I Jumped On The Bandwagon… And I’m Underwhelmed

I’ve (finally) joined the Animal Crossings: New Horizons bandwagon!

[Edited to add: I’m publishing this as a legacy post. I’ve been playing for longer now and a lot of the problems have resolved themselves… but jeez, talking about a learning curve! Far too many assumptions are being made by the devs in the first few hours of playing.]

I was playing Pocket Camp on my mobile, and stopped when I ran out of space. So I do have some familiarity with Animal Crossings, but not on Switch, and not the full game.

So… yeah. Very, very underwhelmed.

(The Switch itself is great – we got a Switch Lite, and it is indeed light, easy to hold and nice to use! Multiple profiles too which is great for Otter and I.)

But Animal Crossings… hum. I’ve played a couple of hours, and got to the stage where I’m just upgrading from a tent to a house; I think I should get it tomorrow. So I’m withholding judgement a little in case that changes things, but…

  • The actions are not intuitive – I actually had to text a friend to ask how to sleep (which is ridiculous; you press a button to interact with literally every single other thing, and to sleep, you have to walk onto your bed. Seriously?)
  • It’s not particularly obviously what you have to do, and whether you can’t perform a certain action because a) it’s not possible, b) you’re doing the wrong thing, or c) you don’t have the tool yet.
  • There’s no help (that I can find) beyond some very unhelpful “have you done this activity yet?” from Timmy. So for anything like “how do I get those floating presents” or “how do I make a snowman”, it’s very much the above bullet point in guessing how to do it.
  • It’s also not clear how resources refill; bear in mind that I have come from pocket camp, where they refill on a set timeframe, and if things are just lying on the floor at the start of the game then my assumption is that more will appear on the floor at some stage in the future. Apparently, however, you have to whack trees and rocks. THIS IS NOT OBVIOUS.
  • On the same note, I gathered all of the fruit and weeds, because I got Moneys for them. I currently have no idea if I have to do something to get more, or if they’ll grow overnight/every week/every year. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.
  • The placement system for items is terrible (stand… vaguely near where you want it, and hope you’re not turned slightly too far to one side?) and it’s also very frustrating to not be able to move something once it’s been placed – you have to pick it up and try again…
  • And I’m finding the Switch controls hard too; trying to get my character at juuuuuust the right angle to get the fishing lure in front of the fish… forget anything that needs precision.

And I think the biggest thing for me… I’m bored.

There’s two animals to interact with, and they’re not interesting. Timmy, Tommy & Tom Nook are helpful, but going through the same scripts every time you want to sell a fish is frankly tedious. I can’t buy much yet because I either don’t want it, or can’t use it. I’ve dug up stuff and collected stuff and run around and…

Now what? I keep doing that? Grinding much!

Pocket Camp at least is interesting and interactive. There’s multiple animals, and multiple places to visit. There’s a wide variety of things to do and cute things to buy. You can decorate your house, or camp, and part of the fun is being able to collect multiple items and change theme. You have an obvious path to obvious goals.

New Horizons… not so much. I keep running around and get more money, and I… might be able to do something with it? Once I’ve paid back my house, of course. I dunno how many shells and fish that’s going to take. And is that it?

Also, it’s giving me anxiety that my character is running around in a t-shirt a jeans when it’s SNOWING! At least give the starting character some weather-appropriate gear! (I can’t find any in the shopping lists either, so I guess I’m going to have to stay anxious for a while.)

So… I’m going to keep playing for a bit longer, just to see if having a house makes a difference, or if Blather’s Museum gives any more options. But at the moment, it is very, very meh.

There’s Only One Reason SFF Should Fail The Bechdel Test…

…and that’s because the author has planned for it to fail.

So why are we still having this discussion?!

Ok. Deep breath, and let’s start at the beginning.

You’ve opted to go into science fiction and fantasy (SFF) because it provides a breakout from the boring structure of reality or history, where only men have speaking parts, and women are love interests. You want unicorns! Spaceships! Time travel! Magic! All the exciting stuff that doesn’t exist in our current universe, or is an extension of it, or is somehow a flight of fancy from our boring reality. That’s what makes it fiction!

And somehow you still fail to populate your world with anything other than men.


Ok. Another deep breath. Caaaaalm.

The Bechdel Test. It’s got four parts: two women must have a conversation about something other than a man. So that requires a) two female characters, b) talking  c) to each other, and c) about anything other than a man. It’s pretty damn simple.

The Bechdel Test is, frankly, a baseline that should be easy to jump for anyone. And this takes us back to the start: that there is only one reason why your book should fail the Bechdel Test.

That is because you, as the author, have deliberately chosen for it to fail. For example, your narrator is isolated – in which case, they’re not likely to be having conversations with anyone, so that’s fair. Your narrator is a single POV (although do they never overhear any conversations? Or see anyone else have any?) Your narrator is, for some reason, surrounded by men for plot or narrative reasons and this makes sense in the book.

That’s it.

What is not cool is for you to apparently completely forget that women exist outside of a love interest – or, even worse, a “very helpful NPC who points the way to the (male) hero”. You should not find it difficult to include women in the plot. You should not be making excuses as to why there are no or very few female characters. You should not be completely forgetting that maybe you need to make some of your important characters female. (If you only make a couple of NPCs female I will judge that even more harshly. Women are not bit players only.)

