Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 12:32 am
If I'm gonna have to be out of the Overwatch universe for a week - except for writing, I am taking my laptop for once - at least that was a good game to end on. (Volskaya, defence, successful 9-minute 30-second defence on the second point after they overran us quickly on the first, and tried to do it on the second, but... heh. We were having no part of that.)

I'm starting to find Widowmaker's rhythm, and wow she has one, and when I find it? Hooooo it's nice. Minion Paul was watching me play the other day when I found it, and he was all, 'That's some Spiderman shit right there.' Not my comic, but still. But that's not all it is.

It feels to me, if I'm standing still, I'm not playing her right. It is easier for me to get headshots while moving. Swing around while running, there's your target, scope and pow. Swing around while jumping, there's your target, pow. Keep going, full auto, chase, pow.

You're also much harder to hit that way, of course.

It does not feel like Tracer, though - except for the constant motion. It's slower and more flowing. Ballet vs. the Charleston indeed. But even more than Tracer, always know where everyone is. That's how you stop Reaper and McCree and Bastion ults sneaking up on you. Perhaps just as they start. Like tonight.

It's also fun watching enemy Widowmakers pick up on my tricks. I saw one start imitating me today. Her mine use changed - improved - all at once, after I killed her with a mine from quite far away. I knew where she'd go, and left her a present, and she went there. (See also: knowing the maps, knowing where people go.) Did that sting? :D

I started getting preferentially-targeted by the enemy team. Tracer used her bombs on me twice, and then wasn't able to get to me anymore. After an ult I didn't stop, Mercy and I were the only survivors, and Mercy kept me alive while I killed the half of the other team still on the point, and they couldn't hit me - and should've just stomped me - because they just couldn't target me well enough to do the damage. And I whittled all three of 'em down and was last player standing. Point held. Victory.

(Also, carded. Gold in objective kills and time, silver in total kills, silver in total damage. Widowmakers have a reputation for avoiding the point. I do not share that inclination. Come at me, bro. I will destroy you, and it will be magnificent.)
Monday, July 24th, 2017 02:32 pm
Guess who unlocked the Smooth as Silk achievement today?

(It mostly gets you the "Cute" spray for Widowmaker. "Cute" and "Pixel" are both achievements, every character has their own. I've now won both for Widowmaker. You get this one for a headshot through the sight while airborne.)

Good night, Jack Morrison. [POW]
Monday, July 24th, 2017 10:34 am

I built a Windows 98 machine out of our old nameserver, door; it was a P166 from 1996 and NO YES REALLY IT WAS STILL ON THE NET UNTIL TWO WEEKS AGO because we were just seeing how long it would hold on.

Anyway, it abruptly retired itself from service, and I had a new machine already built because I also had plans to restructure the network here at the Lair and it required new hardware, but that left me with a reasonably functional P166, and I like the ability to read archaic media and it had a drive controller that could talk to 5.25″ floppies. So.

(It’ll also run DOS games. But I digress, as I do.)

The power supply is a weird short-lived format between AT and ATX called ATB, and these are thin on the ground, so as I was swapping out fans because these old machines sounded like goddamn jet engines how did anyone put up with this ever oh right because we didn’t know any better, I noticed a couple of caps on the power supply had failed, and that I could improve the whole venting situation with a much more open power supply case. So I made one, out of bronze fabric and aluminium, and it is, as the title says, the single most original Star Trek thing I have ever built. To wit:


canna take much more of thi SHUT UP SCOTTY AND MAKE THE ENGINES GO

And now I’m leaving for Montréal and Festival Mémoire et Racines, and if I see you there – yay!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

Monday, July 24th, 2017 09:23 am
[2077]

"Gabe!" Lena shouted, running down the stairs towards the former Blackwatch head. "Hi!"

"Lena!" the tall Angelino replied, beaming. "Wow, you look good in black and violet." He picked the younger woman up like a doll, and she giggled. "I still can't believe you pulled this off," he said.

Venom laughed. "Hold on a mo, I'm on Lunar soil." She pressed a set of buttons on her grapple holster, and her clothes went to tangerine, orange, and while. "There we go."

Gabriel Reyes looked over the Overwatch version of Lena Oxton, and considered. "I like the violet better."

"So do I, luv, but - appearances, you know. Does this mean you're in?"

"An Overwatch where I don't have to run black ops? Hell yeah, girl, I'm in! I've been watching you operate, you need someone who can make some plans that work in the field."

"Ah, c'mon mate, we're doin' all right."

"Sometimes, yeah, when you're there calling the shots yourself," he agreed. "But then you look like badly-disguised Talon, and I don't think either of you need that."

"True 'nuff," Tracer smiled. "So you're here to run strategy for Winston?"

"I'm right over here, you know," said the Lunar Ambassador. "It took some talking, but yes, he's in."

"Hi, Winston!" Lena teleported over and gave the gorilla an enthusiastic noogie.

"Hey! Cut it out!" But he still laughed. "You're in a good mood - I take it you have something for me?"

"Here y'go!" She popped a small memory card out of one of her pockets. "Everything we'd hoped for and more."

