Solidarity with the Etsy Strike

The Etsy Strike isn’t just about the platform increasing its fees for sellers, although that’s a wild move for the company to make after bringing in record profits for two years straight. Rather, it’s about how these fees are structured to hurt small businesses.

In essence, Etsy is forcing independent artists to operate according to the same business model and practices as Amazon. The most egregious instance of this is the platform’s insistence that we offer free tracked shipping.

Shipping costs rose steeply during the past two years. The pandemic also resulted in significant delays, and the new regulations regarding shipping packages to and from the UK haven’t helped. To ensure “customer satisfaction,” Etsy now penalizes sellers who don’t include tracking on every order, even if it’s just a single sticker. In addition, Etsy is aggressive about its policy of burying the listings of sellers who don’t offer free shipping.

What this means is that sellers are expected to absorb the rising costs of shipping. We are encouraged to purchase mailing labels through Etsy, which generally overcharges and also levies additional shipping fees on the seller. To give an example of what this looks like in practice, an artist would be expected to pay about $4 in order to mail a $3 vinyl sticker. This is exponentially worse when it comes to international shipping.

In other words, this protest isn’t about paying a few more dimes to Etsy for storefront rent. Rather, it’s about how Etsy is forcing small businesses to choose between losing money or raising their prices to levels that would substantially decrease sales. Artificially inflated prices also effectively shut out artists and crafters who don’t already have substantial online followings.  

This is only one of many instances of how Etsy’s recent policies and fee structures hurt small businesses and independent artists. The situation is especially upsetting because it doesn’t have to be like this. Although Etsy was never without its flaws, the platform was relatively welcoming to part-time and amateur sellers, and this inclusive environment resulted in record-breaking profits for the company.

Unfortunately, this profit has led Etsy to consider licensing itself as a storefront for large international distributors such as AliExpress and Rakuten, who are already operating on the same scale as Amazon. This is especially unfortunate because Etsy forbids independent sellers from reselling professionally manufactured goods, thus creating a double standard that puts actual artists at a distinct disadvantage.

Etsy is a major platform for independent creators, especially as competition to table at in-person conventions is at an all-time high and platforms like Gumroad and Kickstarter are quickly losing their viability. Even if you doubt the efficacy of a grassroots strike against a giant multinational corporation, I think it’s still important to stand in solidarity with the artists, crafters, and other creators who are taking a stand against the entire online marketplace becoming like Amazon.

You can learn more about the strike here:
https://etsystrike.org/

You can read and join the strike’s Reddit group here:
https://www.reddit.com/r/EtsyStrike/

You can sign a petition to Etsy here:
https://www.coworker.org/petitions/cancel-the-fee-increase-work-with-sellers-not-against-us

ETA: I want to acknowledge that it is in fact possible to send tracked first-class letters through Pitney Bowes, which has partnered with Etsy to offer tracked shipping directly through the seller interface.

That being said, there are two problems with using the Pitney Bowes letter tracking offered by Etsy, both of which have been well documented, even on Etsy’s own forums. The first is that this option is difficult for many sellers to access, and Etsy Support doesn’t help with troubleshooting. The second is that letters mailed via Pitney Bowes aren’t directly trackable via USPS (or via the Pitney Bowes site) and seem to have a higher instance of becoming lost, thus resulting in sellers having to refund orders.

The Reddit group for Etsy is constantly filled with variations on this second issue. One of the more common of these variations is that tracking never updates beyond “pre-transit,” making it seem as though the order was never mailed. Another common variation is that first-class letters aren’t actually tracked, with the “tracking” being more of a delivery estimate. This means that letters and packages are frequently marked as “delivered” even though they haven’t been. Because sellers are penalized for not responding to complaints within 24 hours, the easiest course of action is to apologize, refund the order, and hope that the buyer doesn’t leave feedback saying that there was a problem.

In addition, the Pitney Bowes labels are larger than regular first-class envelopes. More “professional” sellers therefore use stiff cardboard mailers even for first-class shipping, which is an additional expense, as is a label printer. What I wanted to argue is that sellers shouldn’t be penalized for simply using a stamp and an envelope to mail small paper goods, and that we weren’t penalized for this until very recently.

