Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Importance of Rick & Morty


I'm not a big cartoon person. Sure, I watched my fair share of them as a child, but overall I stuck to live-action fantasy shows like Buffy and Supernatural and Charmed. (With a few sojourns to Law & Order etc) 

Over the past few months, I've gone down the rabbit hole with shows like Rick & Morty

It started with Adventure Time 

A quirky series of twenty minute episodes, the universe fully realized, it felt like falling into a brand new dimension in the middle of dinner and knowing you've missed something. Eventually you get the story, but it takes some time. Still, in the meantime, the adventures you go on are entertaining. And things certainly start to take a serious turn as the series progresses. (I'm on season 3 but I know enough about later episodes to know that shit gets real very fast.) 

Then it was Steven Universe.

That show came out of nowhere for me and slammed me right in the feels when I was least expecting it. It's a show about space rocks. Queer space rocks. Queer as hell badass space rocks fighting for us puny humans. I didn't expect for that show to legitimately make me cry. But it has. That show is important for quite a few reasons. Beautiful queer representation, only one among many. 

But I just finished watching last week's episode of Rick & Morty, and I'm filled with feelings right now.

In the next paragraph, I'll be talking about spoilers so if you have not yet watched the episode from September 27th, please click this link and watch a Steven Universe youtube video that will give you feelings. 


Okay, so last week's episode features Rick and Morty just kind of chilling in space, talking about how nice it is just to hang out. A bug hits the ship, and they've gotta land to get some fluid to wash the windshield. As such things go, they land on a planet that isn't as pleasant as it appears. Right out of The Purge, it's literally The Purge. This planet is perfectly peaceful except for one night a year when everyone goes fucknugget batshit insane and kills each other. 

Rick, as he does, is gung-ho to stay and enjoy the show, but Morty is very much against that. Well, Rick delays their exit, leading to a series of events that end up leaving them stranded on a planet where everyone wants to kill them. They contact Summer to try and get help--which works, eventually. But in the meantime, this conversation happens: 

Rick: Morty, if we're gonna survive this, you're gonna have to harness your repressed rage.  
Morty: I don't have any!
Rick: Sounds like someone with repressed rage. 

And at the time of the conversation, it's funny. But as the episode progresses, Morty begins to express more and more rage against those around him. He even aims it at Rick, screaming, "This has been a long time coming!!!" and threatening Rick. 

Suddenly, it's not funny anymore. 

At that point, Rick knocks Morty out. The plot of the episode plays out, and they're back in their ship, on their way home. Rick tells Morty that his aggression through the day was due to a chemical called Purgenol in a candy bar from the beginning of the episode that increases violent urges in those who consume it. And the last shot we have is the wrapper of that candy bar, exclaiming "NOW PURGENOL FREE" -- revealing the lie Rick has told. 

When I first started watching this show, I thought it was going to be a lot like the rest of Adult Swim's shows -- all dick and fart jokes, insensitive bullshit, with no substance. But this show is so damn deep, it hurts my chest.

Rick is watching Morty go further and further down this dark path of anger, stemming from all the trauma his grandson has experienced in his young life. And it kills him. There is this shot of his face, shocked and horrified by what Morty has done and it breaks my heart. He knows this is wrong and he has no idea how to stop it. He knows that by holding on to Morty and continuing to take him on these adventures is twisting him, breaking him in the same ways that Rick is broken, but Rick can't bring himself to stop. He loves Morty, but he is so dependent on him. 

I truly believe that Rick loves Morty. But it's a one sided dependency that will either end Morty as we know him, or it will end Rick. 

And I'll be honest: I think Rick is, somewhere in the back of his mind, hoping that it will be Morty left standing. Because maybe then he'll get some peace. Maybe then this pain that haunts him and drives him to such desperate depths will finally go away.

Rick & Morty is an important show. Is it appropriate? Not really. It has some significantly disturbing scenes--but many of them are played exactly the way they should be, as violent and horrific actions that should be dealt with accordingly. But it also doesn't play a broken marriage off as a joke. It shows that you can't truly know someone's pain until they show it to you. It does show the love and support between family members, pushing past differences. It's also fun and exciting. (Bird Person is the best and most perfect character.)