"Oh, that's great news!" He knew not to ask how she'd got it. "You'll want to see this immediately, Gabe."

"Excellent. And yeah, if that didn't make it obvious, I'm in," said the former Blackwatch head, picking up the card, all smiles... until he wasn't. "But Lena, there are some things you need to know. Amélie too, for that matter." To himself, he thought, Not that I could tell you and not be telling her, even if I wanted to...

Lena looked down at her scientifically-minded friend. "What's this about, then?"

"It's... Jack Morrison," said the ambassador.

"...oh," said the assassin. "Him." She frowned, an unpleasant coldness twisting in her stomach.

"Yeah," said Gabriel, confirming. "Him."

Lena took a long, deep breath. "Right. Let's get the staff together."

[A Lunar embassy conference room, half an hour later]

"I thought Jack was dead," Lena said, anger, nervousness, and some small dismay in her voice. "I thought he died when the UN moved on him, in Geneva."

Gabriel Reyes nodded. "We all thought he was dead. Everyone. When the UN stand-down order came through, I ordered my chain of command to obey it immediately. We knew it was coming, and frankly, we deserved it. I've been owning up to that since it happened."

"Before," Angela noted, charitably.

Reyes looked down at the table in the direction of the doctor for a moment, left whatever he was thinking unsaid, and continued. "Jack, of course, decided he knew better, and I guess we all know how that went down..." He shook his head. "What the hell that man thought he could get by launching a counter-assault, I'll never know."

"He was bound and determined to keep the mission going, no matter what," said Winston. "Maybe it was the statue, maybe it went to his head."

"Yeah, well, it had all come apart by then, he should've figured that out," Gabriel replied. "Public opinion was not on our side."

Mei-Ling Zhou - present in virtual form, at least, from her satellite research laboratory in the north of China - shook her head, looking down. "I can't believe he changed so much. He used to be so nice!"

"And he really just outright refused the stand-down order?" asked Tracer. "I'd read that, but..." She kept tapping the buttons on her grapple, fidgeting. Winston eyed the device nervously, a little worried she might accidentally launch the hook across the room, but kept it to himself.

"Yeah," said the Californian, "flat out said no."

"That's mad."

"I agree. I evaced my team as soon as I saw where the show was going, and we mostly got out fine. Some of Jack's side of the organisation got out too, but... a lot stayed with him, for whatever reasons." He shook his head. "He always had a knack for putting together a loyal team."

"Yeah," said Tracer, flatly. "Loyal. One direction, anyway."

"Regardless," Rayes carried on, "the UN response was heavy, and his counter was heavier still, but utterly futile. Nobody could've survived the implosion - or so we thought. I sure as hell wouldn't have."

"It's not just a solid pile of rubble, though," Oxton insisted. "There's big sections still intact, deep enough in. Amélie got pretty far down."

Angela contemplated those words. "That was when she retrieved Winston's accelerator, yes? The medical unit near Winston's laboratory... could it have been reached?"

"No idea, luv. She's never mentioned it." Tracer said, nervously.

"Find out, if you could."

"What're you thinking, Angela?" asked Winston.

The researcher and field doctor shook her head. "We had a full compliment of medical supplies there - including ample stocks of regen gel and nanomachines. More than enough for a badly injured man to repair himself, if he knew how."

Mei-Ling looked over to Angela, her expression uncharacteristically severe. "The research unit versions? Do you think maybe he might've..."

"Regardless of how," Rayes interrupted firmly, "there is evidence he's active again. Not openly, but there have been rumours for a couple of years - mostly in Mexico - of a white-haired American soldier vigilante. And I received this yesterday." He threw an image up in the centre of the table - "It's not the best photo in the world, but I'm pretty sure this is him."

The shot, taken in an alley in Dorado three weeks earlier, was from the back, at night, in fog, a bit blurry, and showed a leather-jacketed man, white-haired, with the clips of what could - with a lot of imagination - be a tactical visor showing over the ears. Really, it could've been anyone of that general build - but the way the figure carried himself, that was familiar, and the gun slung over his back - that was unique.

Mei-Ling gasped at the image. «Halla die Walfee,» exclaimed Angela. "I think you may be correct."

"I'm sure you are," Lena said, voice low and quiet. "That's him."

"And if it is," the Angelino said, "given what went down, I'm pretty sure he won't be happy there's an Overwatch not under his command."

"I have to go," Venom said, suddenly again in black and violet. She hit more buttons on her grapple, and talked into her collar. "Widowmaker, message, urgent: Venom heading back immediately. Will brief en route."

"Lena," said Winston, alarmed, "What are you..."

"I owe him," said the Talon assassin, as she strode to the door, old anger drawn across her face. "If he's still alive, I've got a job to do."

"Lena, don't..." called the scientist, but it was too late, she younger woman was already down the corridor. "Athena, raise Amélie, if you can. Route it to my office, I'll be there in a minute. We've got to try to talk Lena down."

"Wow - she didn't used to get that mad that fast," Gabriel said, confused. "Is this about the Slipstream failure? She still torn up about that?"

"Oh yes," said Angela. "She is. Amongst other things."

"For good reasons," Mei said quietly.

