The Drowning Empire, Episode 60: And Let the Liars be Damned

The Drowning Empire is a weekly serial based on the events which occured during the Writer Nerd Game Night monthly Legend of the Five Rings game. It is a tale of samurai adventure set in the magical world of Rokugan.

If you would like to read all of these in one convenient place, along with a bunch of additional game related stuff, behind the scenes info, and detailed session recaps, I’ve been posting everything to one thread on the L5R forum,

This week’s episode was written by Patrick Tracy, and takes place after the White Tiger Expedition. Since he is being blackmailed, Subotai does something desperate. 

Continued from: 

And Let the Liars be Damned

By Patrick M. Tracy

The poisoner had skill. Moto Subotai had smelled nothing, tasted nothing. The chopsticks fell from his grasp, his hand going numb, his lips swelling. The breath would not come when he attempted to inhale.

Blundering up from the table, he clutched his throat, wordless. Namori and the rest of the dinner party rose, their eyes filled with concern as he danced like a puppet with tangled strings, losing control of his bodily functions as the poison deadend his nerves.

“Husband!” Namori called out, going to him, holding him up as the light from the torches grew vague in his sight.

“I…lo…,” he rasped, but his voice was muted. Darkness swooped upward to grasp him and pull him into oblivion. He was dying. The myth of Moto Subotai was ending. All was as it had to be.

HIs heart slowed toward silence. Namori’s face was the last thing he saw.



<Months before>


The nondescript stranger appeared in the stable, standing between Moto Subotai and the door.

“Greetings, my friend,” the man said. There was a slight but definite air of menace about him, although this was not portrayed in on his face or in his eyes.

“We have not met,” Subotai said. It was late, and he was exhausted from the events of the day.

“Ah, but I know much about you, Subotai. How is your mother?”

Subotai tried not to flinch, but he face slipped, betraying the cutting remark. This was the man behind the letters, the blackmailer. He had known that this day would come, that he would be called to account for the fiction of his birth. Though it was not his sin, he had perpetuated it, living the lie he had been born into. How someone had found that he had been birthed not by Moto Aiyumi, but by her handmaiden, sent to Kohatusu-sama’s bedchamber in her stead, was immaterial at this point. The knowledge existed in the world. Its debilitating venom wafted in the air and tainted the water. There was no escape.

“My mother…is well,” Subotai forced himself to answer. “What of it?” The rage burst within him. Rage at the woman he had known as his mother, rage that his true mother had been there with him as a child, and he had never known to cherish her, rage that all his hopes and dreams could be toppled by the crack in the foundation of his lineage.

“I only ask because I come to you as a good friend, a confidante, a helper in difficult times.”

Subotai forced himself to breathe deep and release his wrath as a green cloud before a dragon’s maw. “If we are to be friends, what should I call you?”

“You may call me Atsushige.”

“I assume that you are here at the behest of others?”

Atsushige nodded. “How perceptive. I represent Master Coin and Master Cloud. We feel that there is a great future before you, and we wish to make sure you fulfill all your potential.”

“My potential?” Subotai let his mouth twist in disgust. Atsushige ignored his frown.

“You are Kohatsu-sama’s only son. You stand to inherit his position in the Unicorn Clan. You yourself have become a notable samurai, a man known to have honor and skill at fighting. It is only natural that interested parties would wish to aid you along the way.”

“And what would you have of me in return?”

“Straight to the point, then,” Atsushige agreed. “As we are now friends, it’s well known that friends will, upon occasion, do favors for each other. We may sometimes ask you to do small things for us. Easy things. Nothing that would have to be widely known.”

“And this kernel of knowledge you think you have about me, you will use this as insurance that we stay..friends?”

“You have it exactly right. But don’t think of us as holding these things over your head. We are holding the facts secret and safe, as true friends would. I think that I will enjoy working with you, Subotai. You are more perceptive than some reports would indicate.”

Atsushige looked over Subotai’s shoulder, and Subotai followed the direction of his gesture, turning his head. One of the stable doors creaked open, and Yoritomo Oki, drunk and staggering, came in, collapsing in the hay near Tento. The horse pushed at Oki’s shoulder and flipped him onto his back, making a low sound and stamping one foot.

When Subotai turned back. Atsushige was gone, as if he had never been there. The only thing remaining was a chrysanthemum, nestled in the hay where he had been.

His mother’s secret had caught up to him. Not just any random blackmailer knew of it. No, that would have been far too easy. He remembered those names. Master Coin. Master Cloud. Those were masters of the Kolat, the secret organization that had nearly brought the Empire to its knees.

Subotai felt dizzy and sick. The rage was gone, and a wave of hopelessness and recrimination rode behind it. How could he fight the Kolat? It was like fighting shadows. No, he couldn’t. The best he could do would be to string them along, letting them manipulate him as little as possible. When the time came, and they asked him to do something that his honor wouldn’t allow, he would have to be sure that his tanto was sharp and his will strong enough to end things in a way befitting a samurai. Perhaps not all of his blood was of the caste, but he hoped that he could still be his father’s son and preserve the family honor.

Subotai stroked Tento’s neck, then bent to move Oki to a safer location. He left the archer on his side, so that if he became ill, he wouldn’t choke on his own sick. He walked under the starlight until almost dawn, trying to think of a solution he could live with. Nothing came to mind. He was damned. Damned for something he had no hand in doing. Damned for the very fact of his birth.



Subotai stood in the throng of samurai and courtesans in Second City’s ambassadorial square, staring at the fountain. He tried to make himself feel anything but boredom when it came to the courtly aspects of their mission, but found it difficult. He became lost in the rippling water of the fountain. He thought of a poem he wanted to write. He envisioned the flight of an arrow toward a distant target, the graceful, deadly arc. More and more, it was difficult to attend to the details of the day. His mind slipped away like the glimmer of fish in a muddy pond.

When he looked up, he saw a Lion samurai standing near him.

“Greetings, my friend.”

It was Atsushige, standing before him in Lion garb. Subotai knew that this had been a calculated decision on the blackmailer’s part. The Unicorn and Lion still feuded, and he could not strike a Lion down in the street. That did not keep his sword hand from resting on his katana’s hilt at the blackmailer’s presence.

“So, today you are a Lion.”

“I had thought you fond of Lions, close as brothers with your traveling companions, Uso and Toranaka. I thought this would put you at ease, calm those violent Moto passions of yours.”

Subotai sighed, waiting for the important details of their byplay to be revealed.

“Ever on to business with you, is it not?”

“You may as well say what you came to say, Atsushige.”

The blackmailer feigned hurt feelings for a moment. “I keep telling you, Subotai. We really can be good friends to one another, if you’ll only relax a bit.”

“I’m finding that difficult.”

Atsushige smiled. “I can understand. This is just the beginning of our relationship. You’ll grow accustomed to me after a while, I’m sure. For now, I need you to do a small task for me. Just a convenience, really.”

The blackmailer held out a letter. “If you could give this to Moto Byung-Chuul’s son, Moto Yoon-Dao, that would be most appreciated. I know that you have the ability to get in and speak to him. He’s currently a guest of the Lion Embassy. You’re welcome to read the letter. There is nothing untoward in it, just a letter from his beloved. I’m sure you’d want the letters Shinjo Namori wrote, wouldn’t you?”

Subotai knew that he had to at least feign acceptance of his situation. He took the letter.

“Any time in the next few days would be fine. Just to prove that you are as good a friend to us as we are to you.”

A clamor arose in the crowd with no obvious reason. Subotai’s eyes flicked away for the tiniest fraction of a second. Even in that moment, Atsushige found a way to disappear without a trace.

Subotai tucked the letter into his kimono. He would have to confess. As innocuous as the letter appeared, he knew that there was malicious intent behind it. He could not simply pass it along. Though Yoon-Dao appeared to be a hostage, he was there awaiting orders that would rain death down upon the Lion. If hostilities broke out, Yoon-Dao would serve as a first, deadly strike. Subotai wouldn’t dare slip him any communication that might cause two clans to explode into open warfare. There was nothing for it but to share his plight and the dishonor it entailed.

He could feel everything begin to unravel, the tapestry of his life shedding fabric with every passing moment.



Toranaka squinted, his face flushed. “Blackmailed? By the Kolat? How can this be? What have you to be blackmailed about.”

Subotai felt the weight of a heavy stone upon his chest. “I cannot share the nature of the secret. It is not my deed that is at issue, and it involves others in my family whose names I would keep unsullied.”

“The way is clear. We find this Coin, this Cloud, and we destroy them.”

“It is unlikely to be that simple,” Uso-san said. “These are masters of assassins you speak of. No one knows the real identity of such high level Kolat members. Who knows what sort of power they have, what connections.”

“I don’t care about that. When challenged, we strike,” Toranaka said. Subotai could see that Tora would not be consoled or calmed for a while. His blood was up.

“I will pass the letter, but I will tell Yoon-Dao that it is likely a fraud. That is the best I can do. We will see what transpires after that.”

Subotai could see that something that had been in Toranaka’s eyes was gone, some regard that the One Armed Lion held for him had been dissipated. In all his comrade’s eyes, he was lessened, and rightly so. This was his dishonor, his undoing. It had taken all of his will not to simply thrust a knife into his belly and remove the shame. Perhaps there would be a day for that, but not today. He had more to do. He would not leave the fight against the Dark Oracle of Water so easily as that.