I understand that this may look different from the perspective of a store with thousands of sales and a smooth workflow, but my sympathies lie with artists and other creators who aren’t operating on a large scale and don’t yet have the experience (or personal connections within the community) to be able to understand things that are easy for more established sellers.

There are a lot of nuances to this argument that I simplified in order to provide an accessible summary for why so many smaller storefronts went on strike. The point I want to emphasize is that there’s no need for Etsy to be so hostile to amateurs.

Demon Professor

The truth is that all of my students are brilliant and I don’t particularly care if a few of them slack off toward the end of the semester, but I still sometimes fantasize about being a demon professor.

This comic is a direct homage to the game Little Nightmares II, in which a super creepy teacher is the boss monster of the “School” level. Little Nightmares II is dark and disturbing and awful, and I love it. If nothing else, the visual design is fantastic.

Cross the Moon

Cross the Moon is a visual horror novel about a near-future dystopia in which a fraction of the moon has shattered, an event concomitant to the appearance of vampires. No one knows why people suddenly began displaying symptoms of vampirism, but those affected have become a disadvantaged underclass of society.

The game’s story follows two mixed-race vampire siblings and a Japanese detective through the streets of L’Amour, a French city that hosts the headquarters of a corporation called bloodFLOW, a leading producer of artificial blood and scientific research relating to vampires. Although Cross the Moon begins as a murder mystery, it gradually expands into the territory of cosmic horror.  

The beginning is standard vampire fare. The player is introduced to a high school student named Lux who is hanging out at a bar and fishing for someone who will consent to share their blood. Lux is essentially a good kid and thinks this is a bad idea, but he’s acting on behalf of his crush Apollon, who seems to be in thrall to his girlfriend, a manic pixie femme fatale named Corentine. Unfortunately for the trio, the man they seduce is found dead the next morning, and Apollon is charged with murder. In an attempt to clear his friend’s name, Lux ends up becoming involved with the vampire underworld, where he learns that Corentine is not an ordinary high school student – nor is Apollon.

This YA narrative is complicated by the interwoven story of Lux’s adult sister Aurore, who has managed to land an interview for a prestigious job at bloodFLOW. Her intake interview is weird, the job she’s asked to do is bizarre, and her coworkers are more than a little strange. She isn’t a big fan of the company itself, which she knows is exploiting the vampire population. Still, Aurore has grown up watching her working-class parents struggle, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to give herself and her family a better life. Unfortunately, this leads her to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding corporate secrets that turn out to be far beyond anything she imagined.

Meanwhile, Yoko has just transferred into L’Amour’s police force as part of an exchange program meant to facilitate cross-cultural communication regarding vampire-related policies and best practices. Due to the timing of her arrival, she’s immediately dropped into the investigation of the gruesome murder supposedly committed by Apollon. She strongly suspects Apollon is innocent, which convinces her to dig deeper into why a random teenage boy is being framed. This in turn leads her to the main mystery of Cross the Moon – what’s going on with bloodFLOW? What does the company have hidden under its corporate offices, and why does Yoko feel so compelled to pry into its secrets?

Cross the Moon is more of a graphic novel than a game. The only interactive element is the option to save your progress, and the story is completely linear. Although Cross the Moon is formatted as a visual novel, with long horizontal text boxes overlaid onto the bottom of a single full-screen image, it’s not a “game” in any meaningful sense. There are no branching paths, and there’s only one ending. There’s no animation or voice acting, and the character art assets are fairly limited. Cross the Moon is also quite long, promising at least seven or eight hours of reading.

The story starts off slow. I’m afraid this may put off many players used to flashy video game opening sequences, but it’s a pitch-perfect opening to a horror novel. This is how almost every Stephen King novel works, after all – the world needs to be built before it’s destroyed, and the reader needs to learn to care about the characters before they start to find themselves in serious trouble. Through the mundane details of the everyday lives of the characters, the player gradually builds an understanding of how the society of L’Amour operates, which makes the final horrific reveals all the more dramatic.