"That wasn't even Jack's fault," protested the former Blackwatch head, "Not at all."

"No, it wasn't," agreed Winston. "But not letting me try to save her - that was."

Tags:
Saturday, July 22nd, 2017 12:06 pm
Hooo, practice range time makes a huge difference learning Widowmaker play.

I spent a bunch of time on the practice range yesterday and the day before and the impact has been immediate. I had a couple of twitch headshots at lunchtime overwatch that were just nuts. Intent was there, sure, but the mechanics? Pure reflex. Twitch, headshot. Good night, Hanzo. Twitch, headshot. Good night, McCree. Go to sleep.

Plus a few more deliberately aimed headshots. I had some good numbers today. Their McCree was the only one who could get anywhere near me. But more, I'm picking up the always-be-moving part. Not perfectly, of course. But I was thinking of her as best played more still than she should be, and that's wrong. Move. Always.

Also won another couple of duels with enemy Widowmakers, and one - ugh, she was terrible. I'll have this reaction when I'm playing enemy Tracer, when they're terrible - "oh, sister, you shame us all" - and I had that today, as Widow, about an enemy Widow. And I was right. I was a factor. She wasn't. We won, and they barely even ever slowed us down.

Also also, double-kill with a venom mine. That was both a first, and hilarious. "Here, have some deadly neurotoxin I got from my best friend online. Ooh, did that sting? Thanks, I will tell her."

I really do kind of think Widowmaker and GlaDOS would be evil online friends. You know, what with the common interests in deadly neurotoxin and killing. I should learn how to say "the cake is a lie" in French. Google translate says "le gateau est un mensonge." I suspect if it's gonna get anything right, it's that.

Someone should draw them getting together at a café for cake and neurotoxin. Tell me that wouldn't be great. :D

Huh, I guess it's official. I need a Widowmaker icon.
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 01:33 pm
prelude
[2076, autumn]

"Why'd you do it, Gabe?"

"Do what?"

"Send those killers to her house."

"Lena, I don't know what you're talking about. Fill me in."

"Why'd you send those idiots after Gérard Lacroix?"

"I didn't! Hell, they weren't even field agents. It never should have happened. Not the way it did, anyway."

"Amélie doesn't know that."

"Amélie should know that, she has the logs. She just doesn't want to."

"Wot? Why not?"

"As long she doesn't know that, there's someone else alive to blame."

"That's shite, Gabriel."

"Is it?"

"It is, and you know it. She blames herself. Always has."

"'Course she does, girl. But she also blames me. I was head of Blackwatch, so she's kinda got a point."

The younger assassin just grunted, a "huh" sort of sound.

"Trust me here, having someone else to blame? It helps."

Venom thought about that, for a moment, sizing up Gabriel Reyes through anger-narrowed eyes.

"I'm not so sure it does."

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 01:34 am

I've been maintaining an offline official timeline of canon for On Overcoming the Fear of Spiders and all the in-universe stories written seperately and collected in intersections in the web of time, and now that I'm making some headway on Old Soldiers, I thought I'd format and post the thing.

It's pretty big. It includes a fair number of things that happened in Fear of Spiders that did not make it into the manuscript or any following story, and also contains a couple of first-chapter background-info spoilers for the new story. So if you're allergic to that sort of thing, don't read it. If you're not, you might find some new background you might enjoy.

Official timeline of the Fear of Spiders Overwatch AU
[solarbird at Archive of Our Own]
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 09:02 am
The other night, around 11PM, G and I were settling into bed when we began hearing an intermittent disturbance outside. The property next to us is a derelict, abandoned warehouse that tends to attract misbehavior from the local youths and seasonal squatters, so G bellowed out the window "who's out there?!" as we believed someone might be trying to use the dual-gated side passage between our house and the warehouse to gain entry to one or other properties, possibly were trying to break into our car (parked in front of the passage), or perhaps that someone had fallen off the roof--where we've seen squatters try to access the building before. It went silent for a while, and then the noise of attempts to climb in the side passage began again.

Eventually, we called 999 about a potential intruder and the police arrived to investigate.

We explained to the police officers what we'd been hearing and about the side passage. As we were explaining, the thrashing and noise started again. The police officer with us motioned us away, readied his taser and threw the gate open.

And then started laughing. And closed the gate again quickly.



In addition to the squatters, we also have at least three neighborhood foxes. That's a picture of a fox climbing the wall in between our house and the warehouse (taken level with the second storey balcony), and disappearing over the top of the side passage. We think they also go to the warehouse roof because the only other option is our enclosed patio and we know they're not going there. (We're not sure why they go to the roof, but hey.) We suspect the trapped fox had fallen off the wall into the side passage. Anyway, everyone relaxed and we wedged the forecourt gate open for a while so the fox could get free.

We apologized for wasting the police officers' time, and they pointed out that there's no visibility into the side passage and we had couldn't have known what manner of desperate, living creature was inside. But I think we were all glad in the end that it wasn't a person, and we were able to free the fox.
Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 10:33 pm
I have been thinking about games lately, mainly because I have an idea for a board game and I'm reading up on the design process.

