BayFormers: A Retrospective (Deep Dive)

It was the summer of 2007. It was hot and arid, like so many Saskatchewan summers. The lack of wind made everything feel stagnant as if the air itself was drying out in the sun. I was a young critter of 13 years old, too young to work, but too old for children’s summer programming. I had spent much of my time watching TV in the basement with my sister, growing evermore bored and restless. That is, until, my father decided to take my sister and me to a movie. We’d all seen the many, many commercials, though both my sister and I were surprised that Dad would want to watch a science fiction movie, even one that promised to be a big dumb action movie full of explosions but empty of plot. Still, we hopped in our minivan and went to the theatre, excited if only for something to do. I had no way of knowing what would follow that fateful July day. That movie was the first live-action Transformers movie, and I am not joking when I tell you that it changed my life.

See this face? This is the face of the dawn of a new era. This is the face of a new phase of a child’s life. And the face of many, many bad choices.

For those unfamiliar, the first live-action Transformers movie was the inaugural entry in what has been dubbed the “Bayformers” canon of Transformers (TF) continuity by the fans of the franchise. The “Bay” in this fun turn of phrase refers to Michael Bay, the director of the film series and most likely the man keeping the entire pyrotechnics industry afloat. It began in 2007 and, for better or worse, is still going strong. This canon goes beyond the movies and also includes comic books, novels and video games. The Bayformers verse has made a metric crap-ton of money, bringing the 1980’s toy-selling machine that is TF to the modern audience. However, the place of this continuity is hotly debated and often maligned by the fandom as a whole. The director is just so easy to mock. We all love to poke fun at Michael Bay. The man is either an auteur or an idiot, nothing in between. In particular, we like to poke fun at his movies for being bombastic celebrations of explosions, America and boobs. However, are the movies really as bad as we jokingly say they are? In this Deep Dive, I will be reviewing this franchise, its place in the TF canon, its place in the fandom, and its place in my heart. Transform and roll out with me and take a deep dive with me as we revisit Michael Bay’s Transformers films.

Transformers was created to do one thing: sell toys. Transforming toys were big in Japan and Western toy makers had the bright idea to form a partnership with Japanese companies and bring them over to North America. Since this was the 1980’s, toy companies were making shows left and right, He Man being one of the most famous examples (other than Transformers, or TF). This was due to the gang-buster success of Star Wars toys. It became apparent that children liked to buy toys of shows and movies they liked. I know that even without toys from the movie, my sister and I would act out movies we liked, subbing in our many, many Barbies instead, so this isn’t a surprise. I’d argue that it’s a very early form of fan-fiction. Regardless, a cross-cultural production was created. The Transformers toys and cartoon were made in Japan, and the script and voice work was done in America. The show itself is a disaster. In modern times it has been hard for companies to make DVDs of the seasons because they have no idea how to order the episodes to make sense story-wise. There isn’t much of an over-arching story. If you listen to the theme song, you have about all you need to know to make sense of the show. The cartoon that emerged was extremely rushed, full of errors, completely over the top, had little to no continuity, and it was GLORIOUS.

For those who don’t know, Transformers has always been about battles between good and evil. You’d think this would lend itself to moral lessons but Generation 1 (G1) wasn’t trying to teach anything except for decedent capitalism. G1 focuses on skirmishes between the unironically and overtly righteous Autobots and their foes, the evil for the lulz Decepticons. In all fairness, the story did eventually get better in the later seasons, but it stayed a beautiful mess of 80’s cheese throughout. Fans fondly look back on the voice acting, theme song and symbol flip as a fun reminder of a bygone era.

Transformers didn’t stop there. There were toys to sell stories to tell! New generations of children need their transforming robots, after all. The next show, called “Beast Wars”, used two things children like, namely robots and animals, combined them, and set the whole thing on prehistoric Earth. Beast Wars was technically part of the G1 canon due to time travel tomfoolery, and was a VAST improvement on animation and storytelling. The animation didn’t age well, as it used computer animation, but a good story never grows old.

The next three series, dubbed the Unicron Triology, were a return to form for Transformers. And by that I mean that it was full of animation errors, bad translations, and designed to sell toys. And boy howdy, did it ever sell toys. It was known as “pokeformers” for the series focus on mini-bots, adorable little robots that befriend badly written human children and team up with the big robots to power them up. I’ll admit to only having seen Armada, and while there were great moments in the show it’s not nostalgic for me. Armada was done in an anime style, but the other series returned to Beast Wars computer animation and aged about as well. Too bad the story wasn’t up to par.

BEHOLD

The series I grew up with was Transformers Animated. This show was released six months after the movies. As the internet was in more popular usage at this time, the initial angry reception and reaction spread like wildfire through the fandom. However, due to the story (are you sensing a pattern here?) fans eventually grew on it. The show’s design was childish and bubbly, but it was also engaging to older viewers and had a heart to the stories. It’s now considered one of the best shows in the canon, and elements from it have been incorporated into the rest of the canon.

Transformers Prime, however, is my favourite. It was widely acclaimed, though there were some issues with budgeting and they had to reduce the cast of robots from a wide sprawling universe of factions and forms to one team of Autobots and one team of Decepticons. This allowed room to develop the characters, so fans didn’t complain too much. The first season was amazing. The second was good. The third was….eh. The tone gradually shifted from a darker story with zombies, dealing with PTSD, and battles with massive stakes into, once again, pokeformers, with the robots looking for both relics and Cybertronian fossils. TFP was the first show in the aligned continuity, an attempt by the franchise to make a shared universe to set their properties in. Since there are continuity errors in this attempt, I don’t know how well they succeeded. There are other shows made since TFP, but I haven’t watched any. I’ve been busy with school, and I’m working on a fan-fiction set in TFP verse and I don’t want to be too influenced by the new stories.

I would be remiss not to talk about the comics. I’ve spoken about them before, but there have been three studios who made the comics: Marvel, which published TF comics from 1984-1991, Dreamwave from 2002-2005, and IDW from 2005 into the present. There have also been many games based on Transformers, but as I haven’t played them I don’t feel comfortable discussing it. What should be clear is that Transformers has not been just a cartoon or a toy line for a very long time.

However, only one movie was made about the Cybertronian robots before 2007. This movie was made in the 80’s and introduced the world to Unicron, voiced by Orson Wells, who has haunted the TF verse ever since. At the time that Bayformers began, Transformers Cybertron and the Unicron triology had just ended, and fans were lukewarm towards it. The fandom seemed to be stuck in the shadow of G1, and announcement of a major motion picture was met with both excitement and anger. The fandom was moving forward, and TF was soon going to become mainstream, whether the nerds liked it or not.

Enter Bayformers.

Firstly, a brief synopsis of the Bayformers….look, I’m going to be honest, after the first movie, the plot is extremely difficult to summarize in any meaningful way. It’s much like trying to recap a couple of 9-year-olds playing with action figures. Things happen that make little to no sense for no other reason than that it would look really cool.

Basically, a war between Autobots and Decepticons has destroyed Cybertron and the war comes to Earth after Megatron, leader of the Decepticons and abusive douchebag, crashes there like an idiot looking for a cube. It turns out that the Transformers have been on Earth for a while, and the movies detail the way the war affects the human race and the many battles the Cybertronians have on Earth. That’s about as much sense as this is going to make.

The development of the movie could almost be a film in and of itself. Way back in the Halcyon days of the early 2000’s, Hasbro wanted to develop some of their most popular properties into movies. They originally planned to make a GI Joe movie. However, the Bush administration decided to go search for WMDs in Iraq and the executives didn’t think that adapting that property was particularly…..timely. They decided to go with Transformers–which, given the source material about a very powerful foreign army landing in a less developed place to look for weapons and power sources that may or may not be there, might actually have been a worse idea. ANYWAY.

The film took two and a half years of planning, a process spearheaded by Tom de Santo, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. That is a little longer than the development process for many big Hollywood films, and this occurred for two primary reasons. First, Hasbro was unsure if the technology existed to bring the Transformers to life. Secondly, the old guard of executives at the movie studios Hasbro shopped the idea around to were unsure about the viability of the product and just “didn’t get it”. However, younger executives who had watched Transformers on television thought the idea could make mad bank. The 80’s nostalgia renaissance was just beginning, and if they played their cards right, Transformers would hit just as the wave was building steam. Eventually, the film rights were picked up by Paramount. An indie director by the name of Steven Spielberg (it’s okay if you haven’t heard of him) signed on as an executive producer due to his excitement about the project.

However, certain sacrifices had to be made to adapt the property in a cost-effective manner. They could only afford to make so many robots, and thus more focus on human characters was written into the script.

Steven Spielberg was the key figure behind what would prove to be the defining feature of the Transformers movies. He asked Michael Bay if he would join the project as a director. Initially, in what we will soon see to be typical Bay fashion, Michael thought the idea was dumb. However, and I didn’t know this before, Michael Bay is a huge fan of anime, and Transformers’ similarities to anime got him to give the project a second look. He says that he was drawn in by the “human hook” of the story, and agreed to direct the picture. With G1 set as the biggest influence, the ball was set rolling.

And roll it sure did.

One could say it

Rolled out

I’m not apologizing.

Listen, I make my own movie, I don’t have someone tell me what to do”–Michael Bay

Whether or not Michael Bay is an autour is up for debate, but one thing became clear in the making of the Bayformer films: they were BAYformers films before Transformers films. He reported getting threats from fans during the making of the film, but that they didn’t phase him. And fans had a lot to be unhappy about. I mean, seriously, have you seen Starscream in these movies? The objectively hottest Decepticon, and they made him look like a bug? REALLY?!

Ahem.

The movie was truly Bay’s film, from start to finish. A lot of the movie wouldn’t have happened without his directorial style or his connections. He chose to film the movie in the United States with an American crew rather than film with crews in other countries, and picked his team from people he’d worked with before, including Bates, who’d been working with Bay since 1989. Bates’s familiarity with stunt people and actors allowed him to work with Scott Farrar, the effects supervisor, to create dynamic action scenes that took the actors into account. Bay has been described as “an actor’s director” and took pride in how far he was able to push the humans acting in his movie. They had to interact with poles for most of filming, and the movie wouldn’t have worked if they didn’t convince the audience that this pole was a real being they were having a real conversation with.

Bay describes his directing style as follows:

“My secret is, I shoot very, very fast. An average director will shoot 20 set ups a day, I do about 75, and they’re real set ups, it’s not like “ we work 12 hour days, I don’t go overtime, but we work very hard, I work with my same crew, I gave 30% of my fee because they were going to ship me to Canada or Australia, and I said, “No, I want to shoot with my guys.” It’s a team that I’ve worked with for close to 16 years, and it’s just “ I like to keep the movies in Los Angeles if I could, and especially keep them in the States, and the money “ we just saved so much money, because I have really good people. I don’t know, we just make an efficient day. I think music videos give me a sense of “ I’m able to shoot fast and when the sh*t hits the fan, which it always does on a movie, you’ve got to figure out your plan A and B, and I do this system called leapfrog. Like I said, the whole A.D. thing that gets out there, Michael Bay yells, Michael Bay’s being the assistant director, okay, three shots, we’re doing this, I want you to prep that, so we’re leapfrogging, we’re almost ready for the next shot. It’s almost hard, actors don’t even go back to their trailers, if you’ve probably already heard. “Tyrese, put your clothes back on.” He would always take his clothes off. And that’s a lot of stuff to put back on.”

Does Tyrese HAVE to put his clothes back on, though?

The reality of making the film was that the budget just wasn’t there for all the fan favourites to appear. The human characters that fans love to rant about were written into the script as both a way to induct the casuals (like tiny Elka) and as a cost-saving measure because animating giant robots costs lots of money. Kurztman stated that they wanted to save some of the characters for the sequels for this reason, so that they could focus on bringing the most accurate and best versions of the essential characters to the screen. Bay and team elected to use a combination of CGI and practical effects, ala Jurassic Park, to make the story happen.

Because the movie is very dependent on special effects, let’s take a quick look at those effects. Bay’s crew worked with Industrial Light and Magic, who both made models for the movie and worked on the special effects. One model, of Optimus Prime, is 28 feet tall and contains over ten thousand parts. Holy shit.

They also utilized motion capture from martial artists to help with animating the fight scenes, which are also massive parts of the movie. To animate the transformations, the animator basically connected the dots between the model of the transformer in robot form and the car form. To do this, they had to keep molecular nano engineering and the law of conservation of mass in mind the whole time. Without law of conservation of mass, the Transformers would have been hideous, and you know some nerd in the audience (probably me, let’s be real) would have pointed out how the physics of it all were wrong. That’s a lot to keep in mind, but the artists reportedly enjoyed the challenge. All told, it took ILM a year to do the effects for the film.

It’s a long video, but it goes in depth into the effects of Bayformers. If you have some time, consider giving it a watch.

It’s easy to make fun of Michael Bay. Trust me, it was very, very difficult not to clown on the man constantly in this post. It’s also easy to make fun of big dumb action movies, because they’re…well, big and dumb. But I want to reiterate that Transformers really did things in VFX that had never been done before, and there were a lot more people than Bay involved in the project. The effects, in my opinion, still hold up, and I think time will show that this movie is closer to Jurassic Park than Clash of the Titans due to the mix of the practical effects and the CGI. Bay knew what he was doing, and it paid off.

One of the jokes in the Transformers fandom is that the community is full of infighting. We have the “gee-wun” people who think everything after the first cartoon is utter garbage, we have the Unicron triology angst lords, we have the people who grew up on the movies, and we all fight each other about everything EXCEPT Kiss Players, which we all agree was a low point in the franchise and we only speak of it in hushed tones when no outsiders are around. Except me, just there. Oops.

Another joke is that the fandom hates every new thing TF that’s released until it comes out and then we rapidly change our tune. It’s like the Sonic hype except in reverse. Point is, the TF fandom is full of a bunch of pedantic nerds who border on Simpson’s Comic Book Guy levels of snottiness and skepticism of anything or anyone new.

I would not wish us on anyone, and Michael Bay had to deal with a lot of bullshit.

Michael Bay was a divisive figure. He didn’t have a lot of attachment to the property, and he was approaching it in what I saw is a good way; like a movie director. While fans put pressure on for him to deliver a nostalgia fest, Bay didn’t listen. He wanted to make a movie that had never been done before, and even death threats from fans didn’t phase him. Props to him, because I think death threats would phase most people. Death threats are never appropriate, no matter who they’re towards. In the grande scheme of things, some guy making a movie about a show you like isn’t worth getting that angry over. The show still exists, just watch that.

It wasn’t just fans that had problems with Bay, either. Bay had a lot of clashes with the writers of the film over the tone. Michael Bay movies have a certain style to them, and it’s not a realistic depiction of reality. I’m not sure what I’d call his style, except maybe bombastic masculinity, but the writers wanted a more realistic tone for the movie. This clash is still present in the final product. The robots themselves are generally serious, and their story has high stakes and very little levity. However, specific human characters come across as really out of place and goofy. I think this is funny, given that they’re flesh and blood and the Transformers are pixels and models, but it still leaves a final product with tonal whiplash. The military characters feel in line with everything else, as the American army actually consulted on the film and helped the writers with convincing dialogue.

And, coming full circle, Michael Bay used clips from Pearl Harbor in the film.

Surprising no one, Transformers the movie sold massive amounts of toys, and has for all it’s sequels despite declining sales of both movie tickets and action figures.

Alas, it is true; you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. As Transformers made a butt-tonne of money, a sequel was soon announced. However, the writing of said sequel was impacted by the famous writer’s strike of 2007-2008, and it was all downhill from there. Some writers returned for the sequel, but many did not return for the third film in the series. That movie, Dark of the Moon, was written by just three writers. There were massive tone shifts in the sequels as a result, becoming goofier and goofier but with darker moments that hit you in the face but didn’t feel earned. There have been attempts to start a cinematic Transformers universe, but no sequels are currently in development hell and indeed there have been talks about rebooting the whole thing. Paramount is currently looking at making sequels similar to Bumblebee, one of the most well received films in the franchise.

The Bayformers movies are rife with problems. Some of them are just stupid, like robot testicles. Michael Bay was not prepared to address the questions raised by Transformers having sex organs, and it was a cheap joke. There have been more egregious problems, such as a suggested idea of involving the Tranformers in World War Two. This is a very, very bad idea, and I shouldn’t have to explain why this is stupid. The movies are also racist and sexist. Fight me. You can’t argue with the clips.

The later Bayformers movies tried really hard to suck up to China, but managed to be hella racist towards Chinese people, giving all the Chinese characters mad kung fu skills. The movies are full of objectification, and I think all of them fail the Bechedel test miserably. The product placement is also extremely distracting, because holy shit there is a lot of it. While I don’t want to shit on the three people (yeah, just three) who wrote the later movies, they didn’t do a very good job of the story, either. The movies after the first make little to no sense. Which, again, is full circle, as G1 also made little to no sense. While the cartoon will be remembered as a charming relic, the movies risk being remembered as a groundbreaking achievement in special effects but being reflective of the worst parts of North America.

I want to briefly touch on the impact of the film on the fandom. Fans were unhappy with the absence of legendary voice actor Frank Welker from the film, and the Gee Wuns are never happy about anything ever. Fans were also unhappy about the characterizations of the characters, including making Optimus Prime a war-crazy bloodlusting violence machine, and making the dinobots mindless. Fans are still pissed about the designs of the characters too, which like, fair. I’m still salty about fugly Starscream. The never ending retcons in each movie for the last made the whole series an incomprehensible mess towards the end. I’m not joking when I said that trying to summarize the plots of the other movies was a big pain. However, it helped launch TF:A, a show considered one of the best in the series, as well as Transformers Prime, another great show in the series. The fandom’s rep has taken a bit of a hit, but we’re still trucking along. There’s more and more TF stuff every year, and I don’t know if there would be the interest without Bayformers.

I want to conclude this section with a brief note on fandom. TF fans are very, very passionate, and it’s what’s kept the franchise going for all these years. Most are passionate about hating the Bayformers movies, but I find that interesting. Most geeks now are used to movies and TV shows that pander to them, that are full of Easter eggs and fun little surprises, that consult with and take inspiration from the fans. I blame the MCU, mostly, but this was around way before Iron Man in 2008. It makes sense, because geek media before the MCU was very niche. Yeah, everyone loved the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, but that was because he appealed to a broader audience and tried to make serious artistic movies. Geek media, like comics and cartoons, weren’t in vogue like they are now and so if the core audience of hardcore fans weren’t catered to, a project wouldn’t be successful. Michael Bay, in my opinion, got so much hate because he didn’t give a single shit what the fans thought, and wanted to make his own “artistic” vision. As an “artist” myself, I respect that.

The reality is that fans may love something, but we don’t own it. I think we need to remember this when talking about the media we love. No matter what, death threats are not appropriate, because no one is taking or interfering with things that are yours. We all share these things together, but we’re at the mercy of the creative teams who create them. Bayformers is worth looking back on because these movies represent a clash between creatives, fans and big studios and highlight the tensions inherent to such a clash. It doesn’t matter if I like the movies or not, not for this section. What matters is looking back on one of the most controversial things in the fandom, and it probably didn’t need to be. It was a guy making a movie, and it wasn’t all that bad. The original things are still there, and a lot of the stuff that came after was the best that the Transformers franchise has ever seen.

Of course, a caveat: the racism absolutely wasn’t good. That was very, very bad.

I confess that I was largely ignorant about Transformers before Bayformers. I knew it existed, of course, but I wasn’t aware of much more. I’m Canadian and the children’s channel on my parent’s cable package didn’t show Transformers Armada, which was the show that was airing when I was a kid. Additionally, my parents were very involved in my media consumption until I was about 13, so I watched a LOT of educational TV and not much else. Bayformers came out at an optimal time for little Elkie. I was just being allowed to make my own decisions about what I watched and read, and I was in a “no girly movies” phase in between tomboy-hood and developing into a young female – jokes on the world, I was not a female, and I think my “no girly stuff” phase was me figuring out what gender roles I wanted to conform to and which ones I could do without as I grew into myself as a genderqueer person. Transformers wasn’t seen as girly, it was full of action, and it was violent enough to be edgy to a 13-year-old without being violent enough to be scary. I went into the theatre with vague interest and left with an obsession. Transformers joined Garfield, X-men, animals and superheroes in the hallowed pantheon of things my parents would soon be sick of.]

Pictured: the banes of my parent’s existence

Transformers Animated came out right after the movie and I watched the show RELIGIOUSLY. I spent hours on TF Wiki, reading about the old cartoons I didn’t have the opportunity to see as a kid and about all the old toys that I probably couldn’t afford now. My parents then decided to get a different cable package because my father wanted more home and garden shows, and we got Teletoon Retro. I finally had the opportunity to watch the original cartoon, and it was batshit. I loved it. I spent my entire allowance on Transformers merchandise. I don’t have an allowance anymore, because I’m a grown-ass adult, but I still spend a good chunk of my money on Transformers stuff.

What I credit the Bayformers films with, beyond giving Hasbro a lot of my hard-earned cash, was introducing me to a franchise that has really helped me. I’ve covered my feelings on my favourite Cybertronian, Starscream, before so I won’t go into too much detail, but Starscream’s plight has given me something to show people to explain concepts related to PTSD and surviving abuse. The franchise as a whole has also helped with my recovery journey. TFA was out while the abuse was occurring, and it gave me something to look forward to at a time when I didn’t have much else to be happy about. As I went through PTSD, I would try to name as many Transformers as I could to bring myself out of a dissociation episode.

I don’t know if this would have happened without the Bay movies. Or rather, the first Bay movie, because the second one taught me disappointment. Honestly. How do they have that many writers and still create something that terrible? Still, though. While I can acknowledge that these movies had problems, I can also acknowledge that the first one means a lot to me. Transformers means a lot to me. It’s become more than a stupid cartoon meant to sell toys to many fans. To me, it’s become a message of hope, that even when things look bad and it seems like the bad guys are going to win, things can still get better. It’s become a message about values, and that if you have lofty ideals you should be prepared to defend them, even when things are really hard. It’s become a reminder to myself as an abuse survivor of what not to become, to make sure that I don’t become the very thing I despise. It’s escapism, a fantastical world where good always wins.

I recently took a sociology of superheroes course at my local university, and something the professor said really stuck out to me. He said that there is nothing wrong with escapism and power fantasies. He said there are lots of people in the world who are weak, who have been beaten down by the world around them. People can’t become strong unless they can imagine themselves that way. Superheroes, and perhaps a lot of media, give people the opportunity to do that. Transformers helped me when I needed that, and I’ll always be thankful to Michael Bay for that.

And I can’t believe I just typed that. Ugh. I’m getting more sentimental the longer I spend on this planet. Let’s wrap this crap up.

So, all in all, are the movies awful? Yes and no. Some are, some aren’t, but that’s true of most series. If something runs long enough, you’re going to get both gold and duds. It’s the way it is. It was easy to hate them as the series progressed, but the first one stands out as a landmark achievement in special effects. Everyone involved in that movie gave it their all, and you can tell. It’s a shame that heart and spirit couldn’t last for the whole series, but I’m happy that it started off the way it did. It meant a lot to me as a kid, and it means a lot to me now. I’m looking forward to the next things that the franchise creates, and I’m looking forward to seeing if Michael Bay will ever make a movie where something doesn’t explode.

Transform and rise up.

Till All Are One,

Sources: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AHVwQMG2x8iKnQY2ySayXbazn0fShqyIu46UZMO3zH0/edit?usp=sharing

Pride Month: A Bisexual Examination of #OwnVoices

CW: Mentions of mental health, sexual assault, prejudice/homophobia

Hello there, my deers and queers. Emphasis on the queers, because June has come around again, and here in North America, it’s Pride Month. At the time of writing, I am unsure if we’re allowed to celebrate anywhere but our own homes, but I am still excited for one of the most important months of the year for queer people. It’s the one time a year where the mass media outside of our little community puts our voices on blast and celebrates our contributions to society. And we’ve made a lot of contributions, especially in the arts.

Queer people have been heavily involved in the arts for…ever. Forever. Since there was art, queer people were involved, We’ve been relegated to the margins for most of history, and we’ve used art from time immemorial to make our voices heard. Recently, queer people have been looking for better representation beyond the margins of society, especially as queer people have been moving into mainstream society from said margins as society changes to be more tolerant and accepting. We’re not looking for just any representation, however. We’re looking for opportunities to tell our own stories.

From this desire to tell our own stories, as well as other minorities wanting the same, the #OwnVoices (henceforth known as Own Voices, because putting the hashtag in front every time makes me look ten years younger than I want to) movement was born. Ever since it was coined in 2015, it has picked up steam and is now a common discussion point in writing and reading communities across social media. For those of you who don’t know what Own Voices is, it has a surprisingly simple definition. To quote Blue Crow Publishing, “[It] means that if you are writing a main character who is part of a marginalized group, you are part of that marginalized group”. This term was coined by YA author Corrine Duyvis, a bisexual and disabled writer wanting a label to help readers find books for people like them or to help marginalized writers share their work. This all sounds good, right? Own Voices tries to highlight the work of people whose voices are often silenced by society…but that isn’t what it has been doing. Recently, it has become a weapon used to hurt those who the movement was created to try to uplift. It can’t continue, and we need to talk about it.

The queer community has been one of the groups most critical of the Own Voices label. There’s been a growing sense of disillusionment. Whether that’s because there’s been many, many documented instances of publishers using the Own Voices label to virtue signal without making their companies a safe place for minorities or if it’s because of the massive gatekeeping now associated with it, Own Voices has taken on a new context and new meaning that was never anticipated. As a queer writer who wants to write stories about queer characters, I have been watching this movement closely. And now that it’s Pride Month, I think it’s time to speak about this issue. I think it’s time to add my voice to it all and talk about some of this from the inside perspective.

And boy howdy do I have a lot of big feelings about it.

OwnVoices was a valuable movement, but the lack of nuance involved has led me to believe that it’s time to find a new label that allows for more diversity within this movement that only likes a certain kind of diversity. I also think that, as queer people, we should push to eliminate some of the prejudices that have too long been plaguing our community. Own Voices at this time is promoting infighting, and this infighting is keeping marginalized people from uniting and pushing back against the forces in culture and publishing keeping us all oppressed.

As we’ve established, Own Voices started as a label attached to books wherein the identity of the main character was shared by the author. It then became a social media movement to highlight and promote Own Voices books. It has since come to serve three functions: a push for more diversity in publishing and books, encouragement for authors to write characters that are like them and giving these authors a platform to share their stories. However, there are many misconceptions about the movement that I want to clear up before I get too much farther down this rabbit hole.

Now, what a lot of people seem to think is that if you don’t belong to (insert marginalized identity here) you can’t write ANY characters who are part of that group. That’s not the case. It’s about the main characters, not ALL the characters. Feel free to include as many minorities as you want as long as they’re, you know, characters. For example, as a white author, I shouldn’t write a main character who is black. However, it’s perfectly fine if I want to write friends for my main character who are black, or other characters of colour. As long as they’re respectfully portrayed that’s an acceptable, fine thing to do! The issue isn’t about creating diverse characters. That’s another issue entirely, and one I may cover at a later date. Own Voices is about promoting diverse authors writing about their own experiences.

Another common misconception is that, for a story to be Own Voices, your main character needs to, essentially, be you. So for me, that would mean all my main characters would have to be afab bisexuals with mental health problems and celiac disease. Yeah, no. I write to escape from my reality, not wallow in it. Besides, most spec fic writers would be out of a job if they wanted to write Own Voices in that way, since we write about aliens, mutants, wizards, etc. Not so. For Own Voices, your character can be a character and doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of the author. This means that your main character doesn’t have to go through all the same things you have, either. It’s possible to write a queer story as a queer writer, for example, without writing about the prejudice and bigotry you experience as a queer person. A queer character can just be queer, they don’t have to come out or deal with queerphobia, they can just…be. I find this part of Own Voices very freeing.

Another misconception is that any book has to be Own Voices, or it’s automatically problematic. That’s not the case either. This is where I’m going to start getting controversial. Own Voices is to help readers and writers find and write diverse books. That’s it. It was a self-labelling tool. The issue isn’t that books that aren’t Own Voices exist, the issue is that books with problematic portrayals of minorities get more attention and promotion. If you don’t want to label your work as Own Voices, that’s fine! You do you! Portray everyone respectfully, don’t try to tell a “(insert minority here) story”, and you’re fine, in my opinion. Some of my favourite bi characters were written by straight people, like the legendary Lestat De Lioncourt. He is the disaster bi I strive to become.

Some in the Own Voices movement seem to think that any book or story with a minority main character that isn’t written by someone who is that minority should be cast aside and that any book that does this is problematic and bad. That’s not true either. I argue that this isn’t helping diversity because there are a lot of writers who have a knee-jerk response to being told that they can’t write something and will get defensive and refuse to engage with your perfectly reasoned arguments. To me, this is dangerously close to censorship. You’re free to write whatever you want, whether or not it gets read is another issue entirely. It should be about not promoting certain things, not about not writing them. Does that make sense?

It’s worth noting that Corrinne Duyvis doesn’t view this label as static. She views it as something that’s always changing, and that it isn’t and shouldn’t be a one-sized fits all approach to diversity.

Let’s see how this can work in action.

One of the literary sensations sweeping the nation is Angie Thomas. She wrote three smash-hit books The Hate U Give, On the Come Up and Concrete Rose, all about the lives of black teenagers. Which, given that she is black and presumably was a teenager at some point, is Own Voices fiction. These books have received widespread acclaim and are being adapted into major motion pictures. Again, I have not read these books yet, because I am a slave to academia, but I hope to read them over the spring and summer. My sister really liked The Hate U Give.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas is also an excellent example of Own Voices fiction. This is a book I have on my tablet, but my tablet is broken so I will have to read it on my phone once school is over. The book is about a queer, trans-Latinx young man who is determined to prove himself to his family…and also summons a ghost. Aiden Thomas is queer, trans and Latinx and an absolute delight on social media. I am looking forward to reading this book once I have time.

Of course, as I am going to talk more about spec fic very soon, I would be remiss not to mention Octavia Butler. She is probably one of the most famous women writing sci-fi and is probably THE most famous woman of colour writing sci-fi, God rest her soul. Her work was very much about black issues, and about black womanhood, even going so far as to write a time-travelling novel dealing with slavery. She is a key example of how Own Voices literature has been a thing since before Own Voices became a hashtag.

So, Elka, you might be thinking, all of that sounds pretty good. It all sounds pretty reasonable. Why are people pushing back against it? And by people, I mean why are the people who should be benefiting from the movement leading the pushback? Well…let’s be honest, in a lot of socially progressive movements, it doesn’t take long for infighting to start. I believe that in a lot of cases this is due to two things: one, bad actors who join the movement to provide themselves with a feeling of moral superiority and two, white people looking to soothe their white guilt morally policing the rest of the group. While I think there might be a bit of both going on in Own Voices, I also think that in this case, it’s a swirling storm of shifting morality and call-out culture taken to extremes. While I think it is valuable to hold people accountable for bigotry and prejudice, I also think that we should also be careful how we go about doing this. Because right now, Own Voices is falling victim to the same problems of other movements, and as writers who are vulnerable and marginalized are involved it must be examined.

