends love the extra hour of light in the evening, love not having to come home in the dark, love the stretch of time that we were used to on summer vacation. I thrive on grey mornings and early sunsets like some sort of insufferable aesthete. I also like gloomy days with just a little bit of rain, so there's genuinely no reason for my taste to rule the world.

I hate Daylight Saving Time. But I deal, because it's a pointless thing to hate when there are injustices going on in this world far greater than a bit of temporal idiocy.

My grandfather is going in for a pacemaker in the morning. It's after midnight (in Real Time, it's almost 11:30 pm) as I'm writing this, counting the hours before we switch roles. For years I was the one who didn't sleep, who lay awake in bed fearing the anesthesia, wondering what I'd wake up to, wondering if things would go all right or if something would go Horribly Wrong.

I'm used to being on the OR side. Raw eyes from one hour of fitful sleep achieved accidentally just as the sun was considering coming up. Upset stomach, either from the liquid diet or the absolute fear. Feeling just a bit numb as I walked into the waiting room, blearily signed paperwork, went behind the big scary doors to change into a gown and hair thing and little paper boots.

Needles needles needles. By that point I was always too strung out on exhaustion and paranoia to care. But then the anesthesiologist would come in with Something, and by the time I was in the actual OR, under lights like an alien experiment, arms strapped down Because Epilepsy, I was already convinced I was having another weird dream.


Wake up in recovery, headache like a muffled hangover.

Being the person who gets the surgery is, in the long run, slightly easier on the day of. You're asleep through all of it. Other people get to sit and wonder and worry and prepare and drive. You just sort of get carted around.

I know my grandfather will be fine. The pacemaker will make his life amazing, and the surgery will take minimal recovery time (especially considering there's three of us looking after him in the meantime). The wait will be hard. The wondering. The number of times I've had to wait and wonder has been minimal.

This is the same grandfather who is a literal rocket scientist. So those readers who know of him via hearsay -- as a friend said, I know "thoughts and prayers" are getting a bad rap in a lot of places. But I'll take them.

I will say, please pray for the surgeon. They're the one who needs to have the steadiest hands.

I'm not worried. Not really. Well, I'm worried in the way that we all worry when they're an imponderable in our path. I'll be back by the time most people read this, churning out news stories and editing a book. And I'm sure there will be a funny story from it all.

I'll tell it Wednesday.

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Other Worlds Than These: A New Song and a New Book!

Oh boy. It's a busy time leading up to (Re)Generation Who, kids. Every job is running on all cylinders. But I'm happy to say that there are at least two things to show for it right now!

First up, a new "City of the Saved" book is on its way! Stranger Tales of the City features new stories about City residents who are somehow "alien" to the ways of the galaxy-sized afterlife.

My story, "The Wandering Child," moves between the City and Meiji-era Japan, following a young shrine maiden named Sute who still awaits her savior even after awakening in the City. It's something of a spiritual successor to my story in Tales of the Civil War, approaching themes of religion and faith within the City. But it has a very different ending.

Order your copy now from Obverse Books!

Additionally, I've just finished a new song video. "Bloodmoon Fury" is a filk of "Moonlight Shadow" penned by Managlitch City Underground creator Michael O'Brien. I had tons of fun singing it, and tons of fun putting the video together. I hope you enjoy! And do give MGCU a listen if you haven't already.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The #1 Question Fans Need to Stop Asking - And What to Ask Instead

As a fan working in fan industries, I tend to find myself on both sides of frustrations. Just as I'm cross about a new game or show release being delayed, I'm also aware of multiple reasons why it could be happening. I may lament choices made in a piece of entertainment I love, while retaining awareness that it was for financial reasons rather than storytelling ones. So when complaints arise about things in fandom, I end up being equal parts empathy and business brain.

Recently on Twitter, there arose a fantastic discussion on one very specific breed of question that, merely in its asking, raises a lot of communication problems. It's as difficult in licensing as it is in event running. And it takes a few forms:

"Will you be licensing this game?"

"When will you bring this guest to the con?"

"Are you picking up this show?"

From a fan standpoint, it is an extremely logical question. We like certain creatives. We are fans of certain pieces of entertainment. And, as a group reliant on companies for certain experiences, we would like to know -- and feel it's fair for us to know -- if these are things we can expect.

On the one hand, the dissemination of entertainment through major companies does mean those companies need to make good on promises to the public. On the other... these questions are impossible to answer for a number of reasons.

Why can't you say yes?

Okay, so let's say the fan mentioned a game or show or potential guest we really like. Maybe, amongst us, we are all agreed that this is a path we would like to take. Maybe it's even in the works. So why can't we just say yes?

Announcements run on deadlines: Let's say you've asked us if we're ever bringing Joe Kickboxer to our event. Now, as it happens, Joe's agent is currently countersigning the contract, and we're planning to announce him as a guest next week. So the answer to your question is yes.