Toranaka grinned. It was a true smile this time, not the frozen mask he wore when he dashed the heads from men’s shoulders. Subotai, numb with the news they had been given, gaped at the rare expression on his best friend’s face. Though they were not as close as they had been, though there was doubt where there had once been surety, they were yet close, so much blood between them, so many deadly fights all over the empire. Subotai wondered if the bonds of their friendship were strong enough to weather telling Tora the whole truth, revealing himself to be a fraud, a half blood. He’d been on the point of telling him a hundred times, but had always turned aside and left the truth unsaid. Toranaka was unbending, unyielding, just as his father was. It made him a great samurai, a faithful friend, but his judgements were harsh and final, the codes by which he lived unbending. In this, his great lie, he could not count upon Tora to understand.

The diplomat read from the scroll, the public proclamation of the accord between the Lion and Unicorn. All the important announcements had already been stated, and it was down to the bureaucratic details like land easements and levies on acreage near Rich Frog.

“You’re a free man, Subo. No longer a hostage under my care. You’re free to marry at last, and I find myself betrothed. Our clans have made peace, and there will be prosperity for us both in the future.”

“It is a great day,” Subotai answered. He did not feign happiness well. Freed from his hostage status, he would be expected to take over for his ailing father, expected to marry and assume his rightful place. It was everything he ever wanted, and the one thing he could never allow himself. The Kolat could only do so much against him as a lone samurai. As the leader of Journey’s End Keep, they could force him to play their game in a hundred ways. The more important he became, the more deadly the secret they held above his neck like a sharpened sword.

While the rest rejoiced, he slipped away, writing the letters that he felt might at least forestall the inevitable time when he would have nowhere left to move, no delaying tactic left to play.



The White Tiger expedition was nearly ready to depart. The grand celebration and spectacle was over, the political intrigue and backbiting concluded, the hard weeks of organizing the journey and purchasing the necessities at an end. Subotai walked among the ranks, nodding to the men. He had managed to put off his duties to his family for one last mission. It was a mission that, in his secret heart, he hoped he would not return from.

If the fighting claimed him this time, he would be saved from what came after, from having to either capitulate to the Kolat and work as a double agent or find a terrible alternative. Yes, it would be far easier if he died. Perhaps he could manage to be lost in the struggle and assume the mantle of ronin. Perhaps…it did no good to consider now. He only hoped to be spared the decision, the fates interceding and making the choice for him. The longer he lived under the shadow of the blackmailer’s grasp, the more his honor unraveled. Previously unthinkable solutions came to him like ghosts out of the night. He hardly knew himself, and only through the most rigorous discipline could he manage to maintain his public facade. He was surprised that his friends had not commented on this, the fact that his every action and word was that of a charlatan, a pretender to what Moto Subotai had once been. He was merely an actor playing the part of a man who had been tainted, and was consumed by the disease of his sin.

An Ox Clan samurai came to him as he toured the long line of warriors. It was only when he came within a few steps that Subotai recognized his tormentor, Atsushige.


The blackmailer smiled. “Me.”

“You are coming along on the journey then?”

“Of course, Subtai. We’re friends, and my other friends wish to make sure you get through safe. We’d hate to see anything untoward happen to you out in the demon-haunted jungle.”

“Your friendship means a great deal to me, Atsushige. I’m touched by your concern.” The longer Subotai looked at his life as simply a part he was playing, the better control he had over his emotions. It was as if this were all a play, and he merely an actor reading the correct lines, hitting the proper places on the stage, the easier it was. This, at least, was what he told himself.

“It is good that we’ve established a rapport. Which reminds me, I believe you sent this letter during some kind of mental doldrum. We were able to intercept it, so that you’d be saved from the embarrassment of a retraction.”

Atsushige handed him back his letter to his father, the one in which he’d forsaken any control over Journey’s End keep and advised his father to pass it along to another. It had been his last attempt to throw the Kolat’s noose from his neck. It had failed.

What had been Subotai began to fall away, to ablate like a statue made of sand when a strong wind howls against it. Killed by inches, all that he had ever aspired to be was dissipating, the last battle to keep all those dreams alive lost. There was only death now. The only question was the nature of that death. The man who wore Subotai’s clothes no longer cared how. He only hoped that it would be soon.

“I think you’re growing up, but just like any child, a few corrections need to be applied. Think of this letter as a correction, Subotai. I believe that you’ll do well as our friend in Journey’s End Keep. We’ll do a lot of good together, you and I, and we’ll make Masters Coin and Cloud very happy.”

“I’m sure that’s true, Atsushige. I’m pleased that you could join us on this journey.” His face was blank, his heart desolate.

Atsushige gave a slight nod. “Just to let you know, if something unfortunate should happen to me along the way, there are many others in the company who will continue to look out for your best interests. Although it would be a shame if one of our companions were to succeed in killing me, my associates are very thorough. We don’t leave anything to chance.”

With that, the blackmailer walked away, rejoining the anonymity of the crowd.



Subotai came awake gasping, clawing at the bedding. He shuddered like a man taken with fever and was drenched in sweat. He had been plagued with nightmares and could rarely sleep the night through. It was good that he did not share a tent with Toranaka anymore, or there would be further questions to answer. The decline in his morale and certainty was getting difficult to hide. The role of Moto Subotai had grown taxing, as he was so much less than that man now. Every day it became more likely that one of his friends would see through his feeble illusions and understand that his spirit had collapsed upon itself, leaving him broken into pieces.

It would not be long now. Only a few more days, from what Jagdish and the other Ivindi guides said. Their great battle would take place in the hidden valley where the waterfall flowed. The fates, if they were kind, would allow him to die as a samurai would wish to, to lay down his life for something greater and more important than himself. He would spare himself no danger, leave no risk un-taken. If they would kill him, he would not hide from death.

The next night, Suzume Shintaro was asked to a meeting of the Minor Clan Alliance. Subotai went along, having nothing else to do. He found that keeping busy allowed the time to pass, keeping him from meditating upon his failures and shame.

It was not long before the meeting veered to the topic of betrayal. Not simply betrayal, but treason against the whole Empire. Subotai was not surprised. His evaluation of the world was not what it had been a few years ago. He was jaded, cynical. He believed that all stories ended in tragedy.

Shintaro did not. Brave, he challenged a man that could best him on ten consecutive days to a duel. As they walked away from the scene, Shintaro suddenly aware of his mistake, the big Sparrow looked gray, ill.

A small female figure materialized, wearing the garb of a peasant camp follower. Up close, though, the beautiful face of Bayushi Maemi looked out from beneath the hooded tunic. She reached up, sweeping her finger against Shintaro’s tongue. She sniffed the saliva and sighed.

“Well, you’ve gotten yourself poisoned, haven’t you?” she asked. “Here, take this. Drink a swallow now, then another at dusk, and the third in the morning. You’ll need to stay near the latrine, but you’ll feel better by midmorning tomorrow.”

Maemi looked to Subotai. “I was never here. My brother is not to know. Tell him, and I’ll stab you in your sleep.”

Shintaro sat down in the mud after drinking a swallow of the antidote. “I’m not sure whether I want to strangle her or kiss her.”

“She might enjoy both, but I don’t believe that you are the object of her affections, Shintaro.”

“That’s just as well. Yuki would chop me into stew meat in my sleep.”

Subotai looked around at the camp, at all the men that had been sent here to do a good deed, to work in the defense of the Empire. He wondered how many were here for other reasons, working at cross purposes or for their own reasons. He shrugged. There was no way to tell. It was impossible to know another person. Not fully. Some doors were open, others closed for ever.

Whatever happened, many of these people would not live to see the return journey. They would be missed. There would be holes in the world where they had once been. For better or worse, he hoped one of those lacunas in the weave of the Empire would be his.



Earlier in the day, they’d killed a demon. That had been the beginning, the first hurdle in a mind-numbing race. Subotai had thrown himself at the line, daring both men and Destroyer constructs to kill him. Long beyond the point of exhaustion, he had rotated to the front lines again and again. No one had found a way to kill him, but they would. The line was driven back and back, the endless waves of Destroyers lumbering out of the jungle dissipating their ranks. Things built, not born, the felt no fatigue, no doubt or fear. Such was not the case with the White Tigers. The men that fought beside him were heroes, all worthy of honor just for coming this far. Were they above all human frailty? No.

“Fall back! Fall back!” Toranaka yelled above the sound of the melee. Subotai held the line, defending until everyone else had given ground. The Destroyer before him swung a huge, spiked club downward. He angled his body, somehow still able to continue after he thought he would collapse. It would have been so easy for him to step into the swing and allow himself to fall, but he couldn’t give up, not when his blade might make the difference between life and death to even a single samurai.

He leaped over a dry mote that they’d managed to dig early in the day. Far behind them, in the darkened temple where the gateway to the Tigerhell threatened to open, their most powerful shugenjas were busily importuning the kami, offering their lives in trade for the sealing of the gate. It was not done. Moto Byung-Chuul and Tamori Nasuo knelt, deep in the trance of their lifecasting, the only hope to keep the unbeatable legion of Rakasha from flooding into the world. The White Tiger front was being pushed back, and it didn’t look like there’d be enough time for them to complete the ritual.