Here are some criticisms of Own Voices, by the people, for the people.

Strict Definitions

While the original definition of Own Voices is broad to allow for many different voices to have their chance to speak. Now it has become very, very strict, and even authors leading the cause against other authors for not being “Own Voices” enough or having “problematic” (I have problematic in quotes because sometimes they’re not talking about anything that’s actually hurting anyone) books are being hoisted on their own petards.

The best example of this occurred with Kosoko Jackson, a gay black YA author. He was vocal on Twitter about Own Voices, specifically stating that: “Stories about the civil rights movement should be written by black people. Stories of suffrage should be written by women. Ergo, stories about boys during horrific and life changing times, like the AIDS EPIDEMIC, should be written by gay men. Why is this so hard to get?”

Then, he was cancelled on Twitter (unfairly, in my opinion) for setting his debut novel in 1990’s Kosovo, and he was told that this wasn’t his story to tell and his book was yanked. He didn’t receive a lot of sympathy because of his earlier statements, and it does really seem like being hoisted on one’s own petard. However, this shouldn’t have happened, in my opinion, because the definitions that had been created for Own Voices were too strict. Even if Jackson had helped created the definitions….ugh, this is getting messy. This is the problem with how the definition of Own Voices has shifted into this constricting territory.

The definition of Own Voices is now starting to refer to location and social events as well, such as only someone from (insert region here) can write about it and only someone who lived through (insert social event here) can write about it. That second one is not fair, as there are a lot of social events that people write about that they have literally no way to have lived through–like Jack the Ripper, for example. Kosoko Jackson is around my age, and I was born in 1993, so there is no way he could have experienced 1990’s Kosovo. Are you starting to see the problem here?

I don’t think we should cancel every author writing about an experience that isn’t theirs. I may be biased and a little fearful, but I hope I’ve proven how this is a problem. And I feel I have a right to be fearful. I don’t want to be cancelled for writing queer characters that don’t share my gender (which is fluid, and a complete fxcking mess) or sexual orientation. I fear that even if I don’t promote them that way, I’ll still be cancelled. As ironic as the cancelling of Kosoko Jackson’s first novel was, he still spent a lot of time and effort writing it, and it’s a damn shame it will never see the light of day.

Gatekeeping

Additionally, Own Voices has been pointed out to promote gatekeeping in writing, which I have a lot of problems with. Writing is one of the cheapest forms of self-expression out there, and it should be an equalizer as anyone can do it. With these strict definitions mentioned above, Own Voices requires a certain amount of financial investment to do things like hire diversity readers and sensitivity readers, and this is money that marginalized people don’t always have. Thus, even though Own Voices should be about the marginalized, a certain group of marginalized people, those living with financial insecurity, are pushed out. Ergo, gate-keeping.

There are other kinds of privilege at play here. The power in publishing, despite the push for more of an egalitarian industry, is still in the hands of straight cisgender white people, usually males. A side effect of Own Voices is that these people are gate-keeping who is marginalized and who is not. People who are bisexual, or people with an invisible disability, are frequently asked to prove that they are what they say they are. That’s a problem and requires yet another kind of privilege: the privilege of knowing that being yourself isn’t going to hurt you or affect the opportunities you have outside of your life as a writer.

I say this as a person who has that privilege. I am openly a queer mentally ill trauma survivor online. I am not that in real life, not completely. Some of it is due to my job. I work with kids, and I can’t bring my trauma or personal life to work in that way. My job is to support them, not the other way around. While I do talk about my life with my coworkers, I’m also really shy, reserved and quiet IRL. Some of my coworkers don’t know that I’m bi, or enby, or mentally ill. They also don’t know what my favourite colour is (even though I dress goth/alt so they can probably take a guess). That’s just part of being shy.

Some of it is that coming out is personal, and I’m not in a position where I’m ready to do that in real life yet. Some people have figured it out through my quiet use of they/them pronouns, but most people I know IRL don’t know that I’m genderfluid/non-binary/a disaster. But I’m able to be this online. I can be this open because I’m middle class and Caucasian. I have privilege, but at the same time, I know that the safety I’m offered does not extend to everyone else. It shouldn’t be this way. You shouldn’t have to out yourself and put yourself at risk to avoid being called out. That’s disgusting, wrong and short-sighted. If my privileged ass can see it, it should be obvious to everyone.

The Artist Complaints

Finally, I want to talk about one of the biggest sources of dissent: artists pushing back against the restrictive thing Own Voices has become. Writers of any creed, colour, orientation, gender, ability or age HATE being told what to write. It’s just…a thing that creators, artists or writers are. Most of us value expression and turn to creativity both as a tool of self-expression and as a source of control in a chaotic existence. And it’s fun! Being told what we can and can’t do doesn’t sit right. We’re told who we’re supposed to be by the rest of society, we don’t like being told what we’re supposed to be when writing.

I’m not talking about the privileged author/bad actor who exasperatedly declares “well I guess I just won’t write (insert minority here) then!” whenever someone talks about Own Voices or diversity in fiction. They’re assholes. They don’t count. They have no faith in their own writing and they see any push to publish someone who isn’t exactly like them as a threat. They suck. However, a lot of marginalized writers have been feeling the frustration of trying to write and promote Own Voices. A lot of writers are forced to prove their marginalization and their right to write their own stories.

Marginalized writers are also unhappy with how they feel they’re forced to write their own stories as well. They are often pigeon-holed into writing “issue books” or “trauma porn” and not books that just happen to have a black or gay or bi or disabled main character who does cool stuff. Writers have reported not being able to publish books that just have a main character who is like them without straight white publishers asking for storylines about prejudice. I’ll just be honest–while I do deal with prejudice, it’s not an everyday thing I have to go through. There are things in my life outside of being queer that I do.

The Spec Fic Problems

There has been a lot of good-faith pushback in the spec fic community against Own Voices. Spec fic writers often write about things that don’t exist in real life, like wizards and aliens and sentient robots and unicorns. Sometimes they use these things to tell a story about real-world issues. Like racism. However, spec fic writers have been frustrated that their stories, which tell their own stories through a fantastical lens, have been policed and criticized without taking this into account.

And, as we’re talking about artistic pushback, I am going to talk about my own pushback.

If you’ve been here for a while, you know that I have no problem being vulnerable. I share some of the hardest parts of my life online, and some of the worst parts of myself, the things that I keep hidden from everyone else in my life. It’s not easy for me, despite what it might look like. But in a way, there is a certain level of distance from my online presence to my “real life”. I don’t use my given name—I won’t call it my “real name”, as though none of my ID documents bear the name “Elka Scott” it is still my name, and as people call me by it, it’s real. But my given name is separate from my writing. As such, I feel like I’m “allowed” to be more expressive, more real and rawer because it is difficult to connect anything I could lose to my online presence. I can use the pronouns I prefer because I don’t have to come out to anyone I know: they’re just there, in my bio. I can talk about being an abuse survivor or as a person living with mental illness because I’m not living in fear of my boss or professors or God forbid my abuser himself reading it. It is ironic to me that in, using a name that I gave myself that is not my own, that I can be freer than I could otherwise.

However, this isn’t something everyone can do. Doxxing is a very real problem, especially for queer and female-presenting creators. There is just as much to lose by using your #OwnVoice as a creator as there is to gain. There is a very real problem of online harassment directed at creators who write trauma narratives or queer stories when the creators don’t self declare as LGBTQ or a trauma survivor. These deeply personal things are being brought kicking and screaming into the light, and creators are forced to share these dark or secret parts of themselves. And doing so doesn’t always make it go away, either. You might get hate for not doing it soon enough, or for being the wrong kind of ___.

And now, we’re going to talk about biphobia.

Bisexual people, especially those dating someone of a different gender than them, are often treated worse by the #OwnVoices brigade than other queer people. This is ironic, given that the coiner of the movement is a bisexual person, but here’s the thing; I’m not surprised. At all. One bisexual, who puts in the work and puts forth an idea in a unique way, can be accepted and praised. But a lot of sources I looked at didn’t mention that Corrinne Duyvais was bisexual. I had to go through multiple sources to find that, eventually to Corrinne herself on her Twitter feed. Why, pray tell, would that be hidden? Why wouldn’t that matter? Hmm…..

This is an unfortunate microcosm of something bisexual people have to deal with frequently. It’s unfortunate that “diverse” spheres looking for representation and diversity can be just as prejudiced as the dominant ideology. I’ve experienced this myself. While straight males are often creepy about my sexual orientation, straight females live in holy terror of receiving a lingering glance, and Christians are just…Christians, it is queer people who are the ones who’ve told me that I am not welcome in their circles. The straights grudgingly tolerate me. The gays don’t want me around them at all.

Bisexual people deal with dual marginalization. That is that they are treated poorly by both the heterosexual majority and the queer minority. If you’re perceived as belonging to two different groups, bi-anything really, biracial, bisexual, etc, it seems that all people see are the reasons that you’re different than them. All queer people see is that you still like people of a different sex. All straight people see is that you like people of the same sex. There’s no winning, and it’s exhausting. This dual marginalization has very real consequences. Half of all bisexual men live a halved life expectancy, dying around age 40 of largely preventable causes that are linked to experiences of being marginalized. Half of all bisexual women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Bisexual people are more likely to practice non-suicidal self-injury, experience domestic violence, and take their own lives by suicide. You can’t tell a group of people that they’re worthless and that they don’t belong and expect them to be well-adjusted.

This came to a head, for me, when the author of Love, Simon was forced to come out as bisexual amidst criticisms of her for daring to *gasp* write a story with queer characters and *gasp* not claim it as own voices? I was sitting there thinking that she didn’t claim it was an own voices book, and people only started to get mad because Own Voices had decided to call her out for this. I just don’t…queer identity is tricky because it is unsafe to be out in a lot of places. She was lucky that she was white, married to a different sex partner and middle-class. My heart sank when I read that, and I have been noticing an increasing pushback against bisexual writers that doesn’t exist for other queer writers. And this is frustrating.

I return to Pride Month, where we started. I have a complicated relationship with the concept of Pride, because 1) I was raised Catholic and Pride is a deadly sin (and the most powerful homunculus in FMA:B) and 2) I’m in a group that is constantly maligned and told not to feel proud, even by people in the community.

It might seem like I hate the rest of the community. And after everything I’ve talked about, it might seem like I hate Own Voices too. I don’t. I really don’t. While, again, I have little time for books right now, half the ones on my TBR are Own Voices. I have no problem with the label, just the movement that has sprung up around it. What I do hate is how biphobia, transphobia and racism have found their way into seemingly progressive spaces. What I do hate is that queer artists have the impossible task of creating work in a climate where even their community is hyper-critical of it. What I do hate is that this stupid pointless infighting isn’t helping anyone achieve their dreams of being a writer. While the spotlight is on the queer community for Pride Month, perhaps it’s time to make my voice heard and tell the world exactly how I feel about this.

In my eyes, Pride Month is the time to post this because, like myself, the reality is that for many queer people Pride Month is contentious, just like Own Voices. It’s a hard month for people, as we remember the hard things in our lives and the horrible abuses in our history. We have to deal with our celebration being corporatized by capitalist companies that don’t give a shit about LGBTQ rights the rest of the year. It is a reflection of the double-edged sword of societal acceptance of a previously marginalized group, having our stories told but only in certain specific ways. It is also a reminder that certain groups in the community are louder than others due to greater weight being afforded to their voices. This whole thing started so right, and it went so wrong, so fast.

This Pride Month, we should be reading Own Voices. I’m not going to pretend that we shouldn’t. But, more importantly, we need to address the things our community needs to work on. We need to decide how we want our voices to be put out there, and work to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. We also need to hold those disseminating our stories accountable and hold ourselves accountable. In writing, more than ever, we have a chance to be heard. Let’s not let Own Voices shout down our stories when it should be yelling them from the rooftops.

Till All Are One,

Sources:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RBi9Mrt-e3cJ_hL6dycwok7SXrydSD7P9NmciqKMEBU/edit?usp=sharing

A Tribute to Kentaro Miura.

The news of Miura Kentaro’s death reached the Western world yesterday. If you’re not aware of who he is, you’re probably at least a little aware of his most famous work, Berserk. If you’ve been a deer or a queer or a friendo around here for a while, then you’ve definitely heard of Berserk, because I talk about Berserk. A lot. To say it means a lot to me is an understatement. To say his death is a tragedy is as well, because as of time of writing, it is unclear if Berserk is going to be finished. This is not tragic because I, one fan, might not get to see the ending of the story. This is tragic because when an artist dies, it’s not just them who perishes. It’s the worlds they’ve created, and the ones they were yet to begin. It’s the works left unfinished, a story without an ending, a denial of closure for their loved ones and fans. When an artist dies it’s tragic because art brings so much good into the world. I would like to talk a bit about what Berserk brought to me, in an effort to pay tribute to Miura’s work and his life. While Miura was a very private person, he put so much of himself into his work that it is impossible to separate him from it. I want to thank him, in this small way, for all he’s done to make my world a little bit brighter.

Which is ironic, given how dark Berserk is.

If you don’t know much about Berserk, I’ll just give you a quick rundown: Berserk is a seinen (dark fantasy manga aimed at boys and men) story that tells the story of the Black Swordsman, a man named Guts (or Gatts, depending on your translation).

The story begins in medias res as Guts tracks down and kills an apostle, one who uses a magic behielt and human sacrifice to gain immense power. Then it flashes back to the life of this strange, bad-ass dude with a huge sword and a cannon arm. Guts was raised by a band of mercenaries and an uncaring foster father who he still idolized despite his poor treatment. His father cares so little for him that he sells Guts’ body at the age of nine to one of his band. After accidentally killing his father (and very on purpose killing his rapist) he becomes a lone mercenary, terrified of touch and human connection, living only to fight and kill with his giant sword. He is found by Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band, who is taken with Guts’ spirit immediately and forces him to join the Band of the Hawk. The Band of the Hawk is the first family Guts has ever known, and he starts to let down his walls and be happy. He has an especially close bond with Griffith, and he falls in love with Casca, a badass lady knight.

Which makes it extremely painful when Griffith gets a magic behielt, has a mental breakdown after being captured and tortured, and sacrifices the entire band of the Hawk but Casca and Guts to gain ultimate power. Guts is spared death, but he is forced to watch his love Casca be violated in front of him by Griffith, who has become the evil Femto, as punishment for leaving the Band of the Hawk to pursue his own dreams. Guts is left with one eye, one arm, and a brand of sacrifice that beckons demons to him, and Casca is left a shell of her former self.

Guts makes it his life’s mission to find apostles and murder them, with his end goal of killing Griffith slowly and painfully. He is eventually joined by a new found family and a sweet set of armour, the Berserker armour, that feeds off his inner darkness. Guts now hunts powerful demonic beings, babysits two children and also two adults, and helps Casca get better.

I know I said I’d be quick, but Berserk has been going for thirty years and has over three hundred chapters. Hard to fit that into one paragraph, you know?

I’ll also tell you a bit about Miura Kentaro (written surname, first name). He was a very private man. He never married or had children. He was born and raised in Chiba City in the Chiba Prefecture in Japan. He started writing and drawing manga at the age of ten, and shared his work with his classmates at school. Miura’s high school and college career was focused on art, and he attended Nihon University. He worked on both fan work, including fan art and doujinshis (Japanese fan comics). At the age of 18 he was an assistant to George (Jyoji) Morikawa, creator of the long-running manga Hajime no Ippo, but he was dismissed—not because he had a bad work ethic, but because he was already so talented that Morikawa didn’t think he could teach him anything he didn’t already know. Also, fun fact, Morikawa was only six months older than Miura. He created many different manga, but Berserk is his best known work and his most successful. If you read manga or watch anime, or even play video games or watch movies, Berserk’s influence is EVERYWHERE. The best example I can think of are the games in the “Dark Souls” series.

Miura’s writing and art was influenced by many different things. He was a big fan of sci-fi, and there are little tributes all over the place in Berserk, such as the God Hand, with each member of the evil gods being taken from a science fiction book or film—Ubik from the novel of the same name by Phillip K. Dick (and his appearence is based on an H. R. Gieger painting), Slan from the novel of the same name by A. E. Van Vogt, Conrad from And Call Me Conrad/This Immortal by Roger Zelazny, Void believed to be inspired either by John Boyd, an author or the novel Destination: Void by Frank Herbert. Griffith’s whole look is very much inspired by the film Phantom of the Paradise. One of his villains is named Nosferatu Zodd, taken clearly from the vampire film and the Superman villain. There’s an arc called “The Millemium Falcon”, and if I have to explain that to you I’m not sure why you’re here. His stated influences also include Go Nagai, author of many influential mangas, The Guin Saga by Kaoru Kurimoto, Hellraiser, and the artists Paul Verhoeven and Hieronymous Bosch, M.C. Escher, Gustave Doré and Pieter Bruegel. But what was important is that he was also inspired by things as innocuous as Disney movies and shojo (manga for teenager girls). Miura learned from all he read and watched, it seemed, and took the best parts of them and put them in his work. Berserk has cool gory action, like Go Nagai’s work and Paul Verhoeven films, it has dark otherworldly forces like Hellraiser, quiet emotion-focused moments and a plot that allows for the exploration of relationships and feelings like shojo, and moments of whimsy, like Disney movies.

This is how much I love this series: almost everything I hadn’t already heard of or read before starting Berserk, I read/watched (except Phantom of the Paradise, which I had trouble obtaining, and The Guin Saga, which is very, very long) because it was mentioned in Berserk. Did I like all of it? No. Did I still enjoy getting to see all the ways it inspired my beloved Berserk? Of course.

I get annoyed when people dismiss Berserk as being an edge-lord power fantasy for teenage boys, because it just isn’t. Miura put in the work to make his stories so complex and multi-faceted that it’s a disservice to treat it like all it has to offer is darkness and gore. He earns every moment of darkness. He earns every emotional gut punch. Miura is one of the greatest artists and writers of our time. Berserk isn’t perfect, but nothing is. Berserk is damn close. It’s a story, at it’s core, about what it means to be human.

Miura was a very private person. Little is known about his personal life. The Berserk fandom ribbed on him a bit, myself including, joking that the fans would die before they saw the end of Berserk, or that Miura would. He’d be ribbed on for how long it took him to release new chapters. It left fans lots of room to speculate on what his life was like, and what kind of person he was. It’s hard to tell, but it seems like he was a good, decent person. People have been speculating on whether Miura is dead or alive since 2013 due to his tendencies to focus so hard on projects that he dropped off the face of the Earth. Perhaps I’m projecting what I want him to be onto a blank slate, but the thing about artists of any sort is that they speak through their art. That’s why it’s so hard to separate an artist from their art. Miura used Berserk to tell the world who he was, what he valued, and what he believed in. It seemed that he believed that to be human was to struggle, and there isn’t always purpose in the struggling, but that to overcome and to keep fighting was also to be human. Guts outright states it in the anime, that humans never give up. To me, that’s a beautiful sentiment to put out into the world.

Berserk means a lot to me. Not just as someone who likes amazing stories, incredible art and cool fight scenes, but as someone who lives, fights and struggles in this world. My tagline of tiny pieces of beautiful darkness is partly inspired by Berserk, in fact: this idea that even in our worst moments, in the worst times in our lives when we suffer the most, there can be beauty and hope there right along with the darkness.

I found Berserk in a rather silly way—I was researching for a blog post I didn’t wind up writing on TV Tropes. I wanted to write about how most media portrays sexual assault really, really poorly, so I was looking up the sexual assault related tropes. As you can probably tell from my summary, there is a lot of sexual violence in Berserk. I read the synopsis and mentioned that I was considering watching it to my friend, who told me to do it. I knew going into it that the show had this violence in it, and as I was doing exposure therapy at the time, I decided this was a good thing to expose myself to. And I’m glad I did.

Berserk is important to me as a trauma survivor, and especially as a sexual assault survivor. Most of the story is about the aftermath of trauma, told mainly through the lens of Guts. I latched onto him instantly, because I saw both what I like about myself after trauma and what I hate about myself after it in him; the drive to be better and get stronger balanced with rage and the inability to trust anyone else. He was also so well written, trying to make sense of a world where bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it, trying to make sense of the chaos around him and the sheer hurt. While I love Batman, because he’s a great example of post-traumatic growth (depending on the writer), I also love Guts because he’s imperfect. He pushes forward and keeps fighting despite the pain inside him, but he’s also allowed to cry, and be angry, and lash out, and push people away. It’s through connecting with others that he finally learns to let down his walls and love and be loved. This is what changes him the most. The story isn’t about Guts being an edgy bad-ass who never grows or learns. He learns how to be vulnerable, and how to let others help him. He has bad moments, but while he fights his outer demons with cool armour and a big sword, he fights his inner demons with love and family.

I’ve written about it before, but after trauma you feel like you’re alone. The trauma in you tells you that everyone is out to hurt you, and that even if they tried to help you they’d never understand the pain you feel. It tells you that it’s better to be alone, because you’re bad and evil and dirty. You’re hard to be around. You’re angry at the drop of the hat, prone to bursting into tears at odd moments, and you can generally put off an air of hating everyone and everything. You try to disconnect from the world around you and just be…well, a loner. You hate yourself for not getting better, and you hate the world for allowing this to happen to you. There’s no reason to hate yourself for not getting better, because sometimes you can’t do it by yourself.

Berserk is a reminder to me of a few things. One, to keep going and keep fighting, even when it seems hard or pointless, like the demons just keep coming. Two, that it’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to be angry and sad and in pain. Three, that you don’t need to fight these battles on your own, no matter how big your sword is. I saw this big tough man doing all these things, and it became okay for me, a small AFAB, to do it too.

I know that some of my trauma presents very masculine, which is one of the things that can suck about being an enby. I also know that men and AMABs feel trauma through the lens of anger and self-destruction. I want there to be more work like Berserk, that draws in a male audience through it’s cool factor, but then shows them that masculinity includes being able to cry when you’re sad and leaning on your friends and family when you can’t carry on by yourself. That even if someone takes something from you that you feel like you’ll never get back, that you can keep going.

I don’t care if I never know how Berserk ends. I don’t know if his assistants will continue the story or not. I’m used to fanfiction, where people often don’t finish their stories and you’re left wondering. I’m sad, but I’m happy too. I’m happy that I got to see Miura’s work. I’m happy that he was part of my life through his art. I’m happy that his work is in my heart. I’m happy that I was alive at the same time as him. I’m happy that I got to meet Guts, and Casca, and (grudgingly) even Griffith. I’m better for viewing his work, and I feel like that’s something artists as a whole seek with their work. Miura was a legend, someone who made people excited and then crushed their hopes and dreams, someone who made people happy and then sad and then happy again. His work made a difference in his medium, and made a difference in the lives of those who read it.

I’ll keep making fanwork for Berserk. I’ll keep buying merch. I’ll keep buying the leather bound fancy books, and I’ll keep waiting to see a good version of the post-eclipse storyline (if you know, you know). This story means enough to me that I’ll try not to be sad when I do. I’ll also try to donate to heart related charities in the future, as he passed from a heart valve bursting. I’m not telling you that to make myself seem like this perfect person or like I think myself better—I’m doing it to hold myself accountable.

My heart, thoughts and prayers are with Miura’s family, and with other fans. I know thoughts and prayers have kind of been tainted by how they’re used to dismiss people’s suffering, but it’s all I can offer apart from this piece, and my work, with which I can only seek to try to do anything close to Miura’s work, and his excellence. I hope that, if there is a next world, he is at peace and happy. I hope he rests knowing that he helped people in small and big ways, and achieved the closest thing to immortality.

Rest in paradise, dear Miura. You will be missed here, and despite the darkness in your work, the world is a little less bright without you in it.

Yours in grief,

Creative City Centre Spotlight

Hey deers and queers!

I’m posting outside my schedule to share this video with you. I was chosen by Creative City Centre, an organization in my hometown, as a featured artist for their spoken word spotlight. I know, pretty exciting right? Well, once you’re done watching me, you should check out the rest of the series. Seriously. My other peers who were selected? Incredible artists, each of them, and their spotlights are so inspiring.

Without further ado,

Let me know what you think!

Yours in poetry,

My Poetry Processes (Poetry Month Post)

I call my writing tiny pieces of beautiful darkness, poetry included.

What this means to me is that I do not shy away from dark subjects, painful subjects, or personal subjects. This is on full display in my poetry. I wanted to write a dry, step-by-step piece on writing poetry, but that’s not really my process, either. Yes, there are certain things I do to write poetry, but that’s not the point. As my friend Cat always says, the poetry is the point.

So, for the point of the poetry, I am going to explain how I write the hardest poems I write. This is not for the faint of heart. Tiny pieces of beautiful darkness rarely are. I only hope I can entertain you, teach you something, and make you feel. It is what I try to do with my poetry, and it’s what I am going to try to do here.

Without further ado…

Writing “Those Poems”

The Five-Step Process of Writing a Rape Poem

I no longer tell myself “this poem is the last one I write”.

I tell myself I want to write less of them, but I am constantly reminded of why I write them in the first place. PTSD doesn’t have a linear path to recovery, and it is fully possible to take three steps back while taking four steps forward. It is fully possible to be two things at once; target and survivor, healed and recovering, living and dead. I tell myself that I was lucky, that I escaped what happens to so many survivors and I should write about the loving relationship I’m now in, but I didn’t need to be re-victimized. If my count is correct, and an act of sexual violence occurred even once a month in my previous relationship (and it didn’t. It was more than that. I know it was) that was still fourteen acts of sexual violence. I have been raped enough times already. Once was enough times already.

I wanted this piece to be about my poetry process but it is about my poetry process. I use poetry to cope with what happened to me. It is the only healthy coping mechanism that I have. It’s not self-destruction; it’s borrowing the language of it to keep myself alive.

Here is some of the language I borrow, like a proper English scholar. Here is how to write a rape poem.

  1. I gain yet another understanding of what happened to me. Sometimes it’s listening to or reading someone else’s poetry about their truth, sometimes it’s seeing a line in a fanfiction that drops me to my knees, sometimes it’s in the aftermath of another dissociation episode. Either way, the only gift this has given me at all is words, little blooming flowers that his boots couldn’t trample.
  2. I open a new document and load a blank page. I do not write poetry by hand unless I have to. My hands aren’t fast enough with a pen to keep the rhythm of the staccato of my thoughts, no matter how heavy the thoughts themselves are.
  3. The first sentence either flows out like water or it is more stubborn than rock. I rewrite the first sentence several times. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I start in the middle and work my way to the beginning and the end from there. I start in the middle with the feelings and end with the body, circling back around to how the whole thing started with a kiss, how did it end up like this, it was only a kiss, it was only a kiss, it was never an invitation it was always only going to be a kiss
  4. I keep writing. I keep writing until I don’t feel angry anymore, or until I don’ feel numb anymore. I use metaphor to distance myself from it all, to be intimately enmeshed with it while not having to wallow in it. I write until I either feel something or nothing.
  5. Then, days later, I go back to it. I edit. I make sure the only things left in the poem are the most powerful, the most raw, the most exposed parts of myself. I make sure it flows well, that the words have the maximum impact. I want them to impact. I want them to shatter the listener, and to do that I have to edit. So I do. And once it’s done I decide when and how this story is told. I had no power them. With words, I have power now.

This is the process I take to write a rape poem. Other survivors do it differently. There is no one way to be assaulted, there is no one way to write about it afterwards. But if you’ve never written about it, perhaps metaphors might be the shield you need to hide behind to safely process it. But you don’t have to write a rape poem. I do, because that’s what I’ve come to need to be functional.

The Five Step Process of Writing a Queer Poem

Writing a poem about who I am comes from who I’m not: a quitter. A monster. A creature made of righteous rage and nothing else, blind to allies due to hyper-focus on the enemy. Sick. Defective. I am forced to remind myself that I am not these things, because I am rarely reminded by anyone else. That is why I write poetry about my experience as a queer person: because, perhaps, there is someone else who needs to be reminded, and they do not have someone else to do it.

This piece is about my poetry process, but my poetry process is essential to who I am. It is rolling onto my belly and showing my soft spots, begging the world not to dig their talons in, but to just listen. Hear me. I am weak, I am fragile, but I am not afraid. We are strong, we are tough, and we are not afraid. With each written poem, I am reminded of why I need to write the next. And the next. And the next.

Here is how to write a queer poem.

  1. The most essential step is to be queer. I use queer because it is an umbrella term—it shelters all who seek it, leaving none wet. You don’t need a label to be queer. You can call yourself whatever you want. The experience of queerness isn’t about dogma or rigid categorization. It is unique to each person. But, to write a poem about being queer, you should not borrow our voices. We can tell our own stories. Let us.
  2. Open a new document, or rage-scribble in your notebook while a teacher speaks, or quietly put your words into a note app. The words are important, not the medium they are written on.
  3. This doesn’t have to be about pain. The experience of being queer isn’t about suffering, or dysphoria, or any mental health label. It isn’t about fighting. We didn’t make it this way, it is not inherent to being queer. But it can be about pain. My experience of queerness is pain. It is fighting a war I never enlisted in, it is operating machinery I don’t understand, it is losing the battle to win the war. This doesn’t have to be about pain, but if it is, don’t hide from it. This doesn’t have to be about anything but your queerness. Whatever your queerness is.
  4. Start writing. Don’t stop writing. Put the words out and make them real. Keep going. These words belong to you.
  5. You don’t have to edit, but I do. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes it takes months. It depends how much pain was poured onto the page, and my own ability to return to it. But when I do edit, I gain a certain clarity on the emotions I was trying to express, and the message I’m trying to send. After that it’s trimming away the excess—I’m bi, so y’all know I’m a little extra—and coming away with the finished product. Or at least, this version of it. Just like my experience of queerness, done-ness is in a constant state of flux. As I change, so does the piece. But this is only one way. The thing about queerness is that, by existing on the margins, we have more options as to how we want to do things. This oppression comes with a slim silver lining of freedom.

This is the process I take to write a queer poem. Everyone does it differently, but I can’t speak for them. Some prefer rawness, others metaphor, some a mix between or something else entirely. This is writing; it is the great equalizer. It is the only power some of us have in this world, and it is a power I try to wield with respect and responsibility.

Five Step Process of Writing a Mental Health Poem

And finally, we conclude.

Most of my poetry is, in some way, mental health poetry. While these illnesses that inhabit my brain are not me, they colour the way I see the world. I see rape and queerness and celiac disease and loss and anger through depression, anxiety and PTSD. I have no desire to separate myself from it, not anymore. That is not me succumbing to the illnesses. This is acknowledging that they’re there, they’re real, and they’re controllable if they’re not curable.

However, I also write poems that discuss my own experience of mental illness separate from anything else. There is a technique in therapy called ‘externalizing’. This is taking a problem and giving it a name, making it tangible, and separating it from you and your mind. Sometimes it looks like talking about the illness like it’s a different person, giving it a personality, and yelling at it when it does something you don’t like. Sometimes it’s taking one symptom, isolating it, and having dialogue with it. It differs by therapist. To me, this is what I try to do with my poetry. I take the illness and move it out of the shifting surface of my mind and stick it on a page, look at it, and dissect it. I can talk to it better like this. It seems less powerful when it isn’t a shadow over my day and it is just some sentences in a poem. If it is less powerful, I can be more powerful. It is entirely selfish.

