Pink Dragon Scales

Holy fuck, you guys. This little pink afghan is so satisfying. The pattern is easy enough that you can do it while you’re half-watching all the Jason Statham and The Rock scenes from FF7–though I have so many questions, like mainly, SPOILERS, if The Rock and Elena were working together in 7 and close enough that Elena is constantly watching his daughter, then The Rock knew that she had a baby. And that never fucking came up? My friends, S&S just got a puppy (well, a month ago) and I have told everyone I know. P. and her husband just got a puppy this weekend. I had to keep myself from texting people during church over it. I told half a dozen people that the Butcher and his wife were having a baby during the period when it was supposed to be a secret and I was supposed to tell no one except the Professor.

The Rock is never “Oh, I’d love to get together for beers but my daughter is babysitting Elena’s kid and it’s her first time babysitting and I kind of want to be around and make sure everything goes smoothly.”? She’s motherfucking kidnapped and Mr. Nobody never tells The Rock? This is his partner. They work for some elite law enforcement agency. She goes missing and no one notices? Forget even that. She’s pregnant and no one fucking notices?! What is the timeline on these movies?!

Still, I can’t decide if my favorite thing in the movie is when Jason Statham types menacingly or when he eats menacingly. Both are delightful. You know how Idris Elba did that “Win a date with me for charity” thing? Jason Statham should do a charity thing where you pay to see him make boring scenarios menacing.

Where was I? Oh, yes, this pink afghan. I want so much for it to be done. Not in a “Okay, I’m tired of this now” way, but in a “I want to drape it over something and stare at it all day,” way. Everything about it is satisfying. The front is like making a bunch of dragon scales. The yarn is really beautiful. And the back looks neat. It’s also very architectural in a way I find satisfying. Basically, step one is build the scaffolding for your scales. Step two is make your scales.

It is heavy, since each row is actually two rows on top of each other, and it’s a huge yarn hog, but man, is it beautiful.

Interview with Apex Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Jason Sizemore

As a part of Apex Magazine’s subscription drive, I was supposed to run my interview–which, for the record, I did in a timely manner–with Jason Sizemore YESTERDAY. But I flaked. So I’m running it today. Also, they have a lot of nifty things up for grabs in their store, like that cool She Persisted print that I can’t believe no one has nabbed yet. Apex was the first place to pay me for my fiction, so I have strong feelings of loyalty for them. Also, the more they’re able to thrive, the more I get to say “Oh, yeah, I was published by the same folks who published Famous Author X.” I enjoy that. Okay, enough. Here’s the interview:

1.  Hypothetical situation: Both the podcasts TANIS and The Black Tapes have a new episode, but you only have enough battery left to listen to one. Which do you choose and why?

Why would you ask such a cruel question?

Let’s get this straight: I love both shows equally. They’re some of the best cross-genre work I’ve encountered in any media. My hat goes off to Paul Bae and Terry Miles for their ability to make believable audio drama out of some fantastic research.

Having said that…I must go with The Black Tapes. I have an audio crush on The Black Tape protagonist and narrator Alex Regan. If I’m down to my last battery, I want Alex Regan to accompany me to the end.

2.  Can I admit I’m nervous that The Black Tapes and TANIS don’t have an end game and thus might trail off into some True Detectives-like nonsense that makes me feel like I’ve wasted my life? That’s not my question. Just an observation. Trying to end stories sucks and it’s hard to do well. You read a lot of stories. What makes a good ending?

If I had to guess, Paul Bae and Terry Miles will be tapped for television at some point. The big bucks will draw them from TBT and TANIS, and the shows will be wrapped up. If the journey is fantastic but the destination is a bit of a drag, does that mean the experience is a waste? No.

But adding a powerful ending that makes sense and provides satisfaction can turn a good work into something you’re talking about decades later.

Short fiction has one advantage over longer forms of entertainment: the ending doesn’t have to “pop” to the degree of a novel, movie, or television show. As you indirectly pointed out, the longer you ride along with something, the bigger the expectations at the conclusion. Your ending needs to be “earned.” This means it needs to fit into the overall plot and theme. A classic conclusion fail is LOST the television series. Not enough information was given to the viewer to earn that ludicrous and obvious pull of our emotions in the last church scene. A classic conclusion success is the Ambrose Bierce story “An Odd Occurrence at Owl Creek.” The big twist is earned because the reader *knows* the unlikelihood of everything proceeding it.

3. I think of Jennifer Pelland’s “Ghosts of New York” a lot, even all these years after I first read it. There’s something really amazing about the way she’s able to tell this tragic story that, by the end, I wanted with my whole heart to be true. And I feel like that’s a story I could imagine people in a hundred years reading to try to understand the post-9/11 U. S. I kind of consider it Apex’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” in terms of its potential longevity. Do you have a couple of other Apex stories you think could have that kind of staying power?

A handful come to mind immediately: “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon, “Lazarus and the Amazing Kid Phoenix” by Jennifer Giesbrecht, and “The Gentleman of Chaos” by A. Merc Rustad.

4.  One trope in horror is the monster who seems like a normal person or maybe even better than a normal person. Vampires are aristocratic and cool. The werewolf is mostly the guy down the block. But eventually, their true nature comes out. Do you think this is a fundamental truth or wish fulfillment. In other words, do you think bad people eventually always show their true colors to the world and vindicate their victims or do we like stories where that’s so because we only wish life were like that?