Just then, he saw Ikoma Uso, sprinting forward through the gap in the lines where the front rank Destroyers had surged. He carried a heavy chest, his eyes wide and staring, his jaws clenched. Uso reached the barrier dam, dropping the chest and unraveling a fuse. Subotai’s heart contracted as he understood what Uso was about to do. Destroyers closed in on all sides, about to smash the bard into a pulp. He knelt there, trying to get the fuse to light. When it finally did, he was flanked on all sides.

He jumped between the slow constructs and bolted, but the explosion came far too soon, blowing him upward and out toward the lake, his form covered with fire. The dam collapsed, and a mighty rush of water swept the field clear of their enemies. Destroyers and men were washed away in the flood, the whole field of battle emptied.

Subotai sat down in the dirt, unable to summon the emotion he knew should be there. Uso was gone, so many good men dead. He looked around. So many samurai wandered the ancient temple grounds, empty eyed and blank faced. They had won. It seemed that they had won, but there was no celebration, no joyous revelry. The whole company lacked the energy to do so much as shake a fist in the air.

“Come on, Subotai,” Oki said, helping him up. They trudged back to the shrine, following the few remaining shugenja. Byung Chuul and Tamori Nasou were dead, sprawled on the floor as if in sleep. The kami had taken their offer and sealed the rift. The legion of Rakasha would not destroy their world.

“I am surprised I lived,” Subotai said.

Oki grinned, fishing a bottle of Angry Bear sake from his undertunic. “I’m surprised any of us did. If anyone was going to live, though, I’d have picked the bard. He was…he had.” Oki turned away, bringing a sleeve across his eyes.

“We need to be going,” Isao chimed in.There were tears in his eyes, his mentor lay dead, but he was not broken. “This place is cursed.”

At the periphery of the new lake where the battlefield had been, shadows seemed to coalesce, demons hiding within the darkness of the jungle. Subotai was sure that he was not the only one who saw this.

Sadly, they gathered the many injured, the gaijin and eta dragging litters for the dead, and trudged up the long incline to the top of the valley. Once there, the remainder of the captured gaijin pepper was rigged to blow up the point of egress,making sure that the valley was sealed forever. Few even jumped as the explosion shook them.

At the side of the trail, Subotai saw Bayushi Sakai trying to console his sister. In her way, she had loved Uso. She buried her face in Sakai’s shoulder, pounding her small fist into his arm. Subotai looked away, not wishing to dishonor her by watching the outburst. Tears should have stained his own cheeks, but none came. His soul was a broken thing within his flesh.

It would be a long, long walk home.



They had not been back in Second City a full day when Subotai went to see Maemi. She had been silent and still almost the whole way back, but had thrown off her mourning pallor before she met the crowds of the city. He knew she still ached. She must, if she had loved Uso. She was also her father’s daughter, and Kuronobo-sama had raised them to be iron hard.

“I am surprised to see you, Subotai-san.” Maemi said, inclining her head as she gestured gracefully toward the tea that was already brewing for them.

They sat, and Maemi officiated a tea ceremony as beautifully as Subotai had ever seen it done. He forced himself to be silent, to gird himself for what he was about to say. He had gone over it a hundred times, a thousand, but it still felt like madness. When madness offers your only road, then it is madness that must act as your traveling companion, he told himself.

Subotai took a deep breath. “I come asking for a favor.”

Maemi raised one eyebrow. “Oh?”

“A favor the likes of which few have ever asked.”

She sat forward, curious. “You have been known to be bold at times. Tell me more.”

“I need you to arrange for my death.”

“Excuse me? I don’t believe that I heard you correctly.”

“I face an untenable situation ahead. One that stands to dishonor me, my family, my whole clan. The only way out for Moto Subotai is death.”

“That is what seppuku is for, Subotai. You’ve seen it done.” Maemi lifted her cup and took a tiny sip, then replaced it carefully.

“There are many things that remain undone. I am not ready to take my leave of this world, but I would have it seem so.”

“So you wish me to fake your death, then? Why do you imagine that I would have such skills?”

“Maemi-san, I think you are even more dangerous than you are beautiful. That said, I ask this of not you alone, but your father, of all Bayushi.”

She touched her lips thoughtfully. “How do you imagine this will work?”

Subotai nodded. “I go on about my life as normal, awaiting confirmation that the plan is in order. When it is…”

“If. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

“If the plan is agreed upon, you must find a time and place to adequately convince all that I have been killed. I know that my ability to plan such things will pale before those of a trained assassin. Once my death has been established, all ties severed with the Unicorn, I submit to becoming a Bayushi samurai. Up to the point of revealing the deep secrets of my clan, I will help the Bayushi in any way they deem most appropriate. In doing this, I am aware that I renounce all honor, all birthright, every friend and loved one. You allow me to escape my fate, and I am in turn created as your tool, your dutiful servant.”

Maemi rocked backward slightly. “You are either far more devious than I had ever imagined, or you have taken all leave of your sanity.”

“Both contentions may be true. What do you say?”

Maemi stood, walking to the wall where a writing desk stood. “Such things are not for me to say. This will need to be proposed to my father. It will not happen suddenly.”

Subotai rose as well, feeling drained and heartsick after saying aloud what he had been considering for weeks.

Maemi turned around, her face suddenly softer than he had seen it. “You understand that there will be no coming back from this, no possibility to ever reconcile with the Unicorn? They will kill you on sight if you’re ever discovered. To them, you would be guilty of treason.”

Subotai nodded. I know what I will lose. Trust me, I do not do this lightly, or with the hope that it can be undone.”

“And your betrothed? What of her?”

He let his chin touch his chest. “There is nothing on this earth that I would wish more than to bring her with me. For days, I deluded myself into thinking that I could. No, that would be an even greater crime than any I have yet considered. She is an honorable woman from a good family. She deserves to remain so. If I had not been so weak, so frail, I would have stayed away, spared her of one who doesn’t deserve her.” Subotai shrugged. “But I am not strong. A strong, good man would have taken a tanto to his stomach at the first hint of dishonor.”

Maemi approached. “I can see you are truly committed to this plan. I will see what my father has to say. Go on as if you would never die, but flourish in this life for a hundred years, and happily. When it happens, if it happens, it will be a surprise, a sudden tragedy that none imagined could occur. Now go, and don’t come to visit me or any of the Scorpion again. This cannot be questioned, cannot look false.

With that, Subotai took his leave. Walking down the crowded streets of Second City, he found that it was the first time he didn’t feel like a stone weighed down upon his chest. The first time in many months.



Subotai awoke from the deathly paralysis of the poison in a tiny hut, far out in the hinterlands of the Ivindi jungle. He was naked, and he had been shorn of hair from head to toe. It was strange and smooth. His chest and arms did not look like his own. He was alone in the hut. As he levered himself onto unsteady legs, an old man came in.

“How long,” he began, but the man leaped forward, pummling him with iron-hard fists, beating him to the ground, defeating his feeble guard and continuing to punch and kick him until he could feel the bones of his face fracture, the skin burst into bloody welts. Amid the rain of blows, he lost consciousness again.

He came awake again, aware that his face was wrapped in bandages, swollen. The stink of herbal compresses was clear, even though his nose was horribly askew, twice its normal size. The old man stood over him.

“I have beaten you thus because your face is known. I have to destroy that face. When the bandages come off, I will beat you again, just as severely. Do you understand?’

Subotai nodded. He couldn’t speak.

“In the meantime, we will set about trying to make you left handed. I am called Daichi. I will be your caretaker for these first few months, your friend, your torturer, your healer. They say that you wish to be a different person, and turning men into clay, to bake them anew…that is my skill. Let us begin.”

The image of Namori, her two wooden sparring axes in her hands, a devilish grin on her face and a single trail of perspiration running down her cheek, stole across his mind. She was lost to him, the memory of another man. He force the image away, but that act of will hurt far worse than the swollen wreckage of his face.


To be continued next week:

Salt Lake ComicCon – Booth and preliminary schedule

I’m going to be at SLC ComicCon coming up here pretty soon. 

People always ask where they can find me or where my booth was, but normally I just like to wander around at these things. This time I’m doing something different. I’ll be hanging out at Kevin J. Anderson’s Wordfire Press booth for most of the show. Kevin has brought in a bunch of my books to sell too, so please come and buy them, otherwise Kevin will be sad, and nobody wants that. 

Also, CorreiaTech’s entire Marketing Department (meaning Jack) is flying up from Texas, and will be bringing stuff to sell. We will have t-shirts and MHI patches and that sort of thing. 

Side note, that sort of stuff makes great Christmas presents. An autographed book says that the giver is a suave intellectual of discerning tastes. An autographed Correia novel is sort of like that, only with more explosions instead of nuance.  

I don’t know if this is the final schedule, but this is what I know I’ve got for panels so far.  