And that’s perfectly fine.

Here is how to write a mental health poem:

  1. Acknowledge that there is something unique to your mental health that is worth exploring. The stigma can’t reach you here. No one can call you crazy here but yourself. Acknowledge that it exists. Acknowledge that there is something just beneath the still surface of your face, crawling to get out. Reach out your hand, pull it out of the water.
  2. Dry it off and get your paper ready. It is time.
  3. Sometimes fear halts your fingers and stops your flow. Sometimes the illness itself gets in the way. That is fine. Fear is natural. To alter a phrase from a very bad movie, fear is very real, and courage is a choice. If you have to fight the illness, then fight. Come back to the work later. There is no time limit. This is your story. You choose when and how you tell it.
  4. Come back to it later, or push through it now. It doesn’t matter. You’ll get it done. You’ll find the words to finish, or you’ll give it up to move to another piece. No one said everything you write had to be perfect. Silence the voice in your head. You can do this. Keep writing.
  5. Editing is optional. I choose to, because I want to make sure I am saying what I need to say without stereotypes and self-defeating internalized ableism. I make sure that I am portraying myself as the person I am under the illness, the captain directing the boat, the leaf floating on top of the river. You don’t have to do this. You have your own process. Speak your truth.

And finally, we conclude.

These are the processes I take to write poetry. I considered writing a step-by-step, technical piece explaining each part of the process, but that doesn’t fit the spirit of poetry. Poetry is artistic and expressive, not something you can reduce to a manual. I wanted to share the vulnerable, raw and real way I write, because if you’re reading this, that is the kind of honesty you deserve.

It is national poetry month at time of writing. What a beautiful thing, to have a month to celebrate the discipline of poetry. I wanted to celebrate poetry in a way that could be enjoyed all year. I want to remind my readers why poetry is important beyond April. And I wanted to try something different. I hope we can both take something away from this. I will take away some new words to share, and yet more understandings. What you take is up to you.

Until next time,

Announcement

Hi there friendos, dears and queers.

You’re probably wondering why I’ve called you all here on this dark and stormy night (it’s always a dark and stormy night on the internet). Well, it is because I have something to reveal. Am I going to reveal a terrible crime? Am I going to expose some awful truths about society and anime? Or am I going to announce that I am dramatically quitting blogging and the internet entirely and move to an uninhabited island in the Salish sea?!

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you feel about true crime) I am not here to do any of that. I am just here to announce that I’m moving to a different blogging schedule.

It’s not you, it’s me. I love you folkx. You’re the best. It’s that my life outside of the internet is changing soon. When I started seriously blogging, waaaaay back when, I was in school, but I didn’t have a permanent job, and my future in grad school was uncertain. Now, I have a permanent job, and I have secured a practicum. There is an end in sight to grad school. I’m going to have a lot of responsibilities really soon, not to mention a thesis to write (which I am NOT excited for).

When I started blogging again I was also at a different place in my writing. I was stagnating and blocked and I hated everything I wrote. I couldn’t make myself write more than a few hundred words a week. Now I’m writing a few hundred words a day. I still hate everything I write, but slightly less now. Beyond just writing every day, I’m full of ideas for projects, and for branching out to video platforms, and for things to self publish and…..there just isn’t enough time for everything.

Long story short is that I’ll be moving to posting long form content once a month while I focus on moving my other ventures forward. My goal is, while I’m going to be giving you less content, it is going to hopefully be high-quality, well researched, well thought-out content. I may post something every once in a while outside of the schedule, but that’s how things are going to be around here for the foreseeable future. If you want to jump ship now, I understand. But, if you want to stick around to see some deep dives, crime stories and over-educated pretentious drivel….welcome to the show.

Yours,

Five Ways I’m Unlearning Toxic Mindsets (An El-Listicle)

Hi there friendos, dears and queers.

I’ve seen some of my pals around the blogging world talk about toxic mindsets they’re trying to overcome, and I also see some of my friends on twitter talk about it too. The reality is that, living in a capitalist society based on competition and individualism, we all absorb a certain level of toxicity. It’s like poisoned water; it tastes funny at first, then you get used to it, then you don’t notice you’re slowly being eaten from the inside out until you’re too sick to function. We all see messages telling us that, for whatever reason, you’re not enough. No one is immune. I’m sure as hell not.

But the thing is, I also know that people don’t have to live this way. I don’t have to live this way. I know the poison is there. I can filter the water. Yeah, maybe some of it will get through, but the less of that shit getting into my body, the better. Maybe, if I keep enough out, I can fight the stuff that’s already in. Maybe I can do both at once.

Maybe my metaphors are silly, and don’t make a lot of sense.

That being said, I try to talk about mental health, but I don’t really talk a lot about self-care. Part of it is because I’m a private person, and I don’t think my private life is very interesting (seriously. I watch the same few shows over and over, I’m not exactly getting invited to parties). But part of it is that I don’t want to make myself seem like this guru, or feed into toxic positivity, but I think that the less people talk about what they do to help themselves the more lost someone who wants to help themselves but has no idea when to start can become. So I’m going to talk about the things I’m doing to unlearn toxic mindsets. Sit down, pour a cup of tea (not coffee, get out of here with that crap) and get comfy. Let’s talk self-care.

  • I go to therapy.
  • I’ve been seeing the same therapist for a while. I consider myself lucky; I’ve been at the same place for a while, but I’ve bounced around to different counsellors as people quit and got hired. I’ve been with the same therapist for a year now, and things are going well.
  • I’ve been in therapy on and off since I was an adolescent, and I’ve been to a lot of people. I’m in school right now training to become a therapist. And if I had me as a client, I would hate me.
  • I’d get homework from my therapist, and I wouldn’t do it. I would make excuses, and sometimes those excuses were reasons, but most of them were just excuses. I don’t know why. Now that I think about it, part of it was wondering if my therapist would be there next session. Part of it was that I wasn’t willing to deal with the problem outside the hour I spent in the office. And then I wondered why I wasn’t getting better, or I was only getting better slowly at a time.
  • Then, I did a study on exposure therapy. I had to do homework. That was just the reality. And I did. I didn’t want to let the counsellor/researcher down. And it helped. It really, really helped.
  • Now, sometimes I don’t do the homework, but most of the time it’s because I had actual homework. Sometimes I’m a little shit and I don’t do the work, or I forget to write it down and that gets pushed out by a new fact learned for a story
  • But the reality is, I didn’t start getting better until I started taking getting better seriously.
  • I confront my toxic mindsets with the help of my therapist twice a month, and I have the skills and tools to confront them on my own when I’m not with them.

  • I also journal. Which has been therapy homework for…a while.
  • At first, I found it unhelpful, even damaging. The idea was that writing out my feelings, putting my toxic mindset on paper, would help me get rid of it. Or, it would help me confront it better.
  • It didn’t do that. I found myself focusing on the negative and spending hours writing all the dark things and self-loathing I thought about every day. I wasn’t confronting anything. I knew it was there. I wasn’t getting it out, either. It was reminding me of the toxic mindsets I was living with, and it was not helping me. I’d go to write about an okay or even a good day and seeing the bad things from the previous day would trigger me, and my days would start fine and end poorly.
  • I wondered if I was doing something wrong. If I was the problem. Journalling was so helpful, right? All the studies said so. Then I realized, with the help of my therapist, that there was no one way to journal. I was doing what I thought journalling was, but what it was truly was whatever I made it.
  • So, I decided to start focusing on the positive things I felt or experienced during the day. I’d write down things I accomplished, things I like about myself, and things I was looking forward to. I’ve now added things I felt, and while sometimes I write about negative emotions I don’t dwell on them, because right under I’m looking forward to something. If I have a really bad day I don’t journal.
  • And it actually started to help. I found it easier and easier to be positive, and to think about and recognize positive things
  • I still tend towards negative thinking. That is what depression does. It’s not something I can help, but it’s something I can exercise some level of control over. And positive journalling helps that control.

  • There’s things that give me a toxic mindset that I can’t control. I was born and assigned female at birth. I lived most of my life presenting as female (and still do) and was subject to the sexism and prejudice associated with that. I didn’t choose that.
  • I am queer. I’m bisexual and non-binary. I didn’t choose to be those things. I didn’t choose to deal with dual marginalization, being two things and yet neither and nothing. I didn’t choose to be something that a lot of people don’t think exists. Why would anyone, in their right mind, choose this.
  • I am disabled. I don’t like using that word, because when I hear it I think of someone who is paralyzed, someone lacking a sense such as sight or hearing, or someone who has an intellectual disability. I don’t see people as less than, but the perception of disability I always had was something that people could see, because that is all I was taught.
    • But I do have struggles. Mental health is a disability. I cannot do certain things that people who don’t have mental illness can do. I need help to do those things. There are so many disabilities that people can’t see, and my perception of what is a disability has changed so much in such a short time.
      • I was even on disability income at one point. I didn’t have much of a choice but to accept it.
  • All of these things mean that there are many people in the world who don’t like me, and there is nothing I can do. I was born with these things. I cannot undo them. That isn’t even getting started on the political viewpoints I hold, which make me an enemy to many as well.
  • I found that I would either a) take everything people who were bigoted would say to heart or b) get angry. And it was exhausting.
  • I have started more deliberately practicing empathy.
    • It started with driving. I don’t have road rage problems, everyone else just sucks at driving, okay? But then I read an article about how when you make a mistake when driving, it’s because you were tired, had something on your mind, etc., but when other people do it, they’re a bad driver. And I thought to myself, maybe I’d be a little less angry if I just tried to think about the other drivers like that.
  • And in a lot of ways, it worked. I’m less angry on the road, I don’t bother interacting with people who make me angry, and I just find myself way more at ease with myself and the world around me.
  • Lots of bigots want attention. Maybe they feel empty inside, and need to feel better. Maybe they’re just like that. If you don’t give them attention, at the very least you’re saving yourself from the irritation.
  • And it feels better to be kind. I thought anger helped me, because it spurred me to do something. The reality is that it just wore me out, and I didn’t do anything, because I had nowhere to focus the anger inside me. But with kindness, I can focus on helping the people who need it, rather than arguing and being angry at the people who don’t.
  • It’s really hard sometimes. It’s not easy. I’m not perfect, I still rage at the other cars from time to time. But too much anger can be toxic, and now I can focus my energy on being better, rather than just being angry.

  • What is intuitive eating, and what does eating have to do with mental health and toxicity?
  • I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that today’s world is a toxic place for the human body, but it is absolutely a toxic place for the human body
  • There are so many messages about what bodies are supposed to be, and what they’re not supposed to be, and why if your body isn’t what it’s supposed to be you should spend a butt ton of money on making it be more acceptable and it’s just freaking exhausting.
  • I myself have been going through this. I have gained a lot of weight since high school and university. I’m quite plumb and rolly-polly now. My husband hasn’t commented on it, but I feel like a miserable fat failure most of the time.
  • Then I thought about it, and I hated my body when it was closer to the ideal. I just hate my body. I always have, and I don’t always want to.
  • So I’ve been trying to lose weight. It’s….going. It’s going. It was going well, I had a routine and whatnot, but then I had emergency surgery and some complications so all that progress went down the drain
    • My husband encouraged me to be gentle on myself, and I refused to.
    • I started spiraling. I wouldn’t exercise because I knew it would turn into a socially acceptable form of self-harm
    • And I ate to comfort myself, rather than the coping mechanisms I was practicing before the surgery, and then I was shocked I was gaining weight again.
  • My sister, seeing my distress, introduced me to a concept calling “intuitive eating” that she uses with her clients at an eating disorder treatment center
  • At first, I didn’t really think it would work. After all, everyone and their mother on the internet has an opinion on weight and food and healthy eating, and all of it seemed like a whole lot of noise.
    • Even the body positivity movement was exhausting and it seemed like it was all in-fighting and bickering
  • Then I actually dug into it, and found I liked it.
  • There are ten concepts that are a part of intuitive eating:
    • Reject the Diet Mentality
    • Honor Your Hunger
    • Make Peace with Food
    • Challenge the Food Police
    • Respect Your Fullness
    • Discover the Satisfaction Factor
    • Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
    • Respect Your Body
    • Exercise—Feel the Difference
    • Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition
  • I admit that I am still at one somedays, and I am at three for others. I am still working my way through it
  • But it was only in listening to others, and doing what they said, that I was able to even get to step one at all and listen to my own body
  • Now I see that losing weight isn’t the goal. I want to feel good in my body, even as I try to figure out what the place of it is as a non-binary person. I want to be strong and “swole”. I want to feel confident. It wouldn’t matter what my weight is if I could just get there.
  • And that was what literally everyone else was telling me the whole time.

  • I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel any shame at all. Further, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a moment of shame at least once a day. It’s a painfully human emotion, and by painfully human I mean that it is painful, and it is human
  • Did you know dogs don’t feel shame? I mean, I knew cats didn’t, but dogs were a shock. The dogs I see in costumes certainly speak to the opposite.
Pictured: Shame
  • Anyways, despite the best efforts of Brene Brown and Gabor Mate, shame is an unfortunate part of life
    • And it’s damn distracting.
    • It’s one of the symptoms of depression, and I have it bad.
    • It was getting to the point where everything I saw, interacted with or did either reminded me of something in my past that I was still feeling shame over or brought new shame. Truly, the gift that keeps on giving
    • It was getting in the way of….everything. I couldn’t get things done. I would freeze with the shame and spend some time wallowing in it and letting time get away with me
    • Some of it was dumb things I’ve said, or dumb things I’ve done. I ain’t perfect. I’m kind of a moron. But some of it was about things I am.
    • My weight. My height. My skin clearness. My grades. My job. My…everything.
    • I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t make myself talk about it in therapy, because that’s the thing with shame; it’s isolating. It tells you that you’re the only person to do these things, and everyone will judge you to hell and back if they know what you’ve done. I was on my own.
  • I’m going to reveal a trade secret of therapy: a technique called externalizing.
    • You take an abstract concept, like shyness or fear, and make it into a less abstract thing
    • For example, when I was in school and we had to do basic therapy on each other, my classmate and I made a character that represented my writing burnout: skeleton bird, an undead parrot
      • It worked. It actually worked. I’ve been a pretty profilfic cat since then, if I do say so myself.
      • So, what does a good scientist do? They repeat the same experiment and see if the results replicate.
  • I took the event or thing causing me to feel shame and imagined it as a movie reel, or as a photograph, or something like that. Then I imagined crumpling up the movie reel and throwing it in the trash, or setting it on fire, or blowing it up. I’ve gotten really imaginative.
    • Externalizing the shame as a tangible object and destroying it in an over-the-top fashion distracts me completely from whatever the thing was. Just the act of coming up with a way to destroy it distracts me enough that I don’t even remember whatever I was ashamed of when I started.
  • Nothing works for everyone, but this works for me.
  • Shame is toxic. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. It’s the ultra in toxic mindsets. I can’t change what I’m ashamed of. But what I can change is how I relate to it, and I’ve been gradually feeling less and less with every passing day. And imagined trash fire.

Well cool cats and kittens, that’s the best I have for you. I’m no toxicologist. I’m not even a therapist yet. I’m just a person who’s been living in poison for a really long time, and I’m just a person who’s tired of the way their life has been. Like I said, we live in a society.

We’re all going to be living in a certain amount of toxicity by virtue of just being alive. I can’t get rid of all of it. I think I’m always going to have a certain level of internalized fatphobia, for example. I’m not immune to advertising, or to productivity culture. But I’m trying to get better, and part of trying to get better is helping others. We all live in this society together and if we don’t help each other, what’s the point? I hope something I said helped you. If it didn’t, don’t tell me. My self-esteem can’t take it.

I’m kidding. Of course I’m kidding. I love comments.

Anyways, thank you for joining me for an El-listicle ™. I’ll see you again next week.

With love,

It’s okay to not be okay: Top Five Portrayals of Trauma

Hello friendos, dears, and queers.

I’ve talked a lot about my own struggles with mental health. While I don’t want to make this blog about that, because while it is a part of me it is not who I am, I try to be vulnerable to show that there is nothing to be ashamed of when one has a mental illness. One of the reasons I try so hard to put this message out there is because the media is very much against people with mental illness. There are so many negative, harmful portrayals of mental health that listing all of them would take all day. Even picking a top five would be difficult; it would be like picking between being shot and being stabbed. Neither is great, and both hurt like hell. There’s no winning.

Trauma is one of the ones portrayed really badly. It’s either resolved in one episode and everything goes back to normal, or the person with trauma is a violent person who hurts everyone around them. Neither of these things are accurate. Yeah, people with trauma can lash out and be violent, but that’s not everyone. That’s not even a minority of people living with trauma, it’s a minority of a minority. And let me tell you, it’s extremely difficult to try to get better after trauma when the people around you treats you like you’re weak for “still being sick” or like you’re a time bomb waiting to go off.

However, things are changing, and they’re changing for the better. Yeah, there are still portrayals of mental health and trauma that are troubling, but writers are starting to do their research to tell the stories of others, and starting to tell their own stories, and people are starting to listen. I wanted to highlight a few of my favourite portrayals of trauma in pop culture. While none of these are perfect, there’s still value in these depictions.

Fun fact: this started as a general mental health list, but as I worked I realized everything I picked was depicting trauma. I’m biased. I have PTSD after surviving an abusive relationship. I look for media that makes me feel less alone, because trauma makes you feel alone. It makes you feel like no one gets you. So when I find a good portrayal of trauma, I watch the ever-living shit out of it. I’m really excited to be able to share all of this with you today. Maybe it will help you feel less alone. Maybe you’ll see someone you know in a different way. Maybe you’ll just be entertained for a few minutes. And honestly, any of those are fine with me. Let’s have our own trauma-rama as we discuss my Top Five Portrayals of Trauma.

I will disclaim, before we get into these, that while I have some of the conditions depicted, I don’t have all of the conditions that these media pieces portray despite having the main issue of PTSD. I do not aim to speak for anyone else, I am just using my own educated observations to say why I think a certain way. If you have your own opinions, or want to chew me out, comment. I am always open to dialogue.

I also want to trigger warn. I’m going to talk about some messed up shit. Mental health, abuse, torture, you name it, I’m talking about it. If you choose to leave this page, I completely understand. Come back next Monday for a more hopeful topic.

Without further ado…

Silver Linings Playbook

  • Media form: First was a book, then a movie. I’m talking about the movie, because I haven’t read the book.
  • Release date: 2008 (book); 2012 (movie)
  • Synopsis: “After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.” (IMDB)
  • Conditions portrayed: Bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression (maybe?), borderline personality disorder, trauma
  • It’s not perfect: A person using drugs is diagnosed with a mental illness (you can’t really diagnose certain illnesses while someone is in active addiction because a lot of their behaviour is linked to use of the chemical of choice), therapist blurring professional boundaries (luckily, just by hanging out with a client outside of the therapy setting, not the way it often is shown), love conquers all trope
    • However: it’s worth noting that most of the articles I found were written by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, not people with mental illnesses themselves. While I appreciate their insights, they are not one of us, and I am taking their words with a grain of salt.
  • But it’s still pretty good: Matthew Quick, the author of the book, does have a mental illness himself. He himself has stated that “You’re never laughing at somebody that has a mental health illness, you’re laughing at the absurdity of what’s going on, for all the characters involved”. That’s the view I got from the film. I remember the scene where Tiffany and Pat talk about the meds they were on, and I was nodding along because I’ve taken most of those meds or knew someone who took the ones I hadn’t been on. The characters are very complex, and that’s what I appreciated. Characters with mental illness are often portrayed as a stereotype of their disorder, or as a victim. Pat and Tiffany were not victims, not even of themselves. They had a life outside of their mental health, and they had flaws and strengths. Pat and Tiffany were both extremely traumatized, Pat from catching his wife cheating on him, and Tiffany from the death of her husband. These traumas, to everyone on the outside, seem to have broken Pat and Tiffany. But they haven’t. They’re still people, they have hopes and dreams, and they deal with their trauma one day at a time. So, while there are problems, this movie did a wonderful job of portraying people with mental illnesses as people first, illness second, and people with trauma as people first, and what’s happened to them second.

  • Media form: Video game fight
  • Release date: 2017
  • Synopsis:
    • Of the game: “Batman and his allies work to restore the pieces of society following Superman’s dictatorship, but a new threat to Earth may hinder their efforts.”(IMDB)
    • Of the fight: Harley is going after Scarecrow, and he uses his fear gas to induce a form of psychosis in order to escape. She hallucinates her ex-boyfriend and abuser, the Joker himself. In the hallucination, he forces her to wear her old classic costume and tries to get her to kill a hallucinated version of Batman. Harley decides against killing Batman, who she’s been working with in the world of the story, and the Joker tries to kill her because he wouldn’t do what he wanted. Harley fights back and engages in a fight with the Joker.
  • Conditions portrayed: Post Traumatic Stress disorder, drug induced psychosis (fear gas)
  • It’s not perfect: From my own observations, because I’ve been having trouble finding people talking about it, it seems like a pretty good portrayal of PTSD and psychosis (coming from someone who’s experienced both). Some of the angles are unnecessarily sexualized, for such a serious scene, but the mental health portrayal is good. Also, the Joker seems to be based on Jared Leto’s Joker, and I hate that version of the Joker. So much.
  • But it’s still pretty good: Harley Quinn’s fight is a short part of the game, but is one of the most impactful portrayals of PTSD in anything I’ve ever seen.
    • For one, as Extra Credits has noted, it acknowledges that trauma doesn’t go away because the abuse has stopped, even if the person who perpetuated can’t hurt you ever again. This isn’t a perspective that you see often in media, especially in things like games. Trauma is often wrapped up in a single episode, and never acknowledged again. This is unrealistic. Trauma stays with you. It might never leave.
    • The scene also shows that Harley is not a “perfect victim” . She isn’t a delicate flower crushed under her abuser’s boot who never wants to see him again. She has complicated emotions towards her abuser. It’s kind of expected, when you survive domestic violence, that you hate the person who did it and never want to see them again. But abusers make connections. They integrate themselves into your lives, and they make you feel like there is no you without them. Joker literally does this by putting Harley in the clothes that he wants her to wear, not the outfit she starts the scene in that she chose herself. He tries to break her down and make her think that she’s still the person he wanted her to be.
    • But the reason this is one of my favourite scenes is that Harley fights back. She does this all by herself, with only her own will power to break through the Joker’s control. Even when he gets violent, she isn’t afraid of him. Even though he’s tried so hard to break her, she refused to bend to his will even under threat. She meets his violence with self-defence, and beats him in a fight. This is a powerful portrayal of triggers, but also of the power of the survivor to become stronger, and to fight back and become their own person. Again, as Extra Credits says in their excellent video on the fight, Harley is not okay, and she is allowed to not be okay. And that’s what people with PTSD want to be told.

  • Media form: Animated TV Show
  • Release date: 2012 (show first aired), 2014 (Book Four)
  • Synopsis:
    • Show: “Avatar Korra fights to keep Republic City safe from the evil forces of both the physical and spiritual worlds.” (IMDB)
    • Episode: “While Korra is struggling with PTSD by the metal poison Zaheer injected in her, she sets off on a journey to try to connect with Raava. Amidst all of this, Tenzin and the others realize that Korra has gone missing after 6 months.” (IMDB)
  • Conditions portrayed: Post traumatic stress disorder, depression
  • It’s not perfect: I’ve seen other fans point out that Korra has to deal with a lot more shit than Aang, the male hero of the previous series. I can’t find the tumblr posts, but this article speaks to it. While I don’t know if I agree completely, it is a valid point. I personally don’t like that the person who hurt her is the person who helps her heal, but that is just from my admittedly biased perception of trauma. I don’t think most therapists would recommend bringing your abuser into session, in my defense.
  • But it’s still pretty good: God DAMN. If the short fight scene from Injustice 2 was a bite-sized look at recovering from trauma, Korra Alone is an expanded look at the recovery process in all it’s bitter glory.
    • After Korra is almost killed in the previous season, in a really messed up way that reminds me a lot of sexual assault, she has not bounced back. Korra has nightmares almost every night. She’s despondent and disconnected from everything around her, and she pushes all her friends and family away before peacing out entirely, telling no one where she went.
    • Then, she has to deal with a hallucination of herself, representing her trauma and self-loathing as a result of what she went through. Unlike Harley, she doesn’t beat it through force of will alone. And that’s okay.
    • You can deal with triggers by yourself, and some people deal with trauma well without outside help. But that’s not reality for everyone. A lot of people need help from others after their self-destructive coping mechanisms burn them out. I’ve been there. I know how that feels. I do the same things Korra does, and push everyone away because they don’t understand and I don’t want them to understand, so they can’t carry my burden. She eventually finds a mentor to help her bend the poison out, and she finds the man who tortured her and confronts him. He then volunteers to help her.
    • While I would rather never see my abuser again, ever, until he’s in the ground and I can vandalize his headstone, I also see real world parallels with restorative justice. In short, restorative justice is where everyone affected by a crime or action sits in a room, talks, prays and comes to an understanding, and comes to an agreement on how the person who committed the action should make amends. I appreciate that, as Korra is portrayed as being Inuit, and restorative justice is an Indigenous way of performing justice. But the point is that this is an excellent portrayal of mental health struggles.
    • Korra, like Harley, isn’t a perfect victim. She’s angry, and self-destructive, and she fights with the people who try to help her. She’s not okay, and that’s okay. Even when she gets better, she’s changed by the experience. And that’s also totally okay. You’re not going to be the same person after. But the person you become is completely up to you.

  • Media form: Anime
  • Release date:
    • Manga: 1989
    • First anime: 1997
    • Movies: 2012
    • Second anime (the one we don’t talk about): 2016
  • Synopsis: Set in a medieval Europe-inspired dark fantasy world, the story centers on the characters of Guts, a lone mercenary, and Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band called the “Band of the Hawk”. (Wikipedia)
    • And then Griffith *spoilers* betrays the band of the Hawk, rapes Guts’ lover Casca, kills all Guts’ friends and leaves him with only one eye, one arm, and a brand of sacrifice that makes sure he’ll be chased by demons for the rest of his life
  • Conditions portrayed:
    • PTSD, depression, psychosis
  • It’s not perfect:
    • Oh lord. Where to even start with Berserk. It’s not perfect. There’s occassional gratuitious rape, use of homophobic language from the main character, use of ableist language, graphic violence, violence against women, nudity….this shit could not get shown on TV here, is what I’m saying. I also dislike that it shows Casca’s mental health differently than Guts’, and she’s essentially fridged for most of the manga. And, while the show deals with mental health, it’s not the focus of the show, so it does not go into the same depth as other shows on my list. Don’t worry, I’m going to explain myself shortly.
  • But it’s still pretty good:
    • Guts is an imperfect victim. He is an angry asshole who beats people up, kills people and generally acts like a callous jackwad. But I absolutely love this portrayal of trauma, because you never get to see men who are this traumatized act like real trauma victims.
    • While the data isn’t in for non-binary people, people who identify as male and female experience trauma differently due to socialization. Women are a bit more sad, as women are encouraged to hide their anger and never show aggression. Men, on the other hand, are socialized to be angry. They’re also socialized not to show sadness, because that makes you weak. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.
    • What I also appreciate is that we see why Guts acts like such an a-hole. We see him making grand statements about how weak everyone else is, and crying the whole time. It’s clear that he’s trying to explain away his sadness, and to hide it by covering it with bravado and trying to build himself up. He’s hurt. He’s deeply hurt. Sometimes he hurts others, like his girlfriend Casca. Sometimes he hurts himself by going into battle without thinking or without any self-preservation. He’s a man in pain, and he’s allowed to cry, be angry, and be self-destrcutive without any of his actions being portrayed as being right.
    • But Guts also gets better. That’s the important part.
    • He slowly learns to trust people again, through the people who decide to follow him due to his strength. They see something in him he doesn’t; that he is strong enough to survive everything life throws at him. And he’s still not okay. He’s still moody and depressed, but he’s allowing himself to learn to trust again. And he’s not doing the typical ‘male’ thing and going at it alone. He’s getting better through others helping him.
    • Men are told not to seek help. I think, in seeing this extremely manly man going through pain and learning to trust through forming bonds with the people around him, it can really help people.

  • Media form: Animated TV show
  • Release date: 2013
  • Synopsis: A team of intergalactic warriors fights to protect the universe, but the combination of three highly trained beings and one quirky young boy leaves the team struggling to overcome the dangerous scenarios that are put in front of them. (IMDB)
  • Conditions portrayed: PTSD, anxiety
  • It’s not perfect: While Steven has persistent mental health problems throughout the show, I feel like the plotline occassionally gets dropped. That’s the nature of episodic storytelling, but the reality is that this is a problem that is seen a lot in portrayal of trauma. Pearl dwells on her sadness about losing Rose and it makes her act in toxic ways. Lapis hurts the people around her. Shit happens. But…
  • But it’s still pretty good:
    • Let’s start with Pearl. Pearl’s big arc is working through her trauma and complex emotions around losing her love, Rose Quartz. Her path to healing isn’t linear, and sometimes she hurts people. And while that’s typical of PTSD portrayals, she also is called out for it in a kind, gentle way that helps her see how her behaviour affects others—and she changes the behaviours that were harming others.
    • Lapis has extreme PTSD after being abandoned on Earth after the Gem War. She has problems with other people, and lashes out at the people around her. Then, unfortunately, she gets in what is an obvious parallel to abusive relationships and is further hurt by that. She, like Harley, chooses to stay away from her abuser, even though she still has complex emotions towards her. Also, female-on-female abusive relationships are so rarely portrayed, though they happen. A lot. However, she makes friends. She gets better. She chooses her own path forward.
    • Finally, let’s talk about Steven. This poor boy has it rough. He’s a big part of a war, with a lot of responsibility put on him, even though he is a young teen. And he cracks. Several times. He’s anxious. He isolates. He has trouble with nightmares and with connecting to people. But he learns how to deal with his trauma. He learns meditation. He leans on his friends. He goes to a medical professional – by choice! The court isn’t forcing him, he goes by himself! He learns that he has a medical illness that is normal, a powerful message for the young audience.
    • I just love this show. So much. To pack this much mental health and trauma education into a short show is just incredible. And while they drop that through line in some of the episodes, it doesn’t go away. It keeps coming back, and coming back, and the characters grow and learn and change.
  • That’s the big message I want to put out. That if trauma happens, you can still be a full person. You are a full person. You can grow, you can learn, and you can change.

So, what are your favourite portrayals of trauma? Let me know down below!

Here are some resources for anyone reading who is going through PTSD. You’re not alone. You’re not broken. It wasn’t your fault, and there’s help and hope. I have so much faith in you, and I know you can get better.

Thanks for joining me for trauma-rama. I’ll see you next week for another mental health list, but one even more focused on solutions and recovery.

