Myths retconned to advance diversity


Uthaclena poses a question for Ask Roger Anything.

Should icons, legends, and myths be retconned to advance diversity and inclusiveness? Is creating new stories and characters stifled or advanced by doing so?

Maybe. And maybe. A post by Mark Evanier this year addresses this.

“Among the pro-social requirements at that moment was that every [cartoon] show that particular year [1980] had to have minority representation. Someone in it had to not be a white guy.

“As it was explained to me, Standards and Practices at ABC had made up a list of racial and ethnic minorities, and it was kind of like ‘Pick one.’ Joe Ruby, one of the producers of the show, looked it over and picked ‘Hawaiian.’ He and Norman had previously invented a sidekick for Plas, who had perpetual bad luck and whose voice would be based somewhat on Lou Costello’s.”

So I asked him, “I was wondering if you thought that was a good thing, a bad thing?” He replied, “In this world — or in my world, at least — one often finds situations that fall under the category of ‘Doing the right thing for the wrong reason’ or maybe ‘Achieving the proper goal in an improper way.'”

I agree with him that ABC was hamfisted about this. Thus,  the inclusiveness checkmark was achieved but at a creative cost.

A better solution would be to create situations that reflect the characters portrayed. To achieve that, one needs to have more writers who are black, Hispanic, gay, women, fat et al. You know, people who have some experience with being what the stories are trying to portray rather than having a white character in blackface.


To the specifics of the question, when I was growing up reading comics, DC came up with different “earths” to explain the difference between the Golden Age and Silver Age heroes.

Someone recently wrote that there were too many characters named Superman. I can’t speak to this because I’m not following the comic books. The marketplace, I reckon, will decide.

I’ll point to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As you know, Sgt. Fury, fighting in WWII, was a white guy in the comics. But movie fans now can’t think of anyone but Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

Here’s the problem with comic books that are more than a quarter-century old. You always have to retcon the storyline, or it doesn’t make any sense. The Lee/Ditko Spider-Man is in his 70s. Reed Richards and Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four fought in World War II, so the Lee/Kirby characters are centenarians.

I’m cool with the changes because we’re dealing with the multiverse, which was used to tremendous effect in  SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME and especially  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Heck, anyone who has ever watched soap operas for any length of time knows that babies suddenly age for storyline reasons.

If you’re going to alter something, having media that reflects our evolving understanding of the world makes sense to me.

And if someone is pearl-clutching over people of color in the Tolkien universe, for instance, they can write off the finished projects as bad fan fiction.

COVID fix, professors, writing fiction


Diamonds and RustDan, the albanyweblog man, decided to confound me:

A Pharma Corporation called Inovid is trying to speed up production of COVID-19 vaccine. They take virus DNA, convert it to RNA, pick out the right bits of the RNA according to a computer program, then inject it into bacteria, which makes lots of virus DNA that can be used to stimulate antibodies in the human, thus making an effective vaccine. What I want to know is how do they convert the virus DNA to RNA on cue? They talk about this like it’s NBD.

As I understand it – and I REALLY DON’T –

So what’s COVID-19’s story? Is a hint in what normally binds the receptor?

Perhaps sometime in the past, a virus formed, or came to include, human DNA or RNA instructions for making an integrin, which is a protein that binds to ACE2. Integrins glue our cells to surrounding connective tissue. The viral spike masquerades as the integrin, grabbing our cells.
In other words, a viral epidemic may arise as an accident, of sorts, of biochemistry and evolution.


One of the things I learned as a librarian is that sometimes I don’t understand what I’m passing along. It’s just beyond my comprehension. Check out this article, which may, or may not be useful.


Carla, an old colleague of my wife’s, wants to know:

Roger, Have you ever thought of writing fiction; or do you write fiction?

I’ve thought to do it. But a long piece seems too hard. You have to have a consistent universe. See, e.g., this post by Jaquandor. And I haven’t loved the short pieces I’ve written.

But if I live long enough, I’ll probably write a roman a clef. Or two.

Kevin, from my home county and the Wind Sun News, wants to know:

Who was your favorite Professor at New Paltz?

Of the ones I had class with, probably Glenn McNitt in the political science department. He was very smart but easy going. I remember listening to Stevie Wonder at his house more than once. I also recall specifically hearing Simple Twist of Fate by Joan Baez from her Diamonds and Rust album. She did a wicked Dylan impression and I cracked up.

Of the ones I did not have, probably Pam Tate, the head of Innovative Studies. I knew her in part because I was on the Financial Council and some of our budget went to her program. I was the Education chair so her program was in my jurisdiction.

Three fictional characters, redux

Popeye the Sailor, who, as my sister correctly noted, was the reason I would eat spinach as a child while rejecting other veggies.


I did this recent post about this Facebook meme of posting images of three fictional characters that define me, without describing them. And it was unsatisfactory. So this is a do-over.

