Sunday, December 10, 2017


Now Playing: Violet Orlandi - The Dope Show (Marilyn Manson cover)

I wasn't feeling all that well yesterday; slept for two hours, was mad and heartbroken about a bunch of stuff, and ended up late to work because of an early Saturday morning crash somewhere on 826.

With so much hanging over my head, I figured it was the perfect mindset to be in to watch Martin Scorsese's Silence. Mostly because I knew from previews and general subject matter and even the director that it was going to be a stone cold bummer, so since it wasn't going to make me feel worse, it was as good a time as any to watch it.

Weirdly, I haven't seen that much of Scorsese's movies, even if I do know them by name. Took me forever to finally get around to watching Taxi Driver and I saw The Departed with my dad when I was little. I was obsessed over finally reading and seeing Shutter Island back when I had an interest in the subject of psychiatric facilities, but never got around to it. Not much since, though I know I should at least give Wolf of Wallstreet a try.

(Side note, this is why I'm always hesitant to call myself a film buff; I'm missing too many directors' bodies of work. Do you know I've only seen like four Stanley Kubrick movies? One of them is not Full Metal Jacket).

Anyways, it left me a little horrified. It's a gorgeous film to look at it, but it's also always strange to see things from the perspective of very religiously devout people when I've lived most of life without giving the concept of god much of a thought. I used to when I was younger, but (cheap shot) I also used to believe in Santa. It's not that hard to see how my mind has changed since. But it's hard to put myself in the shoes of who I was and what I thought--especially in regards to something as abstract as faith--back then.

When the climactic scene of Silence happened, I was expecting what the character would do, but not what would finally make him do so. It's not a punch in the gut, but it's not supposed to be. It stung, more than anything. Not because of the action that takes place (it'd been building to that point and I was leaning towards the assumption that it was going to happen) but because of an artistic decision the storytellers make. I interpreted it one way because I'm an atheist, but that interpretation will vary from person to person. 

It also reminded me of a scene in The Witch, which 100% is a punch to the gut (this time because it's meant to be.) It's almost an exact reversal to Silence given the characters involved, but also very similar in terms of what actually happens.

I'm trying to be vague because I'd hate to spoil, but it did eventually lead me to the conclusion that the two films would make for a great double feature. Uh. Provided you don't mind slower-paced movies where you suffer the whole way through and then leave thoroughly depressed afterwards (although I'd argue The Witch has a very happy ending for its poor heroine; again, that interpretation is purely colored by the fact that I'm an atheist).

Both films are ultimately about the abject silence of God in the face of tangible horror. It's such a foreign subject to me, but it's fascinating nonetheless. Although I can't decide if seeing it explored from the perspective of believers further alienates and confuses me, or if it actually allows me to sympathize with their crisis of faith. 

At the moment, I think further exploration is needed on my end. It's still difficult not to bring in my own perspective and have that, perhaps unfairly, paint a particular judgmental attitude about it. But I know it's worth thinking about, and if there are any atheists out there who find the subject interesting too, watching The Witch and Silence is a good way to start.

Although really--everyone should watch those movies. Just prepare to feel bummed out for several hours in a row. (Your mileage, as always, may vary.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New Romantics

Now Playing: 
  • The Pretty Reckless - The Devil's Back
  • Meg Myers - Desire

Patty Jenkins, the amazing director of Wonder Woman, was doing an AMA (ask me anything) over at the subreddit /r/movies a while back. In response to one of the questions, she wrote this:
I think that all of the great epic classic films that I was basing the movie on had that as an integral part of them, and I wanted Diana's story to have EVERYTHING - no lesser than any other superhero. It's not about her needing anybody, it's about her deserving someone amazing.

I replied with this:
I just want to say that I loved almost everything about Wonder Woman but I was genuinely surprised at how touched I felt at Diana and Steve's romance. There's such an over saturation of romantic subplots and story lines in pretty much all mediums--film, TV, books, even video games at times--that it's started to leave me apathetic towards them. I guess also because they very rarely feel genuine. It's more, "here's an attractive man, here's an attractive woman, let's get them together!" So it just devolves to watching two people getting smashed together like Ken and Barbie. 
But it actually felt like Diana and Steve had established a real connection, however brief their time together. So much of it has to do with how charming the actors were and their level of chemistry, but overall, it was also on a writing level--how they learned and came to understand one another in terms of their morality and beliefs. 
So really--thank you for not neglecting that aspect of the story.

So I got to thinking--

I have become a bit of a cynic when it comes to romance in fiction.

It sure doesn't seem that way. I squee and flail and generally turn to my friends to whisper, "I ship it," whenever cute romantic interactions/scenarios unfold in whatever we're watching/reading. But it's hard for me to really pin point a couple that felt genuine to me or that I think back on a lot.

Part of the reason I was thinking about it was because shortly after watching Wonder Woman, I finished he Amber Spyglass. I was listening to the audiobook while working and when (spoilers?) Lyra and Will came to realize that the two had fallen in love with each other, I felt at odds.

So many of the passages that Pullman uses to describe their feelings for one another are gorgeous. Pullman's a great writer, so when he tells me:
"The word love set his nerves ablaze. All his body thrilled with it, and he answered her in the same words, kissing her hot face over and over again, drinking in with adoration the scent of her body and her warm, honey-fragrant hair and her sweet, moist mouth that tasted of the little red fruit. 
Around them there was nothing but silence, as if all the world were holding its breath."

"She had never dreamed of what it would feel like to love someone so much; of all the things that had astonished her in her adventures, that was what astonished her the most. She thought the tenderness it left in her heart was like a bruise that would never go away, but she would cherish it forever."

I can't help but stop shelving and smile as the words repeat in my head.

Putting aside how beautiful that piece of writing is, I don't know if I was ever all that invested in the possibility of their romantic relationship. I believe in the foundation that is their friendship and I loved them both as characters.

But kissing and declaring their love for one another--it just doesn't quite hit me as much as maybe it was intended. I was still sad at the ending, but that mostly came from wanting them to be happy than because I truly and fully believed in their love.

Admittedly, (spoilers for WW) when Steve tells Diana that he loves her at the end of the movie, I don't know if I necessarily believed that what they'd built was love. It felt like they were heading in that direction, but their time together, as I mentioned, was too brief. Because of that, their interactions felt like the start of a great romance. Just the start. Maybe arguably that's what makes the ending all the more heartbreaking; it never got to be everything it could have been.

But I at least believed that Steve believed his words in that moment. If they'd had more time, maybe he would have slowed down enough to really be sure if he'd already fallen in love with her then or if he was still falling. Given the circumstances and the chaos around them, he had to say it while he still had the chance.

And okay--it might be mystifying to have a post go up about the biggest female superhero film ever made and talk about the fucking romance of all things, but I loved Wonder Woman for many reasons and I adore Gal Gadot's portrayal in everything she's been in so far. And there's not a lot to say there that hasn't been said by a million others.

So here's the real reason I sat down to reflect on it:

Last time I wrote a "romance", a genetically-engineered soldier/mercenary with cybernetic enhancements got involved with an android who thought he was a medieval-romance-style knight on a grand Arthurian quest in a distant, magical land. There was some implication that it wasn't the healthiest of set-ups. (Because, among other things, with those backgrounds, he couldn't help but immediately idolize this woman who'd been literally created to be a perfect being. And he had nothing to compare his feelings to except the concept of a grand epic romance).

Last time I wrote a "romance", my accidental allegory of an abusive relationship unfolded as follows: implications, innuendos, subtext, TEXT TEXT TEXT, and culminated in the lines:
He was still staring at her when he bent down and crushed her mouth with his. 
Neither of them moved, neither of them blinked. His lips were hard, his breath warm. 
It was a dead man’s kiss. It should have frightened her, but it didn’t. Because he was desperate, and he was lost. For too long he’d reveled in the fact that his touch triggered pure, primal fear out of her. He needed to see her break into a fit of screams, to throw a punch or two. But she didn’t react. She didn’t need to.