Would I let my 12 year old cousin watch it? Hell no. But I'll be tuning in on Sunday for the next episode, ready and willing for my heart to be broken again. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Struggle of Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy is not a hot genre right now. It's a mixmash of contradictory issues - it's both flooding the market but there is also a distinct lack within the market at the same time.

Over the past year, I came to the realization that, as much as I love the genre, I don't read much of it anymore. I've gone from devouring every new UF book that hit the shelves to sticking with the same handful of authors and their respective series.

And it finally occurred to me why that is. Urban Fantasy has hit a plateau. Too many of the same stories hit the shelves at the same time, and we keep churning out the same thing thinking it'll be fine.

It's the same trope every time -- the Strong Female Heroine, her Strong Alpha Male (perhaps with secondary Sensitive Gentle Male), and fighting the Big Bad for the Fate of the World.

And while that formula isn't, in and of itself, a bad thing -- it gets boring really quick.

Urban Fantasy has grown stagnant, and it's time that we start trying to bring new aspects in. The genre is entirely too US-centric, for one. The definition of Strong Female Heroine needs to change and be more inclusive of different kinds of strength. We need diversity in our characters, their relationships, worldviews, etc.

If you walked into the Urban Fantasy section of your local library or bookstore, I promise you that the majority of those books are going to feature of Strong White or Vaguely Native Looking Cis Female and include some form of romance with a Strong Cis Male character (love triangle is optional, but more often than not authors opt in for it) and the MC is usually snarky and badass with few faults.

Let's change this shit up, guys.

If you have opinions about this, please post them in the comments section!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Implications of Diversity

I was going through old blog posts from late last year / early this year, reading outdated thoughts and ideas about my book, You Can't Fix Dead. (Previously known as "Blackbird")

One of the things I got hooked on was a post about my character being bisexual but not particularly interested in another character I felt she should be, but was coming to accept that she wasn't. The situation prompted a thought regarding Aesthetic vs Attraction, which I'm still fond of.

However, in the time that's passed since I wrote that post, my main character has evolved. I've spent more time with her, honing her skills and her personality. I discovered, prior to finishing the book, that Fiona (my main character) was actually Asexual. Which, to be honest, I'm surprised at myself for not realizing sooner.

At no point during my book, which has much in the way of sexual innuendo and highly sexually charged characters, has she exhibited even a single ounce of interest in any of it. The "change" from bisexual to asexual took little to no effort on my part with the chapters I had already written. The only thing I struggled with was finding an appropriate spot to have her say the words, "I am asexual."

I never want to be the kind of writer who has implied diversity. Fiona is half Hispanic and half African-American, and she is asexual. My character Loriana is very much an African American woman; my character Michael is Arabic.

And I don't want these things to be questioned.

"But it's never outright stated so it's totally up for interpretation!"

No. No it is not. If this book ever gets published (cross your fingers), anyone who says that Fiona is a white woman will be whitewashing my book and I won't have it.

I love J.K Rowling. The Harry Potter series has been a huge part of my life since I was very young. I cannot imagine a world without it, and I wouldn't want to.

But the diversity in those books could have used a lot of work, and I sometimes side-eye the post-publication addition of characters of color and other religions. (I fully support it! Absolutely! Give me all your Desi!Harry and Black!Hermione headcanons because I am 100% here for this.) And I'm not saying those characters weren't there (Angelina Johnson, the Patil twins, anyone?) but it still could have been better.

And the publishing industry is learning. It's evolving, slowly but surely. The more of us that contribute, both white writers and writers of color and writers of "other" religions and MOGAI writers....the less the industry will be able to ignore us.

Getting to our evolved state will take time and work and love. But we have to put the effort in.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Frustration of Editing

I know it's been a while since I last posted, but I've been knee deep in edits for the last 2 months.

And by "knee deep" I mean I've been casually ignoring my book this entire time.

Okay, okay, I have actually been working on it, though probably not as much as I really should. My goal is to have this first round of edits done by December, and to be query-ready by March. The likelihood of this actually happening is slim, but hey...a girl can dream.

