I promise this post is not actually about Game of Thrones. But I can’t lie, and tell you the season 6 promo trailer wasn’t the final straw for this post. In the season 6 promo, we’re treated to the usual array of quick cut scenes, including one of two unidentifiable women kissing. One of them looks a lot like Sansa (some on Westeros dot org speculating one of the women is Asha/Yara); of course shortly after this realization, I remembered all the awful brothel scenes from earlier seasons, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume it’s something from there. Vomiting forever if both those speculations are correct at the same time. The main thrust is, for a brief moment, I was excited. Sansa! Alive! Maybe her happily ever after with Margery isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. But look at tv this year. It’s a trick.
(The rest of the post contains spoilers for all 3 seasons of the 100, and season 1 of the Shannara Chronicles)
By now you should be aware of the fact that I love women-run anything. But I especially love women-run things in male dominated fields. When I found out that the next local workshop of Ladies Learning Code was going to be an intro to Ruby, there was no way I wasn’t going to be there.
My forays into Twine have proven fruitful, and dangerous. Fruitful, because it was a good early example of how anyone, of any age, can begin to learn code. Dangerous, because when I got hung up on an element, I would sit there, staring and googling and testing things until I got it to work. (And when it did, that fruitful feeling came back in a giddy, euphoric kind of way!)
Programming is in my genes – my mom was an avid programmer back when your code was punched out on cards. She wrote a programming for teaching a class that was so popular, it was used by the whole Board of Education. Until some enterprising jerk decided to edit my mom’s name out of the code, and put their own – when the entire program unwrote itself as a protection method. Bad. Ass.
I think programming is erroneously thought of as a strictly sciencey, left-brain activity. It’s helpful, in a way – in order to talk a computer’s language, learning how to process logical steps is helpful. But I was surprised to find out how much creativity is required for even the simplest programming. The day was broken down into learning the basic vocabulary of Ruby – classes, methods, arrays, objects, etc. As we learned about them, we did practice puzzles to see them in action. Then we used what we’d learned to create a handful of small applications.
Going through the answers together with the class showed where creativity is really important because not only do you have to anticipate how the computer is going to interpret your code, but you need to anticipate how the user running your program is going to think. For example:
Our first project was to create a short looping program that asked the user what their favourite colour was, ending the loop when either they said no to all the options, or when they said yes to a colour. BUT the solution as presented meant the user had to type in ‘yes’ (or “Yes” or “yes.”, etc) exactly as the code specified. Most people don’t do that! So the code would theoretically work, but might not be very user-friendly.
Ruby appealed to me on two levels – one in that it’s very simple and user-friendly to learn, but also because of that simplicity, it meant that it would be easy for me to ask questions about the end user product and how to improve it. (The second one, a blackjack game, I completed successfully also but there would’ve been ways to make it better, like adding in a delay feature between deals). I leapt ahead to studying more about Ruby Gems and Rails, and what I could do with that – you can’t do much with Ruby as a layperson, the instructor told me. So why limit myself to being a layperson? If you have an idea for an app and what you want it to do, there’s a way to figure out how to get your program to do it.
Plus, the setting was a comfortable learning environment to test things out and ask questions. Men were welcome to attend the event, but registration was set up so they would never exceed women in attendance. Our instructor and half the mentors were women, as well. Overall, it was an excellent experience and I’m looking forward to attending another in the future. (I’ve heard there was an HTML/CSS one coming up, which sounds awesome.) From my personal experience, the aim of Ladies Learning Code isn’t so much to teach you programming on its own, but to break down the mystifying barriers of being a “Programmer”. Not that programming isn’t challenging, or a difficult job (particularly when the competitive field is so glutted!) But it’s good to know that even people who work as developers, or software engineers get stuck and say “Fuck it, I’m just gonna google.” The developers I know are excited to get more people working with Ruby, or Python or Java – they don’t want to be some super-secret club filled with rarefied, socially awkward nerds.
Have you dabbled in programming? What was it like? What did you make?
