Skimpwear! Armor or No Armor?

Believe it or not, I do have practical reasons for putting some of my female characters in skimpwear. So, you do not believe me. Figures. No … I did not mean figures were the reason for skimpwear on my characters! Well, maybe just a little. Anyway, for the heck of it, I thought I’d post my own personal thoughts regarding skimpwear in my stories and images. This is my own personal thought about the subject, and certainly not universal much less applicable elsewhere. Unless you want to start calling it the Boutwell Doctrine, in which case I’m vainglorious enough to like it.

First, I want to get several overused cards off the table.

1. Skimpwear Is Historically Inaccurate

Of course it is. What about the word fantasy in Fantasy don’t some people get? 95% of what appears in fantasy never happened in the history of our species. As a writer whose name I now forget once said, “Never let historical fact ruin a good story.” He also wrote historical fiction, so if he can bend the rules, I can shatter them. I’d say the same about “scientific fact.” If you want fact, read non-fiction. Fiction is about the story.

Or is it inaccurate? According to the Romans, the Picts fought stark naked. Considering the Romans built a wall to keep the Picts out of Britannia, and the Romans were not known for being craven cowards, I tend to believe them. So, there is at least one historical reference for minimal garments in combat.

2. Skimpwear Is Sexist

And? People who say that act as if sex appeal is a bad thing. But we are talking about a group who believes they were all immaculately conceived. I don’t believe any artform should be politically correct. It should be politically challenging. Right now, nudity and sex are politically challenging because both the Right and the Left in the USA hate those subjects. So bring it on! Rattle those cages!

Of course skimpwear is sexy. Look. We create our own personal fantasy women, and there is nothing wrong with that. Many of us also create our own personal fantasy men, and there is nothing wrong with that, either. I’m going to dress my characters to accentuate that fantasy interest. Ultimately, they’re for me. Yours are for you. If other readers/watchers want to join the party, so much the better.

I do understand the issue of putting a woman in a bikini while the man is fully dressed. That is not my fault! Not in 3D art it isn’t. Conan and Red Sonja are the visual standards for protagonists in Sword-and-Sorcery Fantasy. They’re both half-naked. I want my SnS characters to follow the standard. It’s easy in writing, or in hand drawn art. It isn’t so easy in 3D. There are closets full of good Sonjaesque outfits in 3D for women. Can’t say the same for guys. Unfortunately, few 3D content creators have made decent men’s skimpwear. I would put a guy in a codpiece in a nanosecond if one existed. In 3D, I’m stuck with what I can buy. In a written story, I’m an equal opportunity skimpwearist.

Why? Let’s get to that, shall we?

WARRIOR VERSUS SOLDIER

That is it right there. In my mind, at least.

As a subgenre of Fantasy, Barbarian/ Sword and Sorcery Fantasy differs from the Epic Fantasy in many ways. The primary difference is SnS revolves around a solitary figure on a personal mission, while Epic revolves around a team out to save the world. The solitary in SnS may pick up friends and associates along the way, and the team will break up at some point, but the focal points remain fairly fixed.

In my mind, that solitary figure in SnS is a warrior. The team member in Epic is a soldier. There lies the difference that determines their choice of clothing.

I’m going to pick a female warrior because they receive the brunt of the skimpwear condemnation, although most of these points are applicable to a man. She is essentially a lone guerilla. She doesn’t fight for flag, country, or king. She fights for herself, and a worthy cause. Hit and run is her specialty. She has no shame in retreating to a more advantageous position. It isn’t cowardly to refuse to attack a fortified position staffed with 100 archers. It’s practical! Stealth is her primary weapon. Sneak in behind the enemy, slice his throat, move on.

If she fights face-to-face, then she needs a woman’s advantages. A man generally relies on his brute strength to power his way through a fight. Forget the five minute broadsword fights you see in movies. Those didn’t happen. Those guys spent more time glaring at each other while they rested than they did dueling. The fencing duel belongs to the foil of the Musketeer, or to the katana of the Samurai. Anyway, even given the astonishing weight of a basic hand-and-a-half sword, or maybe because of it, men will still rely on their muscles to put power behind that swing. Women don’t have that upper body strength. They do however, have much faster reflexes, superior speed, and better agility.

Any solitary guerilla female warrior isn’t going to want her reflexes, speed, and agility compromised by extra weight. She wants to dance into combat, slice, and dance out as fast as possible. To me, then, the lack of armor is a tactical enhancement for those assets, counterbalancing her lack of strength. Nothing to bind the arms and legs, so she is free to move as quickly as possible.