Right now, Chapter Eleven is giving me hell. I'm having to change up the interactions between two characters to go from being absolute assholes to each other to being pseudo-friendly. Both of them are hard-headed and blunt to a fault, but the more I work with them, the more I see them as being frenemies. So a scene where they butt heads is getting cut (which I'm sad about because I really enjoyed writing it) and I'm having to start over with it.

This is also where I'm shifting the characterization of my Primary Villain to be more than a cardboard cutout of a Bad Guy and give them more purpose and more screen-time.

To be honest, editing is probably my least favorite process. It makes the book stronger, and I acknowledge that, but the overall process is just so much more draining that writing the damn thing in the first place.

That said, I'm using this post to avoid editing Ch. 11 and I should really get back to it. (Sigh.)

So how do my dear (few) readers keep themselves motivated to edit? Comment below with your favorite methods!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Opinion Of A Buffy Fan

So I was on pinterest earlier (as I'm wont to be) and I saw this pin about Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, with the following commentary on it:

I never understood why Angel was better than Spike. Spike was a gentleman when he was human. Angel/Liam was a womanizing, crude, drunk who started fights and spent all his time in a tavern. Spike fought for his soul while Angel's was forced upon him. Spike is more of a man than Angel will ever be. Everyone was blind to that. Spike was the best BtVS character.

And it kind of got me to thinking. What if that was the entire point of Spike's character?

Think about Gaston from Beauty & The Beast -- the entire point of his character is to show viewers how insidious such behavior can be, how romanticized it gets. Angel is a handsome, brooding man who is tortured -- and so many people love it. Why? He's not the type of man for happily ever after, and we can see that from the beginning. Constantly in the shadows, sad puppy eyes, and the chiseled jaw. Not the man you bring home to Mom. (Buffy you r crazy)

And later, it doesn't matter that we all know that, without his soul, he would immediately become the merciless creature he always was. The only reason he is what he is - a "champion" - is because the Rom cursed him to feel all the pain he ever caused. Gods help the world if he ever felt a a modicum of happiness, because we're the ones that would suffer (let's be real.). We still adore him and want him and Buffy to have their HEA as they ride into the sunset.

(I say "we" -- I never shipped that.)

Are we even surprised when that relationship goes down the drain? Not really. Let's be honest with ourselves, guys. No one here was surprised when the 17 year old girl and the 200+ year old vampire didn't make it.

And then there's Spike. A man who was once a gentleman, a poet, never a ladies man, and a mama's boy. He was the sort of guy you'd pat on the head and leave to his books while you chase after the...well, the Angel of the crowd. Spike was easily seduced by a woman, turned into a vampire -- and what is the first thing this guy does? Tries to turn his mom.

That doesn't turn out too well for him (wow, that's ew, Mama Spike) and it's only after that event that he becomes a truly awful person. Gets the name William the Bloody for being such a badass dude.

But when we first meet him, he's all big bad and evil, drenched in the blood of innocents and love? with Drusilla. Obsessed, and utterly her lapdog. He's fascinated by Buffy, and I think it pisses him off. He doesn't want to be enchanted by this woman, he wants to kill her, goshdarn it.

From the first time that man steps onscreen, the audience is captivated. We're intrigued by this man who appears so heartless, and yet is obviously devoted to Drusilla, and clearly submissive to most of his counterparts--Angel and Darla, specifically.

Sure, he's sex and rock and roll wrapped in fine leather goods - and those of us who hit puberty around the time his character is introduced, well, we discovered things about boys we did like. (Oh, Billy Idol Kink, here I am)

But he's not the hero. He's not the good guy by any stretch of the imagination. He's violent, obsessive, cruel, and malicious. Spike is the man who is always torn by what he feels he should do and what he really wants.

Lyrics from Walk Through The Fire in the musical episode, Once More With Feeling, clearly show Spike's contrary nature (especially when it comes to Buffy)
 The torch I bear is scorching me
And Buffy's laughing I've no doubt
I hope she fries -- I'm free if that bitch dies...
I'd better help her out 
And yet there are many instances of Spike clearly being a better man than any of the Scooby gang give him credit for--when Tara's mind is gone, and she opens a window -- thus burning Spike. He simply tells her it's ok, a bit of sunlight "keeps the ride from getting boring."

When it's pointed out by another villain that he has no soul, why is he helping them? Spike merely says, "I made a promise to a lady."