Last time I wrote an honest to goodness romance, it was already established. Two women loved each other, cared for each other, stuck by each other in the most terrifying nights and turbulent days. But they were also already a couple before the story began. Their romance was built in the past--one I imagined but never wrote. Their relationship is more or less stable by the time trouble barges through the front door of their tiny apartment, and even when there's conflict, they manage to stick together.

Last time I wrote an honest to goodness romance, the woman died, her husband mourned. I never wrote a scene of them together because he didn't come into the story until long after she'd passed. Then he too died at the end of the book because I had a hit list in the form of a pink sticky note by my computer.

Last time I planned a romance, I plotted the perfect break-up. She probably leaves him for a girl who's far more compatible. But I have no idea because I never made it far enough to the writing process. I don't count the first draft twelve/thirteen-year-old-me wrote. The unwritten one is the revised, mature, older draft that I dreamt up freshman year of college. If I ever do write it, those two are breaking up. It's set in stone. Will that hinder the writing, or aid it?

Last time I planned a romance, two people from completely different worlds and cultures, raised to hate what the other represents, end up being forced together through external circumstances. And because they're teenagers and their perspectives change due to proximity, they start a sexual relationship that's not supposed to mean anything. Then they both get confused. It also, probably, ends badly. But again, not really written it yet so I don't know. And that first draft where it's only cutesy and implied because I was eleven years old when I wrote it also doesn't count. This one has a witch and a prince.

Now that I'm writing a planned romance, it also has a witch, though the boy is just a boy. It started out as two messed up teenagers finding a way to exploit each other and only stick together because they can't find anyone else who's more fucked up than they are. But I don't know what'll change, or how my witch will handle the very real possibility that she's not the stone-cold femme fatale she desperately imagined herself to be.

Now that I'm writing an honest to goodness romance, it's two girls again who come to care for each other. They start as friends and one night of overindulgence and way too much substance abuse (possibly alcohol, possibly weed, most likely shrooms) has them fall into each other's arms, for comfort and fun and a general need for one another. But I fear it might also not end well either. Because nothing ends well for my witches.

But nothing ends well for most of my romances.

In college, I used to jokingly gag whenever Carla talked about a life together with her then-girlfriend, now-wife. Whenever she spoke about marriage, I'd do a full body cringe. Not because I wasn't happy for her, but because the whole concept seemed utterly foreign to where we were in life. I did it mostly as a joke, but there used to be a grain of truth. That grain was, "I'm happy for you. I guess I'm just involuntarily imagining myself in your place and that turns me into a fleeing lobster."

(Lobsters are the most awkward animals I can think of).

It's not the same anymore. The concept of a life-long commitment doesn't scare me. But it's harder to imagine the more real it becomes. (And it's surely it's not even allowed to be all that real yet.)

Throughout college and the year that followed, Carla used to joke that she couldn't wait to see the day I "had a boyfriend" or "fell in love." And fell in love hard enough to want marriage and kids and a romance that doesn't hurt and doesn't end badly because it doesn't end at all.

And I'd joke-gag again.

I told Ren once that disdain and confusion for overtly romantic concepts was our thing. (Or at least my thing). But it's not really applicable anymore.

I don't know where it came from, or where it went. And being in love doesn't seem to guarantee we'll know how to write it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I'm In Love With Being Queen

Now Playing: The Pretty Reckless - Take Me Down

Yesterday's post reminded me that whenever I listen to music, I really like lyrics that involve one or two people being king and/or queen.

It's such an obvious and simple metaphor, and its repetition tells me it's a pretty well established cliche. But I love it so much!

David Bowie - Heroes
I, I will be king.
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day.

Lorde - Royals
We're bigger than we ever dreamed
And I'm in love with being queen
Life is great, without a care
We aren't caught up in your love affair

Nine Inch Nails - We're In This Together
You and me
We're in this together now
none of them can stop us now
we will make it through somehow.
You and me
even after everything
you're the queen and I'm the king
nothing else means anything

The Pretty Reckless - Back to the River
There's blue skies all around me
And the world looks just the same
It's hard to be criminal
When you all know my name
Sometimes I wonder
Sometimes I wanna be free
Well, you can be king of me
And I'll be the queen
Taylor Swift - Blank Space
Cherry lips, crystal skies
I could show you incredible things.
Stolen kisses, pretty lies
You're the King, baby, I'm your Queen.
Find out what you want
Be that girl for a month
Wait, the worst is yet to come, oh no.

Marilyn Manson - Great Big White World
Because it's a great big white world
And we are drained of our colors
We used to love ourselves,
We used to love one another
All my stitches itch
My prescription's low,
I wish you were queen
Just for today
In a world so white what else could I say?

At the moment, that last one's my favorite.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Run Away With Me

This might be due to an over-saturation of pop songs by Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen, but I'm officially convinced "run away with me" is the most romantic sentiment in the universe.

I was going to try and analyze that, but it's fairly straightforward. No explanation required.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A promise

Flip's been really tired lately. Despite having roughly three cups of coffee last night, he fell asleep at 9:30 PM and woke up periodically to catch highlights of the Noter Dame vs. University of Miami game (which he'd been super excited about) then was out for most of it. Can't say I blame him--our sleep schedule has been a mess.

Same today. While watching Stranger Things, he cuddled up beside me after lunch and hibernation mode kicked in. I paused the episode and played on his phone while he napped. Then for some reason started thinking of cat names.

I'd had a couple picked out for some time now. But I realized that the name I'd previously wanted to use the most is one I've decided I like too much to have it go on a pet. I like "Blair" for a girl more than for a kitty. In case we ever have a daughter, I'd wanna use it. And he likes it too. (Although I'm annoyed it sounds better paired with his surname than with mine. Haven't decided how the last name situation would work if we have kids.)

So that's not capable of being a cat name anymore. Plus, I rarely think of giving pets the same names you'd give a human. Pets can get away with weirder stuff so I'd wanna take advantage of that.

I started running a list of the type of not-name names people give pets. Spirit, Rain, Shadow, Midnight, Moon.

I like enough of them to want to use them, but then I remembered another I like that should be in the lead because it can be pretty gender neutral.

Even though Flip was asleep, all I had to do was call to him really gently and he heard me and was like, "Hmm?" without even opening his eyes.

And I said, "Can we name our kitty 'Echo'?"

"Of course," he said, and promptly fell back asleep.

I don't know if he'll remember the conversation. But just imagine how cute a kitty named Echo will be! I can't wait for the day we can adopt one.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Now Playing: The Killers - The Man

Thanks to Overdrive, I've loaded up my kindle with a lot of super popular YA series that are a romance first, fantasy/sci-fi second. And I bet this has been discussed before by other readers in a wide variety of genres and it's not like I didn't know about this clichรฉ before--

But what the hell kind of crazy kissing/caressing are people doing in fiction? Why do they feel "delicious"  electricity coursing through them when they touch? Why are kisses flaming hot and igniting them? And what about that is supposed to be appealing? It's tragedy when hot pizza burns the roof of my mouth and I've burned the tips of my fingers with matches before. Why would I want making out to set me on fire?? Or freaking electrocute me? Light static shocks are bad enough!

Bad metaphor.

Monday, October 2, 2017

October writing plan

Now Playing: Marilyn Manson - Kill4Me

It's about time I go back to using self-imposed deadlines.

I don't know what the hell is going on with this version of Millennium Girl, but I'm on chapter 31  of the rewrite and am still not done. It's the same story, but it's been stretched and modified so much that I'm terrified to see what the current word count is or how much is gonna have to get cut next round. Rewriting has been tough, tougher than I ever imagined, and it might get even tougher because I have no idea if the next draft will involve extensive editing or if it'll be another major rewrite.

I'm scared.

But I'm also done with delaying it. I'm giving myself until the end of October to wrap up this version of MG. And if you know what November is for a lot of writers, you know why I'm doing this.

I wrote a full outline for Death Awakens (side note, I hate this title more and more as time goes on). If I keep planning it rather than writing it, I'm going to lose interest. Now that I've got character and conflict perfectly mapped out, I'm going to dedicate November to banging out the first 50k words at least. I'm unsure if I'll be able to win or not. I've only won one NaNoWriMo and that was because of borderline obsessive camping out at the Dunkin Donuts closest to FSU and an insane amount of caffeine and sugar consumption. I don't know if I'll manage again, especially now that I somehow have less money for coffee shops.

