It wasn't a significant other, as is usual; it was a friend. For the record, Dream Friend was trying to sell this 4-CD set Dream Me had that was largely of Lunar fangames - which I don't think exist at all, in real life? These had somehow gotten professionally published, despite having covers consisting of the logos sketched in pen on notebook paper; there were also one or two representatives of other franchises like Panzer Dragoon or Breath of Fire or something in there. Anyhow, Dream Friend was like, hey, it's all right if I sell your fangame set to cover my bills, right? (they were already halfway through the sales process before they asked, IIRC), and I was like, no, and then I got to wondering if they'd stolen or sold anything else of mine on the sly to take care of their financial problems when the dream ended.

Like most reasonable people, I had always considered being mad at someone for something that happened in a dream ridiculous. The thing I'd overlooked, through: dreams are a product of your subconscious, and the reason why you get so mad at your dream friends' antics is because they're illustrative - metaphorically if not literally - of something their real selves are actually doing.

(Which genre? It's up to you.)

I don't usually participate in pile-ons, but this one is relative to translation issues I've discussed previously in this space. A YouTuber and voiceover artist wrote a long Patreon post extensively trashing a recent anime release he helped localize. The licenser subsequently released a statement that they would not be working with him in the future, citing disappointment at his "lack of professional discretion."

Simple cause and effect at work, but the reason why the story's picked up steam, I think, is how utterly unhinged the author comes across in the blogpost, both in his rampaging ego and utter lack of self-awareness. I have never seen anyone shoot themselves in the foot so spectacularly. The very idiom seems painfully inadequate. He missed the foot and instead blew out his entire brain cavity.

  • Outside of the ego on display, the blogpost is a superb argument for why this individual should not be writing anything, much less a dub script, where editing and time constraints are of paramount importance. It goes way too long for the little it says. His argument that the anime sucks consists of him just repeating that it sucks over and over, with the expansive vocabulary of Homer Simpson from that "It Pays to Increase Your Word Power" segment. There are a few objections where he affords a degree of detail, but for the most part, he considers evidence beneath him - he's so self-evidently brilliant, after all, that any reasonable person would instantly agree with whatever he says! No one but someone completely blinded by their own narcissism could write this and believe it portrays their argument or themself in a good light.

  • I've said it before, but: These people are always hell with whom to work. Their ideas are always terrible, and they insist that they are brilliant with unwarranted Dunning-Kruger confidence. They never get any better at their jobs, because they consider other people ants beneath their notice and therefore disregard any feedback. Their egos suck all the air out of the room. You cannot explain their suckitude to them, such is the magnitude of their suck. They actively detract from a project, and they are such hateful headaches with whom to deal personally - completely uncooperative, kneejerk dismissive, and profoundly ignorant of the most basic aspects of their jobs. And yet, like our Hemingway here, they can't stop bleating: "I'm so great and everyone else sucks! My genius is the sole saving grace of this project! You're so lucky I'm so spectacular and that I filled it up with me, me, me!" (Actual quote: "I am a romantic and love writing Actual Good Romance (tm) because nobody else on earth seems to know how to do it.")

  • Incidentally: I've seen claims in forum discussions that the author was not, contrary to his credit-jumping, the head writer but that the "Marissa" mentioned was. I do not know if this is true but can completely believe this dude's rapacious ego and complete narcissistic disrespect for anyone who isn't him would lead him to steal credit from someone else.

  • In a rare glimpse of self-awareness, the author admits that it's normally unprofessional to disparage a project on which you've worked and your coworkers by name immediately after said project's release, but he explains that he has what he believes to be a complete Get out of Jail Free card: he's an independent contractor, which oh, my God, you fucking idiot. (One: The vast majority of translation and localization-related work, game-related or otherwise, is done under independent contract. Nintendo's Treehouse and its stable of full-time employees, while one of the most visible faces of game translation, is an extreme exception, and even Nintendo uses independent contractors for some projects. Two: Even as an independent contractor, you will typically be under an NDA, which usually excludes disparaging the company or project by name for a set period of time. Three: Even if you're not under NDA, or your NDA does not have a non-disparagement clause, it is extremely inadvisable to advertise yourself to potential employers and coworkers as a toxic, narcissistic, backstabbing jackass without a shred of discretion or self-restraint when it comes to discussing your professional projects.)

The author does manage, despite himself, to let slip a few bits about the project that seem like genuine cause for concern - such as the oddly-offhand claim that the dub was localized and acted primarily through uncompensated work from professionals doing it piecemeal as a "favor." I have a lot of questions about this, but the info is coming from such a thoroughly unreliable source that I doubt anything is going to get usefully resolved without clarification from other quarters. Likewise, perhaps the heroine is indeed a complete sociopathic train wreck, but the author is such a demonstrably poor judge of appropriate human interaction that I'm going to need outside confirmation. (He's so emotional in ranting over and over about her, in a manner not commensurate to the misconduct of which he accuses her, that I have to think personal issues are involved to some degree.) The claimed treatment of the trans character is what gives me the most genuine pause: the show comes from the mid-2000s, a time when popular attitudes in the U.S. and Japan toward trans people were largely ignorant, but the "running joke" cited in the text sounds really...indigestible, let's say. I've seen discussion that the character was considered a historic stepping-stone in trans representation, but what was historic doesn't always sit well in the modern day. I'd have to watch the show itself and get more context to have a useful opinion, but I will say the author's discussion of how to handle material in this vein that would be considered inappropriate today is the closest he comes to acting as a professional, responsible localizer.