With love,

Another Sense of an Ending.

For Elizabeth.
Theme taken from Another Sense of An Ending by Sam Gwynn

Part One: The shitty, sentimental sort; Some static-tattered last report

When a writer dies, it’s not just them who dies. It’s the worlds they created, the worlds they were in the process of creating, and the worlds that they were going to create. The tragedy is that I’m never going to see how the story ends. No one will. The ending is going to be left a cliff hanger forever.

As usual, I got this whole damn thing wrong.

One of my friends, a writer, died at the beginning of last March, right before the world went to hell. I have been dealing with that grief, quietly, alone, and there is nowhere to go to distract me from it. Since I am isolated when not working, I live in it. I wallow in it.

There’s an excellent poem on YouTube called “Grief Becomes a Prayer”.

While I love that poem, for me, grief isn’t a prayer. It’s a hole. It gets bigger and bigger the more you think about it, the more you allow it to fester, the more people you lose.

I’ve had a lot of loss in recent years. Pets, family. Both sad, both hard. But not friends. There’s something different about that loss. I was privy to the diagnosis, but not the process of recovery, the moments of sickness, the quiet acceptance of the end. Unfortunately, since my friend was getting treatment outside of the province I live in, I couldn’t visit her. I couldn’t afford to. I couldn’t go to the funeral, either. There was no closure. One moment my friend was off in Toronto, in this far off place, getting better, and the next she was gone. Just…gone. She left behind worlds and worlds and worlds, stories unfinished, a life lived smiling through the pain. It’s been a year now. I couldn’t write about it then. I’m writing about it now.

Part Two: Suppose the words were insincere; Suppose you spoke but never spoke

I had trouble talking to my friend while she was sick.

My Grandfather died of cancer. It was a long, painful process. My husband’s Grandfather died of cancer. It was an equally long, equally painful process. Cancer is evil. It takes and takes and takes, giving nothing back.

I couldn’t find the words. I pulled away, because I couldn’t deal with it. What utter selfishness. My therapist says not to blame myself, not to feel guilt. But I do. It’s eating away at me, even now. I wonder if I’d really conveyed how much I admired her, how much she meant to me, and how much her work meant to me. I wasn’t sure if I had. That was the worst part.

It’s hard to tell people the truth of your feelings. There’s a cultural thing about telling your friends you love them. My parents aren’t affectionate people, either, not verbally. I don’t know how to express myself in a culturally acceptable way that doesn’t feel off to me personally. I write because I can’t do that, and then no one ever sees it. But Elizabeth did.

We met in a writing group. Of course she saw my writing, and saw how I wanted to connect to the world. I hoped that maybe that was enough. That the way I cared was evident in that, and evident in how I related to her words too. But suppose it wasn’t clear. Suppose the words were insincere. Suppose I got the whole thing wrong.

How do you live with that?

My husband doesn’t believe in God. I do. He’s willing to put aside his disbelief for me in moments of grief. He assures me that, if there’s a heaven, my friend is there, watching over me and all her friends and family. He assures me that if there’s a spirit world, she’s there too, watching over me. If there is a divine stream of universal energy that she’ll be there, too, a perfect being, one with the universe. He tells me that, if there is such a thing as an afterlife, that Elizabeth will be there, waiting. That, even if she can’t hear me now, I’ll have the chance to tell her then. Just think of all the stories you’ll be able to tell her, he says.

When I say that I doubt I’ll be going to heaven with her, or my family, he tells me to just be good so that I can.

I’m trying. Dear God, I’m trying.

Please, God, let it be enough.

Part Three: Suppose you got the whole thing wrong; It’s part of what you bring along

Hearing that my friend asked about me gutted me. COVID didn’t take my friend, but I couldn’t even grieve in person with our mutual friend. We could over the internet, but outside of my coworker, I grieved with my husband, but I also grieved alone while he was at work. My parents tried, but they didn’t really get it. They’re lucky; most of their friends are still alive.

Despite my faith, sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I wonder if there really is nothing, if this life is all there is. If my friend’s worlds are the only thing left of her, in this or any universe. The unpublished works only live in the minds of myself and those who were privileged enough to see it. When we are gone, maybe it will be too.

If I got it wrong, I know that my friend has made an impact on the world. I know her books still exist. I know that her website, social media, it all still exists. She will be remembered by a fan, somewhere. Her work will be there long after I’m gone. I’m sure of it.

But my doubt always fades. When I was moving into my apartment, I was moving a bookcase to another room. I wanted to see if I could lift the shelf with the books still on it, because I vastly over-estimated my own strength. When I went to move it, one book fell off the shelf. I was surprised; I am not coordinated. At all. I expected just one of my random graphic novels, or one of my husband’s fantasy books. It wasn’t. It was hers.

I know it could be seen as a coincidence. If you’re thinking that, don’t tell me. Let me cope.

I knew she was with me. That she was sending me a sign. She wasn’t in pain anymore. Her work would live on. I hear you, my friend. I feel you. I wait for us to meet again. Don’t know where, don’t know when, but when we do, I want to have a story to tell you.

Conclusion: Suppose you suddenly awoke To hear the real words of the song

It’s almost a year, now.

Grief isn’t fresh anymore. It’s a faded wound, a scar over my chest, a painful white line where a friend used to be. It’s still a hole. It will never not be a hole. I want it to be a prayer. I want it to be poetry, but it’s not. It’s just an empty space I’m trying to fill with words, but it will never not hurt.

My friend is gone. Her pain is over. I can’t imagine the pain her family is in. The worlds she created are stagnant, but they are still there. If I imagine the endings to the stories, maybe they’ll stay in some state of movement. They are still there.

They are still there.

No matter what cancer takes, no matter what death wears away, somewhere in the sadness there is light.

I miss my friend. I have accepted that her pain is over, and I am prepared to live with the pain of missing her until we meet again. The pain of missing her is worth the joy of having known her.

Month-End Roundup: February 2021

Hey there, folkx. The second month of 2021 has come and gone, and while it was slightly better than January for me it is still taking me some time to remember to write “2021” on things instead of “2020”.

I’m sorry that this post is late, I had a bunch of assignments due around the same time. I love you all, you’re wonderful humans, but I have to prioritize school since I’m paying a buttload of money for it and am putting myself in debt for the rest of my life for it. I’ll have a bit of a break in the summer, but then it’ll be right back to business in the fall. I have some more assignments coming up, and I’m not stressed about it. Nope. Not at all.

Still, I am happy to be moving forward, rather than circling the drain like 2020 felt like, especially towards the end. The glorious revolution has not happened, but in the words of Luke Cage, always forward, never back.

Criminal Minds

  • Yeah, I know. I like Spencer Reid. Sue me.
  • But in all seriousness, I love the chemistry the writers have created between these characters. I find the episodes to be fun little bite-sized bites of horror and I just love the hell out of this show, even though I don’t know if it’s the best portrayal of mental health out there.
    • And, what a fun little coincidence, I’m going to be discussing mental health this month! Yay!

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 (& Untucked)

  • I finally finished Drag Race Season 12, becuase I have an issue with finishing shows and it was finally on Netflix
  • I also watched Untucked and followed along, which was fun
  • Season 12 was a really solid season, and I genuinely didn’t know who was going to win, or even be in the top 4
  • I wasn’t unhappy with the winner, but Gigi Goode’s Take On Me lip sync was everything. It gave me life.
  • And I guess I’m kind of a closet case, because I loved Heidi so much. I would let Heidi kick me in the stomach. It would probably be hilarious and charming, because everything she does is hilarious and charming
  • I loved most of the queens, to be honest. Just kl;j;lkjsldg. What a good season.

Kuroko no Basket

  • Started this basketball anime and I still haven’t finished it, because I’m doing this again.
  • This could be a drinking game. Take a shot when Elka says they didn’t finish a show. You’ll get drunk real quick.
  • Anyways, I’m going to try to get this finished in March, because I’m enjoying it
  • I really like watching basketball the sport, and I can actually follow along with this sports anime, which is nice
  • I love all the characters except that one thot with the pink hair. I didn’t even remember her name and I’m too lazy to look it up
    • Side note: I hate the trope of the character who is super obsessed with someone who doesn’t like them, and who is clearly uncomfortable being around them. I know it’s not the biggest deal in the world, but it’s still painful to watch. It also makes me feel weird, because it’s so…I don’t want this shit being made to be cute, because it’s not. It’s gross.
  • That aside, most of the characters are so entertaining and likable that I’m really looking forward to finding the time to finish this off.

Demon Slayer

  • This show is fantastic. How good is it? I actually finished it. From start to finish.
  • Ufotable is just a fantastic studio. Their animation is always great, they pick great directors to helm their projects, and they aren’t afraid to play with tech to really push the art form.
  • And goddamn, does this anime not pull punches. They are not afraid of going for the emotional gut-punch. I think I got emotional once an episode
    • This story does sympathy for the devil (literally, because demons) very well. Even though the demons are the bad guys, they also have a heart to them, and are not just villains of the week for Tanjiro to punch
  • I love all the characters, but Inosuke is my favourite. I was pumped to see him from the first anime video I saw looking at the show, and now that I’ve gotten to see the glorious pig-man in action…he’s my fave.
  • It also takes place in a really interesting time in Japanese history: the Taisho era, taking place between 1912-1926. I took a Japanese history class for my first degree, but we didn’t cover the Taisho era (we went from ancient times to the Edo period) so I was just enraptured.
  • And the fight scenes. Lord have mercy.
  • This show is on Netflix Canada, not sure about the USA, so there’s no excuse not to watch it. Go watch it!
  • Yes, I am still working on Left Hand of Darkness. Don’t judge me.
  • I’ve continued to read Our Gods Wear Spandex for class….and I hate it. I hate it so much. Let me know if you want a review of it down below. My TL;DR for it is that I found the writing to be purposefully edgy, and I was annoyed because the author introduced these really interesting ideas and then a) didn’t source them and b) didn’t expand on them.
    • The book is like tataki. Yeah, you could leave it almost raw. It’s still edible. But maybe, just maybe, it should have been seared just a little longer to get more flavour out of it.
  • Also reading Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship for school…and I actually like that one.
    • It’s an ethnography, a study based entirely on total immersion fieldwork of a homeless shelter in Detroit. It’s an entertaining, eye opening book that is as heart wrenching as it is entertaining, showcasing the hopes, dreams and lives of poor black girls. It’s also written by a black woman, and she uses her own experience to compare and contrast with the lives of the girls she works with
    • It’s a bit of a heavy read, given the language used and the discussion of racial violence, poverty and sexual assault, but it’s also well worth it. I’m still not done, but there are some really, really funny stories in the book that serve to highlight the absurdity of the situations these girls are in. It’s so, so good. I’m going to keep this book on my shelf so I can re-read it whenever I want.
  • I also read Superman: Red Son, a super famous and well-loved Superman graphic novel. I…look, I’m not a hipster. Okay, I am. I’ll admit it. But I don’t dislike things because they’re popular. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Red Son because it had been hyped for so long by literally everyone I know who reads comics that it wouldn’t have been able to live up to the hype no matter what.
    • It’s really interesting, and it’s a unique book. I just wish, like Our Gods Wear Spandex, that they would have gone into some of the ideas more.
  • And, as always, I’ve been reading fanfiction. I mention it every time because I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of and I want to make sure people know that fanfiction is real writing, and it is real reading. Period. Full stop.
  • I’m still using my two projects a day system, and it’s still working really well. I feel much less overwhelmed.
    • Come hell or high water, I will finish my goddamn transformers fanfiction this year. As God is my witness, it will be finished.
    • I finished one project and started another one, which I’m hoping will be a serial story to be published on wattpad and tumblr. Stay tuned. If you have any advice about publishing on either platform, PLEASE let me know, whether in a comment or through an email
      • It’s a heart-warming sci-fi story about found family, the beauty of humanity, and a paranoid scientist learning to trust others through their interaction with a warm-hearted human who refuses to let negativity define them. I think it’s pretty cute so far
  • I’ve been putting together a chapbook as well. I’m hoping to have it come out this year, but who knows. Life just kind of happens, you know? I’ll go more into that down below.
  • Canadian Crime Stories is also returning. This one is a magnum opus, one on the same scale as my Dustin Paxton Post. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue the series, but I checked my analytics and people really like those ones? So I’m going to go hard and go ham on this one, because I have a lot to say about it. I won’t reveal the case, but the subtitle is: Or, Some People are more Equal than Others.

Schedule

  • I’ll be moving to updating on Mondays for March, see if it helps my numbers. I’m just experimenting, folkx. Thank you for being my guinea pigs!
  • March 15th: Another Sense of an Ending: A Reflection on Grief
  • March 15th: Bonus! Listicle: Top 5 Favourite Depictions of Mental Health
  • March 18th: Listicle: Five Ways I’m Unlearning Toxic Mindsets

Personal

  • Y’all. The best thing has happened. The best possible outcome. I don’t know if I want to jinx it, but I will not be going into social work. I will, instead, be going back to grad school to complete my practicum!
    • That’s right, your critter is going to have some letters after their name, and those letters are going to be MA!
    • I’m really excited. I don’t want to say more, because I’m not here to dox myself, but I’m ready to finish my counselling degree so I can start a career.
    • So, looking ahead: getting ready to start a new chapter, and start adapting to a new schedule and get my mental health ready to go to help people in my community.
  • Stay alive.
  • Finish Left Hand of Darkness, or any book that isn’t for school
    • Also read Ms. Marvel, even though it is for school
  • Start exercising twice a day
    • I’ve managed once a day, but I want to make it twice

Projects

  • Once again, keep on trucking, keep on moving forward

How was your month? Let me know down below!

Confessions of a Gatekeeper: An Examination of Fandom

When one has been in fandom for as long as I have (and no, that’s not a brag, it’s really sad and I take no pride in it) one should expect to encounter a few things. Haters, or flamers as they were once known. Art theft. Gate-keeping, or the act of someone taking it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity. I have encountered haters, I have not had any of my art stolen (none of it is good enough for that) and until recently I had only encountered gate-keeping sporadically. I realize now that I never dealt with gatekeepers because I was the one keeping the gate closed. I didn’t have to deal with being locked out when I was on the right side of the fence, and I was the one with the only key to open it.

Yes. I used to be one of those people.

In my defence, I was a child. I didn’t do it with anything other than adolescent malice. I didn’t really have much, it seemed, and it seems, now still when I look back on it. In elementary school I had lots of friends who didn’t get me. That’s fine. I didn’t get me either. There was so much about the world, and my place within it, that I didn’t understand. I was used to feeling completely alone in crowds, I was used to feeling like the adults around me liked my friends better. I had niche interests that the other kids made fun of. Instead of making me hate the things I liked, the teasing only made me cling to it harder. My only friends lived in between pages and on TV. They got me. They were weird, they weren’t normal, and they were awesome. I was obsessed, of course. I was a child, and I liked things in the passionate, all consuming way only children can like things. I was also 11. 12. 13. I didn’t have anything else. And so I defended my interests like a rabid dog. No one else could like the same things I did. It makes me sad to think how many friends I could have made if I could have been just be a little less of a gate-keeper.

Then, in high school, things changed. I went to a really big school. I grew a few inches. I made new friends, who shared those same niche interests. I didn’t fit in with most of my peers but I fit in with the other outcasts. For a while, that was enough. I felt no need to gate-keep, because I desperately wanted my new friends to like the same things I did, and I wanted to like the things they did so they wouldn’t reject me for the same reasons. It worked well. It was enough. I was happy. Or at least, it was enough, until my niche interests became mainstream and the same girls who made fun of me suddenly “loved Iron Man so much omg Captain America is so hawt”.

And I lost it.

I doubled down. I became that hurt, angry, lonely little pre-pubsecent ball of nerd-rage once more. Oh, you liked the Iron Man movie? You think he’s sooo cool? Well, you’re not a true fan because you haven’t read Demon in a Bottle or Armour Wars. Oh, Captain America is good? What year did his first-ever comic come out? No, it was before the USA entered WW2, you insipid cow. Ha! I have the knowledge you seek, but you have to prove to me that you are worthy of my wisdom. Oh, what stories should you read to get into comics? You don’t already know? Have you even heard of the Dark Phoenix Saga? Ugh. Begone casual. I even did this to my now husband. I don’t know how he put up with that. I would have dumped my own ass.

Still, I was so angry. I hated these people in the way only a hormonal teenager can. I was so infuriated that I was singled out for liking things that now everyone said were cool and I wondered if they’d liked it all along and never talked about it, and I think part of me was mad that they could have been my friends, but they weren’t, because they were cowards. They were all cowards, and they didn’t deserve to know my fictional friends. They weren’t good enough for them.

No superhero would do this. Ever. I didn’t even see that I was becoming a villain. I was right, and they were wrong, and stupid, and only liked superhero movies because there were hot guys, or they only liked Muse because there were Muse songs on the Twilight soundtrack, or they only liked video games because their boyfriend played Call of Duty, and…I had every excuse in the book to keep these stupid bitches on the other side of the gate, away from me, because it wasn’t fair that they could just waltz on in and have all the same stuff without the rite of passage of geekdom-based bullying.

But who was I to decide you needed that?

Flash forward a few more years, to today. I am well past my adolescence. I never really thought about gate keeping after I left high school until very recently, when I published a fanfiction in a certain male-dominated fandom. Now, this particular IP is one of my favourite things ever. I have the books. I can’t find the merch, but if I could find it, I would have it. I’ve read almost all of it, waiting to let the author create more before I catch up completely. I have watched video essays galore, read actual essays galore, on this IP. I’ve written a blog post about it, even, analyzing the author’s techniques. I do not need the plot of this IP explained. I don’t want to be pretentious, but I understand it on an academic level. I am a super fan. I’ve got this.

And, when I posted my fic, I received one long essay of a comment detailing how everything I did in the fic was wrong.

I could have rebutted it. I considered it. But I deleted the comment without replying, because I know that an argument is what these people want. They want someone to give their opinions enough respect to refute them. They want someone to react to their mansplaining-esque comments and get the attention they probably lack in other areas of their life. It’s pathetic. I don’t respect people like this. I don’t feed trolls. Period.

Yet still, I was pissed. I made two seperate tumblr posts. I only deleted one. I considered bitching about it on IG and on Twitter, but I didn’t. I was angry. How dare this person act like I knew nothing about the fandom I was writing in. How dare they treat me like I was just a casual, like I didn’t belong in the fandom because I interpreted the characters differently than they did, that I was doing something they didn’t consider proper….

Once I had some distance, and started writing more fics for the series, I realized something; karma was a fucking bitch, and it always has something just around the corner to mess up your day.

I was getting paid back tenfold for being a gate-keeper in the past. Now, years and years after I’d even thought about those horrid girls from school, I was being treated the way I had treated them; like they weren’t worthy of being in the fandom because they weren’t ‘doing it right’ and weren’t interpreting the characters correctly, or like they hadn’t read every single book and they had no right to act like they could like it because they weren’t real fans. And lo, here it was, happening to me, and I felt like crap.

Now, I’ve long since stopped being mad at people for not being true fans. I make fun of those people now. I know. Oh, the hypocrisy. But what one might call hypocrisy, I call personal growth. I’m not a gate-keeper anymore. I don’t even give a shit about who likes what, because being an adult really puts things in perspective. I have bills to pay. I have a demanding job. I’m in university. I wish I had time to give a shit about other people, but I don’t, and if I had that time I would use it on better things. I find it hard to care about people liking things the “right way”, but that comment reminded me that the past does not vanish because your attention is focused on the future. Sometimes you don’t understand the consequences of your actions until long after those actions occurred. I don’t think I hurt people with my actions, but I don’t know. I will be left not knowing, just as the commenter will be left not knowing how thier actions affected me.

I tried not to let this completely nuke my already fragile self-esteem. I tried to think about it, like a calm rational adult. I had the opportunity to reflect on my actions, I decided, and that was something worth doing. I had the chance to reflect on what it meant to be a fan of something, and what it means to be in a fandom.

Fandom is a community, yeah? So let’s think about it like one. In any community, there are many different people, who make many different contributions that benefit the group as a whole. Those are your video essayists, your fan artists, your fic writers, amv makers, etc.. Many communities also have tourists, people who come and enjoy the scenery when the season is right. They might stay for the whole season, they might pass through. Hell, they might even move there if they like it enough. Sometimes they’re annoying. They’re loud, they don’t understand the rules, written or unwritten, and they spend all their time looking at what you consider to be inconsequential crap distracting from the sanctity and beauty of the community. But they paid to be here, just like you. If you don’t let them come in, you’re not going to get that sweet economy boost.

And those tourists have their own contributions to make. They are the reason that we’ve been getting cheaper merch at Walmart, big budget movies, and sweet, sweet Netflix shows. We shouldn’t be keeping them out! Yeah, they leave garbage all over the sidewalk and they’re not always polite or willing to follow our local customs, but we were all tourists once, right? Before we decided to put down roots and build a life here. I didn’t like being assumed to be a tourist. I think what this has made me realize is that if you don’t treat people like they’re going to settle here they won’t, and we’ll be stuck ordering expensive merch from Europe and watching badly dubbed anime for the rest of time. Is that a future you want? Bad dubs? Forever? Ugly merch? Forever? There goes the neighbourhood. That would be the real death of a fandom; being forced to endure mediocrity because we can’t get over ourselves and share our goddamn toys.

I realize now that I never dealt with gatekeepers because I was the one keeping the gate shut. I didn’t do it for love of the IP, I didn’t do it for any noble reason, I did it because I wanted to feel special at a time when I did not. I think that commentor is probably young (or young at heart, if you know what I mean). They probably don’t feel special, either. That’s okay. Sometimes you have to grow up and learn a bit before you start to see your own life as something special and unique. Sometimes you have to grow up a bit before you realize that life is so much more than what shows you like. And when you get to a place where you find meaning in your own life, it probably won’t be based on what you like. It’ll be based on the person that you are.

Let me divert for just a moment. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of my favourite Marvel movies. This is not only because of the over-all quality of the film. It is partly because of my experience watching the movie for the second time at the cheap theatre. Two girls who clearly didn’t read comics were right behind me. And they made the whole experience better. They were so enthusiastic and happy to be there. They were loud, yes, but they were enthuastic, engaged, wondering what would happen next and laughing riotously at the jokes. And when the big twist happened? Their blown minds made me appreciate the way that the story was told in a way I hadn’t before.

Stories are really magical, aren’t they? No matter how they’re told, or who experiences them.

And if someone had told those lovely, happy fans that they shouldn’t go to the movie because they’d never read the Winter Soldier story line in the comics, I would have a worse time at the movies, and I wouldn’t have a funny story to share with people or make me smile on a bad day. So thank you, tourists. The gate is open. Please, come in. We’re so happy to have you, and I hope that you enjoy your stay.

And, to the gate-keepers: you’re enough. You are. What you like does not make you, and sharing what you like might just make you like it more. Maybe, you’ll even make a friend.

Yours in regret,

El-Listicle: My Top 5 Overrated “Classic” Novels

Oh boy.

Hello, folkx. It’s a frigid winter day in Saskatchewan, and I need to keep warm. I could put on thicker socks, or warmer clothing, or turn the oven on and let it run, or I could use the flames of my hatred for warmth and roast the shit out of some over-rated classic novels.

Classic novels, as a whole, aren’t bad books. I’m aware that 2/3 of the books on my list are because I was forced to read them for school, and everyone loves when a teacher forces you to read some book written by an old racist white dude and then regurgitate plot points on demand. The other half are on there because, to me, I don’t think they lived up to the hype.

My husband likes calling me a hipster, but I think my problem is that when someone I like says something is really good I have really high expectations. I like my friend, we like the same things, and if they like this book it has to be good, right? WRONG. I like my teacher, I really, really want my teacher to like me, and they like this book so it’s probably good, right? WRONG. Same with magazines and articles. Talking about how important some book is just set these things up to fail. I was pumped to read Romeo and Juliet in high school, since it was the most famous love story aside from The Titanic, and sweet Christ, I hated my life for that entire unit. I wasn’t alone, because the boys in class did too and we finally had something in common. Mercutio was the best part of that play and he dies, which is total bullshit and I wanted to kick Shakespeare in the balls.

However, for some classic books, the less hype, the better. I liked Ender’s Game, for example, even though I had to read it in school, because all I was told about it was that it was in space. Space is cool, Battle School is pretty sweet, and Orson Scott Card is a homophobe but our teacher didn’t tell us that until we were finished the book. I liked Little Women fine, because I was just told that it was a book about girls who lived a long time ago. Basically, TL;DR: classic books are over-hyped and that hurts them.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to roast them for your entertainment.

Now, I didn’t say this for my Favourite Classic Books Listicle, because people don’t usually get mad if you like something they didn’t, but they often get big mad if you hate something they like. So, this is just my opinion. This isn’t a judgment on anyone who likes these books, this is how I feel about these books. You can get mad at me if you want, because hate comments are still comments, but just remember: none of these authors are hurt by the opinion of one queer on the internet, because their estates are still raking in the big bucks.

Without further ado (and spoiler warning for hundred year old books and such):

  • Genre: Garbage Gothic Tragedy
  • Author: Emily Bronte
  • Year Published: 1847
  • Plot in 20 Words or Less: A rich family adopts an orphan, love drama ensues, and nobody has a good time
  • Problematic-o-matic: Emily Bronte didn’t seem to have any problematic views, as she didn’t leave her damn house and was too shy to interact with anyone but her sisters. Heathcliffe is described as a slur for Romani Travelers at one point, and while it’s not clear if he is a member of this group, many people have a problem with this slur now. HOWEVER, this book romanticizes abusive and toxic relationships, which is messed up af. While I think Bronte meant it as a tragedy, due to death of the author theory it’s not seen that way now. And, while I’m probably going to get shit for it in the comments, the overly purple prose she wrote for their interactions didn’t help that whatsoever.
  • Why (I think) it’s Over-rated: This book pushed some buttons for me. I’m a survivor of domestic violence, and Heathcliffe’s behaviour was so shitty and abusive that if I wasn’t reading it for school I would have set the whole book on fire. Cathy was also toxic too, but Heathcliffe took it all the way to eleven. I wished the teachers would have trigger-warned us, and I kind of hate the prick for not doing that (and he forced us to read a Canadian travesty called “The Education of Duddy Kravitz”, which I hate more than wet socks and mosquitoes combined) because it was very, very hard to read. Beyond that, I didn’t like a single character in this book. Nobody. Not a one. Half of the characters were barely developed, and the ones that were developed were so unlikable that I hated them as much as they seemed to hate each other. I also thought the pacing wasn’t great, though that might be due to the differences in novels then and now. Still, I thought this book was over-rated because all the characters sucked ass and I hated reading the book because of it.

  • Genre: Nonsense Science fiction, dystopia
  • Author: George Orwell
  • Year Published: 1949
  • Plot in 20 Words or Less: Big brother is watching you, and he’ll torture you if you hurt his feelings
  • Problematic-o-matic: Orwell was a grumpy old man who hated almost everyone, but he especially hated women, LGBTQ people (I’ve seen some people dismiss this as common for the time, but as we saw in the last classic books listicle, even if something was normal at the time, doesn’t make it anywhere near acceptable), vegetarians (wtf why), people who wear sandals (?) and communists. It doesn’t appear that he had racial prejudices, and actually spoke out against antisemitism. and I suppose it is worth noting that he didn’t campaign against LGBTQ people or people who wore sandals, he just talked a lot of shit. I guess some people really are more equal than others, eh Georgie? It’s also worth noting that this book got banned in a bunch of American states….and the Soviet Union.
  • Why it’s Over-rated: This book had a lot of hype. A lot of hype. And I read it, and I hated it. I thought the pacing was terrible, and that there was a whole lot of talking, then a cringey, over the top saccharine romance (bleck) and then torture. That is terrible pacing. I may be biased, because romance used to disgust me back when I was however old I was when I read this, but the whole story just grinds to a halt so Winston and Julia could fall in instalove. Ugh. Even now, instalove is a trope that’ll make me DNF unless it’s done expertly. This was not done expertly. My husband has argued with me that the point of the romance was to point out how the totalitarian state doesn’t allow love to exist and turns people against each other, but the fact remains that it was boring and dumb. Maybe I’m an emotionally stunted child like my husband says I am, but I thought this book didn’t live up to the hype.
    • Also, the ending is anti-climactic and a big let down. There, I said it.

  • Genre: Tripe Science Fiction
  • Author: Aldous Huxley
  • Year Published: 1932
  • Plot in 20 Words or Less: In a drugged up caste based society, a vacation goes horribly wrong
  • Problematic-o-matic: Visiting a reservation on vacation to look at the savages? What the actual fuck, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a thing in 1932 anymore. And the portrayal of the indigenous people as backwards, angry savages just makes it so much worse. I’ve heard someone say that this book is a wonderful warning about the future…and apparently, the future is racist. There are some concepts in the novel which are racist and ableist, but it is hard to tell if Huxley wanted to point out the problems with racism and ableism. Huxley himself held the racist views common to his time, which is still messed up. And George Orwell thought Huxley totally stole his novel’s idea from a bunch of other writers.
  • Why it’s Over-rated: This is one that made me hella uncomfortable. I had to read it for school, and we discussed some of the things that I am calling out, but it just…I’ll be honest, folkx, the racism in this book took me right out of the story. You see all these people defending it, but white people need to be quiet in this instance and listen to what the people being hurt by this work are saying. I’m, full disclosure, white, and the racism didn’t hurt me like it does indigenous readers but it still bothered me. And the idea of free love, but only if it’s hetero, rubbed me the wrong way too. Free love means free for everyone, baby. The writing itself is fine, but for one thing; characterization. I found the characters really hard to like; even John, who was probably the most likeable character, was a total asshole by the end. Lenina was just…there. You could have replaced her with a lamp and it wouldn’t have changed much. Bernard was so, so annoying. Helmholtz was probably the only character I didn’t want to see kicked in the balls by a donkey, and he was barely in the book. So TL;DR: this book is so goddamn racist, and everyone sucks.

  • Genre: A goddamn mess Adventure/Mythology
  • Author: Homer (the boring one, not the yellow one)
  • Year Published: 8th Century BC, translated into English in 1488 (and the world was worse for it)
  • Plot in 20 Words or Less: Supposed smart guy gets lost for ten years, doesn’t listen to directions, and gets all his friends killed
  • Problematic-o-matic: Racist against cyclopes, I guess? The Ancient Greeks general distaste towards women?
  • Why it’s Over-rated: This one is petty, but Odysseus SUCKS and the book is BORING. Sure, he’s smart and stuff, but apparently not smart enough to find his way back to his house and keep his men alive. My dog found it’s way back to our house when I was a kid, and that dog wasn’t very smart. Odysseus can’t do what a dog can do, and that’s really sad. Also, while his wife is waiting for him, staying celibate, despite all the suitors coming after her, Odysseus goes off and bones Circe and stays with her on her island. Which is funny, because my ex was like “oh, he was looking out for his bros and keeping this crazy woman happy” and then he cheated on me, because he thinks irony is something you use to press your clothes. Cheating is a bit of a berserk button for me, and after that point I wanted the book to end with Odysseus being eaten by a pack of wild boars and then shit out on the front lawn of his stupid castle in Ithaca. I bet his castle was ugly too. This book would have been better if Homer Simpson wrote it.

