My Novels

Robots and Vampires:

The Standard Tech Case Files: The Black Coats:

The Standard Tech Case Files: The Dead and The Damned

Donny’s Been Indicted!!!

Man, I love New Yorkers. They are the best Americans ever, the only real Americans.

And do you know why?

Because they indicted Donald Trump!

Yes folks, for those of you living under a rock for the last few days, Donald Trump was finally indicted last week. It seems (keep in mind that the indictment is still sealed) that the inciting incident here is the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels so that she wouldn’t reveal her affair with Donald during Trump’s presidential campaign.

So, first off, Ms. Daniels, you have a terrible taste in men. No offence.

Second, there’s a few problems with that story. The first is that, technically, the hush money is a federal campaign violation, not a state one, and a campaign violation that the feds opted not to prosecute to boot. The second, to my mind, are the reports that Donny is facing thirty plus charges of falsifying business records.

I don’t care how much you pay off a porn star, they aren’t worth thirty criminal charges!

So what gives? Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is, by all accounts, a smart guy with long experience both as a prosecutor and with tangling with Donald Trump personally. It seems unlikely to me, therefore, that he would pursue criminal charges he didn’t think he could make stick.

Remember, in the American legal system there are two separate but equal… I mean, you need to convince twelve jurors that a crime was committed beyond reasonable doubt and they need to vote unanimously to convict. The bar is high (or should be; there are a number of dirty tricks prosecutors and cops use to bamboozle juries) and prosecutors will decline to prosecute cases they don’t think they can win.

So what is motivating Bragg here?

Republicans, fascists that they are, have suggested that this is all political. That Bragg, as a ‘progressive’ DA is out to get the conservative Donald Trump.

We can dismiss this for a few reasons. The first is, like I said, prosecutors don’t like to chase cases they can’t win, especially political ones. Prosecutions are expensive, the Manhattan DA’s office already has a lot of cases on its plate, and if Bragg loses a case this politically charged, that’s pretty much it for his career. He will be exposed as a moron, a political clown, to everybody and nobody will vote for him in the next DA election. Bragg needs a case he can hang his hat on, something with real meat on the bones.

There’s also the fact that Trump isn’t conservative. A fascist, an authoritarian, and a reactionary sure. But he doesn’t have any actual political opinions beyond ‘lashing out at people I don’t like.’ I know conservatism isn’t the most coherent ideology out there, people, but there’s a little more to it than that!

Other Republicans, again being raging fascists and anti-Semites, have suggested that this is some sinister plot on the part of George Soros, a random billionaire the Republicans have decided to pick because he’s Jewish and supports ‘progressive’ policies. As opposed to, say, the Koch Brothers.

Here’s the thing: George Soros is largely irrelevant to the functioning of American democracy. Yes, he donated to a group that donated to Bragg, but he and Bragg had no contact. Second, despite claims that billionaire’s are using their money to ruin American democracy from both left and right, the truth is more complicated. Politicians are not coin-operated robots that do whatever you want if you give them money, they often take money from donors with competing aims and most politicians are adept at milking money from their donors while giving vague and empty promises in return.

Remember, that FiveThirtyEight study showed politicians are good at keeping promises, not whether or not the promises have anything substantial to them. Bragg and other ‘progressive’ DA’s can make all the promises they want on the campaign, and will probably follow through on most of them. But most of those promises are going to be vague, low-hanging fruit or something that was already in the works anyway. Most politicians are not FDR and don’t have the political base he did to pursue those kinds of changes anyway.

I’m all for limiting billionaire’s access to politicians, but we need to be realistic. Money is not power and politicians prey on their donors as much as the other way around. It’s a complex ecosystem, not an army of billionaires giving marching orders.

That brings us to the charges. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight made a good point on their recent emergency podcast that a lot of those alleged thirty plus charges are probably junk. He compared it to long Twitter threads, where most of the tweets are bunk with four good ones buried in there, but blanketing a suspect with as many charges as you can is a time-honoured prosecutorial strategy. The idea is you build a safety net; there’s only one or two charges you really want, but you might not have the evidence for them or the jury might be traditionally reluctant to pursue such serious charges. So you give them lesser charges as an option to go for.

