Upcoming Changes

Intervention was, as always, inspiring and educational. Among the things I learned there was that my blogging schedule is completely wrong. Most importantly, posting Near-Apocalypse articles at midnight Sunday made sense when I was writing My Little Po-Mo without a buffer, since that was the most convenient time to finish one. But now I have a sizeable buffer courtesy of the Patreon, so I should be posting when people are reading.
There will therefore be a new schedule starting this weekend:

  • Monday: Near-Apocalypse of ’09
  • Tuesday: Whatever
  • Wednesday: Video Vednesdays
  • Thursday: Captain’s Log Weekly Digest
  • Friday: Whatever
  • Saturday: Liveblog
  • Sunday: Open thread/community post

All posts will go up at noon EST.
And yes, this means I’m going back up to seven days a week posting. The Sunday posts will be open threads where people can talk about whatever they want, link things they find interesting or projects of their own, etc. The plan is that most weekends I’ll suggest a prompt or ask a question, but the thread is open to comment with whatever you want (within the comments policy, of course, though I’ll probably be a bit laxer about enforcing 4.1 and 4.2).
This does not mean, by the way, that I’ve given up on fiction, anymore than ending Fiction Fridays as a regular feature did. Friday is a Whatever slot–I can make it a Fiction Friday whenever I want. I just can’t sustain a regular fiction-writing feature, not with everything else I have to do.

Vlog Review: Star vs. the Forces of Evil S1E1

 
Reminder that Patreon backers can see these videos (including Korra, Steven Universe, and now Gravity Falls and Star vs. the Forces of Darkness, plus my panels on anime and the apocalypse, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and postmodern anime) 4-5 weeks early AND Near-Apocalypse articles four MONTHS early!
Those of you who follow on Tumblr, for whatever reason the videos don’t play there. Click through to JedABlue.com to watch.
ETA: Fixed the headline, which was still showing last week’s.

Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 36

A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.

  • Objects in Motion: Morwen undertakes a critical mission for the Klingon Chancellor: to get proof that the renegade leader isn’t who they appear to be. (Original)
  • Remain in Motion: With the truth about K’tin revealed, Morwen attends a joint session of Starfleet Command and the Federation Senate Defense Subcommittee. There, the decision will be made about whether to declare war on the Klingon Empire. (Original)
  • Kern System Patrol: The Phoenix investigates a renegade Klingon listening post in Federation space.
  • Seedea System Patrol: The Phoenix assists in the evacuation of the Seedea System.
  • Veyga System Patrol: The Gorn are attacking civilian ships trying to flee the Veyga System.
  • Vor System Patrol: Acting onmistaken intel, a massive fleet is about to attack the tiny civilian research post in the Vor System.
  • Temporal Ambassador Redux: Temporal Investigations once again asks Morwen to ask her past self to get some information about the Iconians–but this time, it’s on a mission that never happened!

As the flag officer of a fleet or tactical group, Starfleet regulations also require Morwen to provide a Fleet Status Report briefly summarizing the current status and mission of all ships under her command, every Stardate that’s a multiple of 10.
After the initial “two-parter” of Objects in Motion/Remain in Motion, the “System Patrol” missions in this block continue my experiment’s final act: I continued doing System Patrol missions with no foreknowledge of what would happen in them, weaving them into the ongoing story as I went.
Temporal Ambassador Redux is a bit different. You see, there was an event a few months back where new characters would, for a brief period, be “Delta Recruits” and get access to a special sidequest that is given to you by Temporal Investigations and your own future self, spanning most of the game. (Only characters created during the event can do the sidequest, but once the character is created there was no limit to how long it could take.) Given that I already had plans for involving Temporal Investigations in Morwen’s adventures, I decided to make a second Morwen for the event, and have her do the sidequest. As I do, I am recording the future-self aspect of it all here–present!Morwen (the Morwen who has the Tumblr, in 2410) sends back requests to her past self (the one doing the sidequests, in 2409), and instantly remembers having done them and what resulted from it.
Imagine my delight when one of the things in the sidequest is to get information from the alternate timeline in “Temporal Ambassador.” You might recall that mission, way back when, in which Morwen (still a Commander at the time, and commanding the science vessel Ariel) investigated a temporal anomaly and it turned out to be nothing. That’s actually one of my favorite missions of the game… but at the conclusion of the mission your actions cause it never to have happened, so since Morwen had no memory of it, I couldn’t put any of it in the log. But thanks to this sidequest, I have an excuse to finally include it! So after a personal log entry from present!Morwen, there’s a Captain’s Log from past!Morwen that is completely identical to the first entry for Temporal Ambassador… and then more entries from past!Morwen that are very, very different. I’m quite pleased with how it came out, and hope you enjoy it.