Outside of that, let me say this: As a translator, you're going to handle source material with which you don't get on perfectly. I have had projects where I actually kind of relieved I ended up for other reasons going on to something else, as I indeed didn't like the franchise. And if you feel really strongly that a project is irredeemable trash, you need to quit. (Even if it's only for self-preservation, to ensure that trash isn't associated with your good name!) Once you are committed to a project, though, I feel that being a translator or localizer imparts a duty of custodianship: to try to understand what those who like a piece of media see in it, and try to bring that out in your work. This guy is so full of himself that I can't imagine an attempt was even made in that department.

The guy needed to be fired, and I hope he doesn't work in localization for a long time. People like him plow projects into the ground, and I feel so sorry for whoever had to clean up after this chucklefuck.

It's called Seeking Mavis Beacon (and that website is pretty great). Sadly predictable: "The model for Mavis is a very real Haitian immigrant named Renée L’Espérance, who was paid $500 for her likeness before falling off the grid."

Here's another review, from Engadget, that seems to embrace the film's vibe better than the Slant one I linked above. The articles claim the filmmakers are big on making themselves characters, and that seems to be true, but it also seems to be true of most of these documentaries following filmmakers as they unravel a real-life mystery, and few people had a problem when, say, the Toynbee tiles documentary guy did it.

It seems, however, that while I wasn't looking, the world decided otherwise. I was watching a stream archive of a popular recent horror release. Eventually, it got to a plot point involving subject matter that was a bit too close to real-life horror for me (a parent having a very potent and realistic reaction to watching their small child die horribly), so I turned it off. The game had seemed close to the end, though, so I Googled to spoil myself on what was happening, and it turned out, "oh, it was all fairies." Which is just about the most unscary thing I can imagine, collective gamer flashbacks to hearing "hey, listen" 20,000 times notwithstanding.

I would think this revelation would be widely panned, particularly among an audience where those raised on SCP creepypastas enjoy disproportionate representation, but no. People seem to be taking it in stride.

It reminds me - to switch gears here - of a modern fantasy title written for a middle-aged female audience I ended up reading a few years back. The plot: Woman moves back to small Vermont town; discovers that she's a descendant of witches and that her neighbors are all supernatural creatures; is challenged by the local grown-up mean girl, who's secretly some sort of faerie queen. It seems - I did some research after being perplexed here - that the whole Big Bad Tinkerbell thing is not just a idiosyncracy of this particular author: fairies are the go-to villains in that subgenre. Their Sugar Plum appearance is not a secret front for more eldritch entities or more sinister powers. They're just...fairies, but bad. Like, individual fairies will announce their presence through signature hues of glowy multicolor glitter - which the author means to be sinister, and man, is that a miscalculation.

Now, I did some thinking, as one does in wake of disconcerting revelations, and I ultimately concluded that, while nothing outside of glitter bombs is going to make glowy glitter scary, the whole fairy villain thing could be kind of understandable, in a skancewise way. The conflicts in these books frequently seem to be metaphors for clashes with the mean girls in town, and fairies, all fluttery and pretty and surface glamour, are the least-disruptive analogue for that cohort among the better-known fantastic creatures. (These books are not written for the curious, so only the most mainstream monster types need apply. You're not gonna get stuff like, say, the Huldra in here.) The thing is that we're supposed to be terrified of these fairies, of their powers and capabilities, viewing them not as twee, cutesy sprites, as these flitty little wee things, but as mighty, awesome creatures, and I'm sorry, I just can't make that transition. Yes, so far as they're beings with supernatural powers, they command vast destructive forces, but so does, say, erosion, and I don't see any horror movies on the premise of limestone weathering. Maybe they work with the modern fantasy target audience because of the mean girls thing, but I would think the gaming horror community would be made of slightly sterner stuff.

Then I thought of another possibly relevant media experience of mine, with the game Firewatch, about a man taking a job as a fire lookout after a long bout of caring for his dementia-stricken wife. Despite dealing with a couple plot points that resonated with me personally - taking care of a family member during a long illness and sorting oneself out afterward; working as a fire lookout, a job that's always intrigued me - I didn't finish it or get along with it. The breaking point came with was initially a special moment after the long hike through the beautifully-rendered interior on the way to your post: my first moment in the lookout tower, the wild expanse of nature that my character would inhabit for the next few months spread out for the first time in its full, panoramic glory before me. Aglow in the twilight, it was a glorious sight, the perfect capper to a beautiful hike. After taking in the scenery, I spotted a poster on the wall illustrating the local flora. What wildflowers could I discover in this region? Enchanted, I drew close to look - and, immediately, the moment was shattered by a screech from the radio: a fellow fire lookout who called to mock my character for his presumed mental problems (claiming that anyone who took a job in nature was obviously unstable and running away from something, signposting the game's attitude toward the great outdoors and those who love it). I was extremely irritated - and then I learned that I was expected to form a positive and loving relationship with this individual over the next few hours that would serve as the focus of the entire game. I dumped Firewatch soon afterward.