The 2011 Blizzard Writing Contest has come around again, just in time for the weather to cool off enough to make writing on a coffee shop patio appealing. There’s a number of things I’m hoping to see from entries, this year, but more than anything, I want to see awesome stories about awesome women. I can’t hug every cat write every story, but there are plenty of women in the Blizzard lore that deserve face time by dedicated writers.
Heavy Hitters: These are the big name players, women who’ve already had their stories touched on in official books and lore. They’re characters most people are likely to know and interested to read about.
i) Sylvanas Windrunner: we know who she is, where she came from, how she became the Banshee Queen. What’s it like being Sylvanas without the Lich King? How does she feel being cheated of vengeance at Icecrown Citadel? Her experimentations with the plague, with the valkyr, and butting heads with Garrosh are all interesting depths to plumb.
ii) Jaina Proudmoore: is getting her own book via Christie Golden! Very exciting. But in the meantime, there’s plenty to Jaina that can still be touched upon. Studying in Dalaran, the only thing she really wanted to do. The death of her father, and the role she played in it. Keeping the human survivors of Lordaeron together while fleeing to Kalimdor.
iii) Tyrande Whisperwind: again, we got a glimpse of her recently in “Seeds of Faith”, but she shares billing with Malfurion. She was the one, not the humans, who sent the ships to Gilneas’ aid. She dealt with Fandral’s insolence for years and years. When the Shen’dralar came out of their exile prior to the Cataclysm, she accepted them back, allowing them to teach arcane magics to the young night elves.
Other (but no less interesting) NPCS:
i) Sassy Hardwrench: okay, I am gnome/dwarf to the core. But when Cata came out, I couldn’t resist rolling a goblin priest to experience the new starting zones. Thrall? Trade Prince Jerkwad? Snooze. Sassy Hardwrench? NEW BFF FOR LIFE. She’s tough as nails, stands by your toon, and after losing everything by standing by your character, still manages to create a town named after herself in STV. Sassy is no. 1 for my choice of women characters worth writing about.
ii) Maiev Shadowsong, Sayanna Stormrunner and the Wardens: With the Shadow Warden presence in the Molten Front, it’s as good a time as any to tackle the Wardens, particularly in light of their charge escaping. How does Sayanna deal with that failure in light of a hero like Maiev who didn’t rest until she had recaptured or killed her own prisoner?
iii) Mylune: Come on, does this really even need explanation?
iv) Lorna Crowley: She’s a gun-toting, dog-training badass with a flower in her hair who becomes commander of the liberation movement for Gilneas. She’s so badass she escapes both becoming Forsaken and Worgen. Honorable mention and equal badassitude to Gwen Armstead, as well.
v) Stormcaller Mylra: this was a great expansion for dwarves and dwarven women – if you’re not a Bronzebeard, anyway. Mylra’s one of the Earthen Ring shaman who helps you suss out what the deal is with the Twilight Hammer in Deepholm, and helps you fight an old god minion in Twilight Highlands. She doesn’t hesitate to do what’s needed.
vi) Fanny Thundermar: Another Wildhammer dwarf woman, Fanny’s a prize catch for eligible bachelors due to her connections. But actually, she’s also a wicked fighter, and a woman who knows what she wants in a partner. Plus, think of all the hilarious puns you can work in to shock UK and Aussie readers.
vii) Blood Raven: I’m deviating a bit from WoW lore because a) Diablo is fine too! and b) given my kajillion restarts of DII, I fought her more times than I’d like to admit. Did you know she’s meant to be the corrupted form of the rogue NPC from Diablo? The demon Andariel corrupted her and a number of her sisters after a trip to Tristram (nothing good ever happens there.) Between her and Kashya, there’s lots of story fodder.
The Obvious Choice:
i) Your NPC: The greatest thing about writing in the Warcraft lore – and really, any of the Blizzard IPs – is that you have your own blank slate to work with. Your character has performed all sorts of tasks, from mundane to heroic. There’s surely a million stories to be told from them alone.
To all entrants in the Blizzard Writing Contest, good luck. Don’t ever doubt, don’t ever stop writing.