A more practical way to view this phenomenon is to realize that most of the time we already recognize that they’re monsters, but because of their place in society or social structure, we let it go because we mistakenly see it as advantageous or benign. Ignore the monstrous side of something, then perhaps you’ll earn their favor.

I cite the election of Donald Trump as the ultimate expression of my point.

5. If your cat, Pumpkin, grew overnight to be the size of a tiger, do you think he would eat you?

 

Hard to say. He’s fiercely loyal. Wants my love and attention. He’s also well-fed.

I would answer with “probably not???” and hope for the best!

jason and pumpkin

Jason Sizemore is the Editor-in-Chief of Apex Magazine. Sadly, shortly after this photo of him was taken, Pumpkin did indeed eat him. Happily, after a few days, Sizemore reappeared at his desk with no memory of the gruesome incident. He seems fine and himself, though maybe a little taller than he used to be, so his family mostly decided to not ask questions.

Sizemore is the author of the short-story collection, Irredeemable, which I liked a lot, though, if I’m being honest, I find a little intimidating. You tell yourself “editors edit, authors auth, and they’re two different skills contained in two different people.” But no. Not for him.

He also wrote For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher,
which is part memoir, part roast. It famously contains the story of the time Sara Harvey saved Sizemore from an East St. Louis hospital.

Also, rumor has it that Sizemore has three small pebbles embedded in the palm of his left hand from a childhood bicycle accident while he was fleeing the Pilot Knob witch child. That can’t possibly be true. Everyone knows that witch child was over by Marion, not up in the Kentucky hills where Sizemore was a kid. But if he didn’t have an encounter with the witch child, how is it that he can control the weather now? You can follow him on Twitter @apexjason. He or one of his spectral doppelgangers is probably following you already.

 

The Magnus Archives

I think The Magnus Archives is my favorite podcast at the moment and I think the reason why is that I’m longing for resolution. I love The Black Tapes and Tanis and even the new Rabbits, but each of them is a long, unspooling mystery that never really resolves. When I’m in the mood for that, it’s wonderful. But I don’t want to get stuck in some Lost bullshit where you slowly begin to realize that the people making the thing have no idea what the overarching plot is. You’re not lost in a well-designed maze. You’re lost in the woods with people trying to claim it’s a maze, scurrying ahead trying to hope they stumble into a maze they can lure you through.

So the thing about The Magnus Archives is that there is an overarching mystery, but each episode is also its own contained thing–a person comes to the archives to tell about a strange thing that happened to them. These strange things begin to tie together, but each episode there’s the satisfaction of resolution. Even if that resolution is only “This is everything I can think to tell you about this thing at this time.”

Nerves

I’m sitting here trying to think of something to write, but basically, I’m just nervous. I’m interviewing a person tomorrow and I want to ask him about a hard time in his life and what came of it and I just want to do right and to get an answer that helps me understand it. And I don’t want to make it suck too much for him.

I’m making two afghans right now, just like the one I just finished up. I think I said that already. It’s both going rather quickly and is taking a while. I’m not looking forward to making all those triangles.

We watched Alice Through the Looking Glass last night, which was an interesting movie about a female sea captain going on an adventure with her mom, which we didn’t get to see because instead we had to watch Johnny Depp being weird and Sasha Baron Cohen being unsettled for an hour and a half.

I admit, though, I am amused by Depp’s latest acting strategy where he just plays music icons–he’s Keith Richards in the Pirates movies, Michael Jackson in the Chocolate Factory, and Madonna here. But come on! Weird impressions aren’t something to build an acting career on!

Kung Fury

At last, a reason to break out my “Scandinavia” category again!

Though, just as a side note, can I say that all season on Arrow, I have been dying for Dolph Lundgren to do the salmon ladder. Do you think he still could? I do. He’s also really tall, though, so possibly he would just reach up and set the bar on the highest rung and do a pull up. But that’s also fine!

I also feel like Dolph Lundgren is more interesting looking now than he was in his younger days. And I would support him showing up in all kinds of pop culture stuff to raise his eyebrows and then beat someone.

Where were we?

Oh, right. On Netflix right now there’s this awesome short film, “Kung Fury,” which is about as perfect a thing as you will ever see. I don’t know anything about Iron Fist, but I think “Kung Fury” has already devastatingly pre-parodied it so well it will be hard for me to take Iron Fist seriously. The movie has a triceratops cop and Thor kills Nazis. And every time they need to do a special effect beyond their budget, the movie just stops and there’s fuzz for a minute, like an old damaged VHS tape. It’s just outstanding.

Why, Scandinavia, why? It’s getting so you know that if a horror movie is made in Australia or New Zealand, it’s worth checking out and if you want to sit around yelling in delight, “What the fuck is this?!” you just look for a Scandinavian movie that is not a drama (which is no knock on Scandinavian dramas, but even an interest in Norse mythology and a love of seeing Mads Mikkelson mostly naked could not get me through Valhalla Rising. In some alternate universe, I am still watching that movie. It still has ten years to go. But in this world, I turned it off after Mikkelson got out of the cage for good. Wikipedia calls Valhalla Rising an “adventure drama,” which leads me to believe that the Danes have some weird ideas about both adventure and drama. In my mind, Denmark is a lovely country where you eat fish, boat places, and generally have a good time, so maybe having to be really bleak and boring for seventeen years is an adventure for them? I don’t know. Just get your shit together, Denmark. If you’re going to have Mads Mikkelson naked and tied up, setting him wandering around America with Christians is not what we want to see happen next.)