Then, there is that stealth issue. Armor clanks! You can’t sneak up on someone wearing fifty pounds of scale or plate. The scabbard is going to be noisy enough as it is. No sense in our warrior giving away her location when she’s trying to work her way around the back of the target’s neck.

Skimpwear is practical for the female warrior. It’s practical for the male warrior, too. Just because he has that upper body strength doesn’t mean he wants to waste it lugging around an iron oven all day. Oh yeah. Armor is hot.

Not so for the soldier!

From seasoned general to puissant knight to raw recruit, that soldier is a brick in a wall. That wall needs to withstand a tremendous amount of punishment and hold. If it moves at all, it should move forward. Whether the soldier is a Roman at Alesia in the 1st Century BC or an Englishman at Agincourt in the 15th (the rough era upon which most fantasy is based, if it’s based at all), he’s going to face a variety of opponents. First, there will be a cloud of arrows shot at him from legions of archers. Then, here comes the cavalry, armed with ten to fifteen foot long lances, on horses traveling at 20 mph. Finally, he will face swordsmen. That soldier best be wearing armor, or he won’t survive more than thirty seconds. He does fight for flag, country, and king, and those three need him alive to fight again tomorrow.

Even women in soldier’s positions wore armor. Yes, they did fight. I’m thinking of the Vikings. In recent years, archeologists looked at the pelvic shape of bodies in Viking graves and noticed that half the raiders and traders were women. While Viking armor was minimal (boiled leather and chain), they did wear it. Vikings weren’t stupid.

So, if our warrior woman were a soldier in an army, you bet she’d wear armor. I just don’t create stories that involve organized armed forces, preferring to focus on just one character who moves fast.

MY CHARACTERS

Let’s apply this to my characters, namely Elisabeth Lovejoy, Aura Lockhaven, and Barbara the Protector. Elisabeth and Barbara are both warriors, so they wear skimpwear for the reasons I outlined above. Aura is an enchantress. That is a different cat up a different tree, but I’ll cover it anyway.

Skimpwear

Given what I just said about warriors, why do Barbara and Elisabeth dress so differently from each other?

Because I want them to.

No, that is a legitimate reason. What is wrong with answering “Why do you …?” with “Because it’s what I like.” If the questioner doesn’t care for that answer, that’s his problem, not mine.

From a practical standpoint, Elisabeth and Barbara have different jobs, requiring different clothes.

Elisabeth is a serious character in a serious written story. She’s a monster hunter. She is more likely to face claws than arrows, so she needs to dodge fast instead of standing there and taking it. So, while she doesn’t wear armor (she has a reason), she does cover 90% of herself in leather, showing only the mid-thigh and upper chest. Elisabeth wouldn’t dress like Barbara. She doesn’t have a sense of humor. Her clothing fits the parameters of her personality and her role in the books. I leave the barely there outfits and near nudity to the enchantresses in the Aura stories. It fits them better in the overall scheme, and is much easier to describe in words.

Barbara exists on DeviantArt and is essentially an adult comic book character. She is just plain fun, and funny. She isn’t meant to be serious. That body? Come on! So, her clothes are also just plain fun. Even so, her clothes do fall within the parameters of Red Sonja.

As for Aura, she is a different character and walks between two extremes. She is a spellcaster, and spellcasters have totally different wardrobe requirements from warriors and soldiers. Even so, the fully covering versus skimpwear debate is applicable. I come down on the skimpwear side for her, and to me, it’s practical.

Epic Fantasy usually numbers a wizard among the protagonists, from Gandalf in Lord of the Rings to both Richard and Kahlan in Sword of Truth. In Sword and Sorcery Fantasy, the sword is usually the domain of the protagonist while sorcery the domain of the villain/ess. I chose the sorcerer for the protagonist simply because I wanted to. A long time ago, I outlined why my protagonist is a woman instead of a man, and that still holds. Besides, Aura began as an enchantress on her very first day of life nine years ago and I see no reason to change her role.

Spellcasters dress differently in the two subgenres. The standard for women spellcasters in Epic is toward the elegant and full covering. That certainly fits the more poetic nature of Epic Fantasy. In SnS, it’s toward nudity, but we are talking about seductive villainesses. As an action oriented subgenre, that also fits. Those are standards simply because it’s what J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard did, so there are plenty of exceptions to both.

Aura is a Sword and Sorcery spellcaster (naked), but she’s also the protagonist and a force for good (elegant and full covering). So, what do I do with her?

I split the difference.