So on that point, I agree with Mr. Silver. The number of charges don’t matter that much. However, I also disagree a bit. As I pointed out above, hush payments to a porn star don’t equal thirty or more charges of business fraud, I don’t care how strong you want your safety net to be. So those thirty plus charges suggest to me that Bragg uncovered further illicit dealings from Trump while investigating the Stormy Daniels matter.

This makes the most sense to me. As we discussed, the Stormy Daniels issue is primarily a federal one, DA’s don’t like pursuing cases they don’t think they can win, thirty plus counts of fraud is a lot of charges coming from one or two hush money payments, etc. If this were just about Daniels, the case would be pathetically weak, to quote William Barr.

However, if we assume that Bragg found further acts of wrong doing while investigating the Daniels matter, then case gets much stronger. He could have found an actual crime against the state of New York (so something that’s actually within his jurisdiction), it accounts for the number of charges, it’s more likely to stand up to jury, etc.

Donald Trump has a long history of evading legal accountability for his actions, and he’s been violating the law for a long time. My only hope is that this the beginning of the end for Donald. The Manhattan prosecution is the least of Donald’s legal troubles: he’s facing federal investigations into his handling of classified documents, the Jan. 6th incident, investigations in Georgia over his attempts to overturn the election there, there’s another tax fraud investigation in Manhattan along with a civil lawsuit from the state attorney alleging fraud more generally, etc.

These can and should sink Trump to the bottom of New York Bay. The man is a fascist, racist, authoritarian nutjob who represents all that is wrong with America. His continued existence is a threat not only to American democracy, but to the world at large.

Here’s hoping that New Yorkers finally break his aura of invincibility down and end that orange menace permanently.

Some Art For You

So, one of the things I’m working on this year is learning how to draw. Mostly, this is because I need a map for Fort City, Joey and Jen’s haunt.

Naturally, progress has been slow, but damn good for somebody who hasn’t drawn anything since junior high!

Remember, if you want to support my creative endeavours, you can support me on Patreon or buy me a hot chocolate.

So, here are some samples of my attempts at drawing:

My first attempt at a map for Fort City. It’s supposed to be a star fort, but I don’t think this map quite got where I wanted.

My second, abortive attempt at a map. I realized about halfway through I’d drawn the vertical lines too far out. I needed to move them in more.

My final map for Fort City! Well, not quite. There’s a lot I’m not satisfied with (and more I haven’t settled on), but it is more or less the right shape.

The extra lines are supposed to be city streets, but I think for this map at this scale they just make the map look busy. I’m going to tinker with it some more.

My first attempt at drawing a human being! And it turned into something of a robot man. Whoops.

The non-robotic drawings are my dad’s. When I showed him my picture, he scribbled out some suggestions to help me improve.

I have good parents.

My most recent attempt at a human. Still a stick figure, but less of a robot.

Lots of practice yet!

Fandom Heresies: James Gunn And His Plan To Do The Same Old, Same Old

Hello all you happy people. Josh Stoodley here with more heresies for your viewing pleasure. Today we’re going to look at former (happily) Marvel director and current Kevin Feige wannabe (unhappily) over at DC, James Gunn, and his plan to reboot the DC movie universe. And, uh, spoiler alert: we’re not going to like it. At all.

First caveat: I say this all from a place of hating Kevin Feige. I really, really hate that guy and what he did to cinema, to Marvel and to the directors, cast and crew he stripped all agency from. Hollywood’s a rotten place to begin with, but Feige is a different kind of vile. It will be years before movies recover from the damage he and his ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ did, and longer still for comics. So if this comes across as a negative post… well, it is!

Remember kids, if you enjoy my writing please support me on Patreon or buy me a hot chocolate. It really does help, especially in this economic climate.

Now, join me under the cut!

Continue reading

Fandom Heresies: The Difference Between Meme, Role-Playing, Min-Maxed and Cheese Builds

Hello all you happy people! It is I, Josh Stoodley, here with more Fandom Heresies.