I’m off track. But anyway, “Kung Fury.” It has no cocktapusses, but it does have a lot of exploding heads. I highly recommend it.

Decadent

This year, for the first year ever, we have the week between Christmas and New Year off. I spent yesterday doing nothing. I’m going to spend today doing nothing. Truly nothing. Tomorrow I’m going to see friends and the weekend will be normal. But two days of nothing. It feels so good.

I see that Amanda Palmer has a five-year work visa for Australia and has decided Trump will be good for punk rock. I was going to read the story, but honestly, that made me laugh so hard I didn’t bother. Trump will be good for political writing, said Betsy Phillips, as she got on her rocket and headed to the moon for five years.

I don’t blame anyone for leaving for Australia if they can, but leaving for Australia while looking forward to enjoying the work of the people in pain who can’t leave? Lord almighty.

The Fate of the Furious

a. I am slightly embarrassed to see The Rock and Jason Statham in their big muscles potentially fighting on screen. I have those fantasies in private, Hollywood. Stop watching me when I’m home alone.

b. Do you think all those guys have to eat like The Rock to keep up those muscles? Does the whole place just smell like fish farts constantly?

c. C. owns greyhounds who, and I swear I am not making this up, have to wear pajamas in the winter because they have so little body fat. Do you think Jason Statham and The Rock are constantly cold? Do they wear pajamas between takes?

d. This must be a disproportionate amount of men with completely shaved heads, right? I feel like I see very few completely bald guys in real life, but the trailer would lead you to believe that half the men you see in the world are going to have no hair.

e. If Vin Diesel auctioned off a chance to play D&D with him, at this point in my life, I might bid.

The Weirdness Continues!

The new(-ish) editor for the Oxford American emailed me and made nice! Y’all, I am off the Oxford American’s shit list! Eight years of nonsense, gone by the wayside. So, that’s nice, especially because I really like them and this year’s music issue–The Blues–sounds awesome.

Y’all remember when he wrote the Scene to make a snide comment about me? Lord, that was one of the weirdest things that has come my way.

Last night, The Last Waltz was on PBS and I watched the whole thing because I’m only human. And I have to tell you, I never put two-and-two together that the reason it has always felt to me like the movie stalls out after Muddy Waters is not just because the Muddy Waters segment is so fucking amazing, but also because I loathe Eric Clapton. After he plays, the movie picks right back up with being deeply enjoyable.

I think I might even be okay with it if they’d just flipped his segment and Emmylou’s.

Like I said on Twitter, I especially love the Van Morrison part because he looks like someone’s dad had a couple of beers and decided he could sing. But then he really can! But still, when he finishes up his song, he looks surprised and excited that he didn’t die out there. It is one of the moments where it feels like a real person is present.

Which is not to say that I don’t love that movie. And I love The Band, even The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, which should be terrible and embarrassing but somehow feels like the truth, but the combination of stoned/drunk everyone is and the awareness that they’re being filmed and that this is the end of things, there’s a performativeness to it. Which is fine, but it makes the moments of genuineness, like Van Morrison’s relief and delight, really stand out.

I keep trying to decide what it is about Muddy Waters’ performance I find so compelling, though. Because I watch that song and every time I feel like I’m seeing a truth about America I don’t know how to put into words. First, it’s the sense that he’s truly plugged into something transcendent and that you can see his connection to it grow as he performs. There’s not a good non-corny way of talking about it. But he’s in a groove and, as he realizes he’s settled into a familiar and powerful groove, you see a mix of confidence–he’s been here before, he knows what to do–and delightful surprise–“I got back here again, somehow? All right!” I just feel like performing, and performing masterfully, is doing something for and to him.

Also, this time, I was struck by how much eye contact he makes with the audience (or at least, how much eye contact he appears to be making with the audience. It’s hard to know how much he could see with the light in his eyes.) which isn’t really present in the other performers. They’re looking at the camera or at each other or out at the audience, but Morganfield looks like he’s looking at someone. I think part of this may just be his age and performance style–in other words, he came up playing at a time and in places where audience participation was a given so you had to learn how to work it and work with it–but it also goes to creating the sense that something is happening to and through him to us when he’s performing.

And I also can’t shake loose what it means for him to be standing on that stage, the 60s barely over, asking “Ain’t I a Man?” “I am a Man” on a sign in Memphis means, “See me as a citizen and a worker and someone with the inalienable rights our country was founded on. See me as your equal.” But Morganfield is up there singing about sex and erotic power and cocky assuredness and pleasure, at a time when we see black men’s sexuality as a threat for which they need to be constantly monitored and punished.

I definitely think one of the biggest threats posed by the blues and r&b is that there’s a long history of the importance of women’s pleasure and the joy men take in it. Once you stop to look for it, you’ll see it everywhere. The “black” version of a song includes women’s fun and the “white” version focuses on men’s pleasure or men’s suffering at the hands of women. So how could there not be anxiety on the part of white society, the fear that white women will gravitate to the men who enjoy their pleasure. You can even see how the Jezebel figures into this, white America trying to set up a dichotomy where black people are, yes, more passionate and sexual, but there’s no thought behind it–that’s just what they’re “for.” And good white people are the opposite of that.