The author is sensitive to inequalities concerning race, class, and gender, but it’s worth mentioning that the game’s take on vampirism is its own thing and not analogous to any real-world identity. The minority status of vampires is informed by real-world politics, but Cross the Moon takes the concept in a creative and unexpected direction. I have to admit that I’m not a particular fan of vampires, but I found myself growing progressively more curious about how vampirism operates in the world of the game, as well as how it originated.

(By the way, if you’ve been reading between the lines of this review and have come to the conclusion that the ethically dubious corporation created vampires, that’s not what’s happening. This story has layers of progressively deepening strangeness, and it absolutely doesn’t go where you expect it to.)

The worldbuilding of Cross the Moon is enhanced by its visual style. The soft grayscale character art pops against the super-saturated backgrounds, which are composed of photographs overlaid with high-contrast color filters. I know this sounds like Baby’s First Photoshop, but it’s remarkably well done and extremely stylish. As I mentioned earlier, the character art assets are limited, so the player is occasionally asked to suspend disbelief while, for example, a character lies in a hospital bed in a full suit. For the most part, the graphics contribute a great deal of atmosphere to the story, as does the ambient music. The game contains some uncomfortably gory and deliciously creepy moments, and there’s a jump scare toward the end that really got me.

If reading a lengthy mature-audience horror story in the form of a visual novel sounds like a chore, then Cross the Moon probably isn’t for you. Speaking personally, I always find myself getting annoyed by extraneous gameplay elements in visual novels, so what Cross the Moon is doing is perfect for me. I read it on my Nintendo Switch between sessions with more action-oriented games, and I very much enjoyed myself. I’m intrigued by the potential of this hybrid medium of storytelling, and I’d love to see more “visual novels” that are in fact genuine novels intended for adult readers.

Writing While ADHD

I won’t lie. Writing while ADHD is a challenge! There are many benefits to ADHD, such as the ability to think quickly and generate galaxies of original ideas, as well as an enhanced capacity for hyperfocus and flow. It’s always good to remember that ADHD isn’t an “illness,” but rather a less common type of brain wiring. Still, ADHD can make the act of sitting down and putting words on the page trickier than it is for people with other types of brains. What I’ve learned from more than a decade of writing while ADHD is that we simply have to work with it, not against it.  

This post is divided into three segments that address specific ADHD concerns: the necessity of minimizing distractions, the efficacy of establishing a routine, and tricks for overcoming executive function disorder. All of this advice applies to people without ADHD, but it’s critical to those of us whose heads are buzzing with ideas yet who find it difficult to write.

Minimizing Distractions

Virginia Woolf famously established the necessity of a room of one’s own. Writing is a solitary activity, and it’s important to minimize distractions so you can hear yourself think. Unfortunately, avoiding distractions is difficult for many people with ADHD, and it can sometimes be necessary to take extra steps to create a comfortable work environment.

The easiest way to make a quiet space is to stay away from the internet. This is just as obvious as it is problematic, as it negates many of the tools used by other writers, such as Discord-based writing sprints, music channels on YouTube, and online countdown timers. This also means that you can’t do research as you’re writing, meaning that you’ll have to set up a system of annotations to return to later. Nevertheless, the internet is kryptonite for people with ADHD, and it’s best to limit access while you’re writing and editing.

In addition, it goes without saying that your phone should be nowhere near your hand. If you have pressing business or emails that need to be taken care of, promise yourself that you’ll handle it after you finish writing. Many people with ADHD are excellent multitaskers, but writing demands focus.

ADHD gives us intense powers of concentration once we’re able to focus on one task, so it’s important that this concentration isn’t misdirected. Because of our brain chemistry, people with ADHD tend to gravitate toward the most high-stimulation activities available, so we need to be extra careful to create a quiet physical and mental space free of distractions.

To summarize: Be kind to your ADHD brain by putting away your phone and staying off the internet while you’re writing.