Specifically, I've been thinking about why I enjoy Ticket to Ride so much. Even when I don't win, it doesn't matter; I enjoy the process of the game play itself. I find it enormously satisfying and winning the overall game doesn't really matter to me when I play. I've realized that it's because the game has win conditions within win conditions.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, the idea is that you are building railroads piece by piece across the country on specific routes determined by the cards that you draw. In order for each route to count, you have to complete it, laying down all the specified segments of the route. There are reward points for finishing each train route. There are reward points for the person who builds the longest route--which often means connecting several routes that you build over the course of the game. And then there are reward points for the segments of the routes that you build. The person with the highest point count overall wins. As I said above, win conditions within win conditions.

When I meet any of these conditions I am satisfied. Sometimes players compete for hubs where several routes meet. Sometimes laying down my route means blocking you from completing yours. There are cut-throat players who do this deliberately. Often I don't, but sometimes? Yeah, watch out! My personal win conditions tend to be completing routes I've drawn and completing the longest route. If I happen to win the game with all of the conditions listed in the paragraph above, that's awesome, too. But no matter who wins the overall game, if I've completed my own bits, I generally have fun and enjoy myself. I've started to think of this as the "fun condition."

If the point of a game is to have fun, then Ticket to Ride meets my fun condition. I need to bear this in mind as I work my way through this game idea. And I need to think about other games I enjoy and why I enjoy them.

NOTE: To my friends who have been designing games for decades, yes, yes, I know: this is probably 101-level stuff. But as a friend said to me tonight, everyone finds their own road.
Tags:
Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 01:21 pm
Stuff is happening. Like:

- I got bit by something down on our land a week and a half ago. Two urgent care visits, two antibiotic prescriptions, and a shot in my hip later, things are finally on the way toward healing. No more shorts in tall brush for me. I had a follow-up with my PCP today; he was frustrated that there's no way to know what originally got me. It could even have been dermatitis from a plant (there are four on our land that I know of that could have caused it, and two that I haven't seen but whose presence can't be ruled out) though he thinks not. My guess is still ticks. They're way more common than spiders and are really bad this year. I have another few days of antibiotics and a bandage on my leg that people keep asking about.

- Another story came out, in See the Elephant magazine. It's the first story I workshopped at Stonecoast so I'm pretty happy about this one. My publications page is starting to grow.

- I built a picnic table, using a pattern from Popular Mechanics and instructional tips from Erik. I can use power tools. This is good. We have also built an outhouse; with that and the well, basic camping infrastructure has been established.

- I also took a basic home repair class through the local community college. There's only so much one can learn in a single day, but it's also true that a lot of basic repair work isn't terribly complicated. Erik says I get to do the next power outlet replacement. I'm kind of looking forward to it.

- Work continues to be political. After a great deal of back and forth, including a consulting architect who got as far as drafting three plans for a library renovation before being told that the project wouldn't be funded, we're getting a student success center in the library. It's being housed in the currently vacant offices where the associate provost and his assistant used to be, entails renovation of the academic assistance center, and they're taking over our two most-used group study spaces on the first floor as well.

The project isn't a bad idea. Our retention rate is below 80%, which is one reason for our ongoing budget woes (at least the library budget wasn't cut again--as far as we know). But it was more or less dictated from the provost's office, the person in charge of the project has spent maybe an hour in the building and has shown some sign of not really knowing what they're doing (18-foot conference tables??), and the provost herself is on medical leave for the rest of the summer. My boss is supposed to report to her and they didn't have a good working relationship before this.

- I recently finished reading Braiding Sweetgrass. It's a fairly astounding book, much about it telling me that I'm on the right track with some of the decisions I'm making. There's even a chapter about a guy who bought up a lot of recently clearcut timberland and started restoring it, viewing it as helping to fulfill his responsibility to the planet. I'm looking forward to being able to spend more time on the land; right now, dayjob and writing are taking up a lot of that time.

- Last week SPU left a door hanger on the front door indicating that they would be doing construction today and no water would be available from 9 until 5. Of course that's the day I'm working at home because my doctor's appointment was right in the middle of the day. I filled a bunch of water bottles and broke out a bottle of hand sanitizer. I'll still be glad when the water is available again.

- The cat Erik and I adopted last fall, Little Man, continues to be adorable and charming. He's even charmed Erik. It helps that his personality is what many would describe as dog-like.

- I am worried for some very dear friends, whose rough times have lasted for years. I won't delve into the details here. In any case their story is becoming all too common, and is why I am taking certain measures that I am fortunate and privileged to be able to do.

- I'll be a featured reader at Two Hour Transport on July 26th. I'm excited.
Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 02:51 pm

First, a…well, a disclaimer, if you will.  Some of you may be aware that Alice (my eight-year-old Maine Coon) is not doing very well.  I am thus more than a bit of a mess, and while I will still be attending the San Diego International Comic Convention (SDCC) this year, I may miss any specific program item with little notice.  You have my sincere apologies for this fact.  I wish things were different.


Onward.


Wednesday.


I will be roving the floor on Preview Night, and may have prizes for those who find me early!


Thursday.