This week, we’re going to talk a bit about something I’ve seen online recently: the difference between Role-playing and Min Maxed character builds, usually in the context of Dungeons and Dragons but sometimes in regards to other role-playing games as well.

I’m going to start by saying right off the bat that I feel this is a false dichotomy. There are, in my opinion, four distinct types of character builds (and a lot of overlap between them; we’re going to focus on the main four today). They are, in no particular order:

  1. Meme builds: these builds have no unifying concept, pay no attention to class archetypes and are generally nonsensical. These include things like wizards dumping Intelligence for Strength, warriors using magic staffs or weapons they otherwise aren’t built for, etc. They usually require some metagaming to make work and are a headache for everybody at the table.
  2. Role-playing builds: These builds start with a character concept first, then build a class and stats around it. Sometimes this means a less-optimized build than the min-maxers (see below) but not necessarily.
  3. Min-Maxing builds: These are sort of the opposite of role-playing builds. They start from the stats and classes, then build a character around that. These can, but don’t always, result in a bland character that is good at one thing and one thing only.
  4. Cheese builds: these are builds that, like meme builds, have no rhyme or reason to them. Unlike meme builds, which are usually made to be funny, these are meant to abuse the mechanics as much as possible. These include, but are not limited to, multi-class dips that make no sense, stacking tons of irrelevant flaws to stack build points, etc. The key point here is that these builds are purely mechanical and make no sense from a character perspective.

We’ll now go into these character build types into further detail below. The key point I want to make here is, yes, there are bad ways to build your character. There are many, many ways to build a character that will piss off your DM, your fellow players and subsequently get you banned from the table.

The reverse is also true, however. There are many, many ways to build characters that are fun, that make sense from both a mechanical and RP perspective and will make you a valued member of your table.

Join me under the cut!

And remember, if you enjoy this content and want to see more of it, you can support me on Patreon or buy me a hot chocolate.

Continue reading

You Are Vengeance, You Are The Night, You Are, And Always Will Be, Batman

As I’m sure you all know, Kevin Conroy passed away on November 10th, 2022.

For all of us who grew up in the 90s and beyond, Kevin Conroy was Batman. There simply was no other.

Debuting in 1992, Batman: The Animated Series would define the franchise for thirty years with every subsequent animated series, and even live-action series, being compared to Kevin Conroy and his masterful take.

I was first introduced to Batman through reruns of the Adam West series, but soon became an avid watcher of the Animated Series. Alas, I was often prevented from watching it. Partially, it was due to my home life at the time, but mostly it was due to the relentless bullying I was subjected to by my babysitter’s daughter and her friends, none of whom were Batman fans.

Years later, I rediscovered the Animated Series and all of its successor series. It took me back to the childhood I’d wished I had and never got: a childhood full of fun and joy, with no bullies and with Batman as my friend.

For reasons that I should think are obvious at this point, the episode that meant the most to me, that I was the most glad to rediscover, was See No Evil.

It’s hard for me to talk about this. Thinking back to my childhood brings up a lot of memories I would rather not revisit.

But Kevin Conroy represented, and will always represent, the best parts of that childhood.

Thank you.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, Are You American Or Not?

A couple days ago, American representative and resident nutjob Marjorie Taylor Greene declared that, should the Republicans win the midterm elections, Ukraine will not receive any more support in its existential war against Russia.

And I only have one response to that:

Are you or are you not an American?

There was a time when America called itself the ‘Arsenal of Democracy.’ When America prided itself on being the backbone of the Free World and the ideals of democracy, freedom and liberty.

Guess those times are over, huh?

Look, I hate American imperialism as much as anybody. The attempted conquests of Afghanistan and Iraq (let us not kid ourselves here, that’s exactly what they were) were black marks on America’s already spotty record. They impose their culture on everybody else, demand perpetual recognition of their achievements and deflect any criticism. Americans are assholes, pure and simple.

Aaaand now they’re retreating into isolationism.