So, you can see the claim Morganfield is making–“I know what I’m doing and I know you’ll like it”–and how it went against white views of black people.

It’s a less blatantly political claim and yet, just as important a one. So, there you have this guy, who makes this amazing music that most people who are in the movie love and have ripped off, who is risking and has risked more to perform  it than they have, and, for me, the contrast between what he’s doing and what Clapton is doing is just so great it kind of repulses me to have them back to back.

Swept Away

Oh god, my fireplace and chimney need $2500 worth of work to make it safe to use. So, I guess I’m not going to sit in front of it in October. I’m going to spend the money to get it fixed, though, because I bought this house because it had a working fireplace and I would like a working fireplace.

We watch a lot of Adam Ruins Everything and last night he had one on real estate and he came down on the side of renting being a better option than buying for most people (though, in fairness, he also covered how the Airb&b business is making renting harder for people). And I think that’s not quite right. It’s just a different option. The price I pay a month has gone up in the couple of tax assessments we’ve had, but never by the amount a month my rent regularly increased. And there’s simply nowhere left in Nashville where I could have this amount of space for this amount of money a month.

You do also dump a lot of money into repairs. I’m going to dump a lot of money into the fireplace. I dumped a lot of money into plumbing. There’s always something big that needs to be done.

I guess it’s partially because I think a lot about the logistics of writing, but I feel like what we all want is a right way to do things, clear cut solutions to murky problems. Rent, don’t buy. Buy, don’t rent. Self-publish. Get an agent. Etc. Etc.

The way is never that clear. The right thing not always obvious. The world looks different to each of us depending on where we stand.

I read this terrific story over at Strange Horizons. And then I read this review of the story which was positive, but reads the story entirely differently than I do. Like, wow, that’s not how I read it.

If you want to discuss cocktapusses, please skip straight to the comments now. If you want to discuss the story, I’ll make my points below:

The witch cursed the dude because he’s an abusive ass. His abusive ass-ness therefore did not end when the curse was broken, because that’s just who he is–that monster. Loving him brings a different curse on the women who do it. Therefore, the way to break the curse, the current curse he’s causing, is to stop loving him. That’s what she comes to understand–he’s no longer cursed, she is. So the witch can’t lift her curse on him; she can only help the woman realize how to lift the curse on her.

The witch clearly used to be the monster’s lover. That’s the parallel with them both having a collection of knives. We’re supposed to link them together. And that’s her good reason for cursing him in the first place–he did her wrong, so she cursed him to show outwardly what he is inwardly.

The witch isn’t promising the woman a life of ex-lovers. She’s saying, “If you break this curse, you may be on your way to becoming like me, a witch.”

Luke Cage

We finished Luke Cage, which we both loved. Like all the Netflix Marvel stuff, I ended up feeling like it would have been better if it were ten episodes instead of twelve or thirteen or whatever it was.

I remain very tickled at the normalization of the mad scientist. I love that… oh wait… I guess SPOILERS

I love that the driving force behind the drama was that Luke Cage is a minister’s kid! Ha ha ha. That made me happy. I loved Shades and I was so relieved that he lived. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is about his character that I found so enjoyable, but I think it’s clearly that he’s a smart badass who is likes seeing women succeed. Like Luke Cage is all “I’m flirting with you by telling you you’re old” and Shades is all “I’m flirting with you by helping you cover up this murder and telling you you can achieve your goals and more.”

Like, seriously, who do you want to flirt with? Clearly, clearly it’s the guy who’s all “You are amazing” not the guy who’s all “you’re a little mature to be here, aren’t you?”

I can’t decide if the flashbacks went on too long or if they were just awkwardly done, but for me, they were the weak point of the series. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but only rarely did they tell me something that the subtext of the show didn’t already make quite clear and they seemed to drag on way too long.

But I was really glad to get to see Mabel in the flesh and I would have liked to have seen more of her. So, take that for what it’s worth.

And the music is amazing.

Sometimes You Don’t Know What You Need Until You Get It

I had a couple of good long discussions this weekend and a short, but important discussion, and I am feeling like a human being again. Just sometimes it means the world to hear from other people “That is fucked up and I don’t know what to do or make of it either.”

It’s nice sometimes to know that you’re not overlooking some obvious solution.

I watched Spy again last night and I laughed again. One thing that really struck me is that one of the reasons I find Jason Statham so delightful in it is that he’s being funny. Like somehow him being funny doesn’t negate his handsomeness.

But, and I say this as evidence as kind of my own internalized bullshit, Melissa McCarthy is just objectively stunning. Like, she is really beautiful. But, much like Lucille Ball, since she’s sending out “funny” not “cute” cues, I didn’t notice.

I don’t know. I have a lot of thoughts. It pains me to be honest about them. But it means a lot to me to see Melissa McCarthy out in the world being beautiful, making movies, even comedies, where a lot of people want to fuck her. I’m embarrassed at this age to need that, but I do.

Galavant

We binge-watched Galavant on Netflix over the past week. It is delightful. I don’t know why I never searched it out when it was on live. I guess because I never heard anyone say, “Wow, this is weird and delightful.”

Timothy Omundson is wonderful in it. His character goes from sniveling baby to kind of dorky but regal and, even though he’s stunningly handsome and his eyes are so dreamy, I bought him every step of the way. For a silly show, they give him a ton of character development and he just sells the shit out of it. But we’ve loved him since Lassiter, so I guess it wasn’t that surprising.