Thursday September 4, 3:00 pm 3:50 pm Building Plot: How to Implement Rising Action, the Try/ Fail Cycle and Character Arcs into Your Stories Room 151G ::
Thursday September 4, 7:00 pm 7:50 pm Writing Suspense Room 355D ::
Friday September 5, 5:00 pm 5:50 pm Credible Magic Systems: Method to Madness North Ballroom ::
Saturday September 6, 11:00 am 11:50 am How to Write Great Science Fiction and Fantasy Room 255B ::

Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

I was challenged by Super Author Jonathan Maberry to do the ice water challenge to raise money for ALS. I’d seen something about it online, but didn’t now what the deal was. Apparently you do it, and then challenge three people who have 24 hours to do it to, or they donate money to ALS research.

As those of you who read this blog know, I’m always willing to do stupid crap for charity! I didn’t do it within 24 hours (last day of summer vacation and taking the kids mini golfing was far too important) but I did it this morning. So I am happy to be donating money.

In turn I challenged International Film and Television Star Nick Searcy, Comic Book Legend Chuck Dixon, and because Super Author Jim Butcher threw a cup at me on Saturday I’m throwing a bucket at him. :)


No,, GenCon Isn’t Racist. A Fisking.

I read this article before arriving in Indianapolis, so I was able to ponder on it a bit as I observed the gleeful masses at GenCon enjoying themselves and having a fantastic time proudly flying their geek flags high. Little did those poor gamers realize that they were actually engaging in racist-cismale-patriarchal-micro-aggressions and invisible privilege. Luckily for us has once again swooped in to suck the fun out of everything. 

As usual, the original article is in italics and my comments are in bold. Before I get going, let me just skip ahead a bit and say that the author of this article says he wanted to have a conversation on race in gaming. Okay. Here you go. Be careful what you wish for.

First off, so you know my preexisting biases, here is my opinion on GenCon: In short, it is friggin’ awesome.  

Gaming’s Race Problem: GenCon and Beyond



Tomorrow I will be attending GenCon, the biggest table-top gaming convention in the United States. Held in Indianapolis, Indiana, it is four fun-filled days in celebration of the art and hobby of role-playing. There is something for everyone there: games, films, seminars, workshops, dancing, music, and parties. It’s an annual event where people from all over the world come to let their hair down and their inner geek out. As a lifelong gamer, I am excited to go to GenCon.

This is standard operating procedure with articles, start out with an intro about how something everyone enjoys is great fun before they helpfully explain how it is actually horrible, and thus you should feel bad. They even did the same thing explaining how Guardians of the Galaxy hates women, minorities, and gay people.

As an ethnic minority, I am apprehensive about going to GenCon.


For all that GenCon offers, it lacks in minority gamers.

Huh? Not particularly, but we’ll get back to that.

Last year was my first GenCon, and as I explored the convention, I saw almost no one who looked like me.

Why? Are you physically fit?

By far, the most visible minorities at GenCon were the hired convention hall facilities staff who were setting up, serving, and cleaning up garbage for the predominantly white convention-goers.

Think about that for a moment… George is upset that the employees of the Indianapolis convention center, an establishment which is located in the downtown area of a major American city is staffed by locals who are demographically different than the masses of attendees from all over America who have the disposable income to travel across the country just to engage in their hobbies.

His problem isn’t with GenCon, it is with Econ 101, geography, and social studies.  

 It was a surreal experience and it felt like I had stepped into an ugly part of a bygone era, one in which whites were waited upon by minority servants.

I’m guessing George hasn’t ever eaten at any fast food restaurants in any urban area anywhere in America. Why yes, I did notice that there were African-Americans working there, but according to the 2010 census the whole city of Indianapolis is 28% black, and if I’m getting my geography right , the neighborhoods around the convention center are up to 74% black.

Strangely enough, the employees are of a similar ethnic makeup when I’m at an event in Atlanta, NYC, or DC, yet when I walk around the SLC ComicCon in a city that is only 2.7% black and 22% Latino, the local employees cooking my burgers look different. LA and San Diego conventions have more Latinos working there. Gasp! You mean the local employees are people who live where the con is?

This bit would be like hosting a WorldCon in Bejing, flying there, and then getting upset that the employees of the convention center are Chinese, and how it hearkens back to the days when westerners had Chinese immigrants doing their laundry.

All that is besides the fact that these are just regular people with jobs, and if you treat them like “servants” the security will remove you from the building. If you somehow mistake people being employed by a convention center as the equivalent of house slaves in the antebellum south you may want to reexamine your notions of how things like jobs work.

Gaming has a race problem. For all its creativity and imagination, for all its acceptance of those who find it hard to be themselves in mainstream society, gaming has made little room for people of color.

I’m calling bullshit on this one. After reading this ridiculous article I was curious, and paid more attention than I normally do to what the people around me looked like over the last few days. Since I’m not a Social Justice Warrior I usually just judge individuals based on the content of their character, but this is for, so I was on the lookout.

What did I find? All sorts of people too busy having fun to give a shit what color the person standing next to them was.  Having traveled all over most of America, I saw a group of people that looked basically like America, only these were all united in their love of gaming and having a great time.

Wild ass guess, as if I’m back in the corporate world preparing a mandatory EEOC report blacks are statistically under-represented. Asians were probably over represented. On the Latinos it is hard to tell, because as we learned from NPR last week, it is hard to pick us out when we don’t wear sombreros for easy identification.  

Having read this on the way in, and not having paid attention last year, George made it sound lily white. It isn’t. Not even close. There were also lots of people of indeterminate ethnicity, folks like Owen who’d check the Other box, and women… Holy moly. GenCon has lots of female attendees. Maybe I’m biased because I was on the writing track for most of it and maybe aspiring writers are disproportionate, but I’d guess 70/30 male to female ratio, and considering the social stereotypes about gamers being dorky or uncool, that strikes me as pretty damned good. 

I couldn’t tell you about the gay or transgender percentages because I didn’t think it was polite to ask.  “Hey dude, yeah, I think X-Com is awesome too. Were you always a dude? Uh huh.” Checks box.

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that…

Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on.”

–Scott Woods, author and poet.

And so on… So basically what this quote says is that everything is insidious racism somehow.

Yay. So from this premise, everybody is racist all the time, even unconsciously. Fantastic.  

To those of us who actually have to function as grown-ups in society, the dictionary definition of Racism is:



a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.


a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.


hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Did I see any of that at GenCon? Nope. Zip. Zero. Everybody seemed cool.

Did I see unconscious micro-aggressions and invisible privilege?  Beats the hell out of me. I’m not a mind reading Social Justice Warrior, constantly perched like a falcon, ready to swoop in to right wrongs.

I am the first in my family to be born in the United States. The child of immigrants, I struggled between cultures.

I get that. I truly do. I grew up in a Portuguese culture in a really poor dairy farming town, where the men were manly men, problems were solved with fists and the problems that couldn’t be solved with fists were dulled with beer, reading books was a waste of time that could better be spent milking cows, and D&D was for worshipping the devil.

I was the only non-white kid in the neighborhood and one of only a half-dozen minorities in my high-school.

In my school, half of us could speak English. Half of those could read.

 I was an outsider.

Try being an outspoken republican at WorldCon sometime.

I found refuge in Dungeons & Dragons in my freshman year. I could escape who I was in those heroic characters and epic stories. I could be someone I was not. I could be strong. I could be fierce.

I could be white.

Whoop de fricking doo. I could be a half-orc.

As an awkward teen, like other awkward teens, I wanted to be accepted. But acceptance meant something different to me, as perhaps it does to other minority teens.

You ever notice that SJWs are always perpetually reminiscing about the wrongs they suffered in high school? Yes, you are a special snowflake, unique among all the snowflakes. How could the average gamer nerd attendee of GenCon possibly understand what it was like to be an AWKWARD TEENAGER?!

Acceptance meant being white.

The broad acceptance that white people enjoy is the unspoken—but clearly visible—rule of our society, reinforced through a thousand structures and symbols. It pervades everything around us, reminding everyone that white people are the center of the story, no matter what story is being told.

Or it could be that all of RPG gaming originated when Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax added a narrative to a war game, and war gaming was historically an upper middle class activity, so most of the original gamers were educated white males who came from that social strata. And at the time the only huge thing in fantasy was LoTR and the early game creators drew upon Tolkien’s works to establish worlds that were based on a northern European setting. Most of the first and second generation gamers worked with what they were familiar with, and being descended from western culture, there was a whole lot more western culture source material to take inspiration from. Since our hobby is a relatively recent development in American culture, it has taken a while for it to evolve from its granddaddy progenitor.

Naw… Can’t be that. It must be racism. Because obvious.

As a kid who desperately wanted to belong and fit in, white was the color of god.

Literally. Because he is very shiny.

Most games—the genres, the artwork, the characters, the stories—were Eurocentric and white. It was easy, perhaps even expected, to be white when playing a character. I was always Eric, or Gunthar, or Francois; I was never a person of color.

That just shows a massive lack of imagination on your part. My first childhood character was grey-green (and my strength was 18/00 because I cheated at character creation, but that was the perk of being the only kid at the table smart enough to figure out 2nd edition rules. THAC0!)

My name was never my name.

Trust me on this one. My parents didn’t call me Bahutarg. We named the dog Bahutarg. 

(And no, that isn’t the Indiana Jones reference, I literally had a Queensland Healer I named after a PC.)

And no one thought it was strange that I played people so different from myself.