I will say that Miles, who I haven’t actually seen this century, came closest to getting all the correct answers. He knew, as did Uthaclena. the first fellow is actor Michael Badalucco. But Miles knew he was playing Jimmy Berluti, one of the attorneys on the TV show The Practice in the late 1990s. He was, as Miles described, “an earnest, working-class guy who worked hard to become a good lawyer.” He wasn’t all shiny, and pretty, but a self-described schlub. Badalucco and I were in the same dorm my freshman year in college at SUNY New Paltz.

Miles nailed my next alter ego, played by actor Gavin MacLeod, who you may know better as Captain Stubing on The Love Boat. Here, though, he is Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Miles notes that he was “a wisecracking TV writer who skewered the dumbest people around with his rapier wit.” But he was also not as well-recognized as the very dumb TV anchor Ted Baxter.

The third guy IS a young Sam Waterston, as Miles suspected, before his lengthy stint on Law & Order as crusading ADA, and later District Attorney Jack McCoy. Instead, this is from a short-lived TV series called I’ll Fly Away. The IMDB describes him thus: “Forrest Bedford [named for a Confederate general] is a Southern lawyer in the late 1950s, generally content with his privileged life. But the winds of change are blowing, and he becomes increasingly involved with civil rights cases.” He’s a guy who, despite his initial wish to maintain the status quo, realizes that it’s unfair and untenable. It was a great show in the early 1990s that lasted only a couple of seasons plus a concluding TV movie.


As for the other three characters, Dudley Do-Right was always intending to do the right thing, even if it happens by accident.

Kermit the Frog not only says that it’s not that easy being green, he knows you blend in with so many ordinary things. Surely, I have felt this.

Finally, Popeye the Sailor, who, as my sister correctly noted, was the reason I would eat spinach as a child while rejecting other veggies. I have what I believe to be a very long fuse. But there comes a point where, “That is all I can stands, ’cause I can’t stands no more.”


Myself in Three Fictional Characters

“That’s part of your problem: you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.”


There’s this Facebook meme of posting images of three fictional characters that define me, apparently without describing them. I find the exercise oddly unsatisfying. Whereas when Dustbury and Chuck Miller cheated and EXPLAINED why they picked their folks, THAT was interesting to me.

For instance, of the three roles here: one you probably know, one you know the actor but likely not the character, and the third is played by a guy I knew, not very well, back in college, and most of you won’t get at all. So what that give you, the reader?

Or maybe I’m wrong. Any guesses as to the CHARACTERS I’ll take for a day or two before approving the comments.

I suppose I could have picked three other characters that you should all recognize:


Now, I suppose I ought to tackle that other meme, that of coming up with my “life quote.” Except, of course, I’m stymied.

I could steal from Kenneth Rogers who sang:
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

I was taken for a time with a line in the 1991 movie Grand Canyon, when the Steve Martin character says, “That’s part of your problem: you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.”

On my more serious days, I could try, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

But ultimately, I’ll stick with my first hero, who said “I yam what I yam,” and that wouldn’t be wrong.

Stardancer and other science-fiction/fantasy books

Maybe I DO like “that kind of book.”

stardancerSome months ago, I read and enjoyed Stardancer (The Song of Forgotten Stars Book 1), the first book by Jaquandor, a/k/a Kelly Sedinger, quite a lot, actually. And it won’t be his last book, judging by his Forgotten Stars website. In fact, the second book in this series is coming out this week.

Read SamuraiFrog’s review and the Amazon customer reviews. One line of a five-star review: “What will hold most readers, young or not-so-young, will be the relationships among the characters, the fast-paced action, and the lovely unexpected unfolding of a story well told.”

What I really wanted to write about here, though, is the fact that, for whatever reason, Stardancer has not been the type of book that I traditionally read. I tend to be more of a history/biography type of guy.

I came across this Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books, and there are some big-name books of the genre that, not only did I not read, but that I STARTED to peruse, but failed to complete.

In fact, the only reason I finished A Handmaid’s Tale (#22) is that I was in a book club at my previous church about twenty years ago, comprised almost entirely of women at least two decades older than I. Our monthly pick was fiction, and I read and enjoyed, the Attwood book. Maybe I need a group to be accountable to.

Now, many of the “classics” I did read, such as The Time Machine and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, as well as the comic book-related material – Watchmen and Sandman.

As for some of the other books:

1. The Lord Of The Rings. For a good long while, I owned the trilogy, in colorful paperbacks; maybe I still do. I thought I’d read The Hobbit first. Got to about page 59 and lost interest. I did see the first LotR film, but none of the subsequent ones.

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert. Started the first book; did not finish.

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin. Did NOT give this 1969 book a fair shake. I was lent this, and quite possibly Stranger In A Strange Land (#17) when I was recovering from a car accident in 1972. I just wasn’t focused enough to read them.

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard. I DID read a lot of Conan comic books. In fact, one of the few comics-related materials I still own is a short white box filled with Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan. But never read the source material.

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire. This I DID finish.

I’m thinking that, in the next decade, I want to read – let’s be reasonable – 20 of the books I haven’t completed. Two per year, which will give me time to read other things traditionally more to my liking. Maybe some Stephen King, who I had not read AT ALL until I devoured 11/22/63. Almost certainly Asimov; I’ve enjoyed his essays.

Maybe I DO like “that kind of book.”

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