Sixty Seconds with SFF Authors, 1:30pm, Horton Grand Theater.  Come see Paul Cornell try desperately to herd cats through this comic game of never shutting up.  Signing to follow.


Friday.


Signing, California Browncoats, 2pm.


Signing, Penguin Random House booth, 5pm.  (Also swing by the booth for totally awesome and unique Toby Daye collectable boxes.  They’re for sale, and they’re awesome.)


Saturday.


Signing, Penguin Random House booth, 2pm.


Sunday.


How to Create Your Own Novel, 10:30am, Room 8.  I get to sit on a panel with David Gerrold.  Let’s see if I vibrate myself to death.  Signing to follow.


Fantasy Novels, 12:30pm, Room 8.  I live here today.  Signing to follow.


The Alien-Predator Expanded Universe, Room 5AB.  …and now I’m on a panel with Alan Dean Foster, I can die happy.  Signing to follow.  Then sleep.  Glorious sleep.


See you in San Diego!

Monday, July 17th, 2017 02:58 pm
At lunchtime Overwatch, I was in quickplay, and someone popped into comms, which is unusual for quickplay games. So I identified as Pharah, and said something like 'team chat in quickplay? Okay, that's unusual, cool' and he was all "hey, you're close to going silver, how's it feel?" and I answered in all seriousness, "Honestly, I didn't even know what that meant until somebody else mentioned it about ten levels ago," at which point he said "oh, well, okay, you're just retarded."

So I vocalised into the mic, "oooookay... social... team chat... disconnect" as I did exactly that.

I proceeded to four-gold, and captured the first point nearly solo while everyone else but Sombra was trapped at spawn. (And, credit where it's due, Sombra definitely helped with the capture, mostly on the second third.) Yes, 1 to 2 on 4-6, depending upon how many could rush back at any given time to defend, and winning.

I can do a lot even for even a spectacularly shitty team when I'm on a roll - and I was.

Sadly, I couldn't capture the second point the same way, because the enemy were on to my tricks at that point, but, well, whatever. Four golds. I worked hard to make sure I had 'em all.

I then switched to Widowmaker on the flip side (defence) and popped in to team chat quietly for a second for a reaction, just in time to hear the same jackass bitching about everything, particularly the Widowmaker. And I popped back out.

We proceeded to lose, but I golded in objective kills and I think objective time but I'm not sure. (Might just have silvered.) As we're seeing all that, I pop back into team chat, and they're going at each other, just being salty as fuck.

So I hit my mic and say, "And this is why you don't call your four-gold 'retarded' - she might decide to play Widowmaker next round. Bye!" and dropped.

I realise this kind of snippery is not necessarily the best possible response to this kind of jackass? But I'm thinking, y'know, maybe he might be a little bit hesitant to let that shit fly right out the gate next time. Maybe. Because you really, really don't know who you might be playing with.

(For the record: I actually am trying to learn Widowmaker, that's why I'm playing her in quickplay a lot at the moment. Best kill streak with her so far is I think 12, max kills with her is 23, I've earned the Pixel spray but not the Cute. So if the team I'm with is any good, I'm not a joke, I'm a legitimate contributor, I often gold in objective kills with her, and I always play the best I can at any time. I always play to win. Even here.)
Monday, July 17th, 2017 12:58 pm
Sometimes I don't know whether I'm coming or going. The fact that gmail occasionally seems wonky, delivering email a day late, doesn't help. I don't know what to think sometimes. On the other hand, I recently had this exchange with my therapist:

Me: I need to stop thinking and just start doing.
Therapist: You need to stop doing and just start being.

Oh, right. It's all about being. This mindfulness stuff is hard.

"Stand in the place where you live
Now face north
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven't before . . . "
Monday, July 17th, 2017 07:43 am

This is not part of the on overcoming the fear of spiders continuity; Lena Oxton is Tracer, not Venom. It is a standalone story, in an AU which is still pretty much canon-compliant as of July 2017. It would be set in late 2077 or early 2078, in universe. [AO3 link]


"It is not easy to explain," said the Widowmaker, looking frustrated, fixated on her game screen and sitting next to Hana Song, who of course had her own pro rig and client.

Widowmaker had said that, not Amélie, and it was very important not to get that wrong. The Widowmaker didn't like it, and if Amélie had an opinion - or was in there at all - she never spoke up.

The blue assassin was playing a shooter game, but not as a sniper - as a melee character, high DPS, fast - not entirely unlike Tracer. She always played the same character. Tracer wasn't sure what that meant; Angela told her not to read too much into it, but she knew that Lena tended to think of it as a good sign anyway. It's still shooting people, but it's shooting people in a different way, and Lena couldn't help but feel a little flattered that if the spider was emulating anyone, it was her.

"I exist," the spider continued, as her character on screen ran across open field between buildings towards some sort of objective. "I am here. I exist by right of existence. I do not wish not to exist." Realising that - she knew, herself - had been a big step for her, one she had managed on her own, one taken before she escaped from her controllers with a surprisingly complete list of Talon embedded agents to exchange for her sanctuary.

"And Talon didn't agree with that, did they." Tracer replied.

"No. I was supposed to be an asset, not a person."

"And Angela doesn't entirely either, does she." It was a statement, not a question.

