Defending Ashley Williams of Mass Effect

Mass Effect, as a series, is probably known and loved more for the cast of characters Shepard pals around with while saving the galaxy multiple times than any other aspect. Other games do combat better (although I’ve never enjoyed any shooter more than Mass Effect 3, especially the multiplayer), or have better plots or storylines, but no game really comes close to having characters who grow and evolve during the series, in many cases shaped by their interactions the player has with them. Fan favorites like Garrus, Wrex, Tali (I even named my dog after her), Jack, Mordin – all of them are incredibly well fleshed-out, have real growth arcs through the series, and have real resonance. They are beloved.

There is one character, though, who is not beloved. She is rarely even be-liked. She is usually be-fucking-hated. She is Ashley Williams.

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A Serpent in the Citadel, Chapter 5: Watchful Eyes

This is Chapter 5 of my sci-fi detective noir short story. If you’re one of those weirdos who likes to start from the beginning, choose something earlier below:

Chapter 1: The Big Sister

Chapter 2: Long Walks and Short Thoughts

Chapter 3: Time for a Drink

Chapter 4: The Turian Inquisition

Either the bed was deceptively comfortable, or a day that included dealing with my sister, traveling millions of miles, and ending in a police station made me a lot less picky. My head was aching from my high-speed introduction to yesterday’s wall, but some painkillers, scotch, and a shower improved my outlook. I didn’t normally drink this early, but, to be fair, I wasn’t often up this early either. I suited up, wishing I was wearing some heavy assault armor instead. The message I got saying “Congratulations! Almost twelve hours before you got picked up by the cops – M” certainly didn’t improve my mood. I had a bad feeling about the day. That wasn’t unusual, because the days I woke feeling like life was great always ended up terrible. A bad feeling was almost encouraging.

I hit the streets and made my way back to Tranquility. The streets were busier than yesterday, the respectable folks and their opposites going about their business at the tail end of the Ward. I got propositioned twice for action, one that called for a bed and another that called for k nuckles, and passed on both. I figured I had enough problems already.

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The Brave Girl

This is the short story I wrote for my wife for Valentine’s Day. As I’ve said previously, it’s the first story I wrote after 4 years or so, and it was the first thing I needed to write in a very long time. She inspires me every day, and I wanted to share with her a little glimpse of how she is in my imagination. This is a small part of her, and since people asked to see it and she said it was okay, I’m sharing it here.

Also, the drawing is a sketch I made of Spaniel Day Lewis for the Valentine’s Day before this one, and since he also graces this story, I thought I’d share it, too. I’d illustrate the whole thing if I could, but I sadly lack that talent.

Once there was a girl who lived in a house that was down a hill and up a hill away from the woods. The girl loved the woods very much, and was often found there, exploring the hidden places and listening to the music of the trees. She was very bright and imaginative and kind and clever, and a million other wonderful things besides, but most of all she was brave. She felt no fear under the boughs and amidst the brush, even when the shadows lengthened, because she loved the forest near her home. There were always adventures to be had there, and she would run or skip or stalk or sit quietly, however the mood struck her, as a branch became a wizard’s staff or a wind-borne blossom sprouted fairy wings or all the birds gathered to sing her a lullaby.

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A Serpent in the Citadel, Chapter Four: The Turian Inquisition

This is Chapter 4 of my sci-fi detective noir short story. If you’re one of those weirdos who likes to start from the beginning, choose something earlier below:

Chapter 1: The Big Sister

Chapter 2: Long Walks and Short Thoughts

Chapter 3: Time for a Drink

On the bright side, I hadn’t been arrested. They drove me to their local station, took my pistol for safe-keeping, and had me cool my heels in a spare office. The small room made Madeline’s look ostentatious. I wondered if decorations were against the rules. The place was doing a brisk business, with a bunch of drunk and disorderlies along with some busted brawlers. It reminded me fondly of my military career.

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A Serpent in the Citadel, Chapter 3: Corrigan Goes to a Bar

This is Chapter 3 of A Serpent in the Citadel, a pulp noir detective story set in the Mass Effect universe. I try very hard to make it unnecessary to have played the games to enjoy the story. Let me know how poorly I’ve done so in the comments.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

The bar was called Tranquility but Surly would’ve described it better. I’d envisioned asari dancing girls and a lively crowd of villainy, but the place wasn’t a wretched hive. It was barely a disheveled nest. The place wasn’t small, with tables and secluded booths in a large open area that looked like it could seat a hundred with more on the spacious elevated dance floor. It was, however, nearly empty. There was an asari but she wasn’t dancing. Instead she wiped a spot on the bar with a towel and seemed intent about it. A krogan sat on the right side of the bar, in heavy armor that looked beat to hell and halfway back, nursing a drink. On the left was a lone turian, female, dressed like a merc looking to get in a company. Ragged was too kind a term. A quartet of salarians sat at one table and a pair of quarians were at another, their environmental suits dusty and worn. The bar was quiet, except for a vague electronic dance tune that sounded like it was on a loop and the whispered conversations from the tables that stopped when I got there.