Establishing a Routine

Many writing guides stress the importance of establishing a routine. Putting your butt in the chair can be difficult for everyone, but it’s especially difficult for people with ADHD, many of whom find it almost impossible to concentrate if we’re not feeling motivated. This is why it’s crucial for those of us with ADHD to put extra effort into training ourselves to get into an appropriate headspace to write.

Having a quiet environment free of distractions helps immensely, as does having a set time of day for writing. If you use medication, it’s helpful to sync your writing time to your medication schedule. It also helps to schedule your writing in accordance to the natural flow of your mood and energy. While some writers are capable of carving out small blocks of writing time during their daily schedules, this isn’t a feasible strategy for most people with ADHD. Instead of fitting writing into a pre-existing schedule, many of us have to rearrange our commitments to work and education in order to solidify a routine for writing.  

The process of establishing a routine tends to take longer for people with ADHD. Some days might be painful, especially at first. Because we can’t choose how our brains are going to function on any given day, it’s important to be patient and kind to ourselves in order to keep the routine going. If you can only write for twenty minutes during your designated time before getting distracted, consider it twenty minutes well spent. If you can only write for five minutes, that’s okay too. People with ADHD tend to be susceptible to burnout, so it’s important to give yourself time to adjust to a new routine and not to push yourself if you’re not feeling it.

The important thing is to stick to your routine, no matter what. It will take time – three or four months at minimum – but you’ll train your brain to appreciate the routine instead of resisting it. With practice, this routine will help you trigger your ADHD superpowers of concentration when you need them. Knowing with certainty that you’ll be able to access a state of flow is the key the what is perhaps the tallest hurdle for writers with ADHD: overcoming executive function disorder.

To summarize: While paying attention to the natural fluctuations of your focus and energy, set aside a specific time to write every day, and be kind to yourself if some sessions aren’t as productive as others.

Overcoming Executive Function Disorder

Let’s say you have a fantastic idea, and you can’t wait to start writing. You’ve written any number of stories or essays before, not to mention school assignments and social media posts. Even though you acknowledge that writing is work, it’s work you love doing…

…and yet somehow you just can’t bring yourself to do it. It’s like there’s an invisible force field around the project, and no amount of good intentions (or pressing deadlines) will help you get past it. You’ve settled into a writing routine, and you’ve minimized the distractions around your writing space, but you still can’t get started.

This is when it helps to be sneaky. You have to trick yourself into opening the document and putting your fingers on the keyboard. The easiest way to do this is to shift the goalposts of what you count as a successful writing session. Maybe you can’t write a page. So what? You can write a sentence instead. So what if you can’t write a sentence? You can write a short list of sentence fragments. It’s all good. If you can’t focus today, there’s always tomorrow.

Once you get started, you’ll usually end up tricking yourself into meeting your original goal, which is fantastic! Sometimes it’s just not working, and there’s no helping it. And that’s okay! You don’t have to play by the same rules as other writers. If you end up with just a sentence, you’re doing great. (True story: Some of my most successful publications were written at a pace of one sentence every day.)

Delayed gratification isn’t something that most people with ADHD are equipped to handle, so another useful trick to getting around executive function disorder is to treat yourself before you start writing, not as a promised reward. Go ahead and eat a piece of chocolate or drink a cup of fancy tea as soon as you sit down. Physical motion often helps ADHD people focus, and a pantheon of respected writers have said that they do their best work after taking a walk. The brains of people with ADHD aren’t wired to get serotonin from the expectation of a reward, so it helps to treat the opportunity to sit down and write as part of an integrated ritual of self-care.

To summarize: If you find it difficult to start working, shift your expectations of what you need to achieve – and maybe treat yourself before you start writing.

Again, most of this advice applies to almost everyone. Our brains operate along multiple spectrums of how we process the world, and ADHD doesn’t manifest in the same ways or the same degree for everyone. That being said, it’s important to remember that issues that may not be a concern for other writers may be a barrier to an ADHD writer. Creating a distraction-free space and establishing a set routine is extremely helpful to those of us writing while ADHD, as is learning how to treat writing as a reward to be enjoyed instead of a task to be completed.