I was surprised by Vinnie Jones, which, I admit, is silly of me. I can’t help it. I’m a sucker, just a sucker, for the “big bad guy with softer side.” Like, will you punch bad guys and snuggle this kitten? Okay, fine, I’m in. The guys were kind of appalled at his singing, but I adored it. I mean, everyone else in the cast has a perfectly passable (and often far better than passable) voice and Vinnie just sounds like an everyday dude singing and I think that takes real guts. To just be yourself, have your own voice, flaws and all, when you know everyone else has some level of professional training at it. Plus, also, screw them. He has a really lovely voice in the kind of way that you know, if you saw him tomorrow out singing to a little kid in that very voice, you would have to lay down on the ground and just wait for the smiley tears to stop. (And possibly, judging by his life, Vinnie might kick you while you were lying there, but that’s a chance you’d have to take.)

I mean, that’s the thing about beautiful things. We try to equate beauty with flawlessness and perfection, but, if you had to say whose singing was going to hit you right in the feels every time if you had to hear it for the rest of your life, it’d be Vinnie Jones’s above Joshua Sasse’s, with no offense to Sasse, who has a very lovely voice.

I guess what I mean is that there’s beauty in bravery and daring, not just in perfection, and I often prefer the beauty that’s brave over the beauty that’s perfect.

Look at Yourself

There’s been an interesting to me conversation going on in various quarters about the role of alcohol at genre conventions. The aspect of it I’m interested in is whether how we use alcohol hampers our efforts to be welcoming to a diverse crowd.

In other words, if you don’t drink–for religious or medical reasons–do you feel able to participate in the kinds of informal socializing that goes on at cons that can lead to friendships and publishing deals and opportunities of all sorts?

The point I kept trying to make is that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people sitting at the bar and chatting, but, if you know there are people who feel uncomfortable at the bar, are there also activities not centered around alcohol where this kind of socializing is also done?

I was, then, a little taken aback to see the number of people who insisted that bar culture at cons is fine, that you don’t have to drink there, that everybody feels comfortable there, that there isn’t a problem. Even in the face of people saying that hotel bars can be very hard for people with disabilities to navigate and people saying that the way drunk people can get aggressive made them avoid bars.

And I can’t help but marvel at this. Do people really think that when a man at a convention, say, slapped a woman on the ass, that he thought he was saying “You’re not welcome here? You’ll always just be something for me to fuck, not a real fan?”

I mean, duh, of course not. Most dudes thought they were saying “Whoa, hey, I noticed that you’re here and I’m really glad about it!” And then probably with wiggling insinuating eyebrows.

We’re still fighting about this, with ass-slappers still claiming it’s in good fun and ass-slappees still explaining that, even if meant in good fun, we don’t like it, it makes us feel unwelcome, and ass-slappers should stop.

So, why, then, would people on the side of “let’s expand the group to include all kinds of people” be so hostile to the idea that they could be doing things–well-meant things they think of as awesome kindnesses–that don’t come across that way to others?

Is this not an ongoing problem at cons? Do you think you’re immune from these problems just because you’re on the side of goodness?

Deathgasm

So, I watched this movie on Saturday night and I got halfway through it and I felt like I was kind of cheating on traditional Monday movie night with the guys without meaning to. This movie, I knew the second a dude got his head chopped off, the guy who ordered the chopping off complained, and then the minions had to figure out how to do it again, was exactly the kind of movie we love to watch together.

But it was so good that we watched it last night anyway and I still laughed and enjoyed it. The best part the second time through was listening to the Butcher and the Red-Headed Kid laugh at it. At one point, one of the characters calls another character a cockapus, which then led to us trying to figure out how eight penises would work. I was thinking a kind of arrangement where seven would just tuck down out of the way until the one in use was exhausted and then another could rise up and take its place.

The Butcher assumed the penises would be evenly distributed across your body, otherwise, how would you wear pants?

The Red-Headed Kid, though, began shouting in genuine distress for the cockapus–“No, man. No. It’s too many cocks. You’d break your arms trying to support all those women.”

I laughed so hard.

But in writing this, I remembered that dream I had about running around sticking penises on men–still a waste of magical power and evil villainry, I posit–and now I wonder if that was a prophetic dream?

No, I kid. Because I had another dream about a massive anxiety attack the other night and I sure as fuck don’t want that coming true.

Anyway, Deathgasm. It’s delightful and a terrible bloody mess. And it’s on Neflix. Share your thoughts about cockapusses below.

(Ha ha ha. I always hate when blog posts end with some direction for what you’re supposed to comment about. But I would forgive it if it were always “Share your thoughts about cockapusses below.”)

Thinking Last Night About Elvis

I overheard a conversation by some young Nashville music people–white–about how Elvis was racist. And it’s been bugging me.

I’ve been thinking how in Elvis’s time, white society looked at black culture and said “That’s trash. Don’t touch it.” and how Elvis was like, “Holy shit. I found some awesome stuff here in the trash. I’m going to wear it. I’m going to shake it. I’m going to sing it. Look, look, guys. Look what I found here! It’s fucking awesome.” And how a bunch of white kids were like “Wow, yep, that is awesome. Show us more, Elvis.”

When black people say, “Hey, that’s not trash, you racist fucks; that’s our culture,” they have an absolutely legitimate complaint. Elvis wasn’t rooting through trash and it is structural racism that made it seem so.