The beauty of gaming is that you can be things different than yourself if you want. I suppose you could be yourself… If you’re BORING. 

It has been a long and complex road to finding myself, and comfort in my own skin and ethnic identity.

My all-time favorite character I’ve ever played for a long campaign was a samurai named Makoto. For those of you who read this blog you know I wrote up a novel worth of character journals, and I’m fairly certain I’m not Japanese.

In my current IKRPG campaign I’m playing an investigator that is a rip off of Luther, and yes, I look like Idris Elba. This week at GenCon I played Amiri the female barbarian pregen in a Pathfinder game (and killed a gelatinous cube with a shovel), and the next night I played a berserker as if I was Danny Trejo. I named him Asahino de Vagos (that’s Murder Hobo to you pasty faced gringos), I had the Lady of the Lake tattooed on my chest, and I only spoke in lines from Machete*. When we faced the boss I greeted him with Hola Motherfucker and stabbed him in the face.

How’s that for finding yourself?

* I’ll admit, when we entered the Forest of Doom, and I said “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us” that was a bit of a stretch.

The first step was simply realizing that white wasn’t the only color of value. It came in drops: a character in a movie or a book that was of my ethnicity, who I could empathize with and imagine myself as. These characters, when they appeared, gave me my own heroes, heroes that were like me.

Good for you. And the average suburban white bread kid isn’t a Halfling rouge. Play whatever makes you happy.

Gaming never afforded me those options.

Yes. It. Did.  I’m 39 and even in ye olde tymes before the internet in the land of staunch Catholic “D&D and heavy metal lead to Satanism” I got my grubby little hands on sourcebooks with all sorts of different world settings. I don’t know how old this writer is, but in my teenage years Forgotten Realms had books like Dragonwall, Parched Sea, and Feathered Dragon. (and holy shit, I can’t believe I remember that!)

Not to mention settings like Dark Sun, where you could play a Mule, but who cares what race you are there, because you’re ALL GOING TO DIE.

I had to force them, going against the pressure to conform. The pressure was so intense that the first time I played a character of my own ethnicity was actually online.

In online gaming, nobody knows who anybody is, unless they say they’re a 16 year old girl then they are either an undercover cop or Melvin the Troll. This was especially true in the days before voice chat, so unless this blogger is really young, he is the only person who knew what race he was. If the only person who knows what you are is you, and you’re still hung up about it, you’ve got a problem, and it isn’t what 50,000 ambivalent strangers in Indiana think.

 Eventually, I did become confident enough to bring non-white characters to the table, but I still sometimes faced puzzled looks, and questions about ‘whether I was trying to make a statement’ when all I wanted was to simply be me.

It is possible that George’s game group was just made up of morons, which does happen, but considering this guy is so intellectually dishonest that he has no problem ascribing racist motives to complete strangers because of the psychological hang ups he picked up as a kid, I’m guessing the puzzled looks from his game group were probably due to “oh, what the fuck are you spun up about now, George?” more than invisible privilege or whatever it is we’re supposed to be outraged about this week. 

I don’t think there are official surveys and statistics on the gaming subculture, but perhaps this study on the top 100 domestic grossing films in science-fiction and fantasy is an indication of similar trends in gaming: There are only eight protagonists of color in the top 100 science-fiction and fantasy films. Six are played by Will Smith and one is a cartoon character (Aladdin). None of these protagonists are women of color.

Yeah, already went through why that particular survey was utter crap in the link above talking about NPR. If you don’t want to click on that link, in short, as a retired auditor the stats were laughable, but I’d encourage you to read it, because poking out the obvious holes in it was pretty funny. 

Things are changing in the world of gaming, but too slowly.

That’s an extremely presumptive and broad statement. Just like the definition of racism above where everything under the sun is racist, even if you’re doing things right you’re not doing them right enough. No matter what, the perpetual outrage seekers have to find something to be outraged about. 

The designers are mostly white, especially lead designers and executives.

You know who becomes a game designer? Somebody who designs games. Nobody is stopping anybody of any ethnic makeup from designing games and selling them. The market of ideas is truly colorblind.

Executives are the ones who actually make money at it.

Equally, the key officers of most conventions are almost entirely white.

In my experience people who work at conventions are the ones who VOLUNTEER and actually SHOW UP. If you do a good job at this over a period of time and the other volunteers and committee members know you and trust you, then that’s when you become one of those “key officers”.  That actually showing up for a few years, learning stuff, and working could be seen as discriminatory to the perpetually stupid I suppose, but just think of it as gaining XP before leveling up.

Nobody is stopping anybody from volunteering. I’m sure your local concom would absolutely love volunteers regardless of what they look like.

Usually, they are well-meaning people who do not realize how their roles and decisions impact the larger gaming community and its lack of diversity.

So, voluntary positions and positions that are filled by people who choose to go into those fields don’t have enough people who chose not to go into them… Okay then. Well, obviously somebody has to do something!

GenCon is emblematic of this problem.

I still don’t think George has established what the problem is (outside of his personal guilt and hang ups) but we’ll run with it.

Of the twenty-seven Guests of Honor (in various categories), only two are people of color.

Hold on a second… I didn’t keep my program book, but I’m betting he didn’t count me in there and I was a GoH and am legally a Person of Color (holy shit, how I fucking hate that term. It is just Colored People backwards). But of course, I didn’t wear my sombrero like NPR wanted so I wasn’t “easily identifiable”.

This is really kind of silly when you think about it. He was just complaining that there weren’t enough minority attendees… Where does George think the guests come from? This isn’t a chicken and the egg thing. Most of the guests are there because they are now interesting for some reason, but most of us started out as just regular gamers, and he was just complaining that there weren’t enough regular gamers who were minorities. Adding more minority guests isn’t going to cause minority gamers to randomly spawn into the convention.

The judges of the prestigious ENnie Awards for role-playing, hosted at GenCon, have been almost exclusively white since its inception.

The question here is how do you become a judge? I’m guessing it is related to the above bit about who becomes game designers or guests.

The same is true for the nominees and winners of the Diana Jones Awards. There may be more efforts to include people of color in gaming artwork,

Efforts? Rather than condemning and shaming people, you should be giving props and kudos to some game companies for going above and beyond what you’ve asked for. I think Pathfinder is actually the biggest selling RPG out there, and Google search what their iconic characters look like:

Quit awesome-shaming us, George.

but where are the real life people of color on the grand stage of gaming?

Yeah. Where are they? Rather than knee jerk assuming it is an unconscious racist plot, let’s think about where gaming and gamers came from and extrapolate out from there.

D&D started in 1974, one year before I was born. In the grand scheme of things it hasn’t been around very long. Most of the early designers were imaginative types who read high literacy things like LoTR for fun and came from backgrounds with the disposable income and free time that enabled time consuming things like war gaming. In the 1970s and 80s, what group had the most of that stuff? Suburban whites.

The designers of now were mostly the people who grew up reading and playing the stuff from that first group. And when they grew up, gaming was an unpopular dorky activity that wasn’t’ seen as cool. You know that whole stereotype of playing in the garage. Yep. Who could get away with being “uncool” in the 80s? Suburban white kids mostly, that’s who. “Uncool” in poor, rough areas was a good way to collect an ass beating. Where I lived in the 1980s I didn’t exactly brag that I liked to roll dice so my imaginary elf could sword fight an imaginary dragon. Hell, reading books was considered sissy behavior.

But I’m sure in the projects of west Baltimore or the Brick Yard of north Birmingham back then gaming was looked upon as a perfectly acceptable pastime by your peer group… Uh huh… I’m guessing this is why most of the black and Latino gamers I know around my age are the ones who grew up in the suburbs… Or after thinking on it for a minute, they were introduced to it in that bastion of all hatey-hate-mongery that Social Justice Warriors despise so much known as the US Military. The military is lousy with gamers, and the military is real diversity, not that namby-pamby college gender studies skin-deep diversity. Gaming is a fantastic Morale Activity when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, and even if it was dorky and uncool at home, playing with your buddies when you’re otherwise stuck and bored off your ass makes a great gateway drug.  

It isn’t a race thing, it is a poverty and accessibility thing. Sadly poverty and accessibility go hand in hand with race in this country. George is taking a big, complex bundle of problems made up of economics, education, and social issues and dumping in the lap of people who have nothing to do with it.

Don’t blame the gamers. Blame LBJ for his legacy of failed Great Society social programs.

Let’s face it. Gaming is really a luxury activity. You want to increase the number of gamers in any community, increase their disposable income, increase their free time, increase their literacy rates and the numbers that read for fun… Oh, but wait… George was offended earlier by the people from inner city Indianapolis simply having jobs. Never mind.

I grew up poor. My dad can barely read, but my mom liked it, romances mostly. My dad tolerated me reading westerns, because those were “tough” and our little local library, tiny as it was, was free, but it had a lot of Louis L’amour. Then one day a friend of my mom’s gave her a box of used books, and among them was the Sword of Shannara. That was my gateway drug to fantasy. Then my uncle found a used red box sourcebook for me. Then my race/sex/socioeconomic status all became irrelevant, because I could punch monsters in the face. 

You want to get kids into this stuff, present them with the opportunity to create fun stories. No amount of bitching at the kids who did get the opportunities is going to right the social wrongs of the past. Guilt doesn’t create gamers. Fun creates gamers.