But I can barely remember what it felt like to write a first draft. I miss how freeing it can be to just ramble on eternally on the page and not worry about what works, what doesn't, how ugly that sentence is, or how the word choice is getting away from me. Future-Becca editor hates the antics of First-Draft Becca, but First-Draft Becca is the reason I'm a writer. I can't wait to get there again.

If I don't finish Millennium Girl in time, I'll probably still attempt NaNoWriMo with the witches book, but it might not be nearly as enthusiastically. I don't want the bigger, older project hanging over my shoulders the whole time, wrecking me with guilt because I'm not working on it.

I'll check in later and see how it goes. If I have to lose a couple nights of sleep, so be it. I'm in desperate need of deadlines.

At least I managed a tiny first step of many: I updated my NaNoWriMo account with the new project! Here's the link, and here's the mega-short synopsis:

Once upon a time, three witches were born. Lola, Bruna, Jessica. Life would bring them together, but only Death herself could unite them.  
Death is just like them; disillusioned, dangerous, vulnerable, vengeful, easily amused, easily amazed, full of love, full of hate. Just like them, Death is a teenage girl.

Thankfully we got a new The Neighbourhood EP and a new Marilyn Manson album so I've got playlists at the ready. Also Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black series and Dave Cullen's Columbine for inspiration.

And Pinterest.

Can't forget Pinterest.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

10/19 EDIT: And then the story became even stranger

I'll leave this post up, though I guess I'm back to being mostly skeptical. Doesn't look like there's any real proof anymore. 

Still. It made me think. Too bad we probably just got duped again. Although all of a sudden I'm once again left wondering if someone can lie enough to themselves that they start to believe their own lies. 

About an hour after writing last week's post, I ended up stumbling onto a Tumblr ran by one of my Goodreads friends where he does chapter by chapter analysis of books or reviews movies. Amidst the book and movie stuff, he'd been reblogging posts from another user who mentioned she'd acquired an agent and was talking about her publication journey so far. I was intrigued, wondering if maybe it was another Goodreads friend or something, and I clicked on her page and went through the F.A.Qs.

And it was the verified writer of the most notorious fanfiction in the world, My Immortal.

I didn't know she was verified at first. Her FAQ didn't make that big of a deal about it, it was just a passing mention. (When I pull up her Tumblr now, it's not even there anymore.)

I spent the next hour combing through articles and interviews, Twitters, Tumblr posts, etc. It didn't occur to me until way later to check the Wikipedia and Goodreads page and find they'd been updated.

I gotta admit, I had the same reaction a lot of people seemed to have: this feels... Weird. I think we all thought we'd live and die never knowing who the author was and not knowing if we'd been trolled hard or if it really had been a strange teenage girl who'd wholeheartedly written the fanfic in earnest. (There were so many theories, so many possibilities).

The odd thing is, I'd heard news about the My Immortal author resurfacing in the wake of the Handbook for Mortals controversy. I'd heard she'd done so to claim she had no association to that mess. But I hadn't believed it was real. Other people have claimed to be the infamous Tara Gilesbie in the past and to do so while trashing on Lani Sarem seemed like something an internet rando would do for fun. (And not that I'd advocate trolling, but Sarem would deserve it).

Turns out it was real. Rose Christo is (or once was) Tara Gilesbie. Raven was real too. She was a foster sister of Rose's and they wrote My Immortal together as teenagers.

I did sometimes wonder about who Tara might be. I mentioned in the other post that I don't often think about authors in the now--I think of the beginning of their publications journey, mostly because it's the only aspect of publishing that I'm obsessed about. But I did think about Tara often, wondering how she felt about the fanfic in the presetnd day, sometimes imagining--if she had been trolling--she was having a good laugh at how insane we'd all gotten trying to crack the mystery behind the authorship. Of course most of us had assumed the whole thing had been written as a joke, but there'd never been confirmation till now.

I always pictured her as this blonde, white girl with pig tails and black lipstick, growing up in an upper middle class household in some boring suburban neighborhood. Without realizing it, I was trying to make her as ordinary as possible. Most of my guesses about Rose Christo turned out to be incorrect.

She's had a harder life than any of us could ever imagine, and she's publishing a memoir titled Under the Same Stars. I'll get it off audible as soon as it releases. It's about the fanfic, but it seems to be more about her upbringing, her family, and life in the foster care system. Now Tara Gilesbie the idea has disappeared from my mind. I can't even pretend to imagine what Rose Christo is up to in the now or what she went through years ago.

It's also odd how I used to think tales of the horrors in foster care were greatly exaggerated. Maybe because I wanted to have some hope in the kind of institution that's supposed to rescue children and put them in loving homes. Then I met Flip and though he was only in foster care for two years and was eventually adopted by a great family, he had his share of horror stories. It seems his experience was sadly not uncommon.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Now Playing: The Neighborhood - Noise

I've developed this new hobby where I utilize the Internet Wayback Machine to see what different author websites looked like at different times of their publication journey. Mostly I discovered that Stephenie Meyer used to be a hell of a lot more active at updating her site with tour pictures and book news (like when she was just starting to write The Host). I try to imagine what the authors were thinking about at the time, how the fandoms looked (huge, growing, sparse), and what they were working on or worrying about for the near future. Then my mind picks up traction and throws me into a whirlwind of "and then this happened and this happened and this happened" but I never let my imagination take me to wondering what their present day lives are like. That's not nearly as fun.

(I find it amusing and sad that right before the craziness of peak popularity or on that first wave, there's always a, "sorry I haven't gotten to your email, I have a bit of a backlog but I'm working through it" message on the site or author blog. Then you go check the present day site and there's no email, no place for fan mail, usually just a Tumblr or Twitter if you're lucky.

It makes me sad because email seems much more intimate, you know? But I haven't heard of email correspondences in forever. Mostly people text or use WhatsApp. I miss my email buddies).

Today, during one of those trips to the past, I remembered years ago I stumbled on the site of Nancy Stouffer, the lady who sued J.K. Rowling for copyright infringement and then got rightfully laughed out of court. Googling her name now pulls up the Legal disputes over the Harry Potter series page on Wikipedia and then a couple news articles, the TV tropes page, and some old reviews. But no website.

Because I couldn't remember the URL to type up on the Wayback Machine, it took a couple minutes of digging around to find it: But I'm guessing because the site doesn't exist anymore, Wayback Machine kept giving me a server error every time I tried to search it.

I did find an archive of it eventually through a direct link. I'd remembered some of her bizarre wording almost perfectly.

Like this request:
If you are, or were ever employed by J.K. Rowling, Scholastic Inc., Arthur A. Levine, Time-Warner Entertainment, Thurmanhouse, Landoll Publishing Company, McGraw Hill, Ratner and Prestia, O’Melvney & Myers, LLP, or Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klien & Selz, P.C., The United States District Court, Southern District of New York, and/or Judge Allen G. Schwartz, or any other individual, or firm that may have been, or is affiliated with any of the above, in any way, and you have any information that may be important to, or give assistance to Mrs. Stouffer, your help is needed."

Or this introduction:
"Consumers have strength in numbers, and can choose to make a difference. I believe that when they take the time to see the facts as they really are, they will be moved to take action. 
It is my firm belief that there are parents who will choose morality over popularity created by hype. Choosing morality can give children the benefit of a lesson that will serve them well throughout their lives, rather than the alternative, a temporary fix for boredom delivered by way of unclean hands and blackened hearts. 
It is also my intention to keep the public informed of the events taking place concerning my properties, and the seemingly, never-ending battle to maintain my rights of ownership under the law."

She mentions in that introduction that she's received letters and emails of encouragement through her legal battles, and while I'm sure there probably weren't that many, I have no doubt a few must have been genuine. I mean, one of my coworkers tried to show me YouTube footage of "real" mermaids captured and talked about how the FBI holds them and is prodding them for information and keeping the Coast Guard looking for them in secret--

Yeah, people believe all kinds of crazy things. More so when they think they're in on some big secret.

