Thursday, July 31, 2014

about Zak

It's 5am here in central Illinois and I should be writing a preposterous paper on how object oriented ontology explains the relationship between the faux medieval verse of Thomas Chatterton and John Keats's long and ridiculous poem Endymion.  But I guess that can wait for later, because I am a little annoyed and need to talk about Zak's present situation.

Do I need to tell you about Zak or do we all know who I'm talking about?  Zak S(mith/abbath) is a guy with a weird haircut and a dragony tattoo on his head who makes art and writes about playing games with adult video performers and occasionally produces excellent gaming supplements you can buy but more often just throws brilliant free stuff you can steal onto his blog.  He is one of the key people who got the old school scene to embrace Google+ as a play venue, leading to a crapton of great gaming.

I think I've known him about five years now, but my memory for dates is hazy and it could be longer than that.  We've never met in person but I've read a bunch of stuff of his and talked with him online and exchanged emails with him.  All the stuff you do with online friends.  Maybe I'm naive, but I feel like I've known him long enough and well enough that if he were this kind of jerk, I would know about it.  To me, the idea that he uses the followers of his blog as some sort of invisible harassment legion would be laugh-out-loud ludicrous, were it not also such an easy way to ruin someone's reputation.

I still kinda want to laugh, though.  The man is one of most overt people I know.  Apparently some people really think a guy with a dragon where half his hair should be, who also makes it a point to tell you in the title of his blog that he plays D&D with porn stars, is some sort of sneaky bastard.  I am baffled.  He may be a bastard, but he ain't sneaky about pretty much anything.  (However, maybe some confused individual is misreading Zak and thinks that when he criticizes someone he is sending a secret telepathic signal to harass that person.  If you are that guy please KNOCK THAT SHIT OFF.  Seriously.)

Zak's "here is a picture of me with my dick out, now let me write 3,000 words about goblins" overtness can really throw people off their game, especially in places like RPGnet, where some days it seems like Sneaky Bastardry is an official sponsor.  In such venues simple interrogatories like "I am asking you point blank: are wizards awesome or not?" often function as rhetorical land mines.  You say yes and the other person writes three paragraphs explaining how, by clear logic, anyone who likes wizards obviously endorses the Holocaust.  So when Zak asks similar-looking questions with all sincerity, people freak the heck out.  People also freak out sometimes when he says things like "We're having this theoretical argument about gaming and it's getting pretty heated, but I suspect that at the game table we have more in common than we think.  Howabout I run a game for you and we see what happens?"  Apparently gaming discourse in some circles has gotten so messed up that an invitation to play a game is sometimes misinterpreted as someone laying a trap.

Zak's also been accused of being sexist and transphobic.  As a cis het male, I am not in an ideal position to evaluate these claims.  Scrap Princess confirms my own gut reaction to accusing him of transphobia.  I guess I could see how at first pass Zak flaunting his association with porn stars could be read as a bro-tastic performance of hypermasculinity, but from where I'm sitting, my impression from reading his blog shows him treating his adult actress associates as players, as friends and as people.  And female characters in his game writing are way more interesting than I would expect from a sexist jerkwad.  Does that mean Zak has somehow magically escaped the patriarchal systems in which the rest of us mere mortals are trapped?  No.  I'm not putting the guy up for sainthood.  I simply suggest that he's one of the people acting in good faith,  trying to get it right.  Like most other people, I'm sure he gets it wrong sometimes.

In conclusion, I'd like to say that Zak is okay in my book.  If you want to call him out on something, that's completely cool with me.  We all need to be called out once in a while, I think.  But cite your damn sources, please.  Passing on vague rumors is a bullshit move and you damn well know it.