Isolationism is bad, okay? I’m going to do a whole post on why one of these days, but the short version is isolationism hurts everybody. It hurts your country, it hurts your allies and trading partners, it even hurts your enemies (who are also often your trading partners. International politics are complicated)! This is especially true when we’re talking about America.

Because, as much as we like to complain about Americans and their ego, the fact remains that they are the biggest economy in the world. And, as such, they are literally the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ whether they like it or not.

Which brings us back to Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting for its life against genocidal imperialist and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Putin has made no bones about his end goal for Ukraine: the eradication of the state and its people. He sees Ukraine as an extension of Russia, not an independent nation with its own history and customs.

So far, he hasn’t succeeded. And while a lot of that has to do with the valiant efforts of Ukraine’s defenders, a lot of it also has to do with America’s unstinting support.

The United States of America, forgive me, kind of found its groove again with the Ukrainian war. It’s supporting a democracy, in a way that actually supports it: with the weapons and money Ukraine needs, not by invading.

‘America’s back,’ Joe Biden proclaimed when he took office. And he came through.

So I ask MGT once more:

Are you American? Or Russian?

If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon or buy me a hot chocolate

Fandom Heresies: Batman Should Be Unarmoured, Part 3: Conclusion

Hello all you happy people! Josh Stoodley with the final post on whether or not Batman should be armoured.

In the first post (here) we discussed how armour works in the real world. In the second post (here) we discussed Batman’s origins, how he evolved, and why he isn’t DC’s knock off of Tony Stark, no matter how much modern writers want to make into one.

Today, we are going to sum up everything and lay out the final conclusion: that Batman should be unarmoured. That by going around and tanking bullets, he’s stepping on other characters toes and betraying a fundamental aspect of his character. That armour would in fact impede Batman’s style of combat and make him more vulnerable, not less.

However, before we get there we have some housekeeping to do. In the process of outlining Superman, Wonder Woman and Fantastic Four, I realized that I had half-finished chapters for all three of them. So I’m going to finish up and polish those chapters than post them sometime within the next two weeks. Work on No Blood for Business has also started extensively this month, and will be released in 2023.

And, as always, if you enjoy these posts you can support me on Patreon or buy me a hot chocolate.

Now on to the controversies!

Continue reading

The Queen Is Dead! Long Live The King!

Man, the real world has a way of disrupting my plans, don’t it?

For those of you living under a rock, last Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully in Balmoral Castle.

For Americans, the Queen was just another celebrity, albeit one with some political heft to her. No actual power, but a lifetime of experience and a certain symbolic status. A mobile portrait, if you will, good for livening up a slow news day.

As a Canadian, my relationship with my queen is very different.

To begin with, for me, she was the queen, as is true of pretty much everybody born after 1952. My dad remembers some coins with King George VI’s portrait on them, but that’s about it. Elizabeth defined the monarchy for, not just Canadians but everybody in the Commonwealth, for seventy years. No other politician has had such a long lasting impact on their country politics and cultural identity (note: dictators don’t count. By it’s very nature, dictatorships are designed to bypass the normal interplay of politics. This is also why they fuck up more often and more concretely than normal politicians. Right, Vlad?)

The key word there is cultural identity. The monarchy is a key part of what defines and separates us from the cultural black hole that is our southern neighbours. The end goal of the United States of America is to transform everyone into carbon copies of them: with the same culture, same political structure, same language, yes even the same spelling. America is the centre of political and cultural gravity in the modern world, whatever the PRC’s pretensions.

And to that end, it is vital we as Canadians, in concert with other nations in the Commonwealth, work to maintain our distinct cultural identity in the face of relentless attacks from the American machine.

The monarchy is a huge part of that. Not just culturally, but politically as well. The Americans are the presidential republic (even though they are kind of unique in that regard; most presidential republics separate the head of government from the head of state. America does not); keeping to a constitutional monarchy immediately identifies you as not American. You aren’t part of their grasping, greedy empire or their cultural machine.