But the first time I read the stuff on her site and even as I reread it now, I can't help but wonder if maybe she ever convinced herself of her own lies. So much of it had to be fabricated and was proven to be fabrications, so surely when you're constructing transparent lies for the full intent of deceiving and exploiting others, you'd know what you were doing, right?

Or did Nancy Stouffer lie enough to convince herself?

I do wonder about her now, what she's doing in the present, how she justifies or thinks about the lawsuit. Does she still see herself as the victim in all this?

In any case, this kind of lawsuit doesn't seem to be all that uncommon. Copyright infringement lawsuits (in all media, but especially against popular authors) keep popping up in my research binges into the past (and a little bit of the present).

Knowing that is more depressing than imagining a truly, beyond-help deluded 2017 Nancy Stouffer still fuming at the injustices of the world.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Now Playing: Florence + The Machine - What Kind of Man

Since Silvia moved out of the state a few months, we've taken to sending snail mail letters to one another starting late August. It's been slow for a myriad of reasons, the most recent being that the hurricane halted the arrival of a letter, but I hope it'll be a thing we can sustain.

At least for as long as we have money for stamps and stationary.

I realize letter exchanges in this era might sound pointless. Especially when you take into account that we've consistently sent each other daily text messages since mid-high school. But letter writing is surprisingly fun.

Plus daily communication means we don't have to use as much stationary for a single correspondence.
And it's such pretty stationary, it must be rationed.
It's a good thing, too. Despite the pain in my hand, I'm prone to rambling as much in a written letter as I am typing away at my keyboard. And I have proof: after my best friend Maria moved in 7th grade, we couldn't use our home phones all that much, my cell phone had limited minutes, she didn't have one, and there was no internet at her house, so it was letters or never speaking to each other again. As a result, we ended up with 10 page correspondences. All the letters she sent me are currently in one of my time capsules. (I really do miss talking with her. I wonder if she kept any of my letters or had to throw out the piles and piles of lined paper and envelopes).

Anyways, in addition to the letters, Silvia and I gave each other assignments. It started with a dragon drawing.

My assignment was to come up with a poem for that dragon, and then to send another original poem (with a subject matter of my choosing) for Silvia to illustrate. In her response, I received two illustrations: one I have to write a poem to, and one in response to the second poem I wrote. The cycle continues: I have to write a response poem to her illustration and then another poem for her to illustrate.

She'd originally told me to just write it out, no fixes, no agonizing, and send her the first drafts of the poems, but I'll be DAMMED if I'm sending the first draft of anything out for someone to read. My third/fifth drafts of the poems aren't any good either but they're not the catastrophe that my first drafts are. (And I always give myself a two to three day deadline, cuz otherwise I'd never send anything out).

My desk suffers the most when I have to write poems. It's just a pile of writing tools and correspondence:

But the weird thing is that I'm finally using my leather journal consistently.

I don't know what happened with me and journaling. I filled dozens of notebooks a few years back, mostly rambles about my personal life and writing, but I've been a lot less consistent about it now. I still love journals and notebooks and still have to resist to blow off my savings in buying more of them, but most of my writing time is spent blogging or working on my novels.

The journals have now made a comeback because if I'm gonna spend hours agonizing on poetry (I resent having to write poems sooo muchhh but I agreed to it and a deal is a deal) and word choices and rhyming and flow and WHATEVERELSE I might as well word vomit onto a lovely page until I've got something semi-decent to transcribe.

Thinking about it, the last time I used the journal for personal ramblings was when I was transcribing a conversation I had with my mother in which she told me a story that was too personal to share to the world but too heavy and important to not be written down somewhere. Outside of that, there's not as much analysis in my journaling as there used to be. I still overthink everything about my life, but I seldom have the need to blog about it, let alone write through it somewhere private.

Not too sure how to feel about that.

At least the weekly(ish) letter writing means I'm practicing the one medium I swore off. It's difficult because I'm discovering what little there was of my poetry education has been complete garbage. I was taught squat about rhyme and meter (maybe one unit in 8th grade??) and I mispronounce so many words in casual conversation, how the hell am I supposed to know what syllable is weak or strong?

I could attempt to just rely on free verse but... I don't really like that kind of poetry? Not all that often, at least. And I don't want to fall back on free verse on the mistaken assumption that it'll be "easier." I'll probably practice it anyways and it won't come out any better.

If I ever get good at poetry (LOL) I might be inclined to include one in a novel at some point.

...but that's a big if. It's more likely I'll set my half of the poetry drafts on fire a few decades from now and then hope that Silvia sets her on fire at some point down the line.

Or recycle them. For the planet and stuff.

Meanwhile, I'll keep my half of the illustrations and letters in a pretty box:
There was perfume and hand cream here once.
Gifted my mom the contents, then kept the box >_> No shame!

I knew pretty box hoarding would pay off eventually.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Now Playing: Alice in Chains - Man in the Box

Two things:

1) Flip and I went to see It yesterday, and I both loved it and was mildly bitter that he got to experience the story for the first time while I had both the novel and the bits I'd seen of the miniseries running around in my head. The movie was unsettling and sad and funny and reminded me how much I'd liked the characters and the friendship the first time I read the novel, while it kept Flip freaked out and with goosebumps beginning to end. Our movie theater wasn't very crowded, what with it being Monday night and all, but for the people who were there, I could kinda tell who knew nothing about the story and so was experiencing everything in full force.

With me, it feels like I've always known about the story, one way or another. Even reading the book for the first time,  I couldn't help but think I'd seen too many of the scenes (out of order, mind you) from the miniseries when I was a kid. I half-half knew what to expect even then. Plus, I've grown up with media that spent decades trying to scare and shock viewers in every movie, TV show, and book imaginable. I can only imagine what it might  have felt like to be introduced to horror by Stephen King.

2) I never thought I'd be the person who accidentally gets conned into listening to Jehovah's Witnesses but they knocked at my door this morning and I realized there was a high probability they'd heard me fighting with the coffee maker and so knew there was someone home. (Stupid thin walls). Plus I was worried they might be people who really needed something so I answered.

I tried to be respectful and stuff but me being nice meant they essentially got permission to come back next Tuesday and come inside to read the bible with me. They asked me if I had one and I said yes because it's the truth, not that I know why we bought one since no one in the family is religious. They were also talking about the Book of Revelation and the change of the world, and it went something like:

JW lady #1: Do you believe the world is getting better or worse?

Me: Uhhhhhhhhhh [insert fear about current political climate and global warming and then suppression of that fear] better, I hope.

JW lady #1: Great! You're exactly right. If you look at this passage of Revelation [points to pamphlet] we are promised a future where there is no suffering and no death.

Me: Yup, it sure says that.

JW lady #2: So do you believe the world could be without death?

Me: Not really.

JW lady #2: But could you picture it, at least?

Me: [Thinking once the Earth is hella old and the sun is close to its last leg there wouldn't be a way for the planet to sustain any life forms as we know them]. I guess.

JW lady #2: Good, good! There are many passages in the bible that promise that. You have a bible, don't you?

Me: I do.

JW lady #2: Great! We'd like to come in and read with you some of those passages.

Me: [panicking] Well I kinda have to get ready for work--

JW lady #1: Oh that's alright! We can come back next Tuesday--you're here Tuesdays, right?

Me: [WHY CAN'T I LIE] Y-yeah, very early in the morning...

JW lady #1: Then we'll come in next Tuesday and read with you. And don't worry! It won't take more than three or five minutes. Have a good day!


It was also a conversation in Spanish. Maybe if they catch me next Tuesday, I can politely tell them I'm not interested in reading from the bible cuz I neither believe in it and I already read it and I'm sorry for wasting their time.

And then, uh, I'll see what happens from there. I hope they speak English because I'm not good at awkwardly arguing about religion in Spanish.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How I'm Handling My First Real Hurricane: A Summary

To be fair, he was prepping for it a full day before I started taking it seriously.

Now that I've reached the opposite extreme, my most recent worst-case, doomsday scenario conversation with my poor dad (whom I am also stressing out with my stressing out) ended something like,

Dad: "Don't worry. That's not gonna happen."
Me: "That's what you said about Trump getting elected."