Let's see how they handle assault! (Appointment in Crime Alley)

Near Apocalpyse of '09 Logo
It’s September 17, 1992, between “Be a Clown” and “P.O.V.,” so we don’t need to rehash the news and charts. Today’s episode is an adaptation of Dennis O’Neill’s 1976 Batman comic “There’s No Hope in Crime Alley” by Gerry Conway, himself a rather well-known comics writer–among other things, he wrote the Spider-Man comic where Gwen Stacey died, co-created the Punisher, Firestorm, Steel, Vixen, and Killer Croc, and wrote the first official Marvel/DC crossover, Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man.
The episode is perhaps unique among the episodes we’ve discussed so far in that it is very much about Batman himself, revealing much about the character, albeit in a rather understated way. The villain is the relatively uninteresting businessman Roland Daggett–previously seen as the provider of Renuyu to Matt Hagen prior to his transformation into Clayface–who plots to destroy the Crime Alley slum in order to clear space for a development project he has planned.
Daggett is a suitably slimy villain, focused entirely on profit and not getting caught, with little care for either the legality of his activities or the human cost. He is smug, untouchable, and walks away clean at the end of the episode while his minions go to jail. But he is not the focus of this episode; primarily it is about Batman, and his determination to make a mysterious annual appointment with a previously unseen woman, an elderly doctor and charity worker named Leslie Thompkins (played pitch-perfectly by Diana Muldaur, who is experienced at playing older doctors with strong convictions, having spent a season as Dr. Kathryn Pulaski on Star Trek: The Next Generation).
As revealed beautifully in a silent scene where Batman, searching Thompkins’ apartment for clues to her disappearance, leafs through her scrapbook and comes across the newspaper clipping about his parents’ death, the appointment is the anniversary of the Waynes’ murder, and Thompkins comforted young Bruce in the aftermath. This was strongly hinted at early in the episode when Thompkins described her own motivation for remaining in Park Row that was long after its deterioration into the dangerous and poverty-stricken Crime Alley, that she once saw a boy who’d witnessed his parents gunned down in front of him, and now she worked to try to keep things like that from happening again.
She is, in other words, yet another parallel for Batman himself, another iteration of the protector fantasy. But where Batman is a violent figure that destroys those who threaten us, Thompkins is gentler, wrapping us up in her arms and telling us that it’s going to be okay.
Notable, then, is a major character choice Conway’s story makes distinct from O’Neill’s. (One of two major character differences, but the other–that Alfred knows what the appointment is about in the episode, but not the comic–isn’t so much a choice as a natural consequence of the fact that in the DCAU Alfred had worked for the Waynes since before they were shot, while in the comics, at least in 1976, he wasn’t hired until after Batman and Robin started working together.) Namely, the comic is explicit that Thompkins does not know who Batman is or why he comes to see her every year on this date, while the episode doesn’t explicitly say either way, but strongly implies in its final scene–in which Batman lays two roses on the site of his parents’ murder, while Thompkins puts a comforting arm around him–that Thompkins knows this is the little boy whose parents were killed in front of him.
The episode, in other words, established Thompkins not only as a protector and comforter of Bruce Wayne as a child, but as an adult superhero as well–she is a confidante, someone whom he trusts to know his secret identity and keep that information safe. She is thus not only a parallel to Batman himself, but to Alfred as well, an elderly surrogate parent who knows and guards Batman’s secret, providing him with love, support, and someone to rescue when there is need for a more personal stake.
Despite never being seen or mentioned before, the episode establishes quite thoroughly how important Thompkins is to Batman with the sequence of disasters he has to rescue people from, delaying him from their meeting and clearly frustrating him a great deal. Much like “The Laughing Fish,” this series of action setpieces is pretty clearly there just to fill out the time and build tension, but it works rather better, first because it does fulfill a plot function–causing Batman to be late so that Thompkins goes looking for him and gets captured–second, because we know there is a time limit and Batman doesn’t, and third, because Batman’s mounting frustration at being delayed is clearly visible, making it clear to us that meeting with Thompkins is so important to him that stopping a runaway trolley full of people is an annoying diversion by comparison.
