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!