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Now Playing: Marilyn Manson - Leave a Scar

Every time I come across a tweet that makes fun of Floridians for not taking Hurricane Irma (now a category 5) seriously, I laugh to ward off the blossoming sense of guilt. (And dread).

While thinking about hurricane prep. and keeping an eye on updates today, I've been trying to figure out how much cash I should take out to keep on hand. While talking to my mom the other day, she told me to get at least $20 on me in case power goes out everywhere and I need cash to put gas in my car. (It's filled out for now but who knows how long power outrages could last).

Then later Flip was talking to his mom and she also told him to get cash too, but she was advising something closer between a hundred and two hundred dollars. She told him after Hurricane Andrew hit Miami, everything was cash only for weeks so it's better to prepare for a long term ordeal. I hadn't thought of it that way, plus he needs to buy food and stuff while I drift in between two households who keep me fed (thank you, mom, dad, and boyfriend) and don't currently have any looming expenses ahead of me so I'm luckier than most.

I checked my wallet and was surprised to find I have like three dollars in there. I can't for the life of me figure out where they came from, I just know that there must have been more money on there once and then the single dollar bills were change, which I was probably planning to use to buy snacks off the library vending machine.

Ever since I got a bank account my first year at university, I've taken to being stingy and worried over the total amount on there while also being super careless with actual material cash and coins. It's like if I have twenty dollars in my hand, it doesn't really count as money because it's not added to the total in my bank account. So since it doesn't really exist (at least not in the thing that matters--the electronic numbers in my bank account app), then I can just spend it on whatever I want! But then I agonize if I buy food for five dollars and see that amount subtracted from my funds.

I talked to my dad about that once and he thought it was incredibly strange, and if anything assumed the opposite should be the case and I would want to be more careful and stingy over cash I can physically see and count and bend. I've seen that sentiment expressed by strangers; I read a reddit post once where someone was talking about how odd it is to know all his money doesn't actually exist, it's just a number in a computer, and if someone or something erased that number, he wouldn't have that money anymore in an instant.

The only time cash feels real is when I worry about losing it. Like if someone steals my wallet, I can pick up my phone and cancel all my cards, but whatever cash I have on there will be gone forever. That's the only time I see it as actually existing on the same level as or higher than my electronic funds.

Maybe it's just a thing about my generation or our general relationship with technology. Most of my backups for novels and other writing pieces are on the internet--email attachments, Google drive, that kind of thing. I have a USB I carry around with me and then one printed copy of Millennium Girl that's borderline useless now given where the project has gone. If a massive EMP took out all the electricity in the world (like in that show I always thought I'd watch but never did) most of what's precious to me would be gone. All my photographs, so much of my writing, most of my communications with loved ones, and way too much of my pitiful savings.

But I don't ever worry about that kind of scenario. I don't worry about a glitch erasing my savings or an EMP wiping out my digital memories and possessions. The internet feels infinite and untouchable and if power goes out here, nothing will truly be gone. But my poor car might get flooded, the apartment could get beaten up by the storm, and, if it gets really bad, I might lose journals and books and plush toys.

It makes me wish most of my possessions were immaterial. And that I'd have just enough to pack my life into a car that wasn't mine and flee the kind of catastrophe that destroys the material things people hold dear.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Now Playing: Marilyn Manson - Great Big White World

Back in the early days of my research binges into serial killers, I was never all that into the Zodiac Killer. I think it's because the "mystery" of an unknown serial killer never really caught my interest all that much. I want to know who they are. Where they were born, what their families were like, what their childhood was like, what they did the years preceding their first kill, how every confirmed attack and murder took place.

I knew I was alone in this because the prototypical serial killer is a Jack the Ripper figure. An anonymous killer sending letters to mock their pursuers and brag of their conquests so people can go nuts trying to figure out how, when, why, and, most importantly, who. Half the time we're not even sure we want to know who did it. Part of the intrigue is in the mystery.

But I got to thinking about the Zodiac again the other day. I saw a documentary on YouTube, This is the Zodiac Speaking, and then I saw the David Fincher film Zodiac. I showed it to Flip and a couple of times throughout the movie he'd asked, "did that part really happen?" There's discrepancies here and there, but the movie's surprisingly accurate to the actual events. They did their research, and even if some things since have been brought into question or disputed, the terrifying aspects of it come from how accurate it aims to be.

Because I was thinking about it, I decided to look up some more info on the Zodiac. And I came across a post from a guy who was trying to crack the remaining, unsolved encrypted letters the Zodiac had sent, as well as a follow up asking just where the hell that redditor went and if he managed to uncover anything.

The original redditor came back to say nope, they weren't able to figure out much.

But then he closed with this:
"The second biggest thing I found interesting was just the journey itself. It was admittedly a little creepy, to dig into this guy for days on end. It gets to you. The Zodiac claimed he wanted (paraphrasing) "slaves for his afterlife".. Well, he certainly got them. Anybody who spends time looking at the evidence, or scratching their head trying to decipher the remaining cryptograms could be thought of as a "slave"... For a brief time, he had an army of them.. A couple hundred GHz worth of them, worldwide. 
Looking at it now, my belief is that Z340 is a red herring... Pure garble. It was probably created as a device to bog down and tie up as much investigative manpower as possible, something that would consume hundreds if not thousands of man-hours to fully evaluate...40 years later, we're still hammering away on it. It's a brilliant strategy, when you think about it."

I don't know why but I got this really creepy feeling about it. It disturbed me. It's the same feeling I get when I read police reports or when I hear interviews from witnesses.

For months now I've been thinking part of the reason I can't get into detective novels or crime shows or anything under that umbrella is just because, well, it's not real. It shouldn't stop me from getting attached to it. I love grand, sweeping, impossible stories of fantasy and sci-fi. Dragons and fully-sentient robots not existing doesn't mean I can't love their fictional selves. But I guess because crime fiction is so closely tied to reality but has a lot of the absurdities or grandiosity of fiction, it's stuck at this weird place where it's not enough for me. It's not grand enough (and when it tries to be, it's ridiculous) and it's not real enough (and when it tries to be, it's often boring). But I can't fault it for not being perfect because it's my bias. There's no sweet spot that'll make me love it. It has to either be something it's not (secretly about monsters only possible in fiction) or it has to be the truth.

To me, a crime is only terrifying when it happened in real life. A fictional crime--no matter what body parts are chopped up or how much I care about the main character or how terrifying the actor playing the serial killer is or whatever--can't ever be scary. And it's because, when I read about real cases, I can't help but imagine being in the position of the victims/witnesses/investigators. It's scary because it's real, and no matter how inventive a movie or book gets, it can never match the fear attached to reality.

Shortly after reading that post, I went up on the FBI's Most Wanted pages and read some of the postings there. Missing person cases, unsolved murders, a couple on hate crimes. And later that night, I couldn't sleep at all. I stayed up talking to my brother about this absurd fear I have involving, like, being murdered. It sounds ridiculous to mention, let alone worry about, but that's another thing about fiction: when people are murdered in a crime novel or TV show, I'm absurdly aware of the fact that they're not people. They're concepts and playthings. But when I read about the real life victims of crimes, I think about the day they were born, taking their first steps, learning to talk and to read, going to school, making friends, graduating, finding jobs. Mundane lives with ends no one could see coming.

And I try to imagine the intensity of the fear that hits someone dying a violent death. I don't think any kind of fiction in the world, no matter who writes it, no matter how hard we try, could ever capture a fraction of it.

It's abstract because the only way I'll know it is if I ever experience it, though I (unwillingly, sometimes) try my hardest to put myself in their place no matter how fruitless it is to try to imagine that horror. And somehow, not being able to feel it makes it all the more frightening.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


As a somewhat-belated anniversary present, Flip and I went to Fort Lauderdale this past weekend to spend two days at Supercon. First day I got to dress up as Harley Quinn and Flip went with his Fairy Tail shirt.

We went all out and managed to grab a fancy hotel--with a bathroom that was way too fancy for my liking, but with a Jacuzzi bathtub that made up for the weirdness of a toilet without a lock.