Furthermore, GenCon is disturbingly tolerant of deeply offensive material. Shoshana Kessock wrote about her experiences with Nazi cosplay and paraphernalia at Gencon shortly after returning from GenCon 2013, and I had similar encounters.

Just speed reading this one because of time, and I must be missing the “disturbingly tolerant” part… So out of 50,000 people there was a guy in a Nazi outfit, but it was out on the streets of the city, totally devoid of context so no idea what he was doing, or if he was playing the bad guy for some production, or who knows what, but fine, whatever, there’s a Nazi. And then some little fly by night place bought a booth that had some Nazi crap in it…

 Yeah, just not seeing this as an epidemic of racism to indict the other 50,000 people, and I really hate Nazis. My grandmother’s family is from Poland and her maiden name was Byreika. I don’t think I have any relatives left there. I’m all about shooting Nazis in the face. I had an incident earlier this year where I had to physically leave a place because there was a guy there with a swastika tattooed on his face and it was taking too much of my self-control not to draw my Benchmade and cut it off.

It would be impossible to imagine minority players running around GenCon in t-shirts that read ‘Kill the white man!’, yet the convention welcomes and profits from images of racial hatred.

I think Kill the White Man is the name of the blog of a Nebula award winning writer, but hey, go for it. Normal people will sneer and avoid you, just like they do the moron with the swastika tattooed on his face.

Welcomes? Bullshit. Out of the tens of thousands of people there, somebody did something you don’t like, and you have absolutely no idea what the management did about it, if they even knew. Profits? You mean out of the hundreds of booths and millions of products, somebody brought in something obnoxious and you make it sound like a chemical company profiting off the production of Zyklon B.

GenCon has weakly worded policies to prevent these horrific violations, but it has failed to enforce its own rules.

No examples of this systematic racist failure. Just throw the allegation out there and insult GenCon. Classy.

These are symbols, important symbols. If the color of all the leadership, of all the roles of power and recognition, the entire structure is white, and if this same leadership is tolerant of hate-speech, it gives a clear unspoken signal to the non-white community: You can join us here, but only if you leave your history, your people, and your emotions at the door.

Speaking of symbols, get off your cross. There is no “clear unspoken signal” to be extrapolated out of all that straw. Nobody other than your fevered imagination told you to abandon your history, your people, or your emotions, George.

You want to know why real instances of racism are often overlooked? Because the public is the villagers and you SJWs are the boy who cried wolf. When every unconscious action or event is somehow racist, after a while we tune you out. Real racists disappear into the tall grass of micro-aggressions and invisible privilege.

I’ve been told time and again by gamers, “I don’t see race” as if they were doing me a kindness. This is not enlightenment or progressiveness. It is ignorance. If you do not see race, you do not see me. You do not see my identity, my ethnicity, my history, my people. What you are telling me, when you say “I do not see race,” is that you see everything as the normal default of society: white. In the absence of race and ethnicity, it is only the majority that remains. I am erased.

I may be guilty of uttering the words “I don’t see race” at some point but perhaps I could better rephrase it to say “I don’t give a flying fuck about your race, because I care far more about your individual actions, personality, beliefs, choices, philosophy, and culture, and in this particular case we share the same culture of Gamer. And race is an artificially limiting concept primary used by statist control freaks to keep everyone in easily managed stereotype boxes. When I notice your race it is probably the same way I’d notice if somebody was tall, short, fat, thin, bald, beautiful or ugly. Now shut the fuck up about micro aggressions because you are harshing my mellow and roll the fucking dice.”

How about that? Better?

 More often than not, people are actually pretty cool, and what somebody perceives as “subconscious racist unease” is actually some well-meaning white person terrified that they might accidentally give offense and be burned at the stake by Social Justice Warriors. You want that to go away, quit screaming at these people about their white guilt and they’ll quit walking on egg shells around you.  

Is it any wonder, then, that so many people of color in the community try and submerge their own ethnic identity? They do not wish to stand out or to be recognized. In most societies it is dangerous to be an “other,” and in a subculture as white-dominated as gaming, things feel especially unwelcoming.

Luckily for you, you’re talking about the Indianapolis Convention Center in 2014, not the Selma Bridge in 1965, so it seems kind of silly that you’re worried about being The Other while complaining about a place where people are walking around in Furry animal costumes. Furries! Unwelcome, my ass.

Stand out? Hell, when I grow out my Duck Dynasty beard I can pass for the twin brother of one of the terrorists we just let out of Gitmo. I’m 6’5” and when I was young I could bench 365 and looked it. I was genuinely scary looking enough to make normal people uncomfortable when I walked into the room. Spare me your bleating about being profiled. That is simply human beings paying attention to their surroundings, which has been genetically coded into the very foundations of our grey matter.

Too many conversations on race and gaming die before they even start.

Is that because it isn’t actually a conversation, but rather you giving them a lecture? I’ll be glad to talk race issues all day with you, but for some odd reason that often seems to go something like this:

Social Justice Warrior: Let’s begin. You’re racist.

Normal Person: What? Wait. No I’m not.

SJW: Well denying it just proves it.

NP: No, really, I’ve never done anything racist at all.

SJW: Invisible privilege, subconscious micro-aggressions, cismale gendernormative fascism!

NP: What the fuck?

SJW: Racist.

Here is a prediction. By me writing this fisk, the resulting “conversation” will have a handful of people who disagree with me actually argue their stance with logic and opinions, (and I truly love those) but the vast majority of dissent will be from SJWs who skimmed until offended, and then either attack me as a racist, or dismiss me because of privilege. Why yes, I have had a few conversations about race. How can you tell?

I have seen more energy, debate, and engagement by gamers on the minutiae of rules and trivia than I have on the weighty topics of race and gaming.

No shit? People who love a hobby, when gathered for that hobby, prefer to talk about that hobby rather than your personal cause? I’ve seen the exact same thing with sci-fi/fantasy fans fleeing in droves because they’re tired of getting preached at. It is funny how somebody trying to enjoy themselves doesn’t like to be repeatedly slapped in the face and insulted. They must be racists.

Gamers will spend endless days and millions of words fighting over the pros and cons of the Wacky Wand of Welding, but when a person of color brings up issues of race and diversity in the community, too many gamers roll their eyes and say, “Oh not again. Why do they have to be so politically correct? Can’t they just have fun?!”

I can only assume you brought it up in as ham fisted a manner as you did here, and started out with “Hey guys, I got baggage and shame issues from my childhood. Why are you all racists?” so I can’t imagine why they’d have that reaction to you.  

Despite the apathy and dismissal, I know that there are people who want to work with the minority community to change these realities. I know there are allies and advocates who want to make gaming a different place, one that’s open in new ways to minorities and their communities.

And here we are at the end, after insinuating gamers are all racists, game companies are racists, and GenCon management loves Nazis, George gets to the useful part about actually getting more people from different backgrounds into our hobby. Way to go, buddy.

If you’re one of those people, here’s where you can start:

  • Listen. The Gaming as Other series is a great place to start. There are a handful of panels at Cons on the topic and I’ll be sitting on two of them at GenCon: “Why is Inclusivity Such a Scary Word?” and “Gaming As Other.” Keep engaging, listening and supporting. We notice your support and it gives us the strength to keep going.

If con panels give you the “strength to keep going” then you really need to seize control of your life, man.

  • Hire more people of color and give them agency, visibility, power, responsibility, and credit in a wide variety of meaningful and important areas in your organization.

How about companies hire the best person for the job based upon their skill, knowledge, abilities, and talents so that they can provide the best possible product to their customers?

Do not simply hire a token minority.

I’ve personally seen how this is a double edged sword of Social Justice. When they say “token minority” that often means a minority that disagrees with them or fails to fit in the proper box. They’re all about diversity as long as it is skin deep and in perfect lockstep with what they think.

Do not use people of color as a form of marketing.

Another double edged sword of Social Justice. So you’ve got an RPG. Let’s say you put some non-white looking characters on the art. You could easily be praised for this, or you could somehow anger them and be attacked for “tokenism” or “cultural appropriation”. Flip a coin. Either way, I’m sure will run an article about how you’re racist.

  • Reach out to minority groups and invite them personally to conventions. Your neighbors, your co-workers, the people at your church, all of them.

Holy crap yes. In this entire thing I finally found something I agree whole heartedly agree with!

However George left something off. After you invite them MAKE IT FUN. Sadly, SJWs can even suck the fun out of Guardians of the Galaxy, so it is up to us people who aren’t total psychopaths to invite more people, because if a regular person goes with a SJW then the whole con is going to be Diversity Panels, until the guest escapes out a window.

  • Offer and play games that are actively and intentionally more inclusive.

Inclusive sounds great, but notice that he never mentioned enjoyment, entertainment, or fun. That’s because SJWs have their sense of fun surgically removed because it might interfere from their listening carefully to make sure the GM doesn’t perform any invisible micro-aggressions. Curious, I did a Ctrl F. It turns out George only used the word Fun twice. Once in describing how GenCon currently is and another in an insulting manner, in the bit about how DARE gamers rather want to have fun rather than discuss how they’re unconsciously racist.