There is also a real life example of the two extremes. I know some Wiccans. They tell me that they love long, flowing gowns. Who can blame them? Talk about glamour and elegance. However, those angelwing sleeves love to find their way into candle flames. So, they practice their rituals nude, or skyclad. Cloth also absorbs magical energy, and they want as much free energy as possible. The foundation for Aura’s magical system is Wiccan. It’s the one I know, and it gives her a realistic feel.

Again, I split the difference.

Aura does wear a dress in the opening trilogy, but not an elegant one. She suffers low-self esteem and wears a brown dress that she believes helps her hide from view. It doesn’t. A redhead can’t hide in a town of blonde and brown. It also doesn’t really fit her emotionally despite her insistence, and by the end of the opening arc, will be reduced to a rag. Her more familiar red outfit is a gift. When she receives it, she is told “Stop trying to hide yourself.” She will grow to accept that. Even though most enchantresses wear filmy little garments that don’t cover much, and Aura would rather be a nudist, she does honor the law and people’s sensibilities. So, in the context of the story, she herself splits the difference between the full dress of many and the nudity of her own magical order.

Besides, it’s what I want Aura to wear.

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Aura Lockhaven; A Future Retrospective

This month, Aura Lockhaven is nine years old. She first appeared in July, 2010. I’ve previously discussed where she came from, as a little tawdry hentai character back in 2010. Today, I thought I’d look at where Aura Lockhaven wants to go.

Yes, I said where she wants to go. I don’t tell Aura what to do. I don’t make up her stories. Anyone who has ever crafted a story, from a written piece to a comic, knows that the characters own us! They tell their stories to us and we just say “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” and bring them to life.

I didn’t even create Aura. She created herself in my mind. How else would I have crafted a woman protagonist, when most men write about men? The kernel for her was there for decades. It just took form around one goofy render nine years ago, and that form was female with green eyes and red hair. She let me decide on her actual figure, but insisted on the belly bulge, oversized butt, and nose hump.

I’d argue that’s true of even the most extreme sexploitation girl. We don’t sit down at the computer and say “I’m going to create a girl who will be defiled by horny Drows!” Nope. She was there to begin with, some tangible facet of a dark fantasy, and that moment was her decision to be born. From that point forward, it’s her story and we just take dictation.

That should refute the small contingent on DeviantArt who argues that such stories should be removed because we didn’t get the character’s consent before throwing her to horny Drows. Nope. We didn’t. The character told us what to do. The character didn’t get our consent! We just obeyed. Of course, I am assuming that contingent has common sense (I’m naïve like that).

Aura never asks my consent. I know if I don’t do it, she’ll slip a cookie into my coffee.

The movie Star Wars holds a special place in my life. That’s the movie most of you know as Episode IV. I saw it in 1977 before it was ever subtitled. Star Wars (as I will always call Episode IV) was the first non-Disney, non-Bond movie I saw in the cinema where the good guys stood for something. Until then, movies focused on dour, unrelatable, and unlikable anti-heroes, like Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, and The Godfather. In Star Wars, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and Obi-Wan stood for something. They did the right thing because it was right. And they won! That meant much to a fourteen year old suffering through junior high school (I was the football team’s hallway tackle dummy) and looking for heroes in a world mired by Jimmy Carter’s malaise.

That idea sat in my mind for decades. Good guys can win. Good guys stand for something. They keep trying, against overwhelming odds. The idea grew. It congealed. In July, 2010, it demanded birth. It took a name. Aura Lockhaven. I have other characters with the similar philosophy, primarily Katie and Barbara, but Aura is the banner carrier for it.

Sometimes I lament that Aura didn’t come along in 1990, when I would have been young enough to be relevant, and could have published her stories the traditional way. Today, I don’t. 1990 wasn’t her time. Neither was 2005. Today is. America is right back where it was in 1977. Anti-heroes are the rage. We have one in the White House (Sonny Corleone anyone?). In the current Star Wars trilogy, Han and Luke betrayed everything they stood for in the original trilogy because that’s what Hollywood wants. The knight in rusty, dented armor (Tony Stark) is dead, and the knight out of time (Steve Rogers) is gone, because that’s what Hollywood wants. Movies refuse to depict a husband making love to his wife, but they sure can, and do, show him carving her up alive with a chainsaw, because that’s what Hollywood wants. And what Hollywood wants, Hollywood gets. We’re told by our news media that America is full of hate, anger, rage, and is tearing itself apart. That isn’t true; walk the streets and talk to real people (who do the working, playing, praying, loving, and eating) and most get along just fine. They’re lost, however. They’re bombarded by all this bullshit for political correctness and horseshit for profit. Ultimately, all that has an effect on us and we start believing it. We become cynical, burned out, and afraid, because those in power want us that way. Divide and conquer. Do as you’re told. Eat your peas.