This post is concerned with the broad strokes of general practice, but it would be interesting to hear the specifics of other writers’ experiences. What are your strategies for keeping your ideas and research organized? How do you stay on track with larger projects? While you’re in a period in when your brain isn’t cooperating and your writing progress is incremental, how do you deal with the anxiety of not being as productive as your peers? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

. . . . . . . . . . .

This post originally appeared on Get Your Words Out, a community of writers aiming to maintain healthy creative habits and writing productivity. Membership to the community opens at the beginning of the calendar year, and its content is limited to members who maintain their writing pledges, but the GYWO Twitter account is accessible to everyone and posts encouragement, prompts, and writing resources at a steady but manageable pace.

A Public Service

Queens don’t have to do paperwork. 👑

It’s been a while, but I’m back to work on The Demon King, an original fantasy story about tired adults doing their best. I wrote a stand-alone novella last year, and I’m currently expanding it into a proper novel. I drew the thumbnails for a few comic scripts back when I first started playing with ideas, and I recently decided to ink and color a few of them just for fun. This one is loosely based on a study of a panel in Tess Stone’s Not Drunk Enough, a stylish horror comic with a target audience of me specifically.

Spiritfarer

I caught the flu last week. I couldn’t eat or sleep for days. It was intense.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, Spiritfarer is the perfect game. The art and music are soothing and gentle, and the gameplay is simultaneously relaxing and addictive. It took me somewhere between 35 and 40 hours to get close to 100% completion, and I didn’t notice the passage of time at all while I was playing.

Spiritfarer describes itself as a “cozy management game about dying,” which is as good of a description as any. As Stella, the newly appointed Spiritfarer, it’s your job to ferry spirits to the great beyond on a giant boat. The twelve spirits you encounter take the forms of anthropomorphic animals, and each has a distinct personality and set of preferences. These spirits will need to spend time on your boat before they’re ready to move on, and you’re tasked with building each of them a small house and then keeping them fed and happy while they travel with you. You pick up cooking ingredients and building resources by visiting various points on the map, which you’ll gradually explore as you complete requests and meet new spirits. While sailing between locations on your boat, you can grow crops, care for livestock, cook food, and craft various materials.

Each spirit gives you an Obol as payment for their passage, and a spirit flower will bloom in their house after they move on. You use these tokens to upgrade your boat and expand your range of abilities, which grow include gliding and double jumping. This system of resource-based expansion allows you to open more of the game at your own pace while simultaneously limiting the number of tasks you need to worry about at any given time.

Spiritfarer has an excellent balance of exploration and crafting, as well as optional bits of Metroidvania-lite platforming. There’s no combat. Most of the challenge comes from effective in-game time management, although there are no time limits or negative consequences for just futzing around. Player movement is limited by a few artificial barriers at the beginning, but the world of Spiritfarer is relatively open, and there’s always a lot going on. The spirits’ requests nudge you in the direction of exploring new areas of the map organically, so you’ll never be at a loss for what to do next. Thankfully, your menu screen contains a list of requests and sidequests for your convenience.

The introduction to Spiritfarer’s story is a bit silly – you are a small child! here’s a giant boat! go out and ferry the dead! – but it becomes much more compelling as you progress. It might seem odd that a cute game about sailing around with talking animals has a “Teen” rating, but some of the spirits are carrying a lot of baggage. Their stories aren’t melodramas with happy endings, but instead involve real and complicated misbehavior, delusions, and regrets. To give an example, one of the souls is suffering from dementia. She’s kind and curious when she’s lucid, but she’s incredibly mean during her foggy periods, and she gradually gets worse instead of better.

There’s no graphic depiction of sex or violence, but some of the stories are surprisingly dark and specific. The first spirit you meet, Gwen, eventually admits that she struggled with suicidal ideation throughout her youth, and the compulsion to end her life returned with a vengeance as she was dying from lung cancer in her early forties. Gwen didn’t commit suicide, but she wasn’t able to survive cancer, and her blithely ironic attitude can’t quite conceal how bitter she is about having her life cut short.