But perhaps the most telling insight of all is that Batman seems on the verge of physically attacking Daggett at the end of the episode, and has to be restrained by Thompkins. Since we have established her as a protector figure, we can read this moment as her protecting him–but why? There are two ways to read it, the first that she is protecting Batman from violating his moral code, and the second that she is protecting him from harm.
The first possibility is that she is protecting Batman from violating his moral code. The question then is, what is it Batman intends to do that’s so wrong? He’s clearly very angry at Daggett, and understandably so, as Daggett is insufferably smug about his belief that he will suffer no legal repercussions for the attempted destruction of Crime Alley and murder of quite a number of people. So we might think that she is protecting him from killing Daggett–except, as we saw in “The Underdwellers,” Batman is quite capable of pulling himself back from murderous rage. No, if it is a moral dilemma that she’s protecting him from, the act in violation of his code is attacking Daggett at all. But why would that be? Batman has shown no hesitation in attacking Penguin or Rupert Thorne for hatching schemes carried out by their minions, so clearly he is okay with punching people who plan criminal acts as well as those who carry them out.
But Daggett is different. Daggett, who describes the people he’s about to blow up as a “criminal underclass” who stand in the way of “progress,” presumably defined as whatever increases his personal wealth, is somehow less deserving of being punched than a Catwoman or a Poison Ivy–people arguably trying to make the world a better place, albeit using illegal means to do so. Why?
The answer to that question lies in the second possibility, that attacking Daggett risks harm to Batman from which Thompkins acts to protect him. What kind of harm could this be? Not physical harm, obviously; Daggett showed little sign of combat ability when attacked by Clayface, and does not appear to have any bodyguards or minions available to him in the confrontation with Batman in this episode. What he does have, however, are reporters, camera crews, and a great deal of wealth. By attacking him, on camera and in front of reporters, Batman would empower him to devote his resources to crafting a narrative in the press, in which rogue vigilante Batman attacks a pillar of the community without provocation. He could depict Batman as a menace, disrupt his relationship with the police, and sow increased hostility and distrust among the people of Gotham, severely hampering Batman’s efforts against crime.
Daggett, in other words, has power. He sits atop the social order which Batman works to defend, and so to attack him is to undermine that order. Daggett enjoys the same privileges of power and wealth that permit Bruce Wayne to dress up in a costume and commit crimes of his own–because, let us never forget, Batman is a criminal who commits assault and battery on a nightly basis. That he preys on criminals does not change that being a vigilante is itself a crime–and even if he were deputized by the Gotham Police, as in the Adam West version, he would still be guilty of police brutality many times over. Only his many toys keep Batman from ending up dead in an alley or rotting in Arkham, and those toys are a direct product of his wealth, his position atop the social order.
Because Daggett is also a parallel to Batman, or more specifically to Bruce Wayne. Both are wealthy, powerful men respected within the community. Both seek to improve Gotham, within their own visions of what that improvement entails. Both habitually abuse their positions of power to get away with criminal acts.
For Batman, to attack Daggett is to attack himself. To expose him is to risk exposing himself; to root out the corruption he represents is to wreak havoc on the order Batman protects. It is a trap we have observed before: at least as it is constructed at this point in our journey, there is an innate conservatism to the figure of the superhero. As a product of the protector fantasy, Batman must protect us from scary changes to the status quo–which means he cannot fight evil when that evil is inherent to the system itself. He cannot defeat a Roland Daggett or a Max Schreck; that seems to require a Catwoman.
But she is nowhere to be found in this story. There are only protectors, and so the only real change we see is the destruction of some buildings that were condemned anyway. Crime Alley endures; poverty endures; Daggett endures. The system rolls on.