  • Genre: Dumpster fire Coming of age fiction
  • Author: J. D. Salinger
  • Year Published: 1951
  • Plot in 20 Words or Less: Teenage boy whines for way too many pages and almost gets shot by a pimp
  • Problematic-o-matic: J. D. Salinger was an abusive prick to the women in his life, including his girlfriends, wives and his own daughter. While his son says that she’s not being completely honest, I can see how this shit-head would have treated his son better than his daughter. It’s also worth noting that this book was banned for a while. I agree with Kenny, Stan, Kyle and Cartman in that this book should have been banned for being really boring
  • Why it’s Over-rated: Holden Caufield is a whiny douche. There, I said it. Everyone can go home now.
  • Okay, fine. I’ll elaborate.
    • There’s an episode of South Park where the boys read this book because they’re told it’s controversial, and they find that it’s just….boring. Really, really boring. And it is. It is so goddamn boring and the best part about it is that it’s short. The only controversy is that Holden Caufield is an asshole, and acts like a self-centered prick and talks about sex and stuff, which by today’s standards is really, really tame. He’s pretty realistic to a lot of teenagers; he thinks he’s the smartest, the best, that he sees through all the bullshit and he knows the right way for everything. But I also read this book as a teenager, and like Holden, I also had depression. I thought his portrayal was insulting on both fronts. He was incapable of seeing beyond his own world-view, and he acted like a jerk to people, even when they were nice to him. Not all people with depression are nice, but this wasn’t just not being nice, this was going out of his way to be negative to everyone around him. I just wanted to grab the kid, smack him, and tell him to stop moping around and go spend more time with his sister.

Now, before you finish sharpening your pitchforks, hear me out. I am only one person, and I am also a hard person to please when it comes to books. The hype train usually runs me over, and then I shake my fist at it and curse every car on that train. Sometimes, classic books are really good, and sometimes, classic books are horrible and racist and should probably be left in the past. But there is merit to reading these over-rated pieces of garbage. Somewhere.

While I hated these books and in some cases hated my teacher for forcing them on me, I’m glad I read them. For better or worse, a lot of these books have inspired a lot of the work we know and love today. And, because now I can see what I never want to do in my own writing, and it just shows me how far we’ve come, but also how far we have to go.

Do you still want to stab me? Well, fine. Just please flame me gently.

Do you agree with me? Thank god we’ve found each other. Please, comment so we can commiserate together.

Do you have different books that you think deserve to be on here? Please, let me know. I’m always down for a good rec.

Hatefully yours,

El-Listicle: My Top 5 Favourite Classic Novels

Hi there, folkx. Let’s talk about books.

Yeah, I know, so original. I’m the 6000th writer to talk about books on the internet and I’m probably the least qualified out of all of them to talk books, but here we are. And classic books? Also original. People have been talking about these books for hundreds of years. Why should a listicle about these works matter now? Well, while we’re hopefully seeing the end of the pandemic, there’s still a lot of people staying inside, and getting really, really bored. I’ve seen more discourse on these books lately, and I think it’s because people are finding the time to read some of these books. And that’s great! Despite the problematic, privileged nature of classic books, especially who decides that a book is classic, a lot of these stories are really good and there’s a reason that they’ve stood the test of time. Consider this my first Book Rec Listicle ™. I’m going to share my favourite classic books, and I’m going to talk about the reasons that you should consider reading them too.

But I’m also going to talk about the more problematic aspects of these novels. I have to. Now, that is not to say that I think these are minor things and that I am dismissing them. I’m saying that these things must be discussed in relation to these books. Nor am I endorsing these views by suggesting these books. It is hard to find a book written in the olden times that doesn’t have racism or sexism or other bad things in it, as this was normal for the time. If you cannot read these books for those reasons, I won’t hold it against you, not will I tell you that you should put those aside and read anyways. Make your own decision. While these things damper my enjoyment of these books, I still do. Perhaps I’ll talk about Death of the Author theory in the future, but for now….some of these books are problematic by today’s standards, and you should know about that.

Can I say that I’m spoiling books that are up to 400 years old? Plot points discussed in detail ahead, then.

  • Genre: Adventure
  • Author: Jack London
  • When it was published: 1906
  • Plot in 20 words or less: Spicy good doggo lives rough life, wolves eat everything, and eventually someone manages to pet doggo.
  • Normal For The Times” Factor: While the Indigenous characters are portrayed as full characters with arcs and motivation (and all humans are seen through White Fang’s eyes, and he don’t like NOBODY), there is also a plot point where one of the main Indigenous characters gets drunk and loses White Fang to an evil white dude. While taking advantage of Indigenous using alcohol is a historical reality (because colonialists gonna colonize, the bastards) it’s “normal for the times” for those portrayals to exist. They suck, but they do exist, and if you want to read White Fang you should be aware of this stereotypical portrayal. Also, Jack London was really, REALLY racist towards Asian people, and mildly racist towards other groups (and when I say mildly, I mean that he wrote essays about how Chinese immigration was the worst thing to happen in the history of anything ever and just said general racist things about the other groups)
  • Why it’s awesome: White Fang is one of the first classic books I sought out and read as a younger adult. While the graphic animal death isn’t for everyone, I really enjoyed seeing everything from White Fang’s point of view, and I found him to be an interesting character to see the world of the Yukon through. I was drawn in by the horror elements to the introduction, and the more realistic view of nature that other animal POV books I’d read (much love to the Warrior Cats series but they aren’t realistic AT ALL) didn’t have. It felt, to me, like an animal book written for those who wanted to learn about animals. It was paced well, it was written well, and I really, really enjoyed the ending. The author is problematic AF, which I didn’t realize at 20, and despite his literary skill this must be acknowledged. This book isn’t for everyone, but it was for me. If you feel comfortable reading such a book written by someone with these viewpoints, check out White Fang. There is a Netflix adaptation, but it’s made for kids so it’s not going to be accurate (I haven’t seen it yet).

  • Genre: Tragedy
  • Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • When it was published: 1925
  • Plot in 20 words or less: Friendly chap meets his cousin’s ex and dude’s got mad money and great people skills, both lead to his downfall
  • Normal For The Times” Factor: Tom Buchannen is not a fan of immigrants of anyone but Nordics, which was unfortunately a very normal view for the time. It worth noting that Tom Buchannen is the antagonist of the novel and no one else expresses these views, however they are unchallenged by the text. Also, while it is not believed that Fitzgerald portrayed Jewish stereotypes with malice, the reality still is that he portrayed harmful Jewish stereotypes in his novel. This, again, was normal for the time, but it’s not a good look. F. Scott himself was reported to be casually racist, though his views on non-white people changed over time.
  • Why it’s awesome: The Great Gatsby feels like a fly stuck in amber; it cannot exist outside of the time period it’s in, and it’s one of the most fascinating times in history for me. That said, I don’t usually read in this genre, and I was hooked from the first sentence. I connected with Nick, though the character I was drawn to the most was, of course, Jay Gatsby. I adored him. I didn’t see what he saw in Daisy and I kind of wanted her to quietly leave the novel and never return, but I also see that Gatsby and Daisy were both flawed people. It’s a well-written book with excellent characters, and it is a slice of history that deserves it’s timelessness.

  • Genre: Comedy, tragedy, mostly a social commentary
  • Author: Miguel de Cervantes
  • When it was published: 1605 (for the first part)
  • Plot in 20 words or less: A man from La Mancha has a midlife crisis and decides reality is overrated and becomes a “knight”
  • Normal For The Times” Factor: Surprisingly none, but it is written in old Spanish so some of the phrasing and such is different than how novels are written now. Not sure if Miguel de Cervantes was racist or sexist, because he’s been dead for three hundred years.
  • Why it’s awesome: Don Quioxote is the second most translated book ever, after the freaking Bible, so you know it’s gotta be good. It’s like the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure of literature; once you read it, you see tributes and references to it EVERYWHERE. While it is a tragedy and a portrayal of Spanish society at the time, it’s also freaking hilarious, which makes the tragedy hit all the harder. I have read the book and seen a stage musical based on the book, and they were both excellent. I don’t know if I agree with scholars who say it’s the greatest work of literature, but it’s definitely one of the best. If you haven’t read it I’d recommend trying it, but make sure you get a good translation because the book is originally in Spanish. If you don’t want to read this long book, see if you can find a recording of “The Man of La Mancha”, the musical play I mentioned. It’s also excellent!

  • Genre: Horror, Science Fiction (The first of it’s kind, the OG scifi novel)
  • Author: Mary Shelley
  • When it was published: 1818
  • Plot in 20 words or less: Man creates monster, decides to be a deadbeat parent, comes to regret it
  • Normal For The Times” Factor: None, except for the way the novel is written which is different from how we use language now. Mary Shelley was a progressive lady who was the daughter of a two scholar, one a major feminist scholar and one who opposed racism, so it doesn’t surprise me that this novel lacks some of the things that were “normal” for the times.
  • Why it’s awesome: Dude, it’s Frankenstein. Even before I’d read the book, I knew who the Creature was, I knew the basic gist of the story, and I knew some of the famous lines from the 1930’s motion picture. When I read the book I fell in love. It’s much different from the movie, which I don’t understand, and so far there hasn’t been many mainstream movies that capture the greatness of this work. Pop culture leaves a lot to be desired, including perpetuating the idea that the Creature is called Frankenstein. Ugh. I could go on and on, but I will sum it up with this quote from Tumblr: knowledge is knowing that Frankenstein is not the monster. Wisdom is knowing that Frankenstein is the monster.
  • I have so much to say about Frankenstein, but that’s a deep dive I’m doing in October so I’ll stop with the ranting now. Back to the great book. And it is great. Not only is it the first science fiction novel, it is also an examination of science, of society, and of the consequences of abuses of both. It is a classic because the themes of alienation and of science without morality is still so relevant today. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an example of all the best parts of sci-fi, and if you haven’t read it, do so. Then join me in ranting about how the movies got most of it wrong.

  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Author: H. G. Wells
  • When it was published: 1898
  • Plot in 20 words or less: The Martians are coming, it’s definitely a metaphor for something, cough on aliens to save the world
  • Normal For The Times” Factor: While the ideas in the book are almost anti-colonialist, H. G. Wells had some problematic world views. He was anti-Semitic and was a big fan of human eugenics. Specifically, that every race but white people were “inefficient” and would eventually die out and disappear. So that’s not awesome. While those ideas are not expressed in this book, he still had those ideas. Not a good look.
  • Why it’s awesome: This book is the quintessential science fiction novel, as famous as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s narrated by a nameless man living in London, and the whole book details the arrival of Martians, his perilous escape from them, and the world under the Martians and their eventual defeat via germs. I personally found the narrative very tense, despite the old-timey language, and I enjoyed the suspense I was in despite knowing how the whole thing ended. This one, like Frankenstein, doesn’t have a movie adaptation exactly like the book, as it keeps getting updated for the era the movie is in. Unlike Frankenstein, that doesn’t take away from the book. While the book is tense and well-written, the main character is just kind of there. The whole book is used to illustrate why colonialism is really bad to England, which I personally enjoy because it’s hilarious how they didn’t get it, though Wells seemed to not really understand himself the depth of the way England tried to wipe out entire cultures. It was more than just diseases. CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for the uninitiated) recently started broadcasting the Australian adaptation of this story, and I’m looking forward to watching it. he novel isn’t for everyone, but it was a good introduction to scifi for tiny Elka, and is a good example of the genre.

So, that’s that. What are your favourite classic books? Let me know down below. Do you hate any of these books? Again, let me know down below. I welcome all opinions, even if they’re different than mine.

Happy reading,

7 Valentine’s Gifts for COVID 19 (And Bonus Writing Advice)

*Slams hand on the table* Let’s talk writers.

Let’s talk Valentine’s Day.

I was going back and forth on what I was going to for this post. It’s a holiday. I love holidays. I love the day after holidays, when I can buy cheap candy and eat it until I throw up. I love conversation hearts, and there are always lots left over. Everyone says that they taste terrible, but there’s something about literally being able to eat my feelings that I find cathartic.

Last year I apologized to romance writers for a life time of being a salty grouch about romance for 90% of my short existence. And since I wrote that post last year, I went HAM on actually trying to write romance. I’ve written so much romance in 2020 that it’s revolting. Seriously. My sixteen year old self would have been disgusted, because I used to be a hard-core spec-fic writer. I was spooky, and gory. I wrote about robots. And now, Here I am, writing the genre I swore I never would as a teenage writer, and I am damn happy about that.

I have a new perspective on romance, I should say, and that’s coloured my perception of other romantic activities, such as Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a dumb holiday. But, I do like presents, and there’s just something nice about people trying to be kind to each other and trying to express love. But one thing I always struggle with what to tell my husband I want, because I want the gift to come from the heart. And I struggle with it the rest of the time too. It’s hard in these trying, virus-filled times to figure out a good, safe gift to give on a holiday that usually warrants people going out in droves to restaurants, movies, and bars. What do you even do?

Well I, Elka Emrys Elizabeth Scott, am going to help you out with gift ideas. And, for all my writers out there, I’m going to share some things I’ve learned writing romance over this past year. We’re going to do double-duty, because I’m bisexual and doing one thing only makes me itch all over. We’re going to look at seven great COVID appropriate valentine’s day gifts while we talk about romance writing. Why seven, and not the five format I’ve been doing? Well, because the top five is for listicles now. And I’m giving you extra, because I love you.

I’m going to warn y’all. I’m usually very wholesome….okay, I’m not the most wholesome in the topics I cover, but I like to think that most of the time I come across as I am; someone who is generally a pretty wholesome person, not too edgy, doing the American version of PG-13; discussion of horrible graphic violence, and very little sex or naughty words. A lot of the romance I write is for fanfic. While not all fanfic is…spicy, a lot of it is. Most of what I write is, and that is most of the romance writing I’ve been doing, in addition to the pet project that won’t stop mutating. So I will have to begrudgingly talk about sex. Now, you can have romance without sex. That’s why there’s a difference between asexual and aromantic. But that’s not my writing experience, nor is it my experience in life.

Also, I’d like to mention that I’m not being sponsored by anything I mention. If anyone ever wants to partner with me, I will absolutely sell out. This critter needs to eat.

I can hear you already. “But Elka”, you cry, “gift cards are impersonal! It’s like they didn’t even try.” Gift cards can easily be impersonal, and the easy out when you forgot to get a gift until literally the day before, but they don’t have to be. If you pick the right gift card, you can show the person you’re giving it to that you know them. Maybe you get them one for a place that they always say they want to go, but that they’ve never been for whatever reason. Maybe you get them one for their favourite store, one that only you would know is their favourite. Maybe you get them a set of them, so they can treat themselves to a nice day of their choosing. Hell, maybe you hand-make the card you give it to them in. It’s just like Doc Brown said; if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything, and sometimes “anything” is making a gift card personal.

In terms of writing, I’ve learned this year that romance should be personal. This could mean that you use your own adventures and misadventures in love and lust as inspiration, thus giving personality and authenticity to your romance stories. I certainly do this myself. However, to me it also means that it should mean something for the readers, that it should connect with them on a personal level. The characters need to be people in order to do this, with their own goals and dreams. You can’t expect to write a personal story without this. Even in fanfiction, where you’re given a character with hope and dreams (usually) to play with, you still have to write them as fully fleshed out people, perhaps expanding on things already present in canon but that haven’t been explored. In short, romance should be personal, because love is personal.

I only just heard of bond bracelets from watching videos mentioning them, and I think they’re such a cute idea. It seems like they started to gain more attention in COVID, when couples, friends and family members are forced to be apart. My husband and I were long distance for many years, and if we were living apart during COVID, I would have shelled out for these. While I think they’re a little overpriced, personally, I think they’re a brilliant idea.

Romance writing is also all about bonds. It’s about developing a bond between characters. This is what the whole “enemies to lovers” trope is based on; developing a bond of hate into love. Fanfiction writers are often mocked for developing bonds in their fics between two characters that barely interact within canon. While it is sometimes a surprise to see the tag for the relationship, it is also a demonstration of how, if you develop a bond in your writing, you can make even the most unlikely couple work. Beyond the initial meeting, the characters should have something in common that they can bond over, and then you can develop it from there.

If you’re lucky enough to live with your partner, you’re probably looking for something fun to do indoors. Well, how about making crafts? There are all sorts of crafting kits available at the store, covering a broad range of skill levels and materials. Even if you’re not crafty, sometimes doing it completely wrong can be just as much fun! Think of it like paint night, but for when you’re not allowed to leave your house for very long. You could even look up a craft on YouTube or a DIY site, gather the materials, and make your very own craft kit to complete together. Even if you’re copying someone else’s ideas, who cares? The possibilities are truly endless!

Romance has a bad rap as a tropey genre. I’m not going to say it isn’t, or that it is, just that this is how it’s perceived. However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I don’t think tropes and cliches are necessarily a mark of bad writing. I think the best writers play with the tropes and cliches, or write a tired storyline in a new and fresh way. They’re shorthand to readers to tell them what to expect, or not to expect, in a work. When too many are used it can be a sign of an inexperienced writer, but one shouldn’t be so harsh on these newbies. They’ll figure out their own style soon enough. So, to recap, even if you’re using a “craft kit”, if you will, of tropes, that doesn’t mean your writing will be bad. And, of course, until writers of colour and 2SPLGBTQIAA+ writers get to use them, tropes aren’t allowed to become cliche.

This gift will look different for everyone who receives it, but self-care has become even more appropriate in these trying times. Giving someone you love items that they can use to take care of themselves shows that you care about their continued existence. Some ideas include toilet paper (the currency of our times), hand sanitizer, lotion, bubble bath…like some of the other gifts on this list, the possibilities are truly endless.

When writing romance, making your readers care about your characters is essential. You can use your knowledge of your target demographic to give your characters traits you know they like. You can also give them vulnerabilities. Not just “my wife died and I’m sad” vulnerabilities. Though grief is powerful, there are other ways to make readers care about your characters than that. They could be traumatized from a hard past. They could have a phobia. They could have a chip on their shoulder about protecting the underdog that makes them act irrationally. They could be really shy and have trouble with talking to people. You could make the character funny, and likeable, and down to earth. Again, there is no limit on what you can do to make your readers care, but you have to make that happen.

This one is pretty obvious, but I don’t know anyone (without underlying health conditions) who doesn’t like chocolate and candy. It’s not like there’s any shortage of variety, either. There are so many different kinds of candy, and so many different kinds of chocolate (have you seen ruby chocolate? What will these mad geniuses think of next?) that you can likely find something your gift recipient will like.

This one is also pretty obvious, but a bit newer than chocolate being flavours beyond…chocolate. There are so many different kinds of romance. I know I used to think there was only one, the sappy Fabio-covered ones my Mom used to read, but now I have seen the light. Any way to couple, and there’s a romance for it. It’s great! I love to see that romance is starting to reflect reality a little more and show all the beauty love has to offer.

And whatever Chuck Tingle is writing.

Roses are pretty, yeah, but they last for a few days and then they wilt. Dead flowers are still romantic to me, but that’s because I’m a little gothic nerd, but I don’t think most people will be so moved. But flowers are an enduring symbol of the holiday for a reason. I don’t know what reason, but it is a reason. I’d rather receive something like a succulent, or a plant you can keep for more than a few days before it starts to wilt. I think this is more romantic. Sure, it takes a little bit of work, but you get to enjoy the benefits of having a plant around, and that’s a better symbol of love to me.

Everyone likes the story of couples getting together, but I also like stories that show the couple actually being together and enjoying the cute sereneness of domestic life. Maybe I’m biased (there’s no maybe about it) because I’ve been in a long term relationship for eleven years, but I think it’s nice to see a couple making it work. Because it does take work, in real life and in fiction. If you want to show love between two characters, just know that things won’t always be sunshine and rainbows. I know conflict is part of any story, but what I’m saying is that, beyond this conflict, that day to day life as a couple takes work. But that work is really, really fun to write, and there’s no reason not to give it a try.

The final gift is the vaguest gift of all: making something yourself. This takes arguably the most effort, but it’s also rewarding and cost effective. You can make your darling dinner. You could make them a beautiful hand-made card. You could make them a piece of art, or fix their car, or clean. The best parts of these gifts, and why they’re so appropriate for Valentine’s Day, is that they are from the heart, and made for that person and no one else. It shows so much care and attention that only the vainest, most selfish people would have a problem with it. It’s not money that counts with gifts, as you’ve probably gathered from this post. It’s the heart, it’s the love.

In writing romance, my last piece of advice is equally vague: in the end, you have to make it work for you. You have to write what you feel comfortable writing, or else you’re going to have a bad time with it. You have to write what you want to write, even if it’s outside of your usual comfort zone, or else you’re going to be bored (and so are your readers). You can make it spicy, you can make it mild, you can have as many people involved as you want. There are so many readers out there looking for this stuff that you’ll reach somebody. Romance is a genre that I feel is looked down on, whether it be romance novels or fanfiction. But at the end of the day, if it works for you, keep writing it. It’s still writing, no matter what people say.

And if you love writing, it makes it all worth it.

And with that, I bid you adieu, to enjoy a weekend of love, chilling at home, or making fun of cheesy movies. I mean it when I say that I love you all, and I look forward to seeing you here again.

What’s your opinion on romance? Did I use too many GIFS (just know that I’m not sorry)? Let me know in the comments!

Lovingly yours,

Quickie: Month-End Roundup, January 2021

The first month of 2021 has come and come, folkx, and it was not the glorious revolution I expected it to be. It came with a bang and ended with a whimper, as I sit on my couch with a stubborn stomach virus. I, unsurprisingly, did not begin the year by shedding off my unhealthiness and donning a new cloak of kale and positivity. I began this year by stressing over school, getting my anti-depressants increased, and ordering way too much delivery. Onwards and upwards, my friends. 2021 is still young, there’s still time to improve ourselves. And by ourselves, I mean me.

This is going to be a very short round-up. It’s going to be a lightning round round-up. It’s been a busy month with starting school, and I don’t want to go into too much detail about my schoolwork because I don’t want to bore you too much, but it also results in my month summary being short and sweet.

Watched:

  • Murder, She Wrote (nostalgic and sweet, a fun distraction from papers)
  • Law and Order SVU (and that ended quickly)
  • Started re-watching Hunter x Hunter (Again. But in my defence, I wanted to see the Chimaera Ant Arc again because it’s the arc I’ve rewatched the least)
  • There are now three separate Joey the Otter streams. I watch all of them daily.

Read:

  • Our Gods Wear Spandex (for school; not sure what I think yet but it’s on my test so I have to read it)
  • Still working on Left Hand of Darkness. Slowly but surely.

Wrote:

  • Still plugging away on everything I was working on last time.
  • I did change up my writing schedule. I’m still doing four projects, because I hate myself, but I only work on two a day and switch off. It’s good. I feel better about everything.
  • I also scheduled my other hobbies into the week, because that’s the level of neurotic I’m working with, but it also feels good to have time set aside for things other than writing and school

Looking Ahead:

  • Schedule:
    • February 12th, 2021: 7 Gifts for Valentine’s Day: Writing Advice
    • February 15th, 2021: My Favourite Classic Books
    • February 19th, 2021: Over-rated Classic Books
    • February 26th, 2021: On Gate-Keeping
  • Personal:
    • Hope I hear back from school about being accepted
    • Start an exercise routine
    • Finish Left Hand of Darkness
    • Stay alive
  • Projects:
    • Keep on trucking

See you next month,

Chained to Hell: A Trauma Centric Analysis of Kurapika (The Deep Dive)

CONTENT WARNING: FRANK DISCUSSIONS OF GENOCIDE, TORTURE, SEXUAL ASSAULT AND POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER.

AND HUNTER X HUNTER SPOILERS.

aND THIRTSY-ASS GIFS.

Is justice ever the same thing as revenge? Is revenge ever righteous? When does righteous revenge become sadistic, pointless violence? Is there ever a good reason to torture or murder?

Most of us consider revenge at some point in our lives. Sometimes it’s because someone cut you off in traffic and you consider some vehicular vengeance. Sometimes it’s because someone hurt you, deeply, in a way that makes you feel violent, angry, every fibre of your being calling out for payback. The drive for revenge is a universal human trait, and as such popular media loves to depict a good old-fashioned revenge story. Much has been written in North America about our cultural stories of revenge. I have lots to say about Western media, but today, I want to talk about anime.

Anime frequently covers the topic of revenge. It’s so commonplace that I can think of at least three revenge story animes off the top of my head. When most people think of an anime about revenge and justice, they think of Death Note. And Death Note is a good show, but it’s been written about extensively. No, I want to focus on a surprising example today. One show that deals with these themes as a plot point is Hunter x Hunter. Yes, Hunter x Hunter, the shonen anime full of adventure, whimsy and….attractive violent killers.


I can’t describe the synopsis very well, so IMDB is going to help me: “(t)he story begins with a young boy named Gon Freecss, who one day discovers that the father whom he thought was dead, is in fact alive and well. He learns that his father, Ging, is a legendary “Hunter”, an individual who has proven themselves an elite member of humanity. Despite the fact that Ging left his son with his relatives in order to pursue his own dreams, Gon becomes determined to follow in his father’s footsteps, pass the rigorous “Hunter Examination”, and eventually find his father to become a Hunter in his own right and wishing to see his father one day”.

I can’t say enough good things about this show, but one of the best parts of the show are it’s characters. When I first started watching it, I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I fell in love with the characters, and it was all downhill from there. Kurapika is a fan favourite, and he is one of my favourites. This is Kurapika.

Of course, picking a favourite character in Hunter x Hunter is like picking a favourite child, but Kurapika is definitely getting extra dessert if you know what I mean. Kurapika is a member of a race/ethnic group called the Kurta Clan. The Kurta Clan have eyes that turn a beautiful scarlet colour when they feel overwhelming emotions. Due to these eyes, they isolated themselves from the rest of the world. Their eyes were thought to be evil or satanic, and because they were rare and a sought after collectible, sold on the black market for millions.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

The Phantom Troupe, a brutal gang of criminals, decided they wanted that sweet, sweet blood money, so they descended on the Kurta. To force the full-blooded clan members to manifest their scarlet eyes, their spouses from outside the clan and the children their union produced were tortured and murdered in front of their terrified and angry family. The full-blooded Kurta were decapitated and their eyes were stolen. Everyone else was brutally beaten to death, their “usefulness” complete. Kurapika survived by virtue of not being there when the massacre happened, as he was seeking a doctor for his best friend, Pairo. Kurapika was left the last Kurta, forced to bury the decapitated, eyeless bodies of his friends and family. He has made it his life’s mission to regain the eyes of his people, and to get brutal, bloody revenge on the Phantom Troupe.

Fans believe that the body he’s holding is his mother.

I’ve written about revenge in anime before. This isn’t about writing it. This is about what it means to carry that kind of hatred in your heart.

See, I’ve seen a few video essays and articles on the character, and none of them, while well-written, seemed to understand the character from a trauma perspective. I don’t want to assume, but it seems like none of them have survived trauma. I’m happy for them. It’s not a good thing to have to survive. However, it doesn’t allow you to look at the whole story of the character. I am a trauma survivor. When these video essayists talked about how destructive his quest was, and how he was only hurting himself in the long run, and I found myself getting heated. I was sitting there, thinking that Kurapika was going to hurt and be in pain no matter what. What’s so wrong with making those people feel what his people felt, what he feels? What’s wrong with revenge? They hurt him, he hurt me, what’s wrong with hurting them back, it’s not wrong, they deserve it, they deserve it all, how dare you say that it’s wrong to take revenge when you haven’t…

Ahem.

As you can see, I had some extreme emotional reactions. And because I didn’t want to talk to my therapist about anime, I decided that I should write about it. And force you all to endure it. You’re welcome.

I’m going to be talking (even more) about trauma. I’m going to interpret Kurapika through three lenses: the literary, non-traumatized perspective, the trauma-centred perspective, and the trauma survivor perspective. I won’t hold back. We are going to talk about some hard shit for this deep dive. You’ve been warned. If you want to stick around, prepare to get wet.

…I need to work on my taglines.

I have included my sources in links built into the text. I will have my YouTube sources at the end in the “PS” section, but I did not want to do a whole-ass bibliography, and it is easier to just look at the topics you’re interested in. Just so you are aware of why a bunch of words are different than the others.

If you’re ready, please join me. I’m looking forward to learning with you. Welcome to the Deep Dive. Let’s jump in.

Is that tagline better? I can’t tell.

Kurapika’s motives, to the literary, non-traumatized perspective, are some combination of revenge and justice. It is worth noting the very real presence of justice in his reasoning, one the audience shares. He is effectively righting a wrong that the justice system is in no position to address. The Troupe use nen, which is the power system in Hunter x Hunter. Nen is an exclusive power that only a few know. Despite the presence of this power system, only Hunters are equipped to deal with nen users. As such, the Phantom Troupe are much more than the ordinary justice system can handle. Kurapika becomes a Hunter so he can have the power to defeat the Phantom Troupe, and the privilege granted to Hunters to get away with it.

In this way, Kurapika is almost a Byronic hero. For the uninitiated, a Byronic hero is a literary archetype created by the writer Lord Byron. To quote study.com, ” Byronic heroes are marked not only by their outright rejection of traditional heroic virtues and values but also their remarkable intelligence and cunning, strong feelings of affection and hatred, impulsiveness, strong sensual desires, moodiness, cynicism, dark humor, and morbid sensibilities”.

These traits all exemplify Kurapika. He is extremely smart and is able to translate his intelligence into quick critical thinking and expert strategizing. He is determined beyond all else, he HATES the Phantom Troupe (even loathing anything bearing their symbol the spider) and he is passionate about defending those he sees as treated unfairly. He also is passionate about gaining justice for his clan. He is a very blunt, cynical person. However, the Byronic hero is usually troubled by something dark they did in their past. Kurapika is not haunted by something he did, at least not at the beginning. He is haunted by something done to him. As the story progresses, Kurapika gets closer and closer to a purely Byronic hero, as he commits more and more questionable actions in pursuit of the scarlet eyes. However, Kurapika also has the soft side of the Byronic hero, seen only by his closest friends, and time will tell if this will save his soul.

While many fans don’t name the Byronic hero trope when discussing this character, it’s clear that they see him this way. To many fans, Kurapika’s motives for seeking revenge comes from compassion. He is compassionate for what his clan has suffered, and even at his darkest he clearly sees how valuable the friends his friends are. Most fans just want him to spend more time with his friends so he can feel better because he does not appear to be gaining anything from his quest except eyeballs and misery. That is the tragedy of the Byronic hero; they do not see that there is any other way but revenge. Despite his compassion, he is willing to entertain the possibility of fighting or screwing over his friends if they stand in the way of his quest.