Perhaps, in time, the monarchies will fade from the world, and we will all be poorer for it. The world works better with a rich tapestry of different governments, each tailored to their people’s needs and cultures and not just working out of the American playbook (again, dictatorships don’t count. They aren’t responsive to people’s needs, are invariably corrupt and are only superficially connected to their people’s culture. The world will improve greatly once the likes of Putin and Xi are dead and buried).

And now it falls to King Charles III to continue on this great work. Some nations are thinking of ditching the monarchy altogether; as I’ve made clear in this post I think this is a mistake. America, ever intent on remaking the world in their image, will reach out and attempt to remould these nations until they are little more than mini-Americas, just outlet stores for America’s excesses. On the plus side, they are too far away to be bothered by Russia or China (Australia and New Zealand are the exceptions here; they could very much be bothered by China. However, Australia and New Zealand are also much richer and more powerful than some of the other countries in the Commonwealth; if China gets too uppity she could find herself choking on the world’s smallest continent), and the Commonwealth will protect them somewhat.

Either way, it falls to Charles now to make the case for the monarchy. Part of this will be letting those nations go who want to go gracefully; my opinions on the wisdom of their choices aside, there is nothing that will sink the monarchy faster than the impression that they are still a greedy, grasping empire. In slamming America, we have to admit it suckled imperialism as mother’s milk: the British Empire once ruled one-quarter of the globe. It is time to bury that legacy in the ground where it belongs, and that will mean letting those countries who wish to pursue republicanism do so without complaint.

But it will also mean Charles will have to engage in the politics of the day in a way his mother couldn’t or shouldn’t. Environmentalism, a cause near and dear to Charles’ heart, is becoming a bigger issue every day. We are, if we haven’t reached it yet, damn near the brink here. Without radical change in how we do things, Earth is going to burn. Fortunately, some of this process has already been kickstarted (thanks, Vlad!), but Charles is going to need to be a leader here, conventions be damned. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and while I’m not advocating Charles take up real political power again (there’s no public appetite for it anyway), he needs to use his moral and celebrity authority to advocate for the environment. Because, man, I don’t want to burn to death in twenty years. Or die choking on smog.

Rising inequality is another area where Charles needs to lead. Fact is, guys, inequality is bad and getting worse. Canada is one of the worst, with income inequality rising faster here. If Charles wants to stay king and pass the throne to his son and grandchildren, he needs to start advocating for the poorest and weakest among us. When the impoverished feel disenfranchised, that’s when the start advocating for radical changes. People who feel like the king (or president, prime minister, whatever. The principle is universal) is working for them, they are much more likely to give him their support. Funny how that works, eh?

Again, I’m not saying Charles should take up real political power again. Far from it. But he does have authority; people listen to him. Sometimes whether they like it or not. And a person with a bully pulpit who does not advocate for the most pressing issues of today, be it the environment or rising inequality or any of a half-dozen other things, is someone who is unfit for that role.

Look, I get it. Charles will have to modify his style somewhat now that he’s king. A king really shouldn’t be micro-managing his ministers, ceremonial position or no. And I sure don’t expect him to give a stump speech outlining the policies of his administration!

No, leave the work a day politics to the work a day politicians. That is literally what we pay them for. But at the same time, neither should the royals be useless celebrities who are only good for tabloid fodder. There are real issues facing us today, issues that require us to come together to face them.

In this respect, Charles model should be the Pope. Pope Francis is an imperfect figure, no question. But he has lent his moral and spiritual authority to the weightiest of topics, trying to lead his people to a better, more peaceful life. I can’t say he’s always succeeded, and has been dead wrong on some accounts (no, it’s not NATO’s fault Russia invaded Ukraine. That particular bit of evil was all on Putin, as are the bloody losses his troops have suffered.), but I think he has threaded the needle of being a ceremonial leader with the need to confront real world issues rather well. The Catholic Church will endure, and that is partially due to Francis’ leadership. Charles would do well to learn from his compatriot.

That’s it for this week. Next week is our regularly scheduled Fandom Heresy, concluding our discussion on Batman’s armour.

See you then! And remember, God Save The King!