Part of the whole contract situation is that everything has to be square and signed and to everyone's liking before we can announce Joe's presence at our event. If we just tell you that yes, we will be announcing Joe in the future, we've broken our contract. And that's not just a courtesy thing -- sometimes contracts change at the last minute. Maybe Joe's daughter gets engaged in the intervening week and The Date is our con weekend, so it falls through. Maybe there's something else. Either way, announcements run on deadlines, both for contract reasons and because of people like me who run social media and need to know when things are happening.

As someone on Twitter put it, "If we tell you we're going to announce something, we've effectively announced it."

An unscrupulous businessperson could take advantage: Let's say you want your favorite game company to license Dino Dance 2000. Or whatever. You ask them, are they gonna get it? Well, the CEO likes that game. They all like that game. So you know what? Yeah. We're gonna do it.

Now, Dino Dance 2000 is run by a pretty crappy company, as it happens. They've heard that the localizers have essentially given a verbal promise to deliver a localization. Now they decide that they're gonna hike the price so they can get as much out of the localizers as possible. And if they don't pay up? They have to tell their fan base, "Oh hey, just kidding, we can't afford it."

Or, flip the script. What if the localizers are the unscrupulous ones and announce it with no contract in place. Now the creators are the ones stuck with putting out the fires that announcing it's not a real deal will cause.

But Kara, you cry, business deals happen on the fly all the time! Look at Twitter! Well, no, they don't. Otherwise you wouldn't be seeing them covered by BuzzFeed when they do happen. Things like Robert Downey Jr. "convincing" Marvel to release Infinity War early in real time are generally planned in advance. They're fun, they're amazing good will, and they're entertaining for the people who get to take part. But that particular situation was almost certainly a case of the studio deciding to push the release forward and sorting out a way to announce it in a fun way.

As for actors agreeing to make movies with each other, casual verbal contracts, etc., these are all industry peers we're talking about. They're either friends already or mutual fans. When it comes to a situation like signing a guest or licensing a work, there are very few situations where "Hey, you know, I'd like to do this" in an unplanned public setting actually goes off without a hitch.

We can't see the future: As I've mentioned before elsewhere, sometimes we just don't know. There are things we'd love to do, and that we'd love to say yes to. Like guests, for instance. You want that guest, we want that guest.


What if something happens to them? What if we find out behind the scenes that they're awful to work with? What if they don't like us? What if we can never get the finances or schedule to work out? We don't know. Even if we agree that something or someone might be a good acquisition, we may unwittingly be lying to you by attempting to predict the future.

Why can't you say no?

Sometimes we can: Occasionally, with things like licensing certain titles or running certain types of programming, we can say "no" simply because it doesn't fit our message. For example, a family-friendly company running adult programming. A video game localization company obtaining a game created by someone it isn't worth associating with. A frankly bad show.

There will occasionally be cases where the answer is simply "no" based upon the nature of what is being asked. And at times like that... well, that's one of the few occasions where we can be clear.

Again, we don't know: Perhaps there's a guest we think we can't afford, or a title we think we have no interest in, but circumstances could change. Dear God, did I think we'd be getting Peter Capaldi to (Re)Generation Who by 2018? My cautious estimate was next year at the soonest. But I never said a flat "no" because on the off chance things worked out well, I didn't want to be a liar.

Fans don't want to hear that: Look, if you asked a game company if they were bringing your favorite game over, and the CEO looked you dead in the eye and said "No," you wouldn't be a fan of that, would you? Business decisions aren't made against the fans, but phrasing and presenting things a certain way would allow for them to feel like they were.

Why can't you just say you don't know?

We try that and people get all cross.

This is not to say that everyone gets cross. Not at all. But when I answer "When are you bringing [my fave] to ReGen?" with "When our finances and schedules align in a way that allows for it," I tend to get dissatisfied looks. Which I totally understand.

I mean. Look. It sucks that the real answer is "We don't know" or "We'll do it if we do it." Trust me, whenever people asked me if Crunchyroll was getting Junji Ito Collection, I was right there with them. (Thank God they did.) I get wanting an answer. I get hating suspense. And I get wanting to know which direction to face and which company to support.

But the fact is... sometimes an answer does not exist. And giving a "yes" or "no," even just to finish the question, can cause more issues than just admitting that we don't know.

What can I ask instead?

One thing I don't want people thinking is that companies don't care what the fans want. We do. And in fact, many things companies have done during my time with them come about because we know fans want them. Lots of our (Re)Gen guests have been a "maybe" until enough fan enthusiasm tipped them over into our "yes" column, and the experience was amazing.

So even though the question itself is unhelpful, the enthusiasm is very helpful. And there are absolutely ways to express this that go straight where they need to.

Consider asking this of conventions: "Where can I go to make guest and programming suggestions?"

And this of localization companies: "Is there anything a fan can do to help your company obtain more [type of entertainment]?"

Not only does this express your interest without cornering the spokespeople, it also ensures that your request will go to someone who can do something about it. Not only that -- if they don't currently have a suggestion form, your question may spur them to do so!

Scrupulous, kind entertainment companies do not work against their fans, and not having an answer (or the "right" answer) isn't a sign of something being hidden. If you want to see something happen in your chosen fandom, addressing it the right way through the right channels not only helps see the change get made -- it also spares a lot of awkwardness.

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