And yes, he still does awful things. (The attempted rape of Buffy is still #1 on everyone's mind, I'm sure. I have a lot of thoughts on that but there's a great meta somewhere on the internet that I found a few months back about it. I'll try to find it and link it here later on.) But he is still trying....without the excuse of a forcible soul to spur him on. He's not trying to find redemption to ease his own pain. He tries to find redemption for himself, and yeah for Buffy. He wants to be a better man for her, and to be worthy of anything she's willing to give him.

Because he knows he's not good enough at first, but he's willing to try to get there.

No, Buffy doesn't love him the way he wants her to. By the end of the series, she certainly sees the kind of man he is, and does care for him. (Forever bitter, right here, that they didn't get the HEA, but I'm realistic on that. It wouldn't have worked any more than Bangel would've.)

So, no. In my opinion (which probably could've been better put), Spike was never supposed to be the bad guy. He didn't start off the hero, either. He was supposed to be the lost boy with the hidden heart that grew up and became the hero.

Because few people begin as the hero -- they start off as people that have shit thrown at them and grow past it, and become the hero because it's their decision. Not some biological imperative to save everyone - it's a choice.

Got an opinion about Spike or Angel? Wanna talk Buffy in general? Join me in the comments (or tweet me) and we'll talk. :)

The Problem Of Procrastination

I have a hard time believing that there are writers out there that can always sit down and write, no distractions, every single time. Distractions happen. Procrastination happens.

I'm really awful about it, personally. (Which is why I'm writing this instead of my book, at the moment.) I end up on twitter, facebook, tumblr, or I clean my house, go visit friends, or take naps...anything to avoid the big Productivity Sign hanging above my computer.

Generally, I find that I do best when I have headphones plugged into my ears, my newest fave song on repeat (Bad Blood by T-Swift and Chandelier by Sia, this week), and enough soda to give me a sugar rush for a few hours. The music blocks out distractions such as conversations, keeps my brain active, and it helps with the writing itself.

But sometimes, the music itself can be a distraction. (Into The Woods soundtrack, I'm looking at you)

I have a hard time sitting down and just working. Probably because I do it every day at the Day Job. When I do manage to sit down and do it, I have a difficult time maintaining the momentum for longer than thirty minutes. These days, I am honestly considering getting an extension cord and shoving my desk into the closet and just putting myself in there on days when I really need to get some work done.

I'd love to know how other people block out distractions -- gimme some ideas in the comments, guys. =)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Issue Of Responsibility

As content creators, it is our responsibility to be aware and critical of including horrifying abuses in our content. It is our responsibility to portray them as what they are: horrifying.

It is our responsibility to always be respectful of our audience, many (so many, too many) of whom have experienced the same atrocities that we write about. It is so important to know when to fade out, to close the curtains, to imply rather than state outright. It is important to be respectful. Yes, these things happen in real life and it is understandable to have them happen in media -- but only when it is necessary for the development of the characters and plot arcs. It is never to be thrown in for the sake of shock value, as a joke, as a "haha look how edgy we can be!".

Do I believe that violence in media is the cause of violence in real life? No, I do not. I do believe that justifying it in media makes it easier to justify in real life.

Media influences our society. Media influences our minds, and our ways of thinking. Whether it be in the news, books, magazines, movies, tv shows, comic books, etc. It influences us. And the pervasive inclusion of violence against women, children, disabled people, people of color, people of different gender identities and sexual orientations, only exacerbates the issues of real life. Particularly when handled with disrespect and passing it off as "oh it's just a tv show."

No, it's not. It adds realism? Because it happens to real people, right? Most likely, that has happened to someone you know. Someone you love. Someone whose experiences you have just treated like an edgy plot line for shock value.

If you want to bring in things like rape, murder, torture, incest, prejudice, etc and so on, then do it in a way that shows it as the awful thing it is. Shed light on how terrible it is and treat your audience with respect. Learn how to pull the curtains.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Development Of The Anakin Affliction

(warning: there are some spoilers for AGENTS OF SHIELD, BUFFY, AND THE 100)

I've been thinking a lot about character development lately. I've been watching a few different TV shows that incorporate negative growth -- where a good person makes bad decisions, and does things that could be considered "evil."