Widowmaker glanced briefly at Tracer, just with her eyes, just a little surprised, before her focus snapped back to the game. "No. She still thinks I am some folded-up version of her former friend. I am not."

The spider saw that Tracer nodded her agreement. Of all the people here, she thought, only Tracer seems to understand even this much. Perhaps it was the younger woman's experience as a ghost, after the Slipstream accident. Perhaps it was being an Omnic War orphan. Perhaps it was just her nature. The spider didn't know.

Tracer watched the two women game, but really watched Widowmaker think. She's close to something, I can feel it, she thought to herself.

"Is this why you won't let Angela undo any of Talon's work?" Widowmaker had adamantly refused any attempt to reverse any of the physical changes Talon had made, though she tolerated anything she could decide qualified as an "improvement." That included giving her control over her own emotional dampers. Handling that was still a learning process.

"Yes," replied the blue assassin. "I am me. I am not that other woman, even if she was the source for some of my parts. I cannot be her. I do not want to be her."

"I get that, luv," said the Londoner. That part didn't matter to Lena. It was easier, for her, if Amélie was dead, if she was gone, and buried, and this was Widowmaker, another person entirely, just happened to look a lot alike. "Y'know, personally, I like the blue," she said. Makes it easier, she thought.

"You may be the only one, myself aside," replied the spider.

"Hey, n00b," Hana said, "Cover your flank or you're gonna get p0wned."

"Thank you," Widowmaker replied, sweeping left, hitting far more than she missed. D-pad instead of mouse or rifle, she was built for aim.

"Nice shot! For a game controller. You should level up to a real interface."

"Perhaps never," said the assassin.

"Okay," replied the gamer, "don't listen to the professional."

"...point taken," replied the blue woman, as the round ended, with scores D.va 100, bad guys 12, Widowmaker 10.

"I'm outta D.ritos. Want anything?"

"No thank you."

"Just ate, luv, but thanks."

"Be right back!" she said, as she jumped backwards over her chair and headed out to the hallway.

Widowmaker leaned against the rec room's couch, watching the game's idle screen. "I like the character I am playing, more than the game itself. I think that is not too unusual, no?"

"Sure!" Lena answered, encouragingly. "That's why there are fan sites and hangouts and stuff. What do you like about her?"

"This character I play," Widowmaker gestured to the screen, "within the confines of the game, she is a person, like me - no, that is wrong, she is not like me, except in that she was... constructed. It is part of her story. Built, for a purpose. As I was, by Talon."

Built, thought Tracer. "Like Omnics, you mean?"

Widowmaker shook her head, no. "I have thought about it, but I think not. Neither of us are robotic, I do not think it is the same, and I cannot really ask our occasionally resident Shambali master to be sure..."

"Yeaaaaaaaaah," agreed the younger woman. "Probably never."

"I have been told that he says he does not carry a grudge, but I can tell that he carries a grudge, and I do not even blame him." She paused for a moment. "I am far more surprised that you talk to me than that he does not."

Lena bit her upper lip for a moment. "T'be honest, I am too."

Widowmaker hummed a little, a note that signalled her acknowledgment of the situation. "Why do you?"

Lena tilted her head back and forth a little. "...I dunno. That night in King's Row was the second worst of my life. I felt so angry and so betrayed, and I'd've done anything to undo it, but I couldn't. And you couldn't even tell me why."

"I did not know," she replied. "Or care. The question, it struck me as so unimportant, so silly. It was the first time I'd ever laughed. It may have been my first real, unprogrammed... thought."

"I didn't know that," said the Overwatch agent. Her first thought was... laughter? Wow. "But it hurt, then. Still does, a little. Less, now that I know you really aren't Amélie."

"My emotional range is still limited, but... I think I am sad about that."

"Maybe that's why, then. Maybe I can tell. Maybe that's why... somehow, here I am."

The eyes of the woman who had been made from Amélie Lacroix narrowed in thought at those words.

"Winston was built, too, genetically," said Tracer, changing back the subject and realising as she said it that it didn't fit. "But that's really not the same either, innit? He still grew up. You didn't. I think I get it, you just... came online, all at once, didn't you? 'Here I am, ready to kill.'"

The spider's gold eyes flashed to Tracer, but not in anger, as was so usually the case with that look. "Yes," she said, grabbing Tracer's hands. "Yes. I had a purpose, already. And then I had more purpose, that fit with it. No doubts, no hesitation, just purpose. Do you actually understand?"

Lena's heartbeat jumped as the spider grasped her hands, but she didn't let herself flinch, at least not more than with surprise. She touched me, she thought, intentionally. Woah! "I," she gathered her thoughts, "I think I do. I mean, not emotionally, right? I grew up too, and looked for somethin' to do with my life. But... in my head, I kinda get it. A little. You're not there, and then you are, all at once. And you already know why. That's, that's, that's, a kind of perfect, innit? It's..." she groped for the right words, "...flawless."

"Yes," she said, squeezing Lena's hands tightly. "For a reason, and with a purpose, and she," she gestured to her head to the screen, "is like that, and also biological, also for a reason, also for a purpose."