It is The Year Of Our Space Mom 2020 and two women having a conversation somewhere in the course of an 80,000 word book SHOULD NOT BE DIFFICULT.

And don’t even get me started on LGBT, trans* and non-binary – or, horror of horrors, what if you wanted to write aliens? I mean, it’s SFF. You couldn’t possibly think completely outside the human gender box, could you?!

I will now go and write an extremely polite rejection letter, pointing out the SHEER IDIOCY, and then fume in a corner. Thank goodness there is good writing out there to soothe my soul!

Dealing With Stories That I Don’t Like

So, something I hadn’t entirely realised about this whole Being An Editor and Working In Publishing thing was that you have to deal with ALL the books that come across your plate. The Good, the Bad, and sometimes the Ugly.

(But, thankfully, we’re not talking about the Ugly today. That’s an entire ‘nother conversation.)

I’m incredibly blessed that both of the publishers I work for – Rebellion and Grimbold Books – pick Very Good Books, so the writing is excellent. The stories are good. The authors Know Their Shit.

But, because I’m not the Commissioning Editor and I don’t get to buy every book, sometimes I gotta read something that I don’t personally like.


Or read a rather unsettling book *cough*Wanderers*cough* for the seventh time.

And – and this was the thing I hadn’t entirely grasped – because I’m a speed reader, I read them. I mean, usually if you don’t like a book – it’s not for you, a genre you don’t like, the writing’s terrible – you can put it down. But not if you’re copy-editing, then checking the format, then putting proof corrections in, then making the ebook and then checking that… that’s five reads alone, even without a submissions or edit read (and I’ll usually have read at least some of the submission.) And I do skim; I do pick up enough that I’m reading. And with an unsettling book (Wanderers) or one that’s horror enough to give me the creeps (naming no names, @premeesaurus) then it’s enough that I do get affected.

It’s actually enough of a problem that I’m starting to gain coping strategies – admittedly, they’re mostly a) taking a break, b) chocolate, and c) telling my colleagues that THEY ARE DEALING WITH THIS ONE BECAUSE JUST NO, but it’s a bit of an occupational hazard that I hadn’t really considered previously!

Maybe my boss will let me have a chocolate bonus in my paycheck…

Thinking About (Not) Having Children

Disclaimer: a personal post, not about writing or books! This is something that I’ve been mulling over for a year or so (or longer) now, and I felt like it’s a subject that maybe doesn’t get discussed as much as it could. So… post.

I always just accepted that having children was something I was going to do… because I didn’t have a reason to not do it. It was part of the accepted course – grow up, go to Uni, find a career, meet someone, get married and have a big wedding, get a house, have children. And I had no reason to deviate from that: it was’t that I necessarily wanted to do it all, but I didn’t have a desire to not do any of those things.

It wasn’t that I never had a choice, either. I’ve got wonderful role models for having children and for being child-free in my family: we’ve had divorces and remarriage and children and step-children and no children, and everyone has always been very accepting of every choice and path. (Also, thank fuck no one in my family has ever been the “so when are you having children?” type. I don’t respond well to that.)

But I never really thought about it. I never had a concrete reason to not go down down any of the expected paths, so it was just… what I’d be doing. It always felt like to not pick any of them, I needed a reason; and there’s plenty of good valid reasons out there, but I just didn’t have any of them. So… I was doing the things. I did Uni, I did “meet someone”, I did A Wedding (which, incidentally, I hated; it still ranks as the two most stressful days of my life) and I did Buy A House (with an additional side of DIY, which I love.)

And then having children didn’t work and my marriage failed, and I moved to Oxford, and I… actually started thinking.

And not having children became a real, heart-breaking, soul-healing CHOICE.

Sushi Go gameThe idea that I could not have children hurts. I wanted them: it was frustrating and heart-breaking to get close and then not know what went wrong, to not know why my body won’t carry longer than 12 weeks. It’s been heart-breaking and lovely and sweet over the past few years, too, seeing friends have children: I get to cuddle a friend’s baby, play with a toddler, teach a five-year old Dumb Ways To Die, play Sushi Go with an eight-year old, pick stickers for a ten-year-old. I get to see what I’m missing out on. I get to see the life I could have had.

And I also get to see the downsides. I get to see the sleepless nights and tantrums about pigtails. I get to wonder what hauling a buggy and toddler back from town would be like when I’m already tired. I look at the school run chaos, the chatter and gossip, and feel grateful that I don’t have to be social. I get to see the stresses and the strains as well as the smiles.

And I think that had been the deciding factor. I have mental health problems, and by now it’s obvious to me that I always will. My depression is mild, but it is always lurking. Even my good weeks have the occasional bad day. My anxiety is always someplace around, too. I live with both and cope with both, but…

There’s also the wider world; it scares me a lot, both with the politics and the climate. Is it fair to add to an already-burdened system? Do I want my children to grow up to a world that seems quite so horrific? I am sincerely hoping that we can change it, but currently, it’s pretty bleak. And that adds another layer onto something that feels like a solid choice.

Do I want to bring a child into this situation? Would I be able to provide the best care and home that I’d want?

And I would. I could. If I had a child, now, then I’d provide the most loving and bestest home that I am able to. But if I don’t have to; if I have a choice – then the better choice, for both me and the child, is to not.

It hurts. But it’s a decision, and it’s one that everyone should be making – for themselves, and their own circumstances.