However, at the same time, it is also speculated that he pushes his friends away because he doesn’t want them to see the brutal violence he commits. He is also going after powerful criminals, and likely wants to keep them safe. As we see in the manga and anime, the Phantom Troupe has no problem kidnapping his friends to draw him out. I feel these impulses are fair, all things considered. While I’ve heard it argued that this drive is self-centered, I don’t believe it is. Kurapika cares for others so much that he feels so much rage when he sees others hurt, but that hurts him as well. He takes it very personally when others are hurt, and that isn’t always a good character trait. While it leads him to do some good things, like standing up for Killua at the Hunter exams, it has also led him to seek justice for 127 murdered people at the cost of his own soul.

His longing for vengeance cannot remain buried, not for long, and that is the tragedy of the character. Byronic heroes have endured because they are engaging to their readers. At our core, most of us just want others to succeed and be happy. If an author does their job well enough, this extends to fictional characters too. Fans love Kurapika and want him to be at peace. Because of his character, his tragic flaws, he never will be. Even if he retrieves the eyes, he’s lost enough that he can never truly return to the person he used to be. Togarashi expertly illustrates that with this quote:
“I lost something every time I got back a part of my brethren. But this will soon end… This… This is the last monster with the last of the eyes…! Among them… Pairo… My journey may finally begin. But… where would I go…? There is no home for me to return to… and nobody to welcome me back. I have nothing left.”

While the fans know he’ll always have a home with his friends, the tragedy is that Kurapika doesn’t know that. From a purely literary perspective, Kurapika is a Byronic hero. Hunter x Hunter is coming to it’s conclusion. Will Kurapika will succumb to the trope of the Byronic heroes of the western canon and die a horrible, painful death? Or, perhaps, will he complete his quest and return home, subverting the archetype? Only time will tell, and I am looking forward to seeing how it all ends.

The trauma centric perspective I’m using comes from trauma-informed care. This is a way of practicing human services. Trauma-informed care can be practised by anyone or used by anyone. It’s a way of relating to people, not an academic discipline. It’s essentially assuming that everyone you work with has had trauma in the past, and considers the complex social, biological and psychological realites of that person’s existence. It is also acknowledging that your client needs safety, connection, ways to manage emotions, and control over their own lives. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve experienced trauma too. Maybe, if it wasn’t you, you know someone who went through something really awful. It’s more common than you’d think. In Canada, our statistics show that 76% of people will experience a traumatic event in their lives. I doubt that would be any different for the United States of America, nor anywhere else in the world. Injustice exists everywhere, after all. I’m going to explain what trauma means briefly. Though it is a universal experience (unfortunately) it is often misunderstood.

Trauma has two distinct forms: interpersonal (something a person does to another person), and impersonal (something that just happens, like a natural disaster or a fire). Lots of people experience trauma, but not everyone will develop PTSD or mental health problems. This does not mean that the people who do develop PTSD are weak. It just means that something in their brain made them more vulnerable. If you think people who develop PTSD are weak, you can kindly leave, because I don’t entertain that bullshit here.

Trauma comes in many flavours, if you will. There are many, many different ways to be traumatized, and as such there are many different types of trauma. These types of trauma include:

  • Acute trauma
    • One time traumatic event, from which recovery is likely, such as a car accident or natural disaster
  • Chronic trauma
    • Basically, a really shitty life full of lots of traumatic events, can have a cumulative effect
  • Complex trauma
    • (1) repetitive, prolonged, or cumulative (2 ) most often interpersonal, involving direct harm, exploitation, and maltreatment including neglect/abandonment/antipathy by primary caregivers or other ostensibly responsible adults, and (3) often occur at developmentally vulnerable times in the victim’s life, especially in early childhood or adolescence, but can also occur later in life and in conditions of vulnerability associated with disability/ disempowerment/dependency/age /infirmity, and so on.
  • Historical, Collective or Intergenerational Trauma
    • Psychological or emotional difficulties which can affect different communities, cultural groups and generations. Adaptive coping patterns can be passed intergenerationally. Examples might include war, genocide, racism, slavery
  • Crossover trauma
    • A crossover of interpersonal trauma and impersonal trauma caused by accidents or disasters with a human cause (ie, the gulf oil spill)
  • Vicarious or secondary trauma
    • Trauma symptoms experienced by someone who is caring for or listening to the stories of trauma from a trauma survivor

Now, back to our dear Kurta friend. Kurapika’s trauma is complex. Without a doubt. He is a fictional character, and his trauma is so big and loud for story purposes that it’s hard to quantify in real world terms. But, there are people in this world who have endured torture, murder and genocide before. Complex trauma is a needed label for when traumatic events are so horrible that there is no other way to describe or treat it. As you can imagine, complex trauma is also very complex to treat.

Kurapika also has survivor’s guilt. Survivor’s guilt used to be a separate condition, but is now considered a sub-type of PTSD. This occurs when, obviously enough, someone survives something that kills many others. Some real-world examples are car accident survivors, holocaust survivors, and natural disaster survivors. This type of PTSD has it’s own distinct symptoms of guilt, as we see exemplified over and over in Kurapika. People with survivor’s guilt can often experience other symptoms of PTSD, including:

  • flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • obsessive thoughts about the event
  • irritability and anger
  • feelings of helplessness and disconnection
  • fear and confusion
  • lack of motivation
  • problems sleeping
  • headaches
  • nausea or stomachache
  • social isolation
  • thoughts of suicide
    • As with PTSD, survivor’s guilt may cause a person to see the world as an unfair and unsafe place.

An important thing to note about trauma is that the way people act after the trauma is often a way to help them cope. Trauma, as one of my therapists explained it to me, is a normal way to cope with an abnormal situation. Kurapika is 17 at the start of the manga/anime, and the Kurta Clan massacre took place six years prior. That means that Kurapika was only eleven at the time of the massacre, just entering adolescence. What he experienced would be different for an adult to handle, and he was only a child. It is clear that Kurapika saw this brutality for himself, and that his rage comes from the raw truth of knowing what happened.

If one looks at Kurapika’s behaviour, it’s clear that he is desperately looking for control and stability after losing his clan. He is hyper-aware of everyone and everything around him. He reads books to gain knowledge and trains his body to be able to control every situation he finds himself in. He develops a nen ability in a way that specifically requires his utmost control; his chains. He directly channels his power through him, rather than using another technique that doesn’t require the user to be present. The chains not only capture and confine and bind, but they also impart dominance. They are control. Interestingly, Kurapika has a chain wrapped around his own heart. This is a symbol of his resolve, and it shows that not only is he trying to control the world around him, he also seeks complete control of himself. I speak from years of human service experience when I say that this is such a common, normal behaviour for someone who has gone through hell. But what of stability? In a way, the burning rage in his heart is stability for him, as it has been a constant in his life. Sometimes people in trauma have trouble letting go of those emotions because they have lived with them for so long that they don’t know what they’d do without them.

Let’s get more into Kurapika’s behaviours. Reading is very clearly a coping strategy. It is easier for him to read and gather knowledge than to interact with people because books never change. Reading is also an escape from a world with many variables, and the ending of a book is the same every time. It’s stable in that way. Kurapika also has a bit of a temper and closes himself off to people he doesn’t know. He even does this to his eventual friends when he first meets them. He isolates himself, even when others try to reach out. This is also an expression of his coping. One, it is a safety concern. He does not like being around others and seeks to protect himself from the emotions they make him feel. He lost his entire family and his friends, and he likely does not want to make more connections, because he could easily lose them again. We see this take place right after the Chimaera Ant Arc. Gon is badly injured, and Kurapika ignores calls from his friends telling him to come to see him in the hospital. I don’t believe, like some fans, that this was out of malice. I think that Kurapika cannot handle loss. The loss he has already suffered overwhelmed his ability to cope, and I think he didn’t want to see another friend in such a state. Kurapika’s resolve to gain the eyes also makes more sense when looking at it from a trauma centric way. He was a child when he first had to deal with this, and a child’s logic might be that if I can get the eyes back, then I won’t feel bad anymore. This is just speculation, of course, but children believe many illogical things. They think if they can just do a thing, then everything will be better. But as an adult, that is not how it is. I think Kurapika knows this, but he doesn’t want to accept it.

It is clear that he needs someone to approach him with compassion. Luckily for Kurapika, he has friends who approach him with care and love. He says himself that he is lucky to have friends to help carry the burden of his quest. His friends have their own trauma too. Leorio lost his best friend to a horrible, painful disease. He relates to Kurapika on that level. Killua also relates to the pain of carrying violence in your heart from his upbringing (though he’ll never admit that it’s actually trauma). While Gon doesn’t have trauma when he meets Kurapika, he still treats him with lots of love and compassion. The therapist-in-training in me likes to think that Kurapika will be able to one day use his friends as the supports that they clearly want to be for him. However, part of trauma-informed care is giving your client control, even if they’re doing something unhealthy. Any of Kurapika’s friends trying to stop him would be hurtful rather than helpful. He needs to decide his own fate, or he won’t be able to change.

The trauma-centric perspective also looks at strengths. Everyone has them. Everyone has something good in them. Even people doing things that anyone watching would consider unhealthy have lots of strengths. They often chose to do unhealthy things because they don’t realize that they have strengths. Let’s look at some of Kurapika’s strengths. He is smart and loyal. He is dedicated and assertive. Even his compassion, though sometimes destructive, is a strength. When he believes the Phantom Troupe to be dead he is no longer angry, and full of rage. He regrets not killing them himself, of course, but he is happy. He feels like he can control where his life goes now after talking to his friends. He is warm and kind and joins Gon and Killua in messing around in the park. Trauma doesn’t have to make you a different person. The person you were always meant to be is still in there, it just takes a little care to get it out. The trauma-informed part of me wants to believe that Kurapika can use his strength to get through his trauma, for his own sake.

Kurapika says something really interesting in episode 45 of the 1999 anime. His teacher tries to talk him out of his path of revenge. Kurapika’s response is to walk away and think this to himself: “he doesn’t understand, how could he, that’s why I need to do this alone”.

If that ain’t PTSD life I don’t know what is.

I have a different perspective on Kurapika than a lot of other analysts, having survived trauma myself. Full disclosure: it is not the same trauma as Kurapika. I am not the last survivor of anything. However…I’m still traumatized. I have experienced interpersonal trauma, one that happened to me as an adolescent, and one that overwhelmed my abilities to cope.

It was sexual assault combined with domestic violence. I feel that’s important context. I have written about it before, but I’m writing about it again. That’s why I triggered warned you.

The thing is, I understand the sentiment Kurapika expresses so well. Too well. I understand the emptiness. The darkness. The all-consuming desire to make the people who hurt you pay. It feels like no one would ever understand, and it feels like it’s easier to make a go at it alone. It isn’t. The trauma lies to you. But, when the part of your brain that fuels your PTSD is the only thing that kept you safe, it’s hard to disagree with it. You think maybe I am alone. Maybe I am empty. Maybe no one will ever understand. Something valuable was taken from you, something no one else could never fathom. Who are they to tell you that you don’t deserve to give your tormentors a taste of their own medicine? The line between vengeance and justice blurs after trauma. Your tormentor committed a crime, after all. Society operates with the idea that if you commit a crime you are punished. In a lot of cases, the justice system isn’t enough to take down a criminal who beats their spouse or rapes their partner. So why shouldn’t you do it? Why shouldn’t you make them pay for what they’ve done? It would be doing society a favour, wouldn’t it? They deserve it! They deserve to die!

But maybe you don’t get to decide that.

Maybe no one should.

Back to Kurapika. This blurred line makes him more dangerous, in my opinion. Radicals who believe in a cause can draw strength from that cause, rather than relying on their own personal anger. They can keep going when others would have given up. They have righteousness on their side, in their mind. How could their actions be wrong, if they themselves are fighting injustice? How could revenge not be justice?

Kurapika seeks to chain the Phantom Troupe to hell. That is his goal. But the man who teaches him his chain technique points out that his quest for revenge (or justice) and his desire to find and kill the troupe has chained Kurapika as well. He says it will consume him. Other analysts agree. However, that operates on the assumption that it hasn’t already done so. It is clear from the start that Kurapika is motivated by his rage and his rage alone, from the first speaking lines he has on the show to his nen training. There is still light in him, yes, but he’s no longer the child he was when he left his clan. He’s already consumed by his hate and emptiness. Using his nen to stop the troupe is doing something about it.

And I think that’s powerful.

Kurapika doesn’t enjoy killing. Even when he kills a member of the troupe, he feels disgusted at himself. After a long battle, he gives his victim a way out that they don’t take, and his hand is forced. After he’s done, Kurapika gives this horrible monster a burial, a dignity they didn’t offer his clan. He doesn’t want to do it again, but he knows he will have to and he hates it. He is motivated not to make himself feel better, but for true justice. I don’t think that can be argued.

Trauma survivors already feel empty, and angry. Even ten odd years later, almost fifteen now, I have a hole inside me. On my worst days, I lose hope that it will ever close, and I’ll have to live the rest of my life with a festering wound. Some days I feel like the only thing inside me is rage, and hurt, and sadness. That’s just my life now. That’s a lot of people’s lives now. You might as well do something with it. Make them suffer. Make them pay for what they’ve done to you. The law has left you behind. Forget it. Make your own.

However, as a trauma survivor, I know that isn’t healthy. Kurapika is aware that he is going to wear himself out and hurt himself. He knows that he could die in his quest for vengeance. He doesn’t care. That’s how trauma leaves you. As a lesser example, I have trouble making healthy decisions because I have trouble caring about my own life. I know I can’t support my choices for long. I know they’re hurting me long-term. But I don’t care. I keep going out of spite, but some days whether I live or die is of no consequence to me.

I also understand why Kurapika pushes people away. When something bad has happened to you, you feel like a bad person. Kurapika has survivor’s guilt. He is angry at himself for still being alive, and he feels like “a beast in human clothing”. When you’re a rape survivor, you’re often blamed for what happened, adding insult to injury. You’re told you caused this, or you brought this on yourself by being a slut. A whore. The rape was bad enough. Everything that came after was almost as bad. After a while, you feel like you are a black hole, a beast in human clothing. You push your loved ones away, even when you need them, because to you that is compassion. Compassion is keeping them from being swallowed up by you. You’re hurting yourself, and you don’t have faith in yourself that you won’t hurt others. I understand this. But it’s not compassion, not for them and not for you.

I don’t think Kurapika is beyond saving. I also don’t think that getting the eyes back is a bad thing, either. It would be a symbol to other criminals that they cannot commit these acts, that someone will hold you accountable. If the justice system won’t, the survivors will. That is what I try to do. I try to make art to speak my truth. Even though I don’t name names or anything like that, I want other people to know that they can’t get away with rape. They can’t get away with abuse. They will be called out for their behaviour. I will have revenge. I will have justice.
So will Kurapika. The fact that he doesn’t enjoy killing, like other characters (coughPunishercough) with similar backstories tells me that this is closer to justice than anything else. Is this continuing the cycle of violence? Maybe, yeah. But maybe this violence will end further violence. Nothing is black and white, rarely in fiction and certainly not in real life. Kurapika also doesn’t see that he has something to go back to. He has what all of us want; loving friends who accept you no matter what you do. Many people who are traumatized don’t feel like they have something to go back to, but the reality is that they do. If you’re like me and you’re reading this, you do too. Kurapika is still in there. There is still light in there. The troupe couldn’t snuff it out. Killing couldn’t snuff it out. If he was a real person, I would say that I think he’s going to be okay.

There’s light in you too. No one can take that from you.

CONCLUSION

Kurapika’s story hasn’t ended. It’s shaping up to be a tragedy, but I like to think it won’t be. Yoshihiro Togashi likes to subvert tropes in his work, so I hope he chooses to subvert the Byronic hero he’s written Kurapika to be. I like to think Kurapika will see one day what he’s missing out on. I do. Even though I wish I could do what Kurapika does, and chain my abuser to hell and watch him burn, I know that wouldn’t change what happened. I don’t have eyes to obtain, I don’t have a symbol of my identity to get back. All I have is a black hole where my heart should be, and I’m not letting it swallow more light.

We’ve talked about a lot of dark stuff today. My hope is that you understand trauma a little bit better now. I also hope you understand Kurapika a little better too. I hope that you learn more about trauma-informed care. It’s not just for people working in human services. I think that it’s worth looking into as a literary or media critic. Much like in real life, many characters have trauma. If you want to understand stories more, it’s not a bad idea to be acquainted with it. It has some real-world applications too. You never know what someone else is going through. It’s easy to take this framework and apply it to a fictional character because we know what he’s going through. It’s in the narrative. It’s spelled out. But real life is complicated. People cope in ways that don’t make any sense. People cope in ways that hurt themselves. Maybe you’ll be able to see it with fresh eyes now.

If you’ve suffered from trauma, you’re not alone. You have companions in fictional characters, and in me. You probably have some in real life too, but the trauma is lying to you and telling you that you don’t. You are allowed to be angry. You’re allowed to hurt. But I would recommend not seeking revenge directly. If you’re not careful, you’ll be the one chained to hell.

Yours in suffering,

PS:

These are the videos that inspired my literary section:

Top Five Anime Villains

Hello friendos and dears!

Everyone loves a villain. Some people hate to admit it, but it’s true. We love to see people do the messed-up things we consider doing on a regular basis. We love to see someone wear stylish clothes and give long stupid monologues about their own greatness. Anime is no different. Anime villains are like supervillains if supervillains gave even less of a shit about right or wrong. That’s right, everyone. It’s time for the flipside of the anime protagonist list. Here at the blog, we cover both sides of the coin. This house stans villains. This El-Listicle ™ is an elaborate love-letter to the worst of the worst. Welcome to:

*Here here Be Spoilers*

  • Source: Trigun
    • Synopsis: A space western following the adventures of Vash the Stampede, a man falsely thought of as being a mass murderer, and the enemies who seek to capture him and obtain his massive bounty…as well as stopping the machinations of his evil twin brother, Millions Knives, and his brother’s powerful psychic servant, Legato Bluesummers
  • Trauma-Rama: Childhood sexual abuse, sexual slavery, murder, body modification
  • Childhood in twenty words or less: Space-western town’s personal sex slave before the age of 12, adopted by the evil twin
  • Adulthood in twenty words or less: Emotionless killer bent on destroying human life, especially the good twin, blows shit up with his mind
  • Why they’re deplorable: Legato is cool as hell. He survived a horrible, horrible childhood because Vash the Stampede’s evil twin, Millions Knives, blew up the town he lived in where he was a sex slave. Legato started following him around because he had no one else. Now, he’s a psychic killer, using his mind to ruin everyone’s day. He hates Vash for…reasons. He just hates the guy because the evil twin hates him, and he wants to corrupt him and force Vash to admit that he’s just as bad as everyone else…he’s a turbo pessimist with the powers to back up his drive to be the ultimate Debbie Downer. He’s not the main big bad, but he’s one of the better villains Vash fights during the series.
  • Crowning moment of evil: Killing everyone in a bar with his mind powers because he ran into some slavers. Just a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

  • Source: Devilman (and it’s many, many incarnations)
    • Synopsis: A teenage boy becomes a demon-powered superhero to fight other demons at the behest of his best friend, who is secretly Satan
  • Trauma-Rama: Literally being Satan, dead father (before he remembers that he is literally Satan)
  • Childhood in twenty words or less:
    • (As Satan) Screw you Dad, I’m going to rule in hell
    • (As Ryo) Awkward archeological digs with his distant Dad
  • Adulthood/Adolescence in twenty words or less:
    • (As Satan) You can’t friendzone the devil
    • (As Ryo) In love with his stupid best friend (yes it’s canon, don’t @ me), big guns, and killing demons
  • Why they’re deplorable: Ryo is almost cheating. He isn’t the antagonist until the end of the series, and it’s not a stab in the back like the next entry on this list because he’s so creepy the whole damn show! His hoe/foe-yay with Akira is actually canon, and the yaoi fan-critter in me rejoiced. So, at the start, you think he’s a strange guy who’s discovered the true threat of demons and needs his pure-hearted best friend Akira to become Devilman to help him stop them. And then, he gradually realizes that he is the literal devil and he uses the magic of television to incite fear of demons in the human world…and then take it over, because why rule in hell when you can also take Earth? Checkmate. Honestly, Devilman is so bonkers and batshit that I can’t help but love it, and Ryo.
  • Crowning moment of evil: Aside from literally being Satan? This video. Just…this video
  • Source: Berserk
    • Synopsis: Griffith has a dream, and that dream is to have his own kingdom. He assembles a band of mercenaries known as the Band of the Hawk and fights and wins a war before falling from grace, becoming the literal worse person ever (he’s actually worse than the literal devil, who’s already on this mcfricking list) and then coming back from the dead with miraculous powers like an evil version of Jesus
  • Trauma-Rama: Loss of parents, war, engaging in sex work for war funds
  • Childhood in twenty words or less: Tiny fluffy orphan gets given freaky-deaky necklace and decides to become king of everything
  • Adulthood in twenty words or less: Asshole bird-man with a god complex who did everything wrong
  • Why they’re deplorable: Griffith is…you fall in love with this stupid bird bastard in the beginning of Berserk, and then he goes and betrays Guts and ruins everything for everyone and becomes Femto, member of the Godhand, and then he becomes Griffith again, commander of a monster army, and I want to kick him in the dick until he pees blood. I cannot stress this enough. Even knowing that Griffith turning evil, raping Casca and torturing Guts was coming, I still fell in love with Griffith and I was dreading the Eclipse with every fiber of my being. He makes you empathize with him before he betrays the audience. I can’t imagine reading or watching Berserk when it was first coming out, because that would have devastated fans. I have so much I could say about Griffith, so I should shut up and let you continue reading.
  • Crowning moment of evil: The eclipse. Just…the eclipse.
  • Source: Fate Zero, Fate Stay Night, Fate Grand Order
    • Synopsis: Historical figures (aka heroic spirits) are summoned as “servants” to grand battles between mages to fight to the death to obtain the holy grail, a magical wish-granting device. In the mobile game Fate Grand Order, one mage is tasked with saving the world with the help of a bunch of “servants”.
  • Trauma-Rama: Losing his best and only friend
  • Childhood in twenty words or less: Unsure—not discussed in the shows, not sure if the Child Gilgamesh servant is accurate (this is in the mobile game Fate Grand Order)
  • Adulthood in twenty words or less: I’m the King, bitches, and everyone who disagrees is getting hit in the head with my fanciest shit
  • Why they’re deplorable: Gilgamesh is an amoral demigod summoned as a “heroic spirit” to fight in Holy Grail wars. But he doesn’t want the grail for it’s awesome wish-granting powers. He wants it because it’s shiny and he likes treasure. That’s really it, at first. Then he wants to take over the world, which is also in character, because the world is also shiny. He’s just so self-assured of his own greatness that you both a) love watching his arrogant ass prance all over the screen and b) can’t wait for him to get his comeuppance. He’s such a bastard. The golden, crowning standard that all bastards strive to be.
  • Crowning moment of evil: Ripping the heart out of a child. Yes. That happened.

  • Source: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
    • Synopsis: A family of extremely muscular men with implausible superpowers fight vampires using magic sunlight punches and magic punch ghosts
  • Trauma-Rama: Child abuse, death of parents
  • Childhood in twenty words or less: Smart kid living in the slums with an abusive alcoholic father, sure hope nothing happens to him…
  • Adolescence in twenty words or less (bonus!): I’m going to end this man’s whole childhood by kicking dogs and kissing girls
  • Adulthood in twenty words or less: Turbo-bisexual vampire with an irrational hatred of shirts and other clothes that make sense
  • Why they’re deplorable: I truly saved the best (worst?) for last. DIO (and yes, you can only write it in caps lock) is the most meme-able anime villain of all time. Astute readers might notice that there is in fact a DIO meme starting off this post. He’s so bat-shit evil, and has such a good time doing it, that you just can’t help but watch. He manipulates everyone into hating his foster brother, kills his dog, forcibly kisses his girlfriend, and then acts like a whiny bitch when JoJo whoops his ass. And that’s just the first two episodes! DIO becomes a vampire and then turns his evil up to eleven, killing people, making zombies, kidnapping children…and then tops it off by stealing Jonathan’s body in front of his foster brother’s new wife. On his honeymoon. Despicable. He returns for part three as a vampire cult-leader with an army of trained stand users bent on destroying the Joestar bloodline. And he refuses to wear a shirt. I think he comes back in part six, but I haven’t read it yet so I don’t know what he does in it. He doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself, and revels in how selfish and evil he is. DIO is an incredible adversary, and there’s never a dull moment with DIO around.
  • Crowning moment of evil: All of it. Just…all of it.

Who is your favourite anime villain? What makes a great villain? Do you want to see more anime-related posts? Let me know down below!

With malicious, memeable intent,

Top Five Anime Heroes

Heya, friendos and dears!

We’re doing a bit of a different format today. I love to talk about the media I consume on this blog. A lot. I’m a classic nerd, overthinking everything, and then oversharing it on the internet.

I’m not sorry.

Anyways, I wanted to do some favourites El-Listicles ™ with characters and media I adore. Why? Because I want to share them with you, of course! I need somone else to fall down this pit with me. It’s so terribly lonely, having such great opinions all the time.

I kid, I kid.

Today, I want to talk about my top five favourite anime protagonists! I’ve talked about anime a few times on here, and while I don’t see it discussed within the writing/book blogging/creative circles I tend to run with, I’m not going to be shamed for it or deny that it has really important lessons to teach about storytelling. And really, really good stories. Holy crap. Some anime is shit (most of the stuff my ex-boyfriend/abuser liked…sorry about it) but when it’s good, it’s GOOD. And these protagonists? They make the whole landscape of the medium a varied, fun place to be. So, without further ado (and with the new format), here are my…

*Here There Be Spoilers*

  • Source: Berserk (author’s note: do yourself a favour and just skip the 2016 and 2017 animes. It’s not worth the literal headache)
    • Synposis: A mercenary named Guts fights his way through supernatural and human foes following the murder of his friends and r*pe of his girlfriend by his former best friend in a dark medival fantasy
      • Have you played Dark Souls? Like that, except an anime
  • Trauma-Rama: Parental death, childhood sexual abuse, mass murder, sexual assault of a loved one
  • Childhood in twenty words or less: Small child, cruel world, big sword, and one epic conga line of misery and violence
  • Adulthood in twenty words or less: Large man, cruel world, an even bigger sword, and VENGEANCE and reluctant babysitting
  • Why they’re awesome: So, Guts is a broken, damaged person fighting his way through a medieval fantasy world as broken and damaged as he is. He’s lost everyone and everything he’s ever cared about at the hand of his former best friend, but he refuses to give up. No matter what happens to Guts, whether it be demons drawn to his bad-ass brand, evil God-beings or even his own inner torment, he keeps going. He’s like sword Batman.
  • Crowning moment of awesome: Killing a giant-ass sea monster with his fancy armour of doom
  • Source: Tokyo Ghoul
    • Synopsis: A human college student is brutally attacked by a ghoul, a humanoid species that exclusively eats human flesh. After a mysterious surgeon saves his life he finds himself an anomaly, a half-human half-ghoul, and he quickly draws the attention of the whole ghoul community in, surprise surprise, Tokyo
  • Trauma-Rama: Parental death, child neglect, attempted murder, kidnapping and torture (sexual violence implied), non-consensual body modification
  • Childhood in twenty words or less: His parents died and his life was lonely as hell with only one friend and shitty family
  • Adulthood in twenty words or less: Chosen family, more than one friend, rampant discrimination and freaky ghoul powers
  • Why they’re awesome: I’ve written extensively about Mr. Kaneki, but I’m going to talk about him again. I adore Kaneki. He’s a lot like Guts, in a way, in that no matter what happens to him he doesn’t give up. But damn, does he get close. Kaneki uses his trauma to become a leader, and uses his uniqueness as his strength. There isn’t (in the story) anyone else like him, and he can do things no one else can do. In not being really ghoul or really human, he gets to be utterly himself, and that’s badass.
  • Crowning moment of awesome: Even though it’s pre-ceded by horrible violence, the scene where Kaneki gets free and fights and kills his torturer? Bad. Ass.

  • Source: Trigun
    • Synopsis: A space western revolving around the adventures of Vash the Stampede, known as the humanoid typhoon, and the insurance agents who follow him (yes really) as the massive bounty on his head makes him a target of all sorts of unscrupulous characters
  • Trauma-Rama: Parental death, attempted murder, accidental murder, being a…whatever the hell he is, I don’t even know, a walking talking shrubbery, I guess
  • Childhood in twenty words or less: The good twin…in SPACE
  • Adulthood in twenty words or less: Happy go-lucky goofball hiding from his own emotions and his undeserved reputation, an insurance nightmare
  • Why they’re awesome: Vash is a genuinely sweet and loving person, but he’s often forced to do violence by forces outside his control. Despite not being genetically human, he’s the most human character in the show. He tries his best to stay happy and positive in the face of impossible odds, and for the most part, he does. He doesn’t always win because he’s the best. Sometimes he wins because his enemies don’t know what to do with someone who meets their force with a big, happy smile. Also his coat is cool as hell.
  • Crowning moment of awesome: Vash the Stampede fights a lady with a bionic eye. This fight elevated him from being some lucky moron with a cool gun and showed that he has some intelligence behind that dopey smile
  • Source: Assassination Classroom
    • Synopsis: A mysterious creature blows up the moon (and he’s the good guy) and he tasks a class of underachievers with hearts of gold with assassinating him in a specific time frame before he blows up the rest of the world
  • Trauma-Rama:
    • Child abuse
    • Non-consensual experimentation, loss of friends, unspecified dark past of murder
  • Childhood in twenty words or less:
    • Mommy wanted a girl, I guess you’ll have to do
    • I don’t know fam, something bad that led to a life of professional murder
  • Adulthood in twenty words or less (technically adolescence):
    • The most dangerous kid in the world while looking and acting like a cinnamon roll
    • Smiley octopus man who cannot die and who loves sweets
  • Why they’re awesome:
    • Nagisa is a kid, but he’s also a deadly assassin with a stubborn streak a mile long and a dark side even longer. But, at the same time, he’s also a good leader, a good friend, and really socially intelligent.
    • Meanwhile, Kurosensei is a dangerous being with one purpose in life: helping his students become the best versions of themselves and setting them up to be happy, successful adults. He’s so kind, so generous, and he’s willing to go to the ends of the Earth to protect his kids.
  • Crowning moment of awesome:
    • The viper moment where Nagisa, a small fourteen year old child, takes down a fully grown professional assassin adult
    • Anytime Kurosensei had to fight another tentacle person. I can’t choose. It was all fantastic.