Stella’s own story isn’t revealed until later in the game, but the way the spirits are connected to her is touching and beautiful. Spiritfarer celebrates the joy of being alive, but it’s ultimately about the sweetness and gentleness of death. Thankfully, it has a solid sense of humor, and also you can raise sheep.

Spiritfarer is a perfectly designed to be fun and engaging without being frustrating. I also appreciate that it wraps up in a satisfying thirty to forty hours. It’s exactly the sort of game I might recommend to adults who aren’t into gaming but are interested in how the medium can tell a complex story in an interesting and unique way.

Spiritfarer is also the perfect game to play if you find yourself stuck in bed with a prolonged illness. Even though I would happily recommend the game to anyone, it’s worth saving for when you need it.

Video Workshop on Fairytale Comics

I talk about the narrative structure of fairy tales & fables, then walk you through a short guided exercise, making your own original short fairy tale comic.

I haven’t watched this yet, but I fully intend to. For me personally, the appeal of fairy tales is:

– witches
– anthropophagy
– interspecies romance

Probably my least favorite genre of contemporary fantasy writing is “classic fairy tales re-envisioned with a feminist/queer slant.” No shade, but it’s not for me. What I do like are short stories that follow a fairy tale structure, by which I mean someone gets eaten at the end. Melanie Gillman is very good at this, and I’m looking forward to hearing their thoughts.

The End of the Line for the Shinra Corporation

Over the course of its expansive story, Final Fantasy VII changes direction and shifts focus but holds fast to the goal of saving the world from a crisis created by Shinra. Even if there were no interstellar demons or mad scientists, the Planet would never have survived were it not for a small group of activists who dared to challenge the most powerful corporation in the world…

I contributed a meta essay titled “The End of the Line for the Shinra Corporation” to the Return to the Planet fanzine, which celebrates the 25th anniversary of the original 1997 release of Final Fantasy VII. My piece is about how the game references the corporate critique and real-world grassroots environmental activism in Japan during the 1990s. The zine is filled with gorgeous artwork, stories, and nonfiction, and it’s free to download. You can read my essay on my Japanese fiction blog (here), and I also posted it on AO3 (here). You can check out the zine via these links:

🌿 https://twitter.com/ff7ogzine
🌿 http://whitemateria.net/ff7ogzine/
🌿 https://archiveofourown.org/collections/FF7OGZine

Coffee Talk

Coffee Talk is a visual novel about an all-night coffee shop in Seattle. You play as the barista, and your job is to connect your customers to one another while improving their moods by serving warm drinks. Although the game tackles serious issues softened through the lens of fantasy, its tone is relatively lighthearted and gentle, and the pixel graphics are cute and cozy.  

The game has three screens: your view of the shop from behind the counter as you chat with your customers, an ingredient selection screen for the drinks you make, and your cellphone, which contains an incomplete list of recipes, a music playlist, and an in-game social media app. The story takes place over fourteen nights, and there’s only one ending. There are no dialog choices, but some of your customers will open up to you more (and allow you greater access to their social media profiles) if you serve them drinks to match their moods. In other words, there isn’t much gameplay. Aside from brewing different types of coffee and tea, the player is mainly along for the ride.

Every review I’ve read of Coffee Talk complains about the drink brewing system, and rightly so. It’s counterintuitive and needlessly complicated. Each drink has a base – coffee, tea, green tea, chocolate, or milk – and you can add two additional ingredients, such as mint or cinnamon. The order in which you add the ingredients matters, meaning that tea with lemon and honey is a different recipe than tea with honey and lemon. On top of that, each drink has several different meters measuring qualities such as “sweet” or “cool,” and there’s no way to predict what combination of ingredients will result in the requested combination of qualities. Your customers will sometimes tell you how to brew a drink, but you mostly have to complete the recipe app on your phone yourself.

I can’t imagine that there’s any way to get everyone’s drink orders correct without either using a walkthrough or exploiting the save feature as you employ trial and error to go through a list of possible permutations. Thankfully, it doesn’t really matter, and most players will probably do just fine by paying attention to the dialog.