Plus the view was beautiful. But that picture is on Flip's phone >.> I was too enthralled to remember to take pictures of everything.

At the convention, I was mostly excited to see Ricky Whittle's Q&A, but due to bad planning on my end and never ending make-ups, plus the unforeseen circumstances of a giant line outside, it took us a good two hours to get inside the convention center, from leaving the hotel, to getting to the convention center, to finding parking, getting in line, and getting our wristbands.

Because we missed Ricky's Q&A, I decided it was imperative we get a picture. Last time we went to a convention at Fort Lauderdale, Summer Glau was there, and I deeply regret not paying for a picture. (That said, I was about to switch jobs and both Flip and I were super broke; would not have been smart to spend money).

Getting the picture with Ricky was one of the better ideas ever. In the line, girls were running around back and forth giggling. Mostly because Ricky is impossibly funny. He had people straddle him, he gave them kisses on the cheek, he had two guys on the floor grabbing onto his legs as he posed with his hands on his hips. He was doing the most romance-novel poses ever. Flip kinda regrets that we didn't straddle him for our own picture, but we did get to hug him and I gave him a kiss on the cheek :D

Plus, the three of us look super cute together. (Even though my wig betrayed me slightly cuz it keep moving everywhere). I might just have to write a character based off of him.

The sad thing is, part of the reason we missed his Q&A was because we needed to watch the last episode of American Gods so we wouldn't get spoiled. That caused us to leave an hour later than planned >_>

Later that day we saw Karen Gillan's Q&A, and she was so adorable we decided to splurge on a picture with her too. I was a little worried during her Q&A because I knew she was gonna get some fuckboy douche who'd try and hit on her and yeah, I ended up being right, but most of the questions were fine, including a couple from little girls who adore her. Mostly she gave some hints about Avengers: Infinity War and at one point got a heavy question about the rates of suicide in Scotland which she answered perfectly by talking about the highest rate being among boys who she feels aren't encouraged enough to communicate about their struggles and feelings.

The funniest one came from the boy who came in last. Because the host/moderator announced he'd be the last question, he brought up this like 12 year old boy up on stage and made him sit next to Karen. (The boy tried to be very polite and give the seat back to the host, but the host insisted he take it and  the microphone). This kid was so visibly smitten with Karen, it was adorable; he kept kind of laughing nervously, looking at her, looking away, then looking back. Their conversation went something like,

Boy: "So you're from Scotland, I'm from Ireland."

Karen: "That's great!"

Boy: "Yeah, yeah, so, you know we're kinda neighbors."

Karen kinda laughed here and so did we. The kid's accent was too cute.

Boy: "So because we're neighborly, I wanted to ask--well, this is a very Irish question to ask, but what's your favorite drink?"

And the host, like, half-freaked out, half-laughed and ran to the stage to grab the microphone away from the kid. He said something like, "Well there goes my job," and gave it back. So laughing Karen said, "you mean like alcohol?"

Boy: "Yeah!"

Karen: "Uhm. Wine. It's gotta be wine. But--but don't drink that until you're old enough!"

Boy: "What kind of wine?"

Karen: "It's gotta"

Boy: "Oh my grandma loves red wine."

Karen: "Well she knows what's up."

It was so cuteeee.

We didn't get to have a picture with Karen until the day after. I want to point out Flip did the respectful thing and didn't, like, death-side-hug her like I did:

But it was Karen Gillan! I actually did base a character off of her back in my old RPing days. I had to hug her!

The same day we got a picture with Karen was the day we got to see Peter Capaldi. He had some pretty cool sunglasses on, though Flip disagrees with him covering his amazing eyebrows, and he got some pretty interesting questions. It was also rad that the host called forth all the Doctor cosplayers, at first together, then leaving the 12th cosplayers for the very end so he could sneak Peter in between them. Flip saw Peter sneaking in behind the back and join the other cosplayers, but I didn't notice until people started standing up and clapping once they recognized him.

He's veryyy funny and very animated. It was also hilarious to see him censor his curse-words or lewd stuff out knowing there were kids in the audience (and either way us Americans are weird about curse words. Hella sensitive to them, it seems).
The doctor cosplays excluding 12th. I regret not getting a picture of all the Capaldi look-alikes amidst the real Capaldi but there wasn't enough time. I was too busy fangirl-ing.

Shitty far-away picture of Capaldi. It doesn't look it but we actually got pretty good seats. I didn't have to use the camera screens to see him at all.

The answer I remember the most is when someone asked him if he ever improvised while filming Doctor Who, and he said it was neither discouraged nor encouraged, but that he thinks it's a little disrespectful to a writer when you look at his/her script and go, "I can improve that" or "I can do better."

He said it's a bit common and easy for a performer to say, "Well my character wouldn't say that," but it's much more challenging and therefore rewarding to instead ask, "how can I make my character say that so it rings true?"

I find that very admirable about Mr. Capaldi. He said other people sometimes did improvise on set and were great at it, but even that made it so that he felt imperative he stick to the script in case others wanted to make adjustments to it on the fly.

I'm not against improvisations and a lot of the time they can turn out great scenes, but I do admire both his restrain and his respect for the writer's work.

Outside of the two events, we went to a panel about villains (which we're gonna stop doing because every time I drag Flip to a writing panel, it's always the most 101 pointless questions/discussions ever >_>) and also bought some cool art for the new apartment:

This artist's originals were all painted on glass and were gorgeous, but I'd already spent too much money at the con, so Flip and I split the cost of three prints and will be buying frames for them later.

At the con, we saw a lot of cool cosplays, but I didn't take a lot of pictures because I always feel weird stopping people to shove a camera in their face. Mostly what would happen is I'd see someone posing for someone else and I'd sneak up on them to take a side-picture.

Then they'd either move on or notice me trying to be sneaky and just outright offer to pose for me. So that was nice!
Flip should also totes be the 10th Doctor.
The 10th in this pic was hanging out with a Daenerys who had a rubber dragon.
Shirt I got. Flip got Firefly and Death Note shirts.
This R2D2 was moving on his own. So rad.
Had to take a picture with her. The candles actually lit up!

All in all, it was a great weekend. If we get to go to a con again, I'll put more effort in my Harley Quinn cosplay. Probably add more make-up, get a giant mallet, and get myself a Poison Ivy or a Joker to tag along. (Flip thought about it, but money and wearing make-up/layered clothes on a hot day proved to be a little discouraging). There were a lot of Harleys--both Suicide Squad and originals, plus a couple dudes--and every time we'd see each other, we'd say hi or point at each other and grin. The repeated Deadpools also did the same~

Oh and if Ricky Whittle's ever anywhere in a con near us, I am so going. I'm so happy he's our Shadow Moon~

Friday, July 21, 2017

Everyone Seems to be Asleep

Now Playing: Nine Inch Nails - The Background World.


Not to channel my inner uggs-wearing, Frap-buying, blonde-hair-tossing white girl, but I can't even with this new Nine Inch Nails EP.

I loved Not the Actual Events but hadn't even thought to consider it a concept album until Add Violence released at midnight. The threads on the subreddit for Nine Inch Nails discussing the concept--how it seems to point to a narrative about a man awakening from a simulation and the conflict arising against a machine--it's been so fucking cool.

And the more I listen to it, the more I love The Background World, loops and all. No less when someone said those loops happen 52 times. If there are 52 weeks in a year, does that mean the simulation/machine of the narrative is taking a year to disintegrate?


Someone else commented on the YouTube release for This Isn't the Place and said it's like "The Fragile" and "Year Zero" are having slow, passionate sex.




I wonder if it is the "Bleedthrough" concept album Trent Reznor talked about, back before the actual concept album that was "Year Zero" released.

And I wonder if the theory that the narrative is being told end to beginning is true.



I've spent all morning writing to both of the EPs, and I'm soclosetotheend I'M SO FREAKING EXCITED AND READY TO END THIS DRAFT WITH A BATTLE AXE.