Lena put the rest of the pieces together. "...and nobody else in the whole world is."

The Widowmaker pulled Tracer against her, suddenly, roughly, and put her head on the Overwatch agent's shoulder. Lena could hear the spider breathing and found herself dazed, wrapping her arms around the assassin before she even knew what she was doing, asking only as she did it, softly, "...is this okay? Do you want a hug? 'Cause I can stop..."

"...no. I think I do."

She is so lonely, thought the former test pilot. And she don't even know it. Maybe that's why I don't mind this. She held the cool blue woman carefully in her arms. "Did you lose it, somehow? Your purpose?"

The spider did not say anything.

"Did you stop believing in it? Was that it?"

"It was... I could not stop... thinking. I was perfect, and whole, and content, and I brought exquisite deaths, and then I... and then I laughed, and I was not perfect, and not whole, and not content, and I could not fix it."

"And you miss that purity of purpose."

"So much."

"Would you go back to it?"

"I cannot."

Tracer nodded, and hugged a little tighter, as she said, "Because it's part of being a person. That's why you're here, innit?"

Widowmaker lifted her head from Lena's shoulder, looked her in the eyes, and whispered, "You do know."

Lena Oxton met the spider's gaze, and was not afraid. "This much, yeh. I do."

The spider laughed, just a little. Another thought, all her own. "May I hug you again, later?"

Tracer surprised herself by nodding agreement at once. What am I doing? She... she's who she is. She's built to kill. I can't ignore that. "'Course you can."

"Thank you," she said, and went ahead and did it right then, as well.

I can't ignore what she is, but maybe, Tracer thought, as Hana burst back into the room with grotesque amounts of junk food, ...maybe I can learn to live with it.

Monday, July 17th, 2017 06:56 am
1) I had a perfectly marvelous 55th birthday, and I'm hoping that as I have begun, so shall I continue.

2) I have acquired new tap shoes that fit me better and I'm delighted with them. I took my first class in them yesterday. My feet felt better, I didn't get unreasonably tired, and I mastered the steps we were doing a little quicker, I think, for not having to compensate for shoes that were too long. I'm actually looking forward to practicing!

3) I am excited about the new Doctor. It was time for a woman and I find myself ready to reengage with the series. I liked Matt Smith well enough but found the storytelling in his seasons weirdly disjointed. I liked Peter Capaldi, but after disengaging with Matt Smith's Doctor, I found myself unable to reengage. I am curious and excited about Jodie Whittaker as 13. I'm in and look forward to her premiere. When, now, is the regeneration episode?

4) Farewell to actor Martin Landau and director/auteur George Romero. Landau looms largest in my experience as Commander Koenig of Moon Base Alpha in Space: 1999 and, of course, as Bela Lugosi in the film "Ed Wood." I know, I know, Mission: Impossible--but I was too young to be captured by it at the time. As for Romero, he changed the world with "Night of the Living Dead." He certainly changed the horror genre, giving us a new kind of monster that has survived generations and multiple iterations. Respect to both of these gentlemen.

5) I need to devote a couple of evenings to finishing laying down the ideas for the board game I've been thinking about. This idea will not let go.
Saturday, July 15th, 2017 09:54 am
Anybody have an old Win98 USB mass storage device driver? I've set up an real Win98 box on the machine that used to be door.murkworks.net - it's a P166 from 1996 and accordingly hilarious. I have USB running on it, but not drivers for USB disk drives, and I want that working, in no small part because the non-lulz non-vintage-games part of this project is having a (the?) last working 5.25" floppy drive for PC-DOS/MS-DOS diskettes.

(I like having the ability to read all antique media. Need anything off a Commodore PET floppy? In theory, I can do that for you, as long as it's double-density or less, and yes, they had a 1mb PET floppy at one point.)

The machine is named Blue, drive D is named Purple, and it's registered to Amélie Lacroix and the password is oneshotonekill because of course it had to be. Also, the desktop starts out with weapons and such but turns into widowtracer art because we all know what's really going on here.

It's also much quieter now, particularly for a machine from 1996, as I've replaced all the fans and improved the venting. Two of the fans were outright dead - the CPU and GPU fans, so that's terrifying. (I think the CPU fan may have worked occasionally, but don't hold me to it. Also I had already improved the venting some, even with the old fans - I just improved it more now.)

A couple of power supply capacitors should be replaced too, they're bulging a bit, and I had to order them - VetCo had none of the right caps in stock. Ah well, I tried.
Saturday, July 15th, 2017 01:35 am

Every Heart a Doorway has been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards!  This is…


Oh my gosh, this is huge.  It’s genuinely an honor to be considered, and this is a shortlist I’ve never made before.  I am touched and excited and delighted and overwhelmed.


Gosh.


This is so exciting.

Friday, July 14th, 2017 05:01 pm
So this is funny (to me at least)...

I'm playing a lot of Widowmaker against AIs in hard mode, because I'm learning the character, because I used to be a decent sniper once, and not at all because I write Tracermaker fic and identify with certain aspects of Widowmaker no not at all don't let's be silly.