Yeah, well, Aura thinks America needs a character who inspires, who encourages, who is simply good. Good people stand for something. Good people do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Good people win, dammit, if they just keep trying. Good people say “Up yours!” to bullshit like I mentioned in the previous paragraph. At least, Aura thinks so. A friend on DeviantArt once said “Aura is so darn loving!” That’s her whole point. It’s isn’t just what she believes, it’s who she is. There is plenty of room in this world for a character who truly tries to conquer through love, who has a clearly defined morality, and draws distinct lines she will not cross just to be pragmatic.

Of course, she kicks ass when asskicking is required. She likes to bare it, too. Aura believes this world needs a loving woman who can punch faces, and has a positive view of sex and her own body. Wow. What a concept. Not popular with the mainstream, but I don’t like the mainstream. That makes us even.

I’d love for Aura Lockhaven to be a household name, in the same list as Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Tarzan, and Luke Skywalker. That isn’t up to me. It’s up to you. I can’t make you like Aura, and wouldn’t if I could. Aura stands for self-determination in a world of conformity. So do I. Frankly, I’m horrible at marketing. The modern approach actually worked on DeviantArt, and I didn’t try. It just happened. My friends there like me as a human being, even if I am an opinionated, curmudgeonly, old-fashioned sonofabitch. They like Aura, but what’s not to like about her? That led to more book sales than from any other platform. Do it deliberately on Twitter and Facebook, and I’m totally lost. Don’t ask me to try Instagram, Tumblr, or Reddit! Just don’t. So, any actual fame Aura gains will simply be organic growth, and outside my efforts. Unless an opportunity presents itself, which is always possible.

Notice my list of household names is all men? I want to change that. I won’t use the phrase strong female character because it’s overused. It’s also inaccurate. To me, it implies an impassive killing machine, not a thinking and feeling human who rises above her own imperfections to accomplish the difficult. I prefer the term competent woman protagonist. The first competent woman protagonist in American fiction was Scarlet O’Hara, who debuted in 1935. The second was Wonder Woman in 1941. Both appeared during my mother’s childhood. The vast majority of competent woman protagonists – Modesty Blaise, Leia Organa, Xena, Lara Croft, Kinsey Millhone, Kahlan Amnel, Kathryn Janeway, Sarah Conner, and Red Sonja*– were created in my lifetime and I’m only 56. Compare that to 400 years of competent man protagonists dating back to Cervantes (the generally accepted pioneer of the novel and the concept of fiction). This has far less to do with any idea that half the American population is female (status is based upon earned merit, not upon quotas), and much more with the fact that half the Viking raiding and trading parties were women (that is earned merit). Besides, women are more interesting than men. Because we have 400 years to work with, if I give a sword, wand, or gun to a man, I know what he will do with it. With less than 80 years to work with, if I give the same to a woman, I don’t know what she will do until she does it. Aura believes there’s room for one more competent woman protagonist, especially one with her personal message.

Aura Lockhaven has come a long way since her debut as a character nine years ago. Let’s see where she goes heading into her tenth year.

* Red Sonja is credited as created by Robert E. Howard in the early 1930s. Technically, Howard didn’t. Frank Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith combined Howard’s Red Sonya and Black Agnes into Red Sonja in 1973. Thomas and Windsor-Smith were big enough to credit the source of their inspiration, so Howard generally gets the nod.

 

 

 

Aura Lockhaven’s Upgrades for 2019

On one hand, it feels like the first month of 2019 has been totally wasted. On the other hand, it has been remarkably productive. I’ll cover the why it feels like a waste and how it’s been productive in a separate post. For this one, I want to focus on what occupied most of my time.

In preparation for 2019, I totally overhauled my 3D version of Aura Lockhaven.

First, she received totally new clothing textures. The originals dated to 2014. And they showed it. In the process, I gave her a totally new cloak that is actually designed for the Victoria 7 (Genesis 3 Female; such an unlovely term) model. For all of last year, I used the Anagenesis 2 skin shader system. While light on computer resources, it made Aura look gray and covered in metallic powder. I returned to a modified version of Sickleyield’s Beautiful Skin Iray, using all new maps. She looks much more lifelike. For her hair, I switched from Out of Touch’s system to Sloshwerk’s Colorwerks. This new system permits streaking of the hair, giving her hair a much more lifelike look.