This is the same uphill argument I’ve been making about sci-fi/fantasy fiction. Our SJWs flip out about needing more diversity in our readers, and their solution to that is being preachy, oversensitive, humorless, and obnoxious to the majority demographic. It is hard to entertain when you’re motivated by guilt and shame. I say make it fun for everybody and they flip out and call me a racist. Meanwhile my fan base makes their diversity panels look like a Klan rally.  Go figure.

Oh, by the way. While wandering around the con in search of Social Justice and checking to see what color everybody was, the most diverse group of fans I saw the entire time was the line for my book signing. Suck it, WisCon and your racially segregated “safe zones”.

There is a lot we can do together as a community. Gamers have always prided themselves on being accepting of those outside the mainstream.

Furries, dude… Furries. 

People of color want to be accepted too.

And nobody isn’t. So quit insulting us.

You want an example of acceptance among gamers? One of the guys I traveled with told me this story. He and another of my friends were standing in line for some GenCon activity Saturday night. He asked another dude in the booth for something, and that guy flirtatiously responded “Only if I can get your phone number.”

Now this guy is straight, and he’s being hit on by a gay man, and said gay man is also a really tall, muscular black man. Did this white gamer from North Dakota flip out? Nope. He was a little surprised, there was an awkward silence, but then he said his girlfriend wouldn’t like that much.

Now, through the lens of the Social Justice Warrior this case would be super confusing. Was my friend a victim of sexual harassment because he was uncomfortable (Cosplay does not equal Consent!), or was he homophobic for turning down the advance, or was he racist? Shit. I don’t know. This stuff is super confusing. There are so many aggressions and counter aggressions that I’m sure could write a whole series of blog posts condemning everybody.

Meanwhile, back at GenCon on Planet Earth, all of these individuals had a laugh, and went on with their lives.  

GenCon is the flagship of gaming, and thus is a golden opportunity to start this process. Let’s start to have a conversation about the structures that led to the low number of minorities as Guests of Honor and ENnies judges.

Notice, no suggestions as to who. Just a vague “you need more. Make it so”. 

When my RPG didn’t make it as a finalist, it wasn’t because there weren’t enough Latino judges, it was because I’m competing against super creative products like Numenera or Deadlands. What difference does the ethnicity of the judges make?

Let’s push GenCon to make changes to those structures so that people of color have a seat at the table for those important decisions.

The world is run by those who show up, and nobody is stopping anybody from showing up. If you’ve got some suggestions for qualified judges, I’m sure GenCon would be happy to listen. But I’m going to go out on a limb and guess if George didn’t have that straw grasping example of racism it would be something else.

 For many of us, gaming is not simply a hobby, but a home. Let’s make it both inclusive and diverse.

I know when I want to be inclusive I start by insinuating that 50,000 complete strangers are racists.

I think George owes GenCon and its attendees an apology.

GenCon 2014 Report

I got back from my second GenCon last night. What a blast. Of all the many cons I go to (I’ve been to almost a dozen so far this year alone), GenCon is one of my absolute favorites, and is a con that I would attend even if I didn’t have professional reasons to be there.

First and foremost I’m a writer, so I’m going there because GenCon has a fantastic writing track for aspiring professionals. I love helping newer writers and I love meeting and hanging out with my peers. Most people think of GenCon as a gaming con, and it totally is the gaming con, but Marc Tassin does a fantastic job putting together one of the better writing tracks of any con in the business. Plus the panels tend to be dominated by people who actually write for money as opposed to college guest lecturers.  

The Dark Lord of the Sith was no match for the International Lord of Hate.

The Dark Lord of the Sith was no match for the International Lord of Hate.

Second, I’m a mini painter and gamer nerd, so I go for the LOOT. GenCon is where you go to get all the cool new stuff, RPG books that just came out, and minis, so many glorious minis. I dropped $500 before my first panel on the first day. All mini painters know that you can’t die if you still have unpainted minis, so at this point I’m functionally immortal.


Third, actual gaming. Is there a game you want to try out? Then it is there and they’re probably doing a demo. There are games going on everywhere. I stayed up way too late every night because I was playing something. The first night one of my Baen editors ran a Pathfinder game. Then I got to participate in a Gallant play test with the guys from Dungeon Crawlers Radio. I demoed the X-Com board game, and then ended up watching a few other games just to see how they work. I wandered the Warmachine Iron Arena a few times just to look at the paint jobs. Basically there are games going on all over the place, and you can get in on them really easily.

GenCon has a really fun, goofy atmosphere. You are surrounded by 50,000 nerds gleefully enjoying themselves. If DragonCon is geek Mardi-Gras then GenCon is geek World Cup.

The Thursday crowd

The Thursday crowd

My publishing house has become a GenCon sponsor, and this year we presented the first annual Baen Fantasy Award. Our three finalists were all there, and I’m happy to say that in addition to being talented story tellers, they’re also really cool in person. I got to talk to each of them a bit about their work, and how that was one damned hard contest to judge. I only read the 15 finalists, but all of them were really good.

I signed, I’m not kidding, like five or six hundred books over the last few days. Most of those were just in the halls as I bumped into people, or when I would show up early for one of my panels and I’d just walk down the line and end up talking to folks. My official book signing was excellent, but I felt stupid because I thought I had a normal sized line and didn’t realize that the line went around the corner and down the hall a bit, so there I was just casually shooting the bull and taking my time without realizing others were patiently waiting. I found out later that Baen had given a literal ton of books to the con to give away in swag bags. And I’m not misusing the word literally. Baen gave out something like 1,500 books to the attendees.  

The "smaller" Sunday crowd.

The “smaller” Sunday crowd.

I think it is a measure of a writer’s success how often they get stopped in the halls as they try to walk anywhere. It probably helps that I’m several inches taller than everybody else in the crowd and I look like James Gandolfini so I’m easy to spot, but anytime I walked anywhere I bumped into fans, many of whom didn’t even know that GenCon had a writing track because they were just there to game. So that’s a boost to the old self esteem.

Until you try to walk to lunch with Jim Butcher, and see that he gets stopped probably six or seven times for each time I was (hmm… that ratio is probably proportionate to our book sales too!). It takes half an hour for him to walk anywhere because of his legions of adoring fans, and he’s not even 6’5” so is easier to miss. Yes, I finally got to meet Butcher in person, and he is honestly one of the nicest guys you’ll meet.  If anybody in this business had an excuse to have a big head, it would be him, but he’s just plain cool.

I was on like eleven panels and enjoyed all of them. The Larry Show (i.e. How to Write Action Scenes) was packed. I’d lost my notes, but I managed to talk for an hour straight on the topic without repeating myself, which tells you how much I like to babble about writing action scenes.

The volunteers who moderated and controlled the crowds were excellent. Good work, ladies. The writing track volunteers rocked.  

You start to get con fatigue after a bit, and on Saturday I had 4 panels in a row. I met one of the other panelists, he introduced himself as Bill Willingham, and my tired brain didn’t make the connection to the Fables comic books. D’oh! Great guy. Ended up talking to him for a bit and it turns out that he’s also very familiar with the illustrious Hugo process.

My favorite panel moment was on the magic and technology in urban fantasy panel. I was over on the left, sitting next to an author named Maurice Broaddus. I’ve not read his stuff yet, but excellent pitch, putting the urban in urban fantasy, with Arthurian legend meets The Wire. The moderator asked him about how technology and magic interacted in his books. Maurice said that his characters were poor, so there wasn’t a lot of tech, cell phones at most, and besides “what are they going to do, text themselves out of trouble?”

And I was sitting there and thought out loud, “Oooooh… Tweetomancy!

The authors all groan, because this is simultaneously incredibly stupid yet imminently writable, and Jim Butcher shouts, “Damn it, Correia!” and threw a cup at me from the far end of the table. :)  So if Harry Dresden ever types #fireball to save the day, you’re welcome.

There were several authors that were there who I didn’t get to meet, but that’s the nature of a big chaotic event. Ed Greenwood and Bob Salvatore were both there, and I’ve been reading them since I was a kid, but I never crossed paths with either. Hugh Howey was there, and I’ve never read any of his books, but I wanted to shake his hand for all the fantastic work he’s done on behalf of indy authors.

There’s a game called Gallant coming out next year which is going to be Kickstartered, and when it releases I’m going to plug the hell out of it. I was in a beta test for it one night (second time I’ve tried it) and it has one of the coolest combat systems I’ve seen in a game. It is one of those looks confusing at first glance, but then you try it once and you’re like holy crap, how come nobody has done this before? Very innovative and fun, set in a Grimm’s fairytale crossed with dark King Arthur setting. Plus I played my character like I was Danny Trejo, down to the Lady of the Lake tattooed on my chest, and most of my lines were stolen from Machete.

As a mini painter, I always feel like talented until I go to GenCon and see the really good painter’s work. Many of the studio guys will be there at the booths painting and will give advice. Okay, that doesn’t sound like much to the rest of you, but to the painters that’s pretty damned cool. Same with sculptors too, if you’re one of those people who thought painting tiny little things wasn’t challenging enough.