07/23/2017 - EDIT: Lolz, I just saw this post by Black__lotus on the NIN subreddit, and I had to quote it:
I'm addicted to the loop, each one is my last. I say to myself, "just one more" and "this is the last one. Then I'll listen to something else" but I can't turn it off. The urge to hear just one more loop, to follow it until completion. It's irresistible. And then, finally, you hit rock bottom, and everything is in disarray. 
This song is something else guys. I feel like a white girl who "just can't even."

Ditto, my friend.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Nine Inch Nails – LESS THAN

All I've done since this video dropped is think WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE.

Seriously. Thank all that is good about this world for Nine Inch Nails. They make the rest of my existence and the general state of the universe totally worth it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

An Actual Event

I stole that title from one of the comments on the video, BUTOHMYGOD if this isn't the coolest NIN has ever looked and they sound as amazing as usual. "She's Gone Away" is already my favorite song on Not the Actual Events and here's Trent in a leather jacket and sunglasses with Mariqueen and Atticus flanking him, all of them in subdued blue and violet lights and shadows.

IT'S MY DREAM AESTHETIC. It's like they walked out of a cyberpunk movie.

I already kinda wanted to watch Twin Peaks for a while now. I might actually do that now just to get to the episode featuring them.

I read on the /r/nin subreddit that Trent had sent an email about orders related to NTAE, and at the end he'd slipped in a "yeah btw you're getting more music,"


Thursday, June 15, 2017

American Bitch

Now Playing: Michael O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori - Perchance to Dream

So this is a topic I keep coming back to: change. Impact. Blah.

See, my problem with Lena Dunham's Girls comes down to Hannah and Marnie. While Shoshanna and Jessa made mistakes, felt guilt, felt anger, and were forced to change, Hannah and Marnie are the same throughout the entirety of season 6 as they were in season 1. If anything, Marnie used to be the Straight Man of the four girls and she went on a complete downward spiral.

It's also frustrating to hear Dunham talk about the episodes. On the HBO site, every time an episode finishes, it automatically plays an "Inside the Episode" segment where she and sometimes other creators talk about the events in the show. Half the time, I have no idea what the fuck she's talking about. It's like her actual characters have depth and intentions that are interesting to analyse and figure out, but as soon as I hear her opinions, I want to be like, "uhm. No. That's stupid. I don't think you get it." (And she's the creator).

It's condescending, but the quickest way to explain how I feel it harms her writing is how she's forced a lot of the relationships in the show. More than a few times, she's been like, "there's this girl and this guy and I always knew something sexual/romantic would happen between them." It makes me think not only does she not understand her own characters, she also doesn't seem to understand a man and a woman don't necessarily have to have a sexual  encounter just because they're a man and a woman. (Not even gay characters are safe from this treatment. Or side characters).

I have trouble with the way she develops dialogue and character arcs. It's like I start to see it go in the right direction--a progression that feels both earned and organic. Then she either goes too far or veers off the rails completely.

So when American Bitch aired, I not only did not trust the show to be able to handle the complicated nature of sexual assault and power dynamics, I also made sure not to listen to the Behind the Episode segment. 

It surprised me how much I liked the episode. And I adored a lot of the think pieces that came from it. But as the series continued, I realized that it hadn't been an episode at all. It'd been an essay. Nothing that happened in American Bitch ever affected a single aspect of the show. Not in terms of impacting the plot, not in terms of how it could have affected the characters, and definitely not in terms of themes or issues. 

So I finally watched the Behind the Episode and sure enough, the creator discussion is so vapid that I regret even clicking on it.

(And yet its YouTube comments are a lot more profound. Go figure).

But I try to give Dunham the benefit of the doubt sometimes. It's not like she's a bad writer, after all. Maybe the lack of lingering impact is supposed to be the point. Maybe it's supposed to comment on how the events that transpire in American Bitch are relatable to a lot of women, and no matter how odd, troubling, or even traumatic those can be, they're just snippets of our lives we don't know how to address. So we don't dwell on them--if only because we don't know how or because they're so commonplace--and life goes on.

I hadn't even thought much about the episode until the other day--the day I referenced in my last post, when I talked with one of Flip's friend about the bizarre phrasings we use surrounding sex and virginity. I spoke up about that, and later I wondered if I did it purely because it bothered me or because I had the slight hope he might think critically about the strange ideas we hold of "virginity" in our society.

But if I truly believed I was trying to steer this person into any kind of critical discussion or (and I'm being widely optimistic here) lasting change, I would have addressed the one thing that always bothers me about him: he cannot refer to women as anything except "bitches." 

It's driving me nuts. To the point where I actively avoid being in the same room as him. I stay civil and I'll make small talk when prompted, but it's like as soon as I forget about that habit of his and I decide to be friendly, I immediately regret it when he rambles on about, "if I did X, I'd get all kinds of bitches." (That's a somewhat-direct quote. If I went word for word, you'd think I was making shit up). 

It's such a ridiculous way of talking that it should be cartoonish and therefore easy to dismiss. But it's infuriating because I know he's one in a million who think the same things and say the same things and have it influence so much of what how they perceive and treat other people--especially women.

So why didn't I say anything?

In the moment, I simply forgot. But maybe I don't think we can have any lasting effect on one another. It's one of those things about life that exist and I don't dwell on it for long because I don't know how to address it.

(Although that still makes for shitty fiction. So I guess Girls isn't any more profound for being as crap as real life is).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Now Playing: Rihanna - Desperado

Yesterday, I talked to one of Flip's friends about relationships, sex, boundaries, libido, etc. He'd come over with another one of their mutual friends and they breached the subject and ended up asking me and each other a bunch of questions until it turned into a discussion.

I disagreed with a lot of the points two out of the three boys brought up, but at the very least they seemed to acknowledge a lot of their opinions were completely centered on who they were as individuals. So, like, they hold strong opinions on subjects like sleeping in separate beds or the kind of boundaries they have with strangers vs. girlfriends, but they don't expect those opinions to be universal.

But anyways--at one point, Flip's friend mentioned his girlfriend, and he got to talking about how, despite being a modern millennial Casanova, he's willing to wait for her to be ready to have sex, as she's still a virgin.


Based on all he's shared, that label has been shredded to strips until a single, tiny piece remains. They've done a lot together and she's clearly interested enough to progress the sexual aspect of their relationship slowly. But because there's been no "finishing act", she and her boyfriend and her friends maintain the label of "virgin." Which isn't to say that since she's practically not anymore they might as well get the intercourse over with--if she's not there yet or doesn't want to, that's fine, that's her business, no one should impart any judgement.

But broadly speaking, it's odd that in heterosexual relationships that label has to remain firmly attached (with a few asterisks and footnotes of clarification) until the so-called "actual" fucking takes place.

I wasn't going to comment on it. Then Flip's friend said the dreaded words,

"Well, when I take her virginity--"

Cue barf sound.

I don't mean metaphorically. I mean I interrupted him to pretend to gag and roll my eyes and kinda screw up my face like I just saw someone take a dump on the carpet.

I told him then what I'm going to repeat now: I hateee that phrasing. With a passion. The hate only intensifies as I get older.

I always disliked it growing up, since I thought the whole concept of it was arbitrary as hell and I already knew "virginity" was mostly used to shame boys who "had" it and girls who'd "lost" it.

But I hated the phrasing because I hated that it made it sound like some physical thing you could hold in your hands and toss out. Soon as I learned that there's not even such a thing as "popping" or "breaking" your hymen (and how troubling it is that we use such violent language to describe what should be normal sexual situations), I realized there was even less need for that kind of phrasing.

When I read the great Jenny Trout's breakdown of Fifty Shades of Grey, it solidified my dislike for it because in one particular chapter analysis, she wrote:

Why do we talk about the “giving” and “taking” of virginity? Like it’s a tangible object than passes from hand to hand? I don’t understand it, but it’s definitely in the parlance of our society. The woman “gives” and the man “takes”. I’ve always hated that. I don’t feel like I gave anything away when I lost my virginity. I feel like I shared an experience. But then again, the kid who punched my v-card was also a virgin, so maybe in that case we just swapped virginities.

(Emphasis mine because that's just too funny).