But the complicated thing about American culture is that Elvis could have been doing something racist at one level that was also anti-racist at another level. Because saying to white kids, “No, you’re wrong. This stuff has value. This stuff is awesome. The people who made it have some cool shit it’s worth it for you to check out.” was and, sadly, still remains revolutionary.

Okay, so I think that’s clear. The same act can be both racist and anti-racist because this is America.

But here’s what I’ve been thinking about, why it really bugs me when white progressives dismiss Elvis as racist: because white racists in Elvis’s time did not want kids listening to Elvis, because they didn’t want white kids finding value in black culture and they didn’t want black kids to see their culture being valued by white culture. Elvis was an intersection–an imperfect intersection, yes, god, yes, so imperfect–that white racists did not want kids to meet at.

So whose work is being done when white progressives discourage white kids from listening to Elvis?

Stranger Things

I talked the Butcher and the Red-Headed Kid into watching Stranger Things on Netflix and we are binging out way through it, even though it involves the Red-Headed Kid rearranging his schedule a little to be over here.

I’m trying not to be too distraught by the fact that the character that was clearly based on me in high school is stuck in a demon dimension.

Through the First Week in July

I just need to keep my head down and my work good and get through this busy mess.

The other day, there was a big brouhaha because some fans on Tumblr were pretending to be the folks from The Black Tapes podcast. The Black Tapes is really cool with fans participating in the world, but it seems like this wasn’t clear that it was being done by fans. There was no disclaimer to say that the accounts weren’t run by the show and seemed to encourage confusion. So, the Black Tapes people had to try to walk this complicated line where they encouraged people to do all kinds of fan things–except thoroughly impersonating the show to the point of confusion.

There is something weird about the ways in which we feel like liking something gives us a right to it, some level of ownership over it. Like it’s ours to devour and consume, literally.

I finished Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock last night and it left me uneasy. Lake Mungo is one of my favorite movies. There probably aren’t that many people in the world who are going to read Disappearance who have also seen Lake Mungo so I don’t know how many people will notice it, but it’s the same story. Disappearance is what happens when you set Lake Mungo in the U.S. and give it a villain. Major plot points, which are genuinely surprising and upsetting the first time you encounter them, are present in both stories. Tremblay’s a really good writer so the parallels don’t ruin the book if you have seen the movie. But the movie is a delicate thing and it works hard at establishing a great aura of uncertainty. If you read the book before you see the movie, part of the movie’s delicate uncertainty will be absent for you.

So, that sucks. On the other hand, you’re probably not going to stumble across an obscure Australian horror movie. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

I guess I’m left feeling, too, like I wish there’d been a clear wink and a nod in the book or in the publicity around the book to Lake Mungo, something to say “Here are this story’s roots, so, if you like this story, check out this movie.”

Genre stories–well, all stories, but I’m focusing on genre now–get retold all the time. So, I guess it’s not the retelling that bothers me, especially when the retelling is this well done. But doesn’t a fan of a work owe it to the work to make sure that the work is known? That the influence is acknowledged?

What do fans who are also creators owe their inspirations? I don’t have a good answer for that. I’m not sure that, if I’ve had answers along the way, they’re sufficient or satisfactory.

But I feel like you have to leave breadcrumbs. You have to show the path you’ve taken. Whether it’s saying “This is a fan site because I love this thing so much, but please don’t mistake it for the thing itself” or “This is an homage to the movie I love, so, hey, if you like the book, show some love to the movie.” Otherwise, it feels like it’s not love, but theft.

Also, in other things that upset me, for the first time since I’ve owned this dog, he’s sleeping away from me at such an angle with his legs crossed at such an angle that the black scars on the back of his one leg line up with the black scars on the front of the other leg and it’s clear that they are not scars, plural, but one scar. At some point, a wire wrapped his back legs together and cut in to him deep enough to scar.

I want to cry for a million years.

And yet, what else about him would ever tell you anything bad had ever happened to him? He still has an open, joyful heart. He likes everyone.

I wish that I could say the same.

Hypericon

The new venue is great. The weekend was long. I’m still feeling a little frazzled.

Our cats are kind of dog-like, having been raised around at least one dog. They’re friendly. They kind of go for walks. But at the end of the day, they’re cats. As dog-like as they can be, at some point, you can hit a wall where they’re like, “Yeah, that’s too far.”

Sometimes this weekend, I felt like a cat among dogs.

I was on Twitter when a guy came up to me, touched my hand to get my attention, and then told me to smile. Like a fucking asshole, I did. I’m so mad at myself. But some of the other authors were delighted when they went up to hug him and he gave them surprise kisses.

So, here’s the thing. If you’re cool with surprise kisses, congrats. This minor celebrity just laid one on you. But how does he know that everyone who approaches him would be open to a kiss? I include myself in this group, so I speak from self-knowledge–there are a lot of socially awkward people at conventions. It’s very likely that a hug might be all they’re game for. I can’t help but wonder if and how many women got kissed who didn’t want to be.

And why would you behave like that? That’s a rhetorical question.

I have been thinking a lot about why I froze and smiled instead of scowling and telling that dude to suck my butt and I have decided it’s because I refuse to believe, in this day and age, that guys don’t know that women don’t like it when you tell them to smile. They know. So, already when you’ve decided that your pleasure is more important than my comfort, we’re in a kind of hostile situation. I want the moment to end without the hostility levels rising. The cost of me acquiescing is only my pride, so I acquiesce and you leave me alone.