The most dramatic change is in Aura’s body. I put Measure Metrics on her, following a change in height morphs. Now, Aura Lockhaven is a 36DD, with 38 inch hips. She overindulges and it goes to her hips and thighs. I discovered her 3D model had a chest circumference of 32 inches, while her bust was 41. That meant she was a 32I. Aura is endowed, but not stupid about it! She’s supposed to be a believable looking 3D model, a woman we could actually meet in a grocery store.

Well, she is now. She is now a true 36DD. In the process, I was able to give Aura’s breasts natural heft. They lay on her chest instead of sticking straight out. And she has a softer overall look. Her strength is from work, not a gym. Her stomach and lower body show her fondness for ale and sweetbreads.

Here is the Enchantress of Hartshorn, ready to face 2019:

 

A closer look at her overhauled body, and considering Aura likes being skyclad, she decided to pose nude:

 

How does she look in action?

Happy 2019; Goals for the Year

Happy 2019.

2018 was a fast year. And a disappointing one. I distinctly remember thinking last January 1, “I probably won’t do a darn thing this year.” And that’s exactly what I did. Nothing. Oh, I had my reasons. Most were rooted in my faulty adrenals. I was just too physically burned out to do much except stare out the window.

But I should have done something.

I hope 2019 is different.

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. Those are always forgotten by January 12, if it takes that long. I do, however, believe in goals. Those can be accomplished. Those are based on the long-in-the-tooth, but true, maxim “The journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step.”

If I can do these every day, or even most days, then I can say on January 1, 2020, “Holy crap, 2019 was phenomenal!”

So, here we go!

1. Write 2,000 words per day on the Aura Lockhaven novels. That isn’t much. The average blog post is 1,000 words. It adds up. Just writing on week days, that adds up to 10,000 words per week. With 52 weeks in the year, that is 520,000 words. Or, five novels the size I like.

2. Work up two pages of Valkyria per week. Low balling that goal because a comic page is time consuming. But at least it’s progress and advances Katie’s story by 100 pages.

3. Make one fantasy high-level art piece per month. A reasonable goal. Fantasy is my favorite art genre, and I’ve neglected it.

4. Walk every day. Thirty minutes is ideal. I read about a man who lost 60 pounds, reversed a heart condition, and cured both high blood pressure and diabetes by walking 30 minutes a day for six months. The long, slow method to losing weight and getting in shape is the method that works, and lasts.

5. Ignore politics! I’ve allowed myself to get bogged down with politics lately. It’s a social construct. It isn’t real. Don’t believe me? Think about being stranding on an island, alone. What the Democrats and Republicans do is no longer relevant; only that next fish is. But we in America think it’s all too real, and it’s too distracting. So, while I have opinions, I’m not going to talk about them. That keeps the venom of politicians from seeping into my soul. Political opinions are also bad for business. I’m an entertainer, not a pundit.

6. Write one blog entry every week. I’ve been slack the past year. Sorry about that.

7. Read one chapter per night. I didn’t read a darn thing in 2018 that wasn’t on a computer screen. This comes from a man who lives with nearly 1,000 books.

Seven small single steps. They should all add up to a fantastic year.

Ban All Christmas Songs!

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” — That song is about rape. Ban it!

“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” — Promotes bullying. Ban it!

“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” — A private individual giving away things? That’s the government’s job! Ban it!

“White Christmas.” — Obviously a song by the Ku Klux Klan. Ban it!

“Jingle Bells.” — Promotes violence against horses. Ban it!

“Frosty the Snow Man.” — Exploitation of a non-human. Ban it!

“Joy to the World.” — Promotes the privilege of the happy. Ban it!

“Oh Holy Night.” — Tribalist song with no inclusivity for other religions. Ban it!

“Santa Baby.” — Encourages women to depend on the Patriarchy. Ban it!

“Do They Know It’s Christmas.” — Rich white men colonizing the hungry of Africa. Ban it!

This is what happens when people whose heads are too full of sociological theories decide to become holiday music critics. Why do they bother listening? They don’t even celebrate Christmas. Oh … That’s it, isn’t it.

About Bill Maher

Apparently, the smug, self-important, and self-righteous so-called comedian doesn’t understand comic books.

But don’t worry, Bill. We question your legitimacy and relevancy, too.

The comic book is American Mythology. They’re our Zeus, Odin, Aphrodite, Shiva, Gilgamesh.

In the future, when we think back on 2018, we will still remember Stan Lee and what he brought to not just American culture, but world culture. It is said that America’s contributions to the world are Jazz and the Comic Book. Well, Stan Lee made the comic book dynamic and the superhero human. He will be remembered.

Bill Maher? Exactly what has he contributed to American culture? He will go the way of Rush Limbaugh, remembered about as often as Walter Winchell.