I’m in a golden spot as a writer in that I’ve got more work than I know what to do with. Because I’m successful on my own, and I also fly my gamer flag high, I get a lot of offers from different companies to write stuff for them. Problem is, I’ve got 14 more books under contract right now to write. Yes, it is a good problem to have. You’ve got to understand, in this business having more than a handful of books under contract at a time is pretty damned rare, but on the down side I grew up on a farm, and the idea of turning down paying work is alien to my workaholic self, but on most offers I have to say no, on others I have to ponder on it to see if I can make them work, but then there are some offers that are such freaking crazy awesome ridiculous opportunities that I’ve got to squeeze them in no matter what. I can’t give specifics, but let’s just say that this was a very productive and lucrative convention for me. :)  

So you can see why when presented with the choice between spending thousands of dollars to fly to London to hang out with people who want me to die in a fire for three days, I stuck with my original plan of going to Indiana where I’d get loot, have fans, have game companies try to give me money, and actually have fun. .. . 

If you are a gamer of any kind, a writer, or you just want to hang out with 50,000 cool people you really should check out GenCon.

Hugo Aftermath Post

The Hugo awards were announced last night at LonCon. Congratulations to the winners.

As expected I came in last place for best novel. The surprising part was that I was originally 4th, but then Australian voting rules kicked in, the last place is removed and the votes are recalculated. It is a weird system, and basically what it does is settles on the least disliked candidate as winner. I thought for sure the outraged SJW contingent would make sure I was dead last from the start, but as I’ve seen over the last few weeks from reviewers, many honest reviewers were surprised that it was actually a really good book.  

As for the rest of the Sad Puppies slate, they did about what we expected. The shocking one was Toni Weisskopf was actually 1st for best editor, but after the Australian thing lost. Too bad, because Toni is truly an amazing editor, but I’ve heard that Buchannan is really talented, so good for her. Brad had a pretty solid showing. Most of the others came in last or close. Vox came in 6th out of 5. (we actually had a side bet about which one of us would do worse because he figured he was far more hated than I was, and he won that bet).

Now I’ve got to respond to some of the stuff I’ve seen online. I’m playing catch up because I got in from GenCon late last night (I was informed of the awards results in the Indy airport waiting to board) and I’m still exhausted and brain dead (It was a crazy busy con, but that’s a whole different blog post).

First off, some people are upset and saying there was fraud. I understand your disappointment, but I truly don’t think so. In all of my dealings with LonCon they’ve been totally professional and honest. On things like Toni’s, yes, that is confusing as hell, but that is how the Australian system works. One of the original goals of Sad Puppies was to test the Hugo nomination process just because there had been allegations of “lost” noms in prior, and as a retired auditor, I’m a sucker for statistical analysis. SP1 gathered data, and SP2 gave me comparisons. I saw zero indication of fraud. I’ve only been awake for an hour, so I’ve only skimmed the new numbers, but they appear to have shaken out about where expected. So don’t get mad at LonCon, they did their job (and as I can attest, getting accused of fraud without evidence is annoying as hell).

Next, there is a whole lot of gloating. As an example, here are some excerpts from John Scalzi’s twitter feed.

John Scalzi @scalzi 
I’m not going to lie. I’m going to be THRILLED to snarkread the whiny “I didn’t want it anyway” nonsense that will squirt forth tomorrow.

John Scalzi @scalzi

John Scalzi @scalzi  

John Scalzi @scalzi  

John Scalzi @scalzi

John Scalzi @scalzi

John Scalzi @scalzi

John Scalzi @scalzi

Yeah… I think Scalzi still might be a touch bitter for that time I publically beat him like a rented mule.

I do enjoy the constantly moving goal posts of the perpetually outraged, like how Sad Puppies somehow turned into a crusade for racism/sexism/homophobia in their heads. I never expected to win the Hugo. My stated goals this entire time was to get some political untouchables onto their sainted slate, so that they would demonstrate that there was serious political bias in the awards.

Just like how the Guardian crowd sourced a witch hunt to comb through everything I’ve ever written to find examples of me being racist, sexist, or homophobic (and sadly turned up nothing), I’d invite my doubters to comb through anything I’ve written on this subject to find where I ever had any goals other than exposing bias in the system. Put Sad Puppies into the search engine above to see just how serious I took this.

Seriously guys, when I was a corporate accountant I got paid a lot of money to do statistical analysis of complex financial systems, so I’m fairly good at the cipherin’ and gazintas. I predicted that the SJWs would mobilize to stop the untouchable barbarians, so I got some barbarians through the gates, and the SJWs mobilized like I said they would… And I’m supposed to be sad about that for some reason, why?

I lost last night, but I won back in April the other side had a come apart and started lobbing absurd obviously false allegations about me, when editors from major publishing houses told their followers to vote based on politics rather than quality, and when the USA Today and the Washington Post picked up the story.

I got to give a little victory speech every time I had an author thank me for doing this. As much as the rejoicing Twitter crowd isn’t going to want to hear this, I heard from a lot of authors, from all over the spectrum of politics, fame, and success. I put a target on my head so the world outside one narrow clique of fandom could see what awaited them if they strayed too far from the path of approved goodthink. I simply showed what some of them knew and many suspected. Shockingly enough there are plenty of authors who don’t like the idea of having angry mobs sabotaging their careers and slandering them if they exercise their free speech in an unapproved manner.

Here is a fun one from last night. One of my fans caught this one and put it on Twitter which I read when I got off the plane. Orbit Books posted congratulations to the winners, and how they’d published in one way or another 4 of the 5 nominees (you get one guess which one of us wasn’t) and they wrote this:

Our heartfelt congratulations to Ann and to all of the finalists – Mira Grant, Charles Stross, Larry Correia (for the BRILLIANT Warbound series, published by Baen Books) and Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Here is the cached version:

And here is the current version where that bit about Warbound being good was deleted:  I just hope that poor writer didn’t get fired for accidentally admitting I don’t suck!

I didn’t watch the award ceremony, luckily for me I was at the gate reading a John C. Wright novel at the time. The most important thing is that menace Jonathan Ross was prevented from making any fat jokes! I heard it was mostly crying and social justice, but I saw on FB that one of the most telling presenter quotes of the evening was something along the line of “Many of our winners have gone on to be very successful, well… not financially… but…”.  Yeah, that sums up a lot right there.

So if it makes the SJWs feel better to imagine that I’m all broken up and sobbing because everything happened like I publically predicted it would months ago, feel free to gloat. After all, these are the same folks who have no problem imagining my sexism, racism, homophobia, bigotry, spousal abuse, vote stuffing, and rape apology, so what are a few tears?

EDIT: Just saw this, Dave Freer gets it. 

Various people have sounded off about the Hugos – My only real comment is ‘Pyrrhus’. Look, the point being made by Larry Correia about the Hugos was the award was not for the best SF/Fantasy of the year, but for the most popular among a small left to far-left bunch of the WorldCon attendees. What he did was to make make this proposition (now established as fact) known very widely and publicly. As the reading population, logic states, is a reflection of the demographics of the total population, and maybe 10-15% of that group could count as left wing. Stretch to 25% who will put up with it… still leaves 75% who are unrepresented, for whom the Hugo Award was at best meaningless or actively signaled a book they would not want to read. Now, obviously, even if you personally are further left than Pol Pot or Kim il from-too-much-caviar or Stalin, as an author signalling that 75% do not want to read your book is not a win. By Larry making this bias obvious, by having to recruit nominations, despite being a very very popular author… The previous Hugo winners, the current nominees, the normal greying crew of voters, the WorldCon organizers and the Hugo organizers were caught in a trap. The only way to win (to establish that this was NOT true, there was no left wing bias) was to LOSE. To have a right wing, (or several of them) author (or editor) win (no matter how good the various proponents were. It was like an international road-race which somehow only Germans won… once this was publicized, even if the best runner was German – if he won, your race’s credibility was in the toilet, now and always) That would re-establish the credibility of the award as essentially picking ‘best’ rather than left wing flavor of the month lose and 75% of your sales. It was kind of a lose or lose badly equation for the left wing of sf/fantasy, lose and have a Damian in tears surrounded by exploding heads, or ‘win’ and lose badly by destroying your credibility. The best option would have been to divide and rule and get behind say Toni Weisskopf and Brad Torgersen. But that would take brains.

Geeky Hobbies: Still Cheaper than 3gun

So I’ve been rearranging my office. My wife and I took a trip down to Ikea and bought 800 pounds of shelving for $870. (IKEA: Furniture by the Pound). Luckily for me the lovely Mrs. Correia considers Ikea furniture grown up legos and put them all together in a few hours.

I was tired of my mini painting stuff cluttering up my writing desk, plus it was a pain in the ass to have to move stuff whenever I wanted to work. So I put together a painting station.

Office-painting station

Since I was moving everything around I figured I would organize my painted minis. I stuck all of my Warmachine Mercenary army in one spot, and that made me realize… Holy moly… I’ve almost collected them all. And then I got a notice that Miniature’s Market was having a 40% sale… This next part will be gibberish to most of you, but Warmachine people will get it. So as of yesterday I now have every single Mercenary, minion who will work for a mercenary contract, and ally. Achievement unlocked.

Office-total mercs

I figure I’m about 40% painted.

And since I’m taking pictures, here is the rest of my painted Warmachine. I’ve got a bit from every faction and a bunch of things that I use for IKRPG.

Office-all factions



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