My own main character starts off in my WIP as a relatively neutral character--she has her own personal biases and preferences that could be categorized as "good". But as the story progresses, she becomes less and less inclined to remain that way. There are events that drive her to a point where she makes decisions she can never undo, and performs atrocities that she will never recover from.

I've found that I actually love sudden insurgence of this type of character development in popular media. I even have a few examples that people may be familiar with.

Characters like Jemma Simmons in AGENTS OF SHIELD, a woman who starts off with a very forgiving and open heart, slowly morphs into someone with less tolerance than she once did, leading her to murdering a (admittedly awful) man in cold blood.

In season 2 of AOS, we see Simmons struggle with the knowledge of what she did to Bakshi and the guilt she holds--though it stems more from having to lie and keep that to herself than it is from the action itself. She has crossed a line that, as a doctor and a woman dedicated to protecting people, she never truly expected that she would want to cross.

Or perhaps Clarke Griffin from THE 100, a idealistic and merciful girl forced into a situation that requires making difficult choices that often result in the deaths of innocent people, rapidly escalating in consequences -- eventually she makes a decision so horrifying in its calculation that she cannot bear to remain with her own people.
Clarke leaves her people to set out on her own after murdering an entire compound filled with men, women, and children to save those she loves. In a quote from the last episode of the newest season, "She bears it so they don't have to." It doesn't matter that she wasn't the only one to pull the trigger, it matters to her that she did it at all. She can never take that back.

Willow Rosenberg of our beloved BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, the lesbian witch whose lady love was murdered instead of the Slayer, which sent the redhead on a vengeful killing spree high on magic. She goes so far as to fight her own friends -- tense scenes of Willow vs Buffy that still kind of breaks my heart, and Giles, pulling an unexpected powerhouse punch. Xander, with his heartfelt speech that drags Willow from the edge of destroying the entire world.

 Though Willow surely comes back from being evil, and redeems herself, she can never erase the things she did when she was evil. It's established in later seasons that she not only still struggles with an addiction to magic, but also has a lot of issues stemming from that loss of control. Though it was triggered by an awful grief over the death of Tara, she still skinned a man alive. You don't just bounce back from that.

I have a lot of feelings about characters that are forced to make that first choice that leads them down a dark path that they can never truly return from.

I find that negative character development like these examples add elements of realism to the fantastical stories that they are. Aliens, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, superheroes, vampires & witches...oh my. The decisions that these characters have to live with, the lives they've taken, and the consequences of that.

And I sincerely hope that with my own work in progress, that same sense is coming across for my characters.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Acquisition Of A Teething Terror

As per usual, I've neglected productive social media and have spent my last few months primarily on facebook and tumblr when not living life as well as I can.

When last I posted, it was just after bringing Aengus Dog home and cutting my hair. I was about to start a new job--well, if you scroll down, you can read that post in its entirety.

Aengus has been doing really well, despite entering into teething territory. He's destroyed 2 of my phone chargers, 3 computer chargers, numerous shoe soles, and displayed a love of getting into the trash. He's lucky he's still cute.

literally the best crooked smile ever
I've still been writing -- I went through a long period of time where I couldn't access my word document due to the computer I was using dying like a Game Of Thrones character in season 3. Finally managed to retrieve that about 2 months ago, so I've been making significant amounts of progress since then. I'm about halfway through the first draft now.

The job I started in October has officially gone from a temp position to a full timer, so I'm really pleased with that. (I hate job hunting and I like this job.) It's a 9-5 job, Monday through Friday with benefits--I think that means I've achieved the American Dream, right?

This has made it possible for me to do things outside of work, like taking up roller skating with Jenn, though I'm still learning to go forward. (She's taken up roller derby. She's just gotta be a goddamn overachiever, man.)

Writing-wise, though, it's a start and stop process. I've been doing better about it but it's still a challenge to get myself to push through the urge to stop and leave this WIP in the trash bin. I'm right around the part where I usually abandon a project, and I'm fighting that urge tooth and nail. But unfortunately, it means that I tend to slack on actually writing.

Does anyone else have this problem? Also, tell me just how damn cute my dog is.