Oddly enough, when Flip's friend used that phrase yesterday and I objected, he initially seemed to think I was against the word "taking." He immediately tried to correct himself with, "when she offers me her virginity" and that sounded equally ridiculous.

I had to ask him--does he collect virginities? Does he put them in a jar and then place them up on one of his shelves?

Now I can't stop thinking about that. Like. There's gotta be at least one fantasy novel that does that.

It could even be with witches to play with the old stereotype that women only want sex as a kind of currency or in exchange for favors. Maybe there's a coven out there that preys on unsuspecting boys, takes their maidenhood (? see?! There's not even a male term for it! ARBITRARY), and then puts the virginity in a vial to be used for spells, potions, hexes, etc.

It's the only way that concept would ever make sense.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

From the Past

More like from October 2014--senior year at FSU, fall semester.

I stumbled into an old email exchange from back when I was applying for my last required creative writing workshop. There were two classes I applied to. The one I ended up taking included in its syllabus the disclaimer that writing genre fiction wasn't the same as writing literary fiction and if we chose to attempt the former, we were subjecting ourselves to harsher grading for we had to manage great literary fiction-style accomplishments while also "adhering to the constrains" of genre fiction.

(I never figured out what the hell that meant but at least my grade didn't suffer).

And then the other class, where the application processed asked we include an email talking about ourselves and our influences. I told the professor I was "a speculative fiction and character-oriented writer," who'd been greatly influenced by the likes of Mary Shelley, Ray Bradbury,  and Isaac Asimov.

I was careful not to include authors I thought would make the professor eye-roll (like megapopular superstars J.K. Rowling or Stephen King--though I did include other popular authors) and instead focused on sci-fi and fantasy writers who are arguably renowned for really shaping their genres. The writing sample was a short story featuring an android and there was only one author on my list who wasn't under the speculative fiction umbrella. So of course, I got this from the professor:

You're welcome to take my class, but I must warn you that we are going to be working on character-driven literary fiction. I don't care where you set your work--on Mars, in the future, in the past--but we'll be working on subtext and character.


So yeah. That reminded me why any interest in obtaining an MFA tanked after FSU, despite all I did learn from professors ๐Ÿ˜’. Not worth it.

That said, as I've mentioned before, grad. school seems to be a real possibility as of late. I'm going for that MLS degree.

Hypothetically (???). I'm still hashing everything out but it's more of a plan than I had two/three years ago ๐Ÿ˜›

(Yes, I did just discover the emoji tool on Blogger. Why do you ask?)

Saturday, April 29, 2017


When I think about Courtney Summers's All the Rage, two points spring to mind:

1) It's as visceral and unforgiving and brutal as everyone said it'd be--and for good reason; it handles the subject matters of rape, bullying, and victim blaming as unflinchingly as they need to be handled.

2) Romy Grey and her red lipstick and red nails.

The book kept coming back to point two, so I kept coming back to it with it. It was this little detail that formed her personality and a little narrative device that inherently had so many layers to it. The obvious is the use of her surname in contrast to a bold color like red, and what it means for her to not only return to it, but to find strength in it. The other is how we so often frame red in terms of themes--the color of anger, red lips the stereotypical color of a two-dimensional femme fatale, the color used to brand a "sinner" in The Scarlet Letter, the color of blood, the color most often associated with love,  the color of sacrifice and courage, etc, etc.

The fact that it's make-up and nail polish which feel like armor to Romy adds more dimensions to it--the lines of femininity and masculinity meshed and blurred.

I like color in books. I like it in movies too. My college professors and a good deal of fellow readers might find them a little gimmicky, but I have an affinity for them. Maybe because a great deal of superheroes have color associations.

Anyways--it was mostly because of Romy that I finally gave red nail polish a try.

I hated nail polish when I was little. I hated the smell of it and thought it looked tacky and ugly 100% of the time. It didn't matter if my eleven-year-old friends were applying it on each other or whether someone got it professionally done, fake or painted nails always looked repulsive to me. My mom conned me into getting my nails painted for my 8th grade formal, and I hated that salon more than I hated the dentist.

I don't know what eventually turned me into it. I think it was seeing the colors on Ren's hands. It made them a little more vibrant. While writing a particular rough chapter of one of my books, I told Ren I was thinking of painting my nails in an effort to encourage me to write. I thought, if I have something pretty to look at, I'll be more inclined to keep typing.

(Typing is my favorite part of writing. Love for my characters goes in second place).

She ended up agreeing. She said she found she was more productive with her hands when her nails were painted.

Of course I started with black polish, roughly $2.00 a bottle. My mom was horrified when she saw the end result. I'd fucked it up so badly--my hands were shaky and I didn't know how many layers to apply or how thick the consistency was supposed to be when you drew it out of the bottle. The color bled over the edges and tainted my fingers. I tried to use this cheap bottle of perfume I'd bought at CVS a year ago to rub out some of the stains (since I didn't have rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover)  but it barely helped. My mom ran to Walmart (despite my protest) and bought me top coat, q-tips, and nail polish remover. She told me if I was gonna wear black nail polish of all things, I might as well make it presentable.

I'm still not very good at it and it takes me an eternity. But I managed to come to red finally, and even if it now really bleeds over to my fingers, I like it. My hands don't look like my hands. They look like Romy's.

By pure chance, twenty minutes after I painted my nails red, thinking of Romy the whole time, I watched The Handmaid's Tale.

(Red, the color of the handmaids).

I've never read the book, though I have read other works by the great Margaret Atwood. I do think she's a great writer but I find it a little annoying that she so often rejected the label of science fiction for her work (although it's not quite as aggravating as the way Harlan Ellison and Terry Goodkins rejected sci-fi/fantasy). I can almost understand her, in the sense that I can imagine maybe she'd feel the need to make the distinction if she worried her work would be easily dismissed by critics, which they'd be far more prone to do when the writer is not only a woman but writing about deeply feminist issues.

I find it even more annoying that the lead actress behind the Hulu adaptation was a complete chicken shit about the label of "feminism." To a point where I feared any overt feminist themes would be seriously diluted because of it. It ended up taking my excitement for the adaption down a notch and I didn't jump to watch it the day it premiered.

Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be the case for these first three episodes.

 I was hesitant to give it a try without reading the book first, but over at the subreddit AskWomen, shortly after the premiere date someone asked what we all thought about the show. Most people said, "it hurts because it feels real."

Shorty after seeing it, I was talking with someone who said they could not stomach the series. They asked me, a little appalled, why I'd want to sit through something so horrible. And to be fair, people weren't lying: it did hurt. I held out as much as I could then ended up crying at the birthing scene of the second episode.

There's many reasons why I want to keep watching--I think it's well-made, the acting is good, the writing is great, I'm intrigued to see where the characters go and what happens to them, how they'll choose to act, what'll happen to this regime, etc. But I ended up saying, "because I think it's important."

I'm not of the opinion that a story can be saved by a good message. Execution matters more than anything else. But I will be drawn to a story if I get the sense it'll explore themes and ideas I find intriguing. If it does it well, then I've found something truly worthwhile.

When I was talking to this person, they brought up that it's just as valid for them not to want to watch The Handmaid's Tale so not to be subjected to such an overwhelming horrifying portrayal of rape as it is fair for someone not to want to watch Game of Thrones due to the violence.

And in theory I agreed--but then I remembered that this person does like Game of Thrones and has seen every available episode. And Game of Thrones has done something worse with the subject of rape. It's thrown it in there for cheap shock and cheap characterization, it's sometimes ignored or lessen the severity, a few times it's even fetishized an aspect or framing of it. (Which is arguably an issue with all of the writing as the series went on--death and violence are included so often and are so poorly set-up that they no longer carry an impact).

So how could one justify watching the subject be so thoroughly mishandled in Game of Thrones while being put-off by how visceral it's portrayed in Handmaid's Tale? (Which manages to be horrific without any nudity or physical violence).

And they said it's simply because it's not a focus-point of Game of Thrones. It's easier to stomach. It doesn't hurt.

It hurts when it's in The Handmaid's Tale. It hurts in All the Rage. Pretending it shouldn't is such a disservice to the people who have survived it.

But that's just a little too unpleasant for some of us, I guess.
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.