It wasn't news to me that my opinion of the title was at odds with conventional wisdom, as the game was highly-praised before I tried it out. But months later, happening across player discussions of the game on Giant Bomb, I discovered that most gamers had had an acutely opposite reaction to the particular moment that turned me off. Everyone else found the nasty radio call, name-calling and all, deeply comforting. They had all been frightened by the walk to the lookout tower - at being alone in the wilderness, a sensation the panorama atop the lookout tower only punctuated. The other lookout, no matter how abrasive or antisocial, was a comfort, a handhold, solely due to being another human presence.

So, given all the above, here's my question: are fairies viable figures of horror in gaming because they represent gamers' fear of nature?

I don't want to fall back on the stereotype of the gamer cocooned in gadgets, as averse to analog pursuits as Dracula is to sunlight. But the evidence ain't exactly pointing elsewhere.


  1. Besides the fairy thing, the fantasy book I mentioned is remarkable for how it is Ready Player One for knitting. As with video games in Ernest Cline's book, where the entirety of existence actually hinges on those video games you thought I was wasting my life playing, Mom, here, knitting is the cause of and solution to every single problem the characters encounter. Every character, save the boyfriend, is a knitter. The magic system is based on weaving and knitting. Enemies trap the heroine in skeins of psychic yarn and attack her with fusillades of killer knitting needles and careening spinning wheels. Wizards denote their power levels through the intricacy of the stitching on their cable-knit sweaters. The heroine saves her man by mentally weaving him a lifeline from her magic, and she is saved in turn by a Spirit Bomb from a ghostly "army of knitters" past to present: "all in period dress, kindred spirits from across the centuries. Hippies and flappers, Gibson Girls and Civil War belles, Colonials and early rustic settlers. They laced their hands together [see! human knitting] and kept me from going under." The author's commitment to the bit is downright impressive and weirdly admirable.
  2. The other thing for which I remember the book is this section where the boyfriend is trying to drive the non-driving protagonist's old Buick through a New England blizzard and she and her friend are aggressively backseating and interfering with the boyfriend's operation of the car and making huge distractions of themselves, to the author's beaming approval (they know best, after all! Um, despite not knowing how to drive), and as someone who has been in that very situation - driving an old Buick through a New England blizzard, once with a family member in the front seat who was freaking out in a performative way and making herself a legitimate danger - this made me viscerally angry. I have known few situations that are more nerve-wracking than trying to operate a vehicle when the tires won't grip the road and visibility slows your progress to a crawl, and both situations are getting worse by the minute, yet going too fast means imminent destruction of one of your most valuable assets and massive bodily harm, and stopping on the side of the road like a sitting duck means potentially the same thing while getting you no closer to safety. It is a situation that demands every single bit of your concentration at every moment until you turn into your driveway - one where absolutely no distractions belong, least of all from those who insist everyone else is too incompetent to drive yet refuse to take the wheel themselves, instead opting to throw tantrums like spoiled children, making themselves the most dangerous thing on the road and risking the lives of everyone in the car.
    Yes, this is colored by personal experience, but my personal experience is very pertinent, dammit. Driving in snowstorms has been the closest Maine has come to killing me, and Maine wants to kill me very badly. (It was not, however, the closest that family member came to killing me, and it turned out they also, unbeknownst to me at the time, wanted to kill me very badly.)
  3. The other negative association I have with Firewatch involves a series of posts and opinion pieces on the game when it was au courant ranting about what a coward the main character was for taking a retreat for his mental health once he couldn't do anything more for his wife instead of staying and fixing his wife's dementia!!!, on which I thought, wow, you have absolutely no experience with chronic illness or caretaking at all, have you. (Given Firewatch's opinion on those who seek out nature and the esteem it was held by that crowd, I wouldn't be surprised if the game ultimately ran in the direction of those ignorant op-eds.)
  4. Those looking for an account of the life of a fire lookout that's more invested and less repulsed by the details of the job should read Fire Season by Philip Connors. It could be better-written - the author's trying too consciously to be a Great Yet Faux-Humble Nature Author and comes off as insufferable a good deal in the early going - but it is, at its best, a good glimpse into what the day-to-day job is like and the mindsets of those who take it when the author gets out of his own way.
  5. Fire Season did convince me, though, that perhaps the life of a fire lookout was not for me due to Connors' notation of the massive amount of animal droppings left in accommodations between seasons.