The main draw of Coffee Talk is its setting, a fantasy AU version of Seattle. The year is 2020, and everything is more or less the same except that fantasy races are real – elves, orcs, vampires, fish people, you name it. As far as I can tell, there’s no magic aside from the general characteristics associated with various fantasy races, meaning that elves have long lifespans, werewolves transform once a month, and so on. Each night at the coffee shop is prefaced by the front page of that day’s newspaper, and the fantasy world’s concerns seem to mirror those of our own: Orcs demand an end to workplace discrimination, the U.S. and Atlantis negotiate immigration reforms, Seattle plans to host this year’s Coachella music festival.  

The eleven characters who visit the coffee shop come from all walks of life. One of my favorites is the werewolf war veteran Gala, who works in medical administration. He seems to have a complicated past, but this is nowhere near as important as the mundane conversations he has with other characters, often contributing a sense of perspective to their problems. It’s refreshing that none of the characters care about the details of what it’s like to be a werewolf but are much more interested in what it means to work in medical admin. Gala is friends with a supermodel vampire named Hyde, who is characterized not as a “supermodel” or “vampire,” but rather someone who means well but is brutally honest – and perhaps romantically interested in Gala.

The setting of Coffee Talk has a lot of narrative potential, but I feel the worldbuilding is somewhat shallow. In addition, the lighthearted tone of the writing doesn’t match the complications of the issues under discussion. To give an example, one of the coffee shop’s patrons is an eighteen-year-old aspiring pop star whose manager seems to be setting her up to be sexually assaulted at a Coachella afterparty. Thankfully, the character is able to avoid this situation by not attending the party. How simple is that! When you’re confronted with sexual menace, you can just… walk away! It’s not like careers in the entertainment industry are based on the connections formed at these parties or anything.

Although this isn’t anywhere near as heavy as some of the other character arcs, I felt personally attacked by Freya, a green-haired human woman who works as a staff writer at a local Seattle newspaper. Freya receives a chance opportunity to submit a novel to a head editor at her newspaper’s parent company, with the caveat that she has to complete a draft in two weeks. Which she is 100% able to do, because she believes in herself. Writing a presentation-ready draft of a novel in two weeks is all about self-confidence, right? And of course her novel is accepted for publication, and it becomes a best seller right away, and all of this happens in less than a year. Because that’s all it takes to publish the first novel you’ve ever written: believing in yourself – and a lot of caffeine!!

Obviously I’m being ironic. Writing and publishing a novel in a few short months is just as much of a fantasy as the story arc of a game developer who solves the issue of crunch culture by… just taking a weekend vacation! Putting aside the work cultures of people in creative industries, I’m frustrated by the suggestion that a pleasant conversation all it takes to solve heavier problems ranging from systemic racism to needlessly high barriers to legal immigration, and that if your own life isn’t working out then you just aren’t drinking enough fancy coffee.

It should go without saying that this is nothing more than my personal response to the game. My frustration with Coffee Talk is my frustration with YA fiction in general, by which I mean that I find it difficult to become emotionally invested in characters who face genuine challenges but aren’t allowed to say “fuck.” Still, I understand that not everything has to be realistic and gritty, and that there’s value in seeing a happy ending for a character whose experience mirrors your own.   

On the whole, Coffee Talk is enjoyable and well-written, and it’s a nice lo-fi game to chill to. It takes about three to four hours to finish, and it has a fun postgame secret ending that adds a bit of replay value. A sequel is planned for release later this year, and I’m looking forward to reading more interactive stories set in this universe.

The Magic of Fiction

I thought long and hard (so to speak) about the title of the book the Demon King is reading, but everything I came up with was awful. I decided to give up after “Dragon with a Hard-on” and just leave it up to the reader’s imagination.

This comic is written by me and drawn by Frankiesbugs, whose art is sometimes cute, sometimes creepy, and always stylish. You can follow them on Instagram, on Twitter, and on Tumblr for more comics, demons, and attractive people in fancy dress behaving badly.