  • Source: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4
    • Synopsis: …look, this would take a while, so I’m going to simplify it thus: a superpowered high school freshman and his superpowered friends have to stop a serial killer wreaking havoc in their quiet Japanese town, and then bizarre things happen
  • Trauma-Rama: Narrowly escaping murder
  • Childhood in twenty words or less: Weird artist boy escapes certain death and becomes a mangaka
  • Adulthood in twenty words or less: Weird artist man scares teenagers and solves a ghost mystery
  • Why they’re awesome: Oh, Rohan Kishibe. This guy is the most pompous asshole in the world. He’s talented, and he knows it. He makes sure everyone else knows it. He carries his sketchbook with him everywhere. He has a stand (the superpowers I mentioned above, think a magic spirit that has specific powers) which allows him to literally read people like a book. He starts the show as an antagonist, but he quickly becomes a protagonist and almost overtakes the story from Josuke, aka, the JoJo having the bizarre adventure. But, he also sticks to his principles. He refuses to do anything but the right thing, even when it’s personally very inconvenient. I also love him because I feel like, if I were an anime character, I would be him. He, in addition to refusing to bend his principles, records everything for future use in his manga. Which is what do, all the time. We’re both willing to do anything and everything because it could be in a story later, and pursue as much realism and honesty in our work as possible. I feel like a lot of writers and artists can relate to this complete beast of a mangaka.
  • Crowning moment of awesome: Refusing to allow Josuke to die to save himself. He doesn’t like Josuke very much, which makes this moment even more heroic.

Who’s your favourite anime protagonist? Let me know down below!

Until next time,

25 Poems Later: A Retrospective

In December, I decided to write 25 new poems in one month.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying this as a brag. I’m using it as a lesson. In the advent of COVID-19, and the shuttering of the windows of many different magazines across genres and pay scale, I realized that I needed to change how I do poetry. I’m not naive enough to think that I can get into poetry for the money. I know very well that making a living off of poetry ranges between difficult to impossible. That’s never been my real concern. What I want is for people to see my writing, or to hear it, to experience my words and have an emotional connection with it. I am a shy person. I want to help people, I want people to feel less alone, but I also want connection. My words are me, and I am them. I want to reach out and touch people and feel just a little bit less alone, and perhaps make someone else feel a little less alone as well.

Wow, that was a little pretentious.

Perhaps I’ll try to publish again, after COVID is over, but I’ve found mostly frustration with trying to get poetry published. This has been a theme in my writing journey, even before the pandemic. Many literary journals don’t seem to have a rhyme or reason to what they publish, send form rejections that tell someone exactly zip about why they’re rejected, and most of the subject matter in my work has trouble getting published. So, why should I try to edit myself to fit these gatekeepers, and their nebulous ideas of what is good and what isn’t? I wanted to take out the middle man. The middle man is full of crap.

I decided, after spending 8 weeks learning about social media with other (incredible) artists, that I wanted to try to write more poems I could perform both online or in person (again, when COVID is over). I wrote a few poems that were short and snappy, and I liked it. I wanted more. So I created more. And more. And more. I had a vision in my head of what these poems would be, and how different they would be from my usual work. They’re shorter, punchier, quicker. They would be easier to memorize, and then I wouldn’t need to look away from my audience as I performed. And then my….physical defects would be much less obvious. Shorter videos would also take less time to create, and I then could focus less on editing and more on interacting with any viewers who were so moved to comment on the piece.

Why 25? I don’t know. It had a good ring to it. It was easy to break down into 500 words per piece. It seemed achievable. I figured if I performed/recorded one a month, I was setting myself up for guaranteed content for two years, that I could build a following and a legacy out of. 25 poems gave me a lot of room to explore different topics, different pain, and different ways of connecting to an audience.

I crave connection, especially during these pandemic paranoid times. So I sat down and wrote 25 poems. Here’s five things I learned about the writing process. I hope you can find inspiration in these words.

On that note, my first understanding is this. One: Find your inspiration. I would listen to other poets. I thought at first that I would feel great envy if I did this, or I’d get down on myself and think that I could never be nearly as good as them. I can say that I never bit off their style, but listening to them made me want to be a better poet. It ignited me, rather than stomped my fire out. I mean, Brandon Lee just won America’s Got Talent as a spoken word artist. The world is ready to experience our art, and I am inspired by the gains and strides of others to make my own.

Of course, it wasn’t all great people with great work. I listened to a few poems from one artist before learning about their….less than stellar past. I will not give lip service to their name, as a) I’m afraid of their fanbase and b) I don’t want people to support his work, even to hate watch it. I don’t know if I’m the one to expose them. If you disagree, let me know down below. But the reality is that sometimes people with great talent can be utterly terrible people. Again, rather than stomp me out, this kindled a great rage in me. It’s hard not to want to be better than someone like that. I also used inspiration from music, or from the shows I was watching, but not to the same extent as I used other poetry. Find your own. Find what moves you. Use it, be inspired by it. Create, create, create.

But, at the same time, sometimes inspiration just won’t come. Here’s what I have learned from attempting to write 25 poems in one month, a time when one would assume I needed to put pen to paper and get it done. Two: don’t force it. When I tried to force it, I managed maybe 50 words before I was sick of my own writing and needed a break. So I took it. There was no point forcing it. If I couldn’t get my word count today, I would try again tomorrow. I would say to myself that I had no inspiration, and there was no point in forcing it. I would go off to do something else. Clean, write fiction, study, rewatch Hunter x Hunter for the fourth time…Then, because I wasn’t trying to think of anything, a poem would come to me. Or part of one. But they were words, and that was what I needed. They weren’t always great, but they were still words, and it was still practice. And that was valuable in it’s own right.

To jump off of the point about practice, this step is crucial. Four: read your work aloud. You’d think this would be obvious for a spoken word poet, but it wasn’t. I hate the sound of my own voice, both when I listen to it in a recording and when I listen to it as my dumb mouth blabbers. So I didn’t really read my work out loud until starting this project. Sometimes, in the before times, I would not read something out loud until an hour before I was to perform, and would be frantically editing out things that sounded great on paper and terrible out loud. Why. Why wouldn’t I do the most obvious thing? Was it self sabotage, was it laziness, or was it just inexperience? Probably all three, really. Did my performances suffer from it? Time will tell, but I am leaning towards yes.

So now, I have read most of these poems out loud twice. All 25. I want to start doing this with my other word, including my fiction. That will take longer, of course, but if the results I’ve seen so far are any indication, it will be well worth it if I can find the time to make it happen.

The fifth thing I’ve learned is arguably the most important. It was what made the whole process truly worthwhile. Five: find joy in your writing. I confess that I hadn’t been writing much poetry before this because I found no joy in it. But then, once I found that joy, once I found a process to produce joy every time, I was hooked. It has carried over to my other projects as well. I struggle to find joy in my fiction writing too (there’s so many more things to keep track of in fiction!) and I was starting to struggle with motivation. No longer. I have found a new sense of joy in my work, one I want to hold onto and ride the waves of for as long as possible.

I know being a writer can be really hard. It’s one of the most difficult hobbies, between the writing, the rejection, the editing, the rejection, the re-writing, the rejection, the world-building, the rejection….and the rejection, of course. The process is hard, long and lonely, and you often don’t see a tangible reward from it. I’m not saying if you haven’t found joy in your writing that you’re a bad writer. What I’m saying is that joy can be it’s own reward.

Where to go from here? Well, if you want to see those 25 poems, follow me on my social media. As for myself, I am going to keep creating, keep challenging myself, and keep growing forward.

Have you ever given yourself a writing challenge? Let me know down below!

Until the ink runs out,

Year-End Roundup: 2020

Well howdy partner! I sure am glad you stopped by. I’m a bit late to the party, but I think I’ve spent just enough time in 2021 to be able to reflect on the year that came before. And boy howdy, was it a year. My posts went from happy happy happy to crappy crappy crappy real, real fast. Half of the things I was looking forward to in 2021 sunk faster than a lead balloon…or like a regular balloon, full of human-lung air and not helium, I suppose.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, because this post is a time capsule whether I like it or not: COVID 19. 2020 saw a global pandemic ravage the world, and a lot of things changed. Lots of magazines were hit hard by it, and opportunities for writers to share their work were lost. Many people lost their jobs. Many people lost their lives. I myself was lucky. I didn’t lose anyone, I didn’t catch the virus, and I didn’t lose my job. I’m an essential worker, in fact, so I was working quite a lot during this year. I had two scares, though, four long weeks where I was forced to stay in my home, wondering if I was sick with this disease or not. Forced to stay in my home and watch the people around me show me just how selfish they really were. My goddamn premier broke the restrictions he enforced on the rest of us, for god sakes, so who could expect the little guys to want to protect each other? But still, I saw a change in the value of creativity. People learned to value their time, value the simple things, and value each other. I want this to be over as soon as possible. Even now, January 2021, we are still dealing with the virus, and I’ve had it up to here. However…in reflecting, things weren’t all bad. That’s really the best I can say about it.

While some things changed for the worse, some, most notably on here, changed for the better. The banners I started the year with? Hideous. Disgusting. At least quarantine gave me the opportunity (and time) to improve my graphic design skillz. I also started making different kinds of content, and good content too, at that. Lots changed. I have TikTok now. That’s pretty cool.

I think.

Anyways, I want to look back at the bests of the year, my own progression as a writer and a creator, and what things are going to look like going forward. You might notice that the site looks different. That’s not the only change, but we’ll get to that soon.

Without further ado…let’s begin.

Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts

  • I haven’t seen Season 2 yet (thanks university) but this is still one of my favourite things I’ve watched this year
  • It has everything I like.
    • Surreal sci-fi universe? Check.
    • Fantastic representation? Check.
    • Fun music? Check.
    • Great action? Check.
    • Lovable characters? Check.
    • Cats? Check, check, check.
  • Seriously. Go watch this show.

Saint Seiya

  • This is glorious anime cheese and I love every minute of it
  • The power system? Nonsensical. Every line of dialogue? Delivered with utter bombastic enthusiasm. The action? 80’s anime awesomeness.
  • It wasn’t deep, but it was a great distraction from everything else that was going on in my life, and for that I hold this show in high regard.

RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 5

  • I love all things Drag Race. All things. I adore it. This show is incredible. It has got me through so many hard times and I make everyone I know watch it.
  • This year brought us All Stars Season 5, which to me was the All Stars season to end all All Stars seasons. Some of my favourite contestants of all time returned, and the season was full of drama and fun challenges. There was redemption. There was fighting. There were old favourites and new friends. It was truly a season of All Stars.
  • I feel bad for the winner, as they would not have had as many opportunities due to COVID that previous seasons would have offered, but I am still happy with the season and I think the top 5 was one of the best yet.

Hunter x Hunter Movies

  • I finished Hunter x Hunter this year. Both versions, the 2011 anime and the 1999 anime. I love them both, though I like the 2011 a little better.
  • I haven’t seen the 1999 OVAs yet, because I’m trying to find dubbed versions and I dislike subs, but I did watch both of the Hunter x Hunter movies based on the 2011 anime, Phantom Rouge and The Last Mission
  • Phantom Rouge is my favourite, because it’s a Kurapika-centric story and I love my angsty red-eyed boy. I also loved the little emotional moments with Gon and Killua as well.
  • I enjoyed seeing a little more of the Kurta as well.
  • The Last Mission is also great. I love the action and the new power set and the score and everything. They’re both really good, but you have to watch the show to know what’s going on.

Imager by L. E. Modesitt

  • Imager is my favourite book I read this year.
  • Not that that’s saying much, because I didn’t read as much as I wanted to this year, but this was still my favourite out of all the books I read
  • My partner recommended it to me, and I’m very glad he did.
  • Read my full review for more!

Our Land was A Forest by Kayano Shigeru

  • I almost didn’t include this one, because I read it for school, but it was so good I couldn’t not include it
  • It’s a memoir from Kayano Shigeru, who is a member of the Ainu nation of Japan (Japan’s Indigenous people) and the first major politician from their people
  • His life is very interesting, as are his thoughts on his people. Many people don’t know about the Ainu, their culture or their struggles, and this book is a good place to start to learn about this awesome group of people

Joey the Otter

Cute otter livestream. ‘Nuff said.

Writing

  • Goddamn Transformers fanfiction. Since the beginning of the goddamn year I’ve been working on this shit.
    • And it’s still going.
    • I am grateful, though. People enjoy the fic. That’s the only reason I’ve been working so hard on it. They comment nice things, they ask for more, and they are patient and kind. It’s nice to have that. I want to finish the fic, not just so I don’t have to do it anymore, but so the audience can see the story they’ve been supporting come to a conclusion.
  • Finished Winter Prince
    • I got the idea for this novel from a dream I had in high school…which should tell you how long I’ve been working on it
    • I just finished the first draft. There is still more work to do. It won’t end until it is published, but I am happy to have something to work on, and a full draft to work with
  • Finished Pet Project…after three tries, and then decided to hard reboot it so it’s back to not being done
    • Started as a fluffy romance, then as a drama, and now it’s a dark academia horror/fantasy
    • That’s just where we’re at right now
    • The world building is done, and then soon I will start work on it, but it’s just kind of funny to see how things have progressed
  • 25 Poems in one month
    • Decided to do this after taking a social media course
    • Stay tuned for more on this process, coming later this month

Personal

  • Went back to school
    • Moving back to undergraduate school from grad school hurt my pride, but now that I’m in the full swing of my academics I’m feeling a bit better
    • I have to wait until February until I find out if I got into the undergrad program I applied for, but for now I’m enjoying the process of school, despite my massive anxiety
  • Still struggling through rejections
    • I’m hoping that once COVID is over I can get back into submitting

  • Looking back, I struggled a lot with blogging. It was a busy year, and a depressing year at that, and I didn’t always do what I said I would. And for that, I’m sorry.
  • This year, this are going to look a little bit different around here.
    • Monthly book reviews are going away. I don’t have enough time to read due to school, so it’ll happen when it happens
    • I want to move to more short little non-fiction things rather than blog posts. I have a poll as to what to keep, but as it stands I want to move into more deep dives and analysis and writing related stuff. For now.
    • Also, check out the poll below: I want to know if I should continue with certain types of content or not, and I want some input from my audience.
  • Happy New Year, everyone. I’m excited for another year of creating content, writing, and making connections with all you lovely folkx out there. I hope 2021 is already treating you well, and I hope it only gets better from here.

So, how has your 2021 been so far? Let me know down below!

Yours always,

Month-End Roundup: December 2020

Guten tagen!

We’re finally back on the up swing! Finals were hard, holidays were harder, and I am really, really looking forward to 2020 being over, but I’m feeling much better. Not completely back to normal, but better.

This Month-End Roundup is going to be a shorter entry this month, because, just like every other blogger and their dog, I’m planning to do a year-end roundup too which will be bigger, longer, and uncut. So, in the grand tradition of Saitama…

We’re going to try to keep the “watched” and “red” section entries to 20 words or less! Let’s get reflecting, folkx. I’m ready to get the snowball rolling and finish 2020 strong.

https://elkascott.wordpress.com/2020/12/05/saturday-listicle-my-top-5-christmas-movies/

https://elkascott.wordpress.com/2020/12/13/saturday-listicle-top-five-gifts-for-the-writer-in-your-life/

  • Nick DiRamio
    • Movie, music and YouTube commentary from a flamboyant director living in LA, featuring aloe plants and tiny plastic hands.
  • The Hot Box
    • Sarcastic commentary over top of Assassin’s Creed gameplay, everything from problematic YouTubers to art drama.
  • Hunter x Hunter 1999
    • Different enough from 2011 to hold my interest, still with the same characters I love.
  • Hamilton (again)
    • Forced my husband to watch it with me and the songs have been in his head ever since.
  • He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special
    • Skeletor learns the true meaning of Christmas, and what Christmas is, while He-Man and She-Ra punch robots.

  • The Left Hand of Darkness
    • Who’s left hand is it? In all seriousness, intriguing world-building, looking forward to learning more.
  • Textbooks
    • So boring. Many dates. Much info. Help.

  • 25 poems!
    • And I edited and finished up a few more unfinished pieces, but who’s counting?
    • I’m writing a blog post about it in January, but let’s just say…it was a lot of fun
  • Worked on finishing my NaNo project…it’s not done yet, but it’s going well
  • I also worked on the newest iteration of my pet project. Which is also going well! The timeline is done, and now I have some character sheets to do and fart around in Campfire for a while. And then it’ll be time to write it!
  • I also had some new ideas that I’ve been fleshing out. I’ll probably write about them a bit more next month, when they’re more than just titles with characters.
  • “Suck It Norman” now has a title: Dust Bowl Magik. It’s got magic. It’s got mutants. It’s got road trips with your worst enemy. It’s a blast to write, so I hope people have a blast reading it.
  • As for the fanfiction…you know it isn’t done. Quit playing. At least it’s all the way plotted now. Again. Send help.

Blog Posts for January

25 Poems Later: On Writing 25 Poems in One Month: January 8th, 2021

Top 5 Anime Heroes: January 15th, 2021

Top 5 Anime Villains: January 22nd, 2021

Chained to Hell: A Trauma-Centric Analysis of Kurapika (Deep Dive): January 29th, 2021

Project Goals for January

Writing Goals

  • Social media: start posting more video content, continue posting on TikToks
  • Finish world-building my pet project
  • Finish fanfiction…or keep trying.
  • Finish NaNo project
  • Edit poems
  • Plot out ideas for next projects
  • Redesign blog

Personal Goals

  • Apply to my university’s social work program
  • Use social media more
  • Follow health plan
  • Start the new semester strong

How was your last month of the year of our Lord 2020? Are you looking forward to it being over? How was Christmas? Let me know below!

Until Next Year (And stay tuned for the year-end roundup!),

Edit note (January 1st, 2021): Changed some of the posts around and changed the schedule

Saturday Listicle: Top Five Gifts for the Writer in Your Life

Ho-ho-ho!

I don’t know about you, but I’m stressed about Christmas presents. Shopping is time in this time of COVID, and I don’t want the gift that keeps on giving (giving chest pain, nasty coughs and joint pain, of course) so I’ve been doing most of my shopping online, if I don’t make a gift myself. Now comes the anxiety of waiting, and hoping, that the mail brings the gifts I ordered on time, not to mention trying to fit making gifts in with studying for finals and writing term papers. But I’m lucky enough to have time to do those things, and I’m also anal retentive prepared enough to know what everyone is getting. Some of you reading this might be writers yourselves, or know writers, or both, and you know that writers are really, really hard to buy for. You can’t buy them a publishing deal (well you can, but you shouldn’t) and you can’t buy them bestseller status (Handbook for Mortals did that, yeah, but I’m sure you don’t want your friends compared to Loni Serendipity or whatever her name is). You can’t even buy them more time to write! So, you might be asking yourself, what should I get, then? Well, your critter Mx. Elka has you covered. I’ve prepared for you the best advice on…

Note: Nothing on here is sponsored. At all. I’m not including affliate links or anything like that. No shade to those folkx out there who do, I just haven’t been lucky enough to get sponsors. So, get your writer friends a gift from wherever you feel like! Except #1, which is specific, but they’re not sponsoring me either.

I know I don’t have to, but I would disclose if I was sponsored, too, so I feel it fair to disclose that I’m not. I’m open to it, if anyone out there wants me to peddle their wares.

Onto the show!

  • Look, we can’t ethically buy our writer friends status, or followers, or sales, but we can give them the tools to do so themselves
  • Or, we can give them the tools to improve their craft, or some new ideas on ways to do things different.
  • Skillshare has so many different courses that the writer in your life can use, from social media to cover design to writing techniques
  • Your pal might need some tech savvy to use these courses, but I think it’s just as good of a resource as any writing book.

  • Writers spend a lot of time sitting down. You know it, I know it, my sore back muscles know it…
  • You could get your writing friends and family a standing desk, but that’s not really the best solution, and some people might not have the room for such a contraption.
  • Also, you never know what someone has going on health wise.
  • You know what’s better than that? Buy them a good chair, or more cushions
  • I mean it. A good writing chair can make all the difference, and if you don’t know about a chair, a good cushion can be just as good
  • Comfort can make more difference than you know, and so can lower back support. Help your pal become a better writer by helping them have a better spine.

  • It’s a stereotype for a reason: writers love hot beverages
  • I feel like one of the few writers who hates coffee, but I love me some tea.
  • I love to take tea with me wherever I go, or to have more tea than a mug will provide when I’m at home
  • I’m not breaking flow to get a drink, I tell you that
  • This is the one stereotype you should actually put stock in
  • Caffiene is one of the few substances writers are addicted to that won’t ruin our lives. HELP US GET IT IN OUR VEINS FASTER I CAN STOP WHENEVER I WANT MOM STOP JUDGING ME
  • So, a gift that might be good for your pal is a good thermos. Make sure it doesn’t leak, and that is has options for coffee, tea and has clear care instructions written on it.
  • A cute pattern doesn’t hurt either.

  • Yes, I mean the ones actually for your back, not the adult ones.
  • As I’ve already mentioned, writers sit a lot, often hunched over, and we have sore backs.
  • Even with a nice chair or a good pillow, sitting for long on ANYTHING can mess with your spine.
  • So, because masseurs are expensive and we’re not allowed to leave our houses, a back massager can come in really handy.
  • Then you can make your friends happy without having to touch them! Yay!
  • Or get them the other kind, for grown-ups. I won’t judge you.

  • This one is very personally meaningful.
  • Writers spend a lot of time with their characters, unsure if anyone else will ever see them, or if anyone will love them as much as they do.
  • Giving them some art of their characters can show them that hey, someone other than you cares about this character, and this project, and them as a writer.
  • You don’t have to make it yourself, either. There’s a lot of artists out there who are also looking for work and money, with decent rates and lots of talent
  • You’ll be giving two people a gift at once, which is double the karma!
  • So, whether you buy art or make it, it’s never a good idea to show how much you appreciate your pal’s hard work.

I had to use a new photo editing software for these banners, since mine was buggy. Does it look better? Worse? Let me know.

So. Writers. What do you want for Christmas? What’s the worst gift you can possibly imagine? Let me know down below!

Sincerely,

Saturday Listicle: My Top 5 Christmas Movies

Ho-ho-ho! Time to take down the Halloween decorations and put up the tinsel! The season of spooky is over, and now it’s time for the season of giving!

My favourite holiday is Halloween, but I do love Christmas. Even though where I live, in Saskatchewan, Canada, the weather around Christmas is usually freezing, cold and terrible, but everyone walks around with a spring in their step and joy in their hearts. It’s a month-long nostalgia trip and I have my ticket ready.

As you can probably guess, the El-Listicles ™ this month will all be themed around the holidays. I have some advice lined up, some recommendations, and some recipes. I think it’s going to be a fun month, and I ho-ho-hope you join me on this big red sled as we speed down the hill to Christmas!

So, without further ado, I would like to tell you all about my…

Now, here’s an important note: I am rating these movies on their “holiday cheer factor”. Here is the rating scale:

  • One jingle bell: Vaguely related to Christmas, reminds you that the holiday exists, but misses the Christmas spirit
  • Two jingle bells: Christmas is part of the story, but not the biggest part, and doesn’t make you feel warm and tingly inside
  • Three jingle bells: Christmas is fully present, fun movie with lots of heart, but not the best executed in terms of bringing the Christmas messaging of cheer and goodwill together
  • Four jingle bells: Christmas is essential to the plot, gives you warm fuzzies inside and makes you feel like a kid, but just ever so slightly isn’t perfect. Like a cute little ornament with a dent.
  • Five jingle bells: Christmas is love. Christmas is life. The whole movie is a Christmas explosion of joy and warmth and happy memories.

  • Rating: PG
  • Year: 2011
  • Synopsis: “Set on Christmas night, the film tells a story about Arthur Claus, the clumsy but goodhearted son of Father Christmas, who discovers that Santa’s high-tech ship has failed to deliver one girl’s present. In response, he embarks on a mission to save her Christmas, accompanied only by his free-spirited and reckless grandfather, a rebellious yet enthusiastic young Christmas elf obsessed with wrapping gifts for children, and a team of eight strong, magical yet untrained reindeer.” – Wikipedia
  • Holiday Cheer Factor: Four Jingle Bells
  • Why You Should Watch It: This movie surprised me with just how good it was. I was hooked from the trailer, honestly, and had high expectations going in, and it still surprised me in how good it was. It was action-packed, funny in a way kids and adults can enjoy, and had a lot of heart. It’s a little over-long, and while as an adult I can deal with that, but I found when I watched it with kids they’d get bored around the 2/3 mark. It wasn’t bad material, but it’s still something to keep in mind. That’s the only thing keeping it from five jingle bells. I heartily recommend this movie!

  • Rating: PG
  • Year: 1993
  • Synopsis: The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown’s beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the “real world.” When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he gets a new lease on life — he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. But Jack soon discovers even the best-laid plans of mice and skeleton men can go seriously awry. – Rotten Tomatoes
  • Holiday Cheer Factor: Three jingly bells (please don’t hit me, just keep reading!)
  • Why You Should Watch It: I’m a very bad goth kid. I didn’t see Nightmare Before Christmas until I was about 22. I know, right? My parents thought that my sister and I would be terrified of it (and they were probably right) so I didn’t watch it, and it kind of left my radar until I decided to watch it online on a night shift near Christmas time. Y’all. It was life changing. I loved it.
  • HOWEVER, whether or not this is a Christmas or Halloween movie is the subject of much debate. And while Christmas is essential to the plot, it didn’t really give me warm fuzzies that I associate with the holiday season. Is it a good movie? Yes. Is it a good Christmas movie? …eh? We shall see what hubsy thinks when we watch it this year. He is finally going to watch it.

  • Rating: G
  • Year: 1964
  • Synopsis: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Rotten Tomatoes
  • Holiday Cheer Factor: Five jingle bells
  • Why You Should Watch It: I’d honestly be surprised if you hadn’t watched it at this point, since this has been on TV every year since the beginning of time (or just 1964), but it’s a classic for a reason. I have the songs in my head as I’m writing this. I was a ‘different’ (read: extremely queer and also incredibly mentally ill) kid and I related so hard to this movie as a youngster. And I relate to it hard as an adult who is still queer and still mentally ill. I liked the message of not hiding your differences, but I also liked the message of still being kind to others, even if they treat you badly. And it’s really cute! The movie is adorable, and the stop-motion/puppet Rankin Bass charm is just a warm hug from start to finish. Am I nostalgia blind? Yes, probably, but that’s what Christmas is all about!

  • Rating: PG
  • Year: 2019
  • Synopsis: A desperate postman accidentally brings about the genesis of Santa Claus.
  • Holiday Cheer Factor: Five jingle bells—I wanted to give it four, because the ending made me cry, but that didn’t feel right
  • Why You Should Watch It: Klaus is a modern Christmas classic. It’s a treat. It’s a kind of fun explanation of some of the tropes of Mr. Claus and the Christmas traditions we know now, set in a horrible town in Sweden populated by two warring families, one grumpy teacher, and Jesper, a postman who would rather be anywhere else. He meets a toy-maker who lives in the wood, named Klaus, and together they bring joy to the town, and eventually, the world! Bwa-ha-ha! But seriously, this movie was a surprise. I watched it at work and my coworker and I cried, and then I made my husband watch it at home and we both cried. It’s beautifully animated, wonderfully acted, expertly paced…and the Sami, the Indigenous people of Scandanavia, feature! Which is really cool! This movie is just…I can’t say enough good things about it. Please, for the love of Christmas, go watch this movie.

  • Rating: PG
  • Year: 2017
  • Synopsis: Christmas comes early for an aspiring young journalist when she’s sent abroad to get the scoop on a dashing prince who’s poised to be king. – Rotten Tomatoes
  • Holiday Cheer Factor: Two jingle bells—I wanted to give it one, but I shot myself in the foot with my rating system.
  • Why You Should Watch It: Memes. That’s it.
    • Maybe I should elaborate. This movie is cheesy and stupid, with leaps in logic equivalent to horror movies. I watch it because my sister and I roast it the entire time. That’s the fun in it; coming together with your family to dunk on stupid movies. Buzzfeed always gets in on the fun, which is always a treat, because the memes are good. Whoever they have to do the write-ups is hilarious. So…is it a Christmas classic? No. Is it so bad it’s good? No. Is it so bad it’s bad, and you can guiltlessly dunk on it? Yes, exactly! And what’s better than bringing the family together?
    • Good movies? Yeah, probably, but this is what we got.

Feel free to yell at me because I didn’t include The Grinch below, or tell me your favourite Christmas movies. I mean it when I say I really want to see some suggestions, because I feel like I’m going to be spending a lot of time inside this year.

Ring those bells,

Saturday (Thursday) Listicle: 5 Artists to Binge While Writing

Hello, friendos and dears.

I, like many writers, use music a lot when I write. I spend hours making soundtracks for my stories, and then I spend even more countless hours listening to them. My tastes in music are kind of all over the place and eclectic, and my soundtracks have songs ranging from soulful pop ballads to symphonic death metal to nightcore. However, when I’m too lazy to make a soundtrack or I just want to put music on while I do some general writing, there are a few artists that I absolutely BINGE. Like their entire discography binge. Sometimes I’ll just binge an artist and move on, but there are a few artists who I return to time and time again. Without further ado…Allow me, in the time-honoured form of an El-Listicle, to present:

  • Notable lyrics:
    • “I was built to be destroyed” – Destroy, Build, Destroy
    • “My life’s a loop that cycles/Look at the clock it’s vital/Seconds are never final/Spins around a lot like vinyl” – Closed Loop
    • “I decided to play when I knew you were fire/It started off warm but now I hear the choir” –Worst in Me
  • My favourite song(s) –because who can just pick one?
  • Why are they so damn bingeable?
    • Unlike Pluto, aka Armond Arabshahi, is one of the most prolific musical artists I’ve EVER seen
    • He puts out a new song once a week, and they’re all good. You’d think there’d be some that are misses, but NOPE. All of them are really good. The quality is consistent from week to week
    • Not only is there a lot of him to binge, it’s also very varied. The songs all have his characteristic flavour, but you can tell them apart. I find it helps me write different moods without getting stuck in one emotion
    • The songs are also about real things, like toxic relationships, mental health, and being disillusioned in the modern world, but in such a way that they’re more digestible, and give voice to the feelings you might have inside
  • TL;DR: Unlike Pluto puts out quality music every week, ensuring you’ll never get bored

  • Notable lyrics:
    • “Heaven will fall/As you hold him in your arms/Blood on our hands/We stand alone” –Mother Mary
    • “Take this stupid halo off so you can see through my charade” –Trauma
  • My favourite song:
  • Why are they so damn bingeable?:
    • Mr.Kitty’, aka Forrest Avery Carney, is a synthwave artist who gained popularity remixing popular songs before starting to release his own music
    • In 2019 he dropped an album with 30 songs…holy shit
    • I’ve only recently started listening to him, but I can’t see myself stopping. Ever.
    • His synth music is very, very cinematic. It’s incredibly evocative and kind of dark? It’s really good for the horror/dark fantasy/weird stuff I write.
    • It has a real honesty to it. You can tell he means what he’s singing, and that it comes from the heart. As a writer who tries to do the same, I really value that.
    • It’s also catchy. It’ll be in your head all day.
  • TL;DR: Funny name, catchy tunes, great mood.