Current status of the Patreon:

Yurikuma Arashi 3 and Mawaru Penguindrum 4 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:  Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting! Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Yurikuma and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST. We will then be watching Mawaru Penguindrum at 2:30.

However, I will not be there this week, as I’m at Intervention. If one of you could please post the chatlog in the comments, it’d be much appreciated.
After I’ve watched the episodes, I’ll update this post with my own chat log.

Speculations on the future direction of Star Trek Online

So, for all, what, three of you? who didn’t immediately lose interest on seeing the headline, I have some thoughts on where Star Trek Online is likely to go after its current plotline, which has been confirmed to be headed into its endgame.
On the off-chance someone who isn’t already an STO player is reading this, a brief summary of where the game’s story is right now: the Iconians, believed to have gone extinct 200,000 years ago, actually escaped to another galaxy, and now they’re coming back. A large number of events during and before the game (the supernova that destroyed Romulus in the “original timeline” in the 2009 movie, the Undine/Species 8472 resuming hostilities against our universe, the resulting Klingon-Federation war that embroiled most of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, and the sudden emergence of the Vaadwaur as a major and very aggressive military power in the Delta Quadrant) are all ultimately part of their plan to soften up the galaxy for reconquest. The actual Iconian invasion started with new content that dropped this year (real-world year, I mean), and it is NOT going well for the Milky Way. However, in the most recent two missions, a possibility of salvation has emerged: the Iconians are psychologically incapable of handling time travel, and the Krenim have now provided the Klingon-Federation-Romulan alliance with plans for “temporal annihilation” technology–a weapon that can cause the target to never have existed.
Endgame is, it seems, next month with the final Iconian War mission “Midnight,” but with the announcement last week of an upcoming Season 11 (presumably late this year or early next year, based on the roughly two-a-year pattern of past updates), the end of the Iconian War is clearly not the end of the game. Indeed, the announcement of the new season suggests that it will focus on “rebuilding and hope” and include a “brand new civilization.” (It also showed a small army of Tholians charging toward Starfleet troops, and it’s been announced that there will be new PvE queues involving fighting an invasion from the Mirror Universe led by Mirror Leeta, which is both glorious and gives me hope we’ll finally get an explanation for why the fuck random Tholian mobs sometimes include Mirror Universe ships.)
So they’re not ending any time soon. And plans for Season 11 aside, it’s unlikely that there won’t be another combat-heavy arc building up, simply because the developers have made pretty clear that they find it really hard to make non-combat-heavy content that is still fun to play. So what could that conflict be?
I have a speculation on what they seem to be building to, because even before the first hints of the Iconians showed up, there were references to the Temporal Cold War. And those references have never entirely gone away–the Xindi have made a few cameos, the Delta Recruit gimmick added as part of the run-up to the Iconian War heavily involves a Temporal Investigations agent, the same agent is involved in the project to build the temporal annihilator. And on top of that, the developers made a cryptic (haha) remark at their panel at STLV last weekend: that Season 11 would include the origin story of an enemy species from the TV shows. There aren’t many options for enemies whose origin stories could happen <I>after</I> their first appearance, and all of them involve time travel.
They also mentioned having to deal with the fallout of the way the Iconian War was won. And what caused the Cold War? Superpowers, once allied against a common enemy, now fought each other. But their weapons were so powerful that they didn’t dare use them, so they fought using proxies instead.
The Iconian War is the World War II-equivalent, the temporal annihilator the nuclear bomb-equivalent, and whatever it ends up erasing to defeat the Iconians the Hiroshima-equivalent, for the Temporal Cold War. (Bonus points if the Iconians are somehow on the verge of losing/ready to make peace anyway when the annihilator gets used.)

Vlog Review: Gravity Falls S1E4

 
Reminder that Patreon backers can see these videos (including Korra, Steven Universe, and now Gravity Falls, plus my panels on anime and the apocalypse, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and postmodern anime) 4-5 weeks early AND Near-Apocalypse articles four MONTHS early!
Those of you who follow on Tumblr, for whatever reason the videos don’t play there. Click through to JedABlue.com to watch.

Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 35

A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.

  • Ruben System Patrol: Ships from the 53rd respond to a distress call from colonists under attack by the Gorn.
  • Europani System Patrol: Morwen goes looking for a missing survey team, and finds something very odd going on.
  • Enfant Terrible: Morwen and Sorthal’s final battle leads to the discovery that a dangerous new leader has arisen among the renegade Klingons, and Talana undertakes a covert mission to discover their identity. (Original)
  • Objects in Motion: Morwen undertakes a critical mission for the Klingon Chancellor: to get proof that the renegade leader isn’t who they appear to be. (Original)

As the flag officer of a fleet or tactical group, Starfleet regulations also require Morwen to provide a Fleet Status Report briefly summarizing the current status and mission of all ships under her command, every Stardate that’s a multiple of 10.
Like last week, the “System Patrol” missions in this block continue my experiment’s second act: following the original “Diplomats and Warriors,” which started the second act, I continued doing System Patrol missions with no foreknowledge of what would happen in them, weaving them into the ongoing story as I went. “Enfant Terrible” then concludes the second act with the traditional “we’re fucked” moment, and “Objects in Motion” begins the third and final act of this original arc. Also, the reason there are only four episodes this week is because “Enfant Terrible” took more than four days of posts.