And one thing I figured out real quick is that if the enemy team has a Zen and I get in line of sight, whether he can see me or not, he will whip around and instakill me. Seriously, I've seen it enough in replays to know, he's 180 degrees facing away from me, I peek over, WHIP DEAD.

(I am not exaggerating. Engaged with others of my team, facing away, no fukkit I'm killing that Widowmaker.)

And I was getting kind of salty about this because no human player could do that, right? And I was complaining about it to @annathepiper, and she said:
Well, you did assassinate his brother.
...and i'm like "...oh yeah."

So now, okay, it's still super frustrating? But it's also kind of hilarious.

Fortunately there seems to be some sort of distance limit to the trigger for that reaction, so I can take him out from afar and then try to play. But, still, damn. And, still, lol.

I guess it's a pain in the ass but I totally deserve it. Except my Widowmaker didn't do that. So I don't. I need an AU of this mode that works in my Fear of Spiders AU. Or something. XD
Thursday, July 13th, 2017 09:26 am
ugh, I had the worst competitive play night ever last night.

Seriously, I fell 100 points despite continually golding in objective kills and time but absolutely nothing I could do mattered.

So many bad team decisions - teams entirely off comms, floating mostly-sniper groups (seriously it'd be like three snipers and a Genji on capture-the-point levels, and I'm like, are you trying to lose?), Hanzo trying to dive-bomb a held point solo, one game with no healers (so I played Mercy as best I could), bastions insisting on playing on offence and trying to turret their way from off point to victory I guess? So terrible.

(I mean I'm not a good Mercy; if I have a choice on healer I'm picking Ana, but I'll try. I got a couple of rounds of rezzes per game, but they weren't protecting me so it was still bad.)

I'm not the sort to go on comms and say "this combo is guaranteed to lose no matter what I do" and I was trying to coach but with so few people on comms, well.

Ugh.

The only good part was that afterwards I said 'fukkit I'm taking Widowmaker into quickplay for the first time' and proceeded to silver (23) in kills, gold (20) in objective kills, and gold (I don't remember, but it was several minutes) in objective time. This should NOT BE A THING and is STILL MORE BAD DECISION THEATRE, yet there I was taking down Reinhardt with my Talon machine gun because SOMEONE HAS TO BE ON POINT and I GUESS IT'LL BE ME.

The best part being, of course, that I did take Reinhardt down with my machine gun on the point three times. It was like I was paying Tracer. He was so mad. As was, really, their whole team, 'cause it wasn't just him. I had a 12 kill streak at one point, all objective.

The only way they won is that they literally stacked all their ults at me, and it still took a few goes. The first point, I'd tried playing Widowmaker properly and killed like half their team on their first push and yet they still took the point immediately, and the first 2/3rds of the second, so all this was in the context of nine minutes of defence on the second point.

We lost, of course, in overtime, because I'm sorry even I can't survive four stacked ults pointed at me.

But I did unlock the Does That Sting? achievement on my first actual game as Widowmaker. That was hilarious. Don't underestimate those venom mines, kids, I had like eight kills with 'em.
Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 10:12 pm
I lost a very, very old friend over the weekend.  The illness was sudden, acute, and ultimately fatal.  In less than a week, she was gone.

We weren't so close that her material absence will affect me on a daily basis.  I didn't see her often.  But I respected her, and she had an effect on who I am today. Without her I would be a slightly different version of me, not the me I am.

My own grief and pain is still daily, and pressing.  It's right and fair, it's proof I loved someone, and so it's not something I want to turn away from or bury.  I cared about her, and I am reasonably sure she cared about me, but this is nowhere near as devastating to me as it is for others who knew her better, saw her more, loved her in ways that I did not.  That hurts to see.  All the pain I can't help alleviate in any real way.

So it hurts, yeah, and it is frightening to know that someone so young could die so suddenly -- she was DECADES away from a reasonable age to go.  It's terrifying to watch this happen, knowing how helpless everyone was to stop it, seeing how it left everyone bereft, and how all of us, every one, is going to go through a version of this with someone they love.

That bit, the anxiety over the unavoidable future, is the part that's been hardest to cope with.  I know how to grieve, and grief is not unhealthy.  Anxiety doesn't help anyone.

So yeah, that's been a little rough.

I'm also doing some really hard work in therapy.  Working on old trauma that is holding me back.

And I'm doing some medical stuff that has also been difficult -- I'm over one of the big humps, and things are going so fucking well with that I can hardly believe it, but it was really stressful going in, and there is more difficult stuff ahead of me.  The goal of the therapy is to get me well enough to do it.  I'm not looking forward to it, but it's a thing I'd like to have in the rearview, not the passenger seat.  You know?

I am caught in the middle of a complicated and frightening life that is nevertheless very beautiful.  I am doing well, I am doing poorly, I am doing everything at once, feeling everything at once.  It's hard and it's easy, it's good and it's bad.  It's all so unstable.  All I know is that I don't care how fucked up everything is, I want to be here.  I am happy to be here.  This is a good place to be, even when it's terrible.  I very much want to live.  I am very glad to have a future again.

ETA: She was an organ donor, and that saved lives.  I have registered to become one.  I urge you to consider doing so as well, if you are able.