I don’t know. It’s not really a big thing. Just in a weekend where no one knew what panels they were on until the last minute and I had to do a lot of running around town as well as doing the convention and meeting a lot of strangers and being “on,” it just stands out as a “WTF?” moment. Like we’re all trying to do our best here, dude, except you.

When There’s Something Strange…

This morning, I stumbled across a story about the new Ghostbusters, because someone had retweeted someone else who was complaining that they didn’t hate it because of sexism, but because it’s going to be terrible.

Let me be upfront. I’m not planning on seeing the new Ghostbusters movie at the theater. I’ll catch it when it’s on cable or makes it to Netflix. Or maybe not. If you’re not planning to see the new Ghostbusters movie either, I truly don’t give a shit.

But man, do I not believe people who feel the need to announce to the world that they’re not seeing the new Ghostbusters, but not because of the all-female cast. Okay there, bucky, sure, sure. There has been no clearer signal since “it’s about ethics in gamer journalism” that a person does not have their shit together and in really tedious ways that could easily turn on anyone engaging with them.

Like, seriously, folks, if you’re not going to see a movie, but you’re spending a bunch of time trying to make the internet believe you that you’re not not going to see it because of the women in it, I have no choice but to believe that you’re lying. Possibly to yourself, even.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post Chuck Wendig wrote in the wake of Orlando, where he talks about the festering damaging stew we raise our boys in.

We force them to understand that they are MEN. They are MASCULINE. They are aggressive, dominant, alpha. They must be or they are weak. Big dick. Big muscles. Hot girlfriend. Prove your manhood. Wear it as an emblem. Just in case, we can make sure it’s driven home in the toy aisle, too. Make sure they play with guns and weapons of war (while at the same time limiting a young girl’s social ability to do so). Do not let them be nurturers. No dolls for the men. Men are soldiers, generals, builders, leaders. Trucks and cars. Guns and swords. But they also learn by limitation — the girls have their own aisles. They have not only dolls, but stuffed animals. They have little toy shopping carts and hair salons. They cook. They clean. They are soft like the stuffed animals. Not hard like guns. No Black Widow toys for the girls or for the boys. Even if the world gives us Ghostbusters who are women, let’s make sure that the packaging shows boys — lest they be made to believe they aren’t special, they aren’t the best, they aren’t chosen.

Not to jump tracks too much but I remember feeling really pissed off when I was getting ready to graduate from college and I couldn’t figure out how to get a job and all the help my university implied they would give didn’t really mean shit.

You do shit because you’re told these are the things you need to do to get the life you want and you do them and the life you want isn’t there, damn straight you’re pissed.

That’s a really common feeling. And really fucking hard.

The joy of the internet is that it can bring you into contact with people who are also going through what you’re going through and who can give you the strength to pick up and move forward.

But it feels like the Big Suck of this situation is that these guys band together to validate their feelings (fine) and then coordinate their resentment (not fine) rather than helping each other find healthy ways forward.

And one of the resentments seems to be that they can’t just do this shit without us figuring out that it tells us something about them. They want to dislike Ghostbusters because it stars women now, but they don’t want anyone to notice.

But I have to notice in order to keep floundering, stuck, angry folks out of my life.

The Gap, Again

I think it’s because I was at a meeting earlier this week where industry people were openly talking about the grave downside of capitalism, at least as we practice it here in the United States–any business that sells something to consumers which increases profits by finding ways to keep workers’ wages low ends up killing itself, but it usually takes so long that only the people in the business near the death of the business realize the problem and then it’s too late.

In other words, if consumers and workers are the same people, you have to pay your workers enough to consume your product or you’re committing slow-motion suicide. If consumers and workers aren’t the same people, you’d better hope there are enough consumers out there making more than your workers to make your business model work or you’re committing slow-motion suicide. Note that, if every business is trying to keep workers’ pay as low as possible, all businesses face the problem of not having a large enough pool of well-paid consumers who need their shit.

I keep thinking that we’re seeing this gap replicated over all parts of our society. You have something–in the case of what I care about, stories–and there’s a huge industry that takes those stories and sells them to consumers.

But you have a growing group of consumers who can’t or won’t afford the stories. They start looking for free or cheaper stories. I mean, as expensive as video games can be, what’s they’re per-hour cost? I bought the Butcher one of the Borderlands for $50 when it first came out. I don’t know how much he’s played it, but I bet I pretty easily have only spent $1 an hour on his entertainment with that game at this point. It’s roughly $7.50 an hour to see a movie. Depending on how fast or slow you read…

It’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about with the rise of fictional podcasts. That can’t be a money-making proposition by any stretch.

I guess I don’t have a fully formed idea about this except that it seems like the rise of the online magazine and the podcast and such are, in ways, people making art for people who can’t or won’t afford to consume it through traditional channels.

If a very few people will ever be lucky enough to make a living making their art and if audiences prefer not to pay for art (or to pay much less for it), I just…

I don’t know, really. I just know that it seems like a real gap between The Industry, as such, and what producers and consumers who can’t get access to The Industry are doing and I wonder what that means.