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A Serpent in the Citadel, Chapter 2: Corrigan Takes a Walk

This is part 2 of my sci-fi detective story. Part 1 is here. Enjoy. If you want, I mean. I’m not your boss.

Ward

It took me longer to get to my apartment once I was on the Citadel than it did to travel the millions of miles from Arcturus to the giant station. Customs was no problem. A scan of my new agent license made them ignore my firearm and I got waved in like I was reputable. Citadel security was slipping. Past security was the no-man’s-land between the Presidium and the Wards. The Presidium was where the people who were a big deal hung out, diplomats and councilors and their hangers-on. The five Wards jutted off the central ring of the Presidium and was where the real action was. Each was a city unto themselves, full of noise and light and the crammed masses of a half-dozen species gawking and wandering. The place was a great equalizer among all us aliens – none of us built it, we were all in awe of it, and being there instantly made every visitor a tourist for at least a little while.

I decided to walk a lot of the way down the long arm of Tayseri Ward, packed in among the milling masses. I could have flagged a shuttle or a ground car, but something about the crazy bustle of the crowd appealed to me. It reminded me of home, the sprawling slum on Earth, only Tayseri was a lot cleaner and I didn’t get mugged every fifth step. There was a buzz to the Citadel, something I could appreciate. Quiet places got to me after a while. Elysium was quiet until the Blitz. Now quiet just meant I was waiting for the explosions and screams.

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Serpent in the Citadel, Chapter 1: A Mass Effect Noir Detective Story

I’ve never written fan fiction before. Now I have. It doesn’t feature any characters from the game, it takes place a few years before the first Mass Effect, and is a noir detective story instead of sci-fi, but since it’s in the ME universe I suppose it’s fanfic. Once again, I can’t help but mash genres. Hey, I’m just happy I’m writing – this plus the short story I wrote for my wife for Valentine’s Day means I’m on a roll!

This is Part 1 of the story – I’ll be posting it in serial form.

Anyway, here we go:

The last time I was this hungover while being escorted through a military facility I was looking at ten years in a prison colony. Lucky for me I wasn’t wearing tin bracelets this time and no one had their gun drawn. Unlucky for me I was being marched to the Alliance Judge Advocate Corps office on Arcturus Station, the giant place where the most muckety of the mucks who ran the entire Systems Alliance Navy called home. I was krill in the mouth of humanity’s whale, and that wasn’t even the worst part.

The worst thing was, I was being escorted to my sister. Yes, I, Corrigan Blake, ex-Marine, former mercenary, galactic traveler, feared nothing in the universe half so much as I did my big sister.

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Spoiler: My (Spoiler) Thoughts on (Spoiler) Star Wars: The Force (Spoiler) Awakens

Here is the non-spoiler portion of this post: There is a movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I have seen it.

This is the end of the non-spoiler portion of the post. Seriously, everything that comes after this will spoil everything, including movies that haven’t even been written yet. That’s how spoilery this shit is. After this, if you see something that ruins a crucial Jabba the Hutt related moment in the movie for you, that’s entirely your fault and not mine.

Last chance.

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Killing a Book

Writing a book is a labor, sometimes of love, other times of persistence, occasionally of obligation, rarely (one hopes) out of sheer sadism or masochism, depending on who exactly the writer wishes to punish. Regardless of motivation, it is work. And like most jobs, time off can be a necessity during the whole process. Sometimes it’s a holiday, and in some cases in can be an entire leave of absence for months or years until the desire to resume overcomes the reluctance to dive back into the thing that made you walk away altogether.

And sometimes, you just need to tell the book to shove it.

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Reblog: Cancer Feelings: Fear

I haven’t had much to say here of late, obviously. I entertain notions of doing so, but time and circumstance and lack of anything meaningful or interesting or funny that I want to say (ed: Never stopped you before.) (Shutup.) has prevented it. Someone who HAS things that are not only meaningful and interesting and funny to say is my wife. She’s writing a series on the feelings that cancer causes from her own perspective. She just posted about Fear, and… let’s just say that it’s deep and insightful and entertaining as hell, because she can write better than I. See for yourself:

Speaking of our house, that’s probably been the hardest and scariest thing. We bought a house in September and I was scared to death of it for the first month. I didn’t want to be alone in it, and I still won’t go into the basement when Alan’s not home (that may be more because basements in general are scary and I’m a child). It definitely helped to get all the furnishings of the old, religious couple who lived here before out (multiple. cherub. switch plates. I shit you not.), but I would still go through the house with a golf club or a sword a lot of the time when I got home alone. I’d ask Alan to draw the curtains at night because I would jump at the movement of the reflections. I couldn’t shake this feeling that something was hiding in our house waiting to attack me. I told my cancer shrink (yup, I have a cancer shrink. She’s a stage 3 breast cancer survivor, 22 years in remission, and she rocks) and she made a very good point. “Of course you’re scared there’s something lurking in your house trying to kill you. There was something hiding in your body for 10 years that just tried to kill you.” And just like that, Carol exploded my brain.

Go here to read the rest of it. Say hi to her when you do. She’s really nice.

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