Preacher

The Butcher and I have been watching AMC’s Preacher and really enjoying it. But man, the actual business of being a preacher on that show is so weird. Like, I can accept a vampire, but accepting that a place that does full immersion baptisms has communion wine? I can’t do it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and the other day Coble had a Facebook post about how there’s basically no market for Christian fantasy & science fiction and why that is. The gist of it is basically that Christian authors want to write grown-up fiction with Christian themes, but readers of Christian fiction don’t want to read a lot of gore or sex or the kinds of things that mark a book as grown-up.

And it strikes me that Preacher suffers from the inverse of this problem. The show would be tremendously better if it had behind the scenes someone who treated Christianity like something other than another kind of fantasy trope. If it had a sincere, knowledgeable Christian overseeing the depiction of Christians.

Which is not to say that I think Christians are in any way being disrespected by the show. I mean, that’s one of the nice things about it. It does take people’s faith and their doubts seriously. But it doesn’t seem to understand the kinds of fundamental church things that would make churched people recognize themselves in that story.

I guess it’s tough. I wouldn’t like Preacher–which, let me reiterate, I like a great deal–if it were trying to sell me on returning to the fold. So, maybe it wouldn’t be that interesting for a Christian creator to work on it if he or she couldn’t proselytize through it.

But if Hollywood struggles to reach a Christian audience with the products centered around Christianity, one of the main reasons has to be that the Hollywood projects that treat Christianity as something other than just another flavor of fantasy–oh, cool, you have fairies and trolls, I have angels and demons–are pretty rare.

Which is a shame because I think Preacher could only benefit from getting those details right.

WXNA

We have a new radio station in town that’s the renegades from Vanderbilt’s old community station–WXNA (that’s the new station, not Vandy’s old station). And I’m loving it, so far. It’s like listening to interesting people’s cool record collections.

It makes me really happy to hear people doing interesting, creative things.

But I have to tell you that I think we’re seeing more and more a real split between people who can make a living doing the creative thing they love and creative people who have to find some way to subsidize the cool thing they love. The quality of people stuck in the “I do this for free” is exploding and it’s getting harder and harder to make a living doing what you love.

But it can’t go on, I don’t think. If society stratifies like this, then a lot of us will be happy with the entertainment provided by the people we know, which leaves the upper tier entertainment without the audience they want.

Maybe.

Headache?

I went to bed with a headache that wasn’t bad enough for me to take anything for it. It seemed like the kind of minor headache that you sleep off. But then I woke up with this piercing pain that ran from my eye to my temple.

I took some medicine, but it hurt so much that I was like “There’s no way anything over the counter could touch this,” but I guess that’s just years of migraine suffering talking? Because literally twenty minutes later, the headache was gone.

I’m weirded out. What is this beastly magic that fixes what it’s supposed to fix on the first go?

Ha ha ha, it also makes me realize what bears migraines are. I’ve certainly had migraines that hurt less than this headache, but they were much, much more persistent.

We watched the first episode of Preacher last night. I liked it okay, though it felt kind of hollow at the core for me. Like, I just didn’t believe the main character was very familiar with church. He’s a preacher now, but the conceit is that he’s also a minister’s kid. I didn’t recognize him as one of the family, I guess.

But the Butcher thought the church scenes were pretty accurate, so it may be just a matter of perception.

The chick from Shield is acting up a storm, though. It’s almost disconcerting to watch how good she is.

Better?

Fortunately, I don’t normally get a lot of trouble on Twitter. But yesterday, one of my friends was talking about how People has this new initiative to get women to share their dress size so that we can all see that beauty comes in every size or some such nonsense.

The thing that struck me about it, though, is that, because it’s about beauty, the women whose pictures are included, by and large, are striking “beautiful” poses while dressed in “attractive” ways while holding up the number that represents their size (because I guess they all have access to more consistent sizing than the rest of America?)

I rolled my eyes, because, of course, we can’t just have “You’re fine at whatever size you are,” because what’s that sell? We have to establish what a “beautiful” body at that size looks like, so even if you make peace with being a size 16, now you can feel anxious that you’re not the right kind of size 16 because you don’t compare to the chicks People has deemed properly representative. And buy the products necessary to relieve your anxiety. That’s the point.

Pit women against each other, set us up to compare ourselves to each other, and then sell shit based on the anxiety that unwinnable competition produces.

But it also struck me that there can’t be any eating disorder specialist who would endorse putting pictures of women up with some number attached so that other women can see how they stack up or if they need to try harder to get to the “right” number or be extra cautious about not “letting” yourself get to that undesirable number.

So, I tweeted at People something to that effect.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. A dude I don’t know @-ed me and some other dude I don’t know. No message. Just drawing other dude’s attention to the fact that I exist and then other dude began hurling insults (though most insultingly, really stupid insults) at me.

A dude sent another dude after me. The first dude, I assume, was monitoring the replies in the People twitter feed to see who had “wrong” opinions and needed to be dealt with.

Can you imagine?

I don’t want to downplay how creepy this is and I do feel a little weird now having come to the attention of a person like this.

But overall, I find this so ludicrous it’s almost delightful. If society is going to have arbiters of what is and isn’t okay to talk about and who can and can’t participate in those conversations, shouldn’t those arbiters be super awesome? Shouldn’t they show great discernment and judgment?

But no! There’s some dude whose set himself up as arbiter and he monitors the People twitter feed.

I will listen to wisdom from my betters, but the dude who monitors the People twitter feed, as evidenced by the fact that he monitors the People twitter feed, is not better than me.