  • Notable lyrics:
    • “Beg me for mercy/Admit you were toxic/You poisoned me just for/Another dollar in your pocket” – Blood//Water
    • “Bow before the violence/It’s a governmental shakedown/Welcome to my breakdown” —Thoughts and Prayers
    • “They put a hole in the back of my head and call it suicide/Woke up with these holes in my hands from the day I was crucified/You decide if you wanna ride, can’t stop us when we unified/I woke up with these holes in my hands from the day I was crucified”–Stigmata
  • My favourite song:
  • Why are they so damn bingeable?
    • Grandson is pretty new on the scene, having only released his first EP in 2018, but he is incredible. He’s not nearly as well known as he should be
    • He is releasing his first full album on December 4th. I can’t wait. I’m counting down the days.
    • His music is incredibly political, but in a good way. He makes you think differently about the issues he sings about—usually, you get angrier about the issue after the song, but that’s just the power of his music.
    • It’s just so powerful in general. It really gets you pumped up, and it’s so cinematic, and ugh
    • Picking my favourite song was really, really hard. Most people like the first song they heard by a favourite artist the most, but his whole discography is so goddamn good that picking a favourite Grandson song is like picking a favourite child.
    • I just love this artist so much, and I hope you give him a listen and get hyped for his new album too.
  • TL;DR: Politically charged cinematic music for your writing needs

  • Notable lyrics:
    • “One of these nights/I’ll take you down to the fire/With red in our eyes/We’re gonna dance to the sirens/Say goodbye to the silence” –Strange Days
    • “Here’s to being human/All the pain and suffering/There’s beauty in the bleeding/At least you feel something” –I Am Machine
    • “Every time we lie awake/After every hit we take/Every feeling that I get/But I haven’t missed you yet” –I Hate Everything About You
  • My favourite song:
  • Why are they so damn bingeable?
    • I’ve been a Three Days Grace fan since I was about eleven years old
    • I’m not telling you how many years I’ve been a fan. Nice try.
    • But, I’ve loved this band through thick and thin. I’ve seen them live twice. I’ve bought every single album, both the ones with the original singer and the ones with the new singer. There’s very little that would make me hate this band.
    • Their music, while not the most lyrically complex, is very evocative. It makes you feel things. It captures a mood.
    • And, a lot is rock music, which is really good for writing action scenes.
    • So, Three Days Grace is my favourite music to binge when I’m writing action packed, emotionally charged scenes. You’ve probably heard at least one of their songs, but you should still check them out.
  • TL;DR: Big fan, good music, action action action

  • Notable lyrics:
    • “Oh, all of these minutes passing, sick of feeling used/If you wanna break these walls down, you’re gonna get bruised” –Castle
    • “Are you deranged like me? Are you strange like me?/Lighting matches just to swallow up the flame like me?/Do you call yourself a fucking hurricane like me?/Pointing fingers cause you’ll never take the blame like me?”–Gasoline
    • “I won’t take anyone down if I crawl tonight/But I still let everyone down when I change in size/And I went tumbling down trying to reach your high/But I scream too loud when I speak my mind” –Devil in Me
  • My favourite song:
    • Control. Without a doubt. Her whole discography is great, but Control is just…incredible. I love it.
  • Why are they so damn bingeable?
    • Halsey makes really great music.
    • Halsey as a person has lived a really interesting life. She is biracial, bipolar, and bisexual, and has struggled with many different issues throughout her years on this planet. But this interesting, sometimes hard, life has given her music a realistic, gritty edge that I can’t get enough of
    • I’ve written about three short stories and two novellas to her music exclusively. I love it.
    • Her songs are all very varied in subject matter, musicality, and emotion. There’s something for every scene on any given Halsey album, and I love every single one.
    • I just can’t get enough of her. I think Halsey is an incredible person who makes incredible music.
  • TL;DR: Interesting person = interesting music perfect for writing.

Who’s your favourite musical artist to binge while you write? Or do you just write in silence? Let me know down below!

Until next time,

Month-End Roundup: November 2020

Hi there, friendos and dears.

This is a couple days late, and for that I am sorry. It has been a month of ups and downs, with a down occurring over the weekend. Long story short, a publication I submitted to has gone on hiatus due to COVID without warning, and sent me a kill fee for the story they had previously accepted. I received no email telling me they were doing this, just a PayPal transfer. Since this has never happened to me before, I have no idea if this is the normal way of doing things.

Either way, it doesn’t matter. This would have been my first pro-paying publication, and I had been telling people about it for months. No, I am in the difficult position of telling them what has happened. Further…I have made no secret of my depression and general lack of mental health here, and one of the things I struggle the most with is self-esteem. I’m sure every writer/artist questions their talent at some point, but one has to feel like they have talent to question it, and I don’t. I was kind of leaning on this to give myself some confidence. I know relying on something external was a mistake. I know that now, now that I feel like my belief in myself has been shattered.

I understand that this isn’t personal. Rationally, I mean. Irrationally, it seems like a sign from the universe to give up, or to stop seeking writing success because there’s no point. Even wins, even good things, are fleeting and pointless. Everything is pointless.

As you can imagine, this has coloured my perception of the rest of the month. Of everything, really. I’ll probably be back to normal next month, but for now, I’ll try to be positive.

I’ll try.

https://elkascott.wordpress.com/2020/11/07/saturday-listicle-5-self-care-tips-from-one-writer-to-another/

https://elkascott.wordpress.com/2020/11/14/saturday-listicle-my-top-five-writing-snacks/

https://elkascott.wordpress.com/2020/11/23/saturday-listicle-5-ways-to-maintain-word-count/

  • My husband and I have been watching some speed-runners on YouTube, and some other gaming content
  • It seems to be quelling his need for a fancy new console…for now.
  • Ezyspeezy

https://www.youtube.com/user/Modtastick1

  • Speed runs bonkers games meant for children
  • Also does regular speedrunning, but his speedruns are oddly uplifting and educational
  • Hunter x Hunter movies
    • I watched both of the Hunter x Hunter movies (from the 2011 anime) this month
    • Phantom Rouge was my favourite of the two, though there was lots to like about both.
    • Phantom Rouge was my favourite because it had lots of shippable moments (Kurapika and Leorio are going to get married, you can’t convince me otherwise, same with Gon and Killua when they get old enough) as well as a lot of emotional weight
      • I liked seeing a bit of the Kurta before the massacre, and the Divine Puppeteers abilities were terrifying and heartbreaking
      • It didn’t have a lot of action, but there was a lot of character growth.
      • Also, Hisoka was there. So that was cool. Not that I’m a simp or anything.

Quit looking at me like that. I’m not. I’m NOT!

  • The Last Mission was also good—that one was more action heavy, and revolved around enemies of the Hunter Association seeking revenge on Netero, the head of the Hunter Association.
      • This one had some great moments with Kurapika (who, if you can’t tell, is one of my favourites) and had lots of good fights and cute friendship moments with Gon and Killua
      • It was still interesting, with the introduction of a new power system (that probably won’t become canon, but whatever) and also the idea that the Hunter Association doesn’t have clean hands
      • Which, to me, is one of the things that make Hunter x Hunter so much different than other similar anime and manga: it’s not afraid to explore things that make people uncomfortable, and not afraid to let the “good guys” have layers, and let the “good organization” have some skeletons in the closet.
      • My only complaint: Leorio and Hisoka weren’t in it enough.
        • Not that I’m a Hisoka simp or anything…

Okay, you win. I am. I’m a goddamn simp. Are you happy now?!

  • I read two books for school that wound up being really good, that I could recommend to anyone looking to learn
    • Both books were read for a school project on the Ainu people of Japan, the indigenous people native to Hokkaido (or Ainu Mosir)
    • I’ve been interested in the Ainu for a while, since taking a Japanese history class waaay back for my first undergrad, and I’ve been researching them on and off ever since. When we had to research an Indigenous people for class, I jumped on the chance to learn even more.
    • These two books were excellent, and I was grateful for the chance to read them
  • Harukor: An Ainu Woman’s Tale by Honda Katsuichi & Kyoko Selden (Translator)
    • This book is written by a Yamato Japanese (the descendents of the people who came to Japan from China, who are thought of as the Japanese today) but they researched the Ainu so well that they managed to capture the world of the Ainu as if they’d lived on Hokkaido forever
    • My personal favourite part of the book was the section on Ainu mythology (also known as “yukar”). I’m a big mythology nerd, so I enjoyed this a great deal.
    • It’s a good story, as well as a source of information, which is all one can hope for when reading historical fiction
  • Our Land was Once a Forest by Mikiso Hane, Kayano Shigeru, & Kyoko Selden
    • This book is written by an Ainu, and the first Ainu politician to boot.
    • In this book, he gives a brief background on the Ainu people, and then he goes into telling the audience the story of his life.
    • And boy howdy, has he ever lived an interesting life.
    • Shigeru was a logger, and he was a craftsman, and a performer, before becoming a politician. He has done a great deal for the Ainu people, and he describes his accomplishments with an endearing humbleness.
    • I’m always looking for Own Voices work, and I appreciated such an in-depth look at the culture from a member of the Ainu people.
    • Beyond that, Shigeru weaves together such a great description of the place he grew up in and the things he’s seen that you feel like you’re there with him, walking in the snow or setting up a logging camp.
    • This is a great memoir, and one of the favourites that I’ve read.
  • I’m hoping I’ll be able to read more in December, once my assignments and finals are over. Here’s my TBR for December:

  • Poetry
  • I’m making my tik-tok debut as a poet soon. I’m not super optimistic, because I’m not a conventionally attractive white teenager who wears tight clothes, but I have faith in my talent to get me where I want to go
  • Novels
    • NaNoWriMo
      • I worked towards finishing my Camp NaNo project for NaNoWriMo. And I wrote 50 thousand words…and I’m still not done.
      • Sweet Lord. Why have I chosen to do this to myself.
      • The story is getting long, as I’ve added more POVs since starting it all those months ago, and they all need to be developed
      • Coming up with a unique voice for the villain has been hard, as he seems to talk like a cartoon right now, but hey, that’s what the edit is for
      • I still have a lot to go to even have something coherent, but I’m still happy with how it’s going
    • Pet-Project
      • Still working on the world building and timelines, but I wrote some snippets just for fun and I’m pretty happy with the results I’ve been getting
    • I also started a new project (because I’m a moron) that I’m going to try to pants my way through, considering that the idea just kind of…happened
      • It’s actually kind of a funny story: hubby and I were watching a review/reading of a book called Empress Theresa, a novel written by a man who’s name I dare not utter, because he got banned from Amazon for arguing with people reviewing his (terrible) book.
      • Oh, who am I kidding. I’m not scared of no punk-ass bitch. Come and get me, Norman Boutin. I’ll be right here.
      • Frederick Knudson, who runs the channel Down the Rabbit Hole, did a reading of the chapters, and the writing had me so mad that I turned to hubby and said “I bet I can write something ten times better in fifteen minutes”. And then I did that.
      • I will give more information next month, after I’ve pantsed my way through a few more chapters.
  • Fanfiction
    • Still trucking along (ha!) on the Transformers story, and started a Berserk series. That was the fandom I mentioned last month. So that’s fun.
    • Finished off a Fantastic Four story too, which was nice.
  • Not doing more short fiction for the time being. See above.

Blog Posts

  • My Top Five Christmas Movies
  • Five Gifts for the Writer in Your Life
  • Five Ways to Stay Balanced During the Holidays
  • My Top Five Christmas Cookies

Projects

  • Let’s get them pants on boys: As of Yet Untitled Project (Working Title: Suck It Norman)
  • Keep world-building my pet project
  • Get on TikTok and try to get 100 followers
  • Redesign social media/blog
  • Just…try to finish the Transformers fic

Personal

  • Finish off the school year with good grades
  • Apply to my university’s social work program
  • Use social media more
  • Keep making healthier decisions
  • Start exercising twice a day
  • Keep my house clean
  • Finish making/buying/wrapping Christmas presents for my family and friends
  • Try to recover after this blow to my self-esteem

How was your November? Let me know down below!

Until next month,

Saturday Listicle: 5 Ways to Maintain Word Count

Hello friendos and dears!

The year 2020 is almost over. I know, I know. It’s been a crazy ride, and I think most of us are both terrified and esctatic that this weird, weird year is going to be coming to a close. For myself, despite the pandemic, I’ve had a great year for writing. I mean, a great year. I started tracking my daily word count in March and I’ve seen that, wow, I really write A LOT. This is coming off a streak where I didn’t write more than a few hundred words a month and hated my writing, my life and myself.

Now I only hate one of those things. Okay, two of them. Fine, all of them. I’m a depressed writer with mental health problems and student loan debt. Happy!?

I kid, I kid.

I’ve come from a place of dreading writing and hating everything I write to actually liking some of it? And finishing two novels in a year? Maybe three? And I thought to myself, how in the hell did I get here? And is there a way I can help other people in the same boat as I was two years ago?

And here, my friends, I have sat in deep meditative reflection (read: sat on my butt rewatching JoJo’s Part Four for the second time) and came up with these five things that I do to maintain word count. Some of them might work for you, some may not, but I hope that something in this El-Listicle ™ may be useful to you.

Without further ado,

  • At first, back in March, I only tracked my big projects in my spreadsheet
  • Then, in July I added a new column: “other”
  • That was a catch-all for other writing: poems, blogs, stories outside the big projects
  • This was done, at first, because my word count was dropping off and I felt like I was writing a lot and I didn’t see where the drop off was coming from
  • Then, it grew into separate categories, and now it’s just a thing that’s a part of my word count
  • And I started to see that I wrote much more than I thought, because I started realizing that more things were writing
  • Fanfiction? Yeah, it’s not using my characters, but it’s still writing. I still work hard at it, and people really like it. I think. No one’s told me they hate it…yet
  • Blogging? That’s not fiction, but it still requires a lot of effort to write good non-fiction content. And it all kind of tells a story anyways. And somedays I count my Instagram posts and Tumblr posts, both the official ™ and fandom one, because that’s writing too
  • So my advice: diversify your view of what writing is, and what writing can be, and you might be surprised at how prolific you really are.

  • As I mentioned above, I have a word count spreadsheet.
  • Many, in fact, for each month since March
  • I also use Write Track, which I’ve mentioned before on this blog
  • Write Track gives me something to shoot for every day, which has really helped me get projects done
  • My spreadsheets also propel me forward, because I like seeing a really big number at the end of the month and it’s fun to see just how much over my daily word count I get in a day
  • Something about having a measured goal really makes me want to achieve it. Maybe it’s that SMART goal shit people keep talking about, because having a vague goal like “work on (insert project here) today” just wasn’t doing it, but “write 200 words of (insert project here)”? That gets me going. That gets me grooving.
  • So, if you’re the kind of person that’s motivated by numbers, this may be a good option for you!

  • I’ve talked about this before too, but I used to write linearly. I couldn’t move onto the next scene. So I’d be stuck for days, hitting my head against the wall trying to figure out one scene, the whole flow of the project grinding to a screeching halt as I watch two overly muscular men get chased around a field by rats with magic gun powers….so, basically, not a good time
  • So, when I was working on NaNo last year, I couldn’t get slowed down. I had a deadline to meet, goddamn it, and I was going to meet it!
  • So, since I had everything expertly plotted out, I knew what was coming next. It wouldn’t be so bad if I just….skipped ahead a little bit, right?
  • And, lo and behold, word count was made. Praise the lord.
  • And it was made for many, many days afterwards
  • See, even though stories follow a path, it doesn’t mean that you, as the author, have to. The reader doesn’t see the first draft anyways, and you can connect it all later! Linear progression is for time. You’re creative! You can do whatever you want! Write the action scenes first, who cares?
  • It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey. And journeys can take any path you want.

  • I love music.
  • I listen to music constantly. I love it.
  • I find that, just like with exercising, I can go for hours if I have the right tunes.
  • It took a while to find my current writing favourites, but now that I have them, I adore it.
  • That doesn’t meant I listen to the same music all the time, or that I listen to it while I do all my writing. As I’ve mentioned above…I rewatch stuff all the time and write while I do
  • But, if I’m stuck, or need that last push to get to word count…music makes all the difference
  • I personally recommend Spotify, because a) the artist gets money and b) if you’re looking for a certain mood, or a certain sound, there’s a playlist for it. You don’t have to make it yourself! More time for writing!

  • This last one is related to writing linearly.
  • Sometimes, I’d come to a scene in my outline I just wasn’t in the emotional place to write. It was too happy, or too lovey-dovey, and I was in a dark mood.
  • So, I listened to myself, and wrote the next scene based on my emotions at the time.
  • I think, in search of genuineness and honesty in writing, that writing from your emotions and through your emotions is a valuable tool.
  • I think, also, I use writing as a form of therapy. Being able to write about what I was feeling that day made my mood better, because I wasn’t going against it, I was exploring the emotion through my writing, and then I could express what I was feeling verbally and move on.
  • I’ll always preach about using writing and art as a form of self-therapy, and I think, if you’re stuck or you’re looking to make your wordcount, you can use your emotions as a source of inspiration, not as an obstacle.

And that’s that, some of the techniques I’ve been using to make my daily word count goals! Do you have any techniques? Let me know below!

Until next time,

Elka Scott

Saturday Listicle: My Top Five Writing Snacks

Hello friendos and dears!

Wow, writing sure is hungry work, and hunger waits for no one. Neither does writing inspiration. Of course, it’s a pain in the butt to stop writing to go get a snack, but you have to eat to survive. It’s so unfair! So, it’s helpful to have a snack that’s ready to go so that you, the writer, can just swallow down the sustenance and get back to creating. But not all snacks are created equal, and this El-Listicle ™ is going to tell you the best of the best.

*disclaimer*: I have celiac disease. There are probably better snacks than these ones, but alas, I can’t eat a lot of ready-to-go food. I also don’t eat meat, so I’m biased against things like beef jerky. Of course, I’m always right, but keep that in mind before you rush to the comments to ask me why I don’t like (insert no-no food here).

  • I love this.
  • It’s so unhealthy, while disguised as being healthy. It makes me feel less like a sedentary lump of creative flubber when I eat it
  • My personal mix is dark chocolate, peanuts, almonds and dried cranberries, but really, any would do.

  • This spot used to be chips, but I’m trying to get healthier and eating less chips is a good way to do so
  • Also, when eating chips, you get grease and sheen all over your keyboard. Not to mention chip crumbs Eww.
  • So, celery and hummus it is! You get the satisfying crunch of celery, and the smooth flavour of hummus. It’s pretty filling, but it’s also low calorie, so if you accidentally eat too much of it you won’t feel the same heavy bloat that comes with eating an entire bag of chips in one sitting
  • My favourite hummus flavour is roasted garlic. Hubby likes the super-spicy kind. If only there were a super-spicy garlic…

  • This snack is nearly perfection for a writer’s needs
  • It takes a little more prep than some of the others I’ve mentioned, but if you have the time…*chef’s kiss* perfection
  • You’ve got the protein, you’ve got the brain-boosting delicious fruit, you’ve got the sugar, you’ve got the thick, tasty liquid…and you barely have to tear yourself away from the page to drink it! It’s a win-win!
  • I have a very, very specific way I make my smoothies, but I like the berry blends with cherries and blueberries the most.

  • Look, if you’re going to be unhealthy…at least be smart about it
  • These two snacks are really easy to make by yourself, and you can buy them for a reasonabl price from the store
  • They’re also (once the wrapper is off the muffin, at least) easy to eat one-handed
  • You have some crumb issues, but they’re easier to deal with than chip crumbs. I mean, cat hair is easier to deal with than chip crumbs, so that’s not saying much. You also don’t get the same grease as you would with chips
  • It’s sweet, it’s filling, and easy.
  • I’m going to share my personal favourite cookie recipe; I make it with gluten free flour, milk chocolate chips and peanuts or pecans, and a healthy dose of my special blend of spices, but it’s easy to mod to your taste. Just be careful with the liquid.
  • https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/ultimate-chocolate-chip-cookies/77c14e03-d8b0-4844-846d-f19304f61c57

  • I know I’ve been shit-talking chips this whole list, but for all their flaws, all their greasy-ness, and all their crumbiness, and all their salty, unhealthy goodness….they’re still one of my favourite writing snacks.
  • They’re just so easy and tasty, and you can fit a lot in your mouth at once!
  • I know I shouldn’t, but it’s easier to just eat chips sometimes than to bother with anything else
  • But, as with all things, moderation
  • I buy those multi-packs of chips at the store and I will have one bag at a time. Then, I’m not accidentally eating ten dollars worth of doritos in an hour and stuck back at square one
  • Plus, it’s cheaper in the long run.

So…what’s your favourite kind of trail mix? Favourite cookie? Favourite smoothie blend? Favourite hummus flavour? Favourite chip? Let me know down below. Please talk about food with me. I love to try new things.

Until next time,

Saturday Listicle: 5 Self-Care Tips from one Writer to Another

Hello everyone! This is my first official El-Listicle ™. I’m switching to this format for a little while, while I take my social media training (which I am LOVING, our teacher is an absolute joy and my classmates are all blessings to this Earth) and I’m actually kind of excited for it? I love sharing my knowledge, and sharing my favourite things, and sharing what’s on my cold, dead heart.

So, without further ado…

I’ll be the first to admit that self-care hasn’t been easy for anyone in the past few months. The world is on fire, but not in a fun way like in “All Star” by Smash Mouth. I know that in my life I’ve been struggling to stay positive and take care of myself. My writing, my blogging, my social media and my general existence have been suffering because of it. But, I think I’m starting to turn things around, and I thought I should share how I’ve been doing it. Maybe, just maybe, I can help someone out there on the world wide web.

You’re not alone. Let’s not be alone together.

  • I am genderqueer, and identity as a non-binary woman, so my relationship with make-up and my physical appearance is…complicated
  • HOWEVER, I haven’t been feeling well, emotionally and physically, and I wasn’t wearing makeup/brushing my hair/wearing anything other than sweats and a t-shirt for months
  • But I thought that maybe I wasn’t feeling confident when I went out into the world because I knew that I looked like lukewarm garbage, not even hot garbage.
  • So, I started doing my make-up again. I started doing “looks”, where I matched my makeup and clothes and jewelry and shoes. I started wearing my nice clothes, ones that I had just left in the closet for MONTHS. And goddamn, does it make a difference!
  • I feel a lot more confident when I leave my house, and I think I’m acting more like myself as a result.
  • So, what I want to pass on is that the outside does matter…but it’s what you make of it.
  • For those of you who don’t wear make-up, perhaps wearing a nice pair of socks might be all it takes.

  • I love to write. Obviously. It’s all I talk about here when I’m not bitching about anime.
  • However…I also love to draw. I love to make fan videos. I love to paint. I love to sew.
  • I’ve been forcing myself to do more of these things, rather than writing. I was starting to stress myself out by pushing myself to be the best I could be, and all I did for a while was work, sleep, cook, write
  • Even cocaine-era Stephen King did things other than write. Like cocaine, for example.
  • But I can’t afford cocaine. What I can afford are drawing pencils.
  • I find now I am refreshed by my writing, rather than exhausted by it, because I have a break from it.
  • Plus, and this is shown in research, different art engages different parts of your brain. So exercising a couple different parts of your brain is good for the whole network.
  • TL;DR: Writing is good, cocaine is not, and practising different forms of art is better

  • I have depression and anxiety. My brain loves to tell me what a piece of shit I am on a regular basis.
  • However (these days, at least), the people around me aren’t telling me what a piece of shit I am. They actually kind of seem to like me. And they like to tell me that. A lot.
  • So, I decided to start writing the nice things they say to me down in a pretty journal with a subtle bisexual reference on it (show picture). Now, when I’m depressed or anxious, I can look at the compliments journal and remind myself that no, people do like me, and they want me to know that.
  • Maybe one day I can put my own compliments to myself in there. Until then…other people can love me, until I learn to love myself.
  • Because if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else?
  • Can I get an amen?

  • This is the most bougie thing I can think of, but I’m a magpie who likes shiny things
  • I was thinking about this in social media class. That sometimes, just buying yourself a nice thing is the best thing you can do for yourself.
  • For a long time, I thought I wasn’t worth spending money on. Every dollar spent on myself had to be justified, which I didn’t even notice until I was trying to justify buying a $1.50 hot cocoa to my old therapist and now I can’t stop noticing
  • Dang you, Michelle, for doing your job right.
  • Anyways, now I try to be kinder to myself. Who earned my money? Me. Who deserves that money? Me. Who worked hard to go to school? Me. Who deserves grants for living as a marvel of mental illness? Me. Who’s taking all my money eventually? The government.
  • Dang you, Trudeau, for being the current face of the government.
  • Now, I allow myself to have nice things. Name brand margarine. Nice winter clothes. Fancy alcohol. Expensive make-up.
  • I recognize that I can only do this because I’m privileged. But I hope that, even if you’re going through poverty right now, you know that you don’t deserve to live in poverty and that you deserve nice things.
  • That’s an Elka Scott Guarantee.

  • Oh lord.
  • I don’t know why there’s such a stigma against writing fanfiction, or fan work in general. What’s wrong with liking things!?
  • Oh, right. It’s prejudice against women, people of colour, and queer people. Almost forgot that.
  • Anyways, I find that writing stupid, smutty fanfictions has been keeping me sane lately. I’m enjoying getting practise to write steamy fun times, as I’m eventually going to have it in a novel. Eventually. Wait and see.
  • Also, the immediate feedback? Wonderful. People go out of their way to tell you how much they liked your work. It’s beautiful. There’s toxicity, but I’ve found nothing but positivity through my work.
  • I’m also older than some of the people involved in drama, and it’s very hard to convince my old ass to do anything I don’t want or have to do
  • Still, writing fanfiction, getting to play in someone else’s sandbox, has been rewarding, and has been helping me keep myself sane through these wild, ludicrous times.

So, that’s my first El-Listicle! What did you think? How have you been staying positive? How have you been taking care of yourself? What’s your favourite food? Let me know down below!

Until next time,

Month-End Roundup: October 2020

Hello friendos and dears!

Well, October sure didn’t go how I wanted it to. Most of my planned posts just…didn’t happen. I really, REALLY underestimated how busy school and life would make me, and for that I apologize. I don’t even have a Halloween costume, which for a Goth is heresy. Please let me keep my Alt Card! I promise I’ll be good!

All jokes aside…I can’t see myself getting less busy. So, as I’ve mentioned on my Instagram (which you should follow, btw, because you’ll get the scoop before anyone else) I’m planning to focus on Listicles until year’s end. I’ve already written quite a few, so you’ll get content during NaNo (which I haven’t really done before, so that’s a win!) and regular content once a week. This will also give me time to get ahead of the posting schedule, instead of planning out what I want to do and then rushing to get it done month after month after month…so, things are going to be a little different around here for a while.

Also! I was selected to take part in social media training for writers, so things might look even more different here once the course ends. I hope it’ll be for the better, and so far I’ve learned that I’m doing more things right than I thought I was, so I have hope that I can make this whole shindig the best it can be. So, stay tuned!

Due to the school-induced busyness of the month, I haven’t been reading or watching anything new. I’ve instead been finding comfort in re-watching some of my favourite content over again, like RuPaul’s Drag Race and D’Angelo Wallace. However, I think I watched and read enough new things to make the Round-Up worthwhile.

The government did finally get their butts in gear, and I have a new Laptop! Yay! It’s so much easier to do anything computer related, you folkx have no idea.

https://elkascott.wordpress.com/2020/10/03/spooky-season-listicles-my-top-5-vampire-novels/

https://elkascott.wordpress.com/2020/10/20/a-brief-announcement/

I didn’t watch a lot of new things….anywhere but YouTube, and even then, I only really watched two new channels.

Kendall Rae

  • True crime videos with a lot of style, and substance
  • Very good production value, and an appropriate amount of emotion
  • Her videos are extremely well-done, well researched, well executed, just….really, really good true crime content.
  • I’ve been binge watching her a lot, and she has a lot of different videos and covers a variety of cases, from the supernatural to the more grounded, from the old crimes from the annals of history to ripped from the headlines recent crimes

Caleb Joseph

  • I’m trying to get more into Book-tube, because I secretly want to be a book-tuber don’t judge me
  • Anyways, I’m really enjoying Caleb Joseph
  • His reviews are really funny, and genuinally insightful
  • I started watching him when I was looking for reviews of Handbook for Mortals, and I thought I’d seen every criticism possible for the book after spending hours reading reviews on Goodreads (which is a hilarious experience, if you ever want to have a good laugh at a bad author’s expense) and his review is one of my favourite videos now
  • I found his thoughts on Handbook really insightful, and different from other criticism I’ve seen
  • His other reviews, while long, are also really good. I enjoy his style of delivery and his style of editing, and I find a lot of joy in his videos and a true love of reading. Go check him out!

The Secret…yes, really

  • My therapist told me to, so I did
  • I don’t mind it, but I felt like the movie was about….45 minutes longer than it needed to be
  • It was also full of early 2000’s epicness, jump cuts, special effects….it reminded me of this movie I never wound up seeing, but everyone was writing fanfiction about, The Covenant, and also a little bit of Blade or the Crow…which I don’t think worked for it
  • I disagreed with some of it, but it’s not terrible. That’s all I really have to say about it

  • Still working on The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Read a couple of books for school that I really enjoyed about the Ainu people of Japan
    • Our Land was a Forest: Written by Ainu activist and politician, (). Very engaging and interesting look at the author’s life growing up as an Ainu, which I was looking at for a school project. It really brought some of the academic papers to life, and contrasted some of them, which was fascinating. It’s a decent length, and it’s full of pictures to illustrate the author’s story. It’s really good, and I recommend it.
  • My partner started the Shades of Magic series, which is really nice, and he’s enjoying it so far
  • Other
    • Fanfiction, of course
    • Started looking at lesser known fandoms, which has been fun!

  • Poetry
    • Wrote three new spoken word pieces! Yay!
      • Since the training I’m in is specially for performance artists, I figured I needed to get back into writing performance pieces. So I did, and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve created
  • Novels
    • The Pet Project….took a turn
      • I was stuck on it for half the month, then I thought about switching it out of contemporary into spec fic…and low and behold, the muse came back
      • Now, instead of a college romance, it’s a dark academia fantasy story with demons, exorcists….and still romance.
      • I’m not surprised, because the fluffy romance the thing started as already got dark, and now getting darker is just a natural progression
      • Thankful I allowed myself to try a genre I don’t usually write in, but I’m back to my usual bullshit and it feels GREAT
    • I’m going to finish up my Camp NaNo piece for NaNoWriMo this year, which is a dark gothic story about a young goblin lady who is married to a vampire, and slowly discovers that he has big plans for the city they live in. I’m looking forward to having it done, and making it to three novels finished in one year. Not a brag, just a goal.
  • Other
    • Fanfiction…still the same thing. Ugh, it’s so long now. I just can’t help myself
    • BUT! Managed to write a few shorter pieces, including one in a fandom I am a massive stan of but haven’t written in before, so that’s fun. Hopefully people like it. If not…I like it, and that’s what matters

Blog Posts

  • Five Ways I Stay Positive and Take Care of Myself : November 7th
  • My Top Five Writing Snacks : November 14th
  • Five Ways I Maintain Word Count : November 21st
  • Top Five Favourite Artists to Binge While Writing : November 28th

Projects

  • Continue working on Transformers fanfic, try to finish it by year’s end
  • Complete NaNoWriMo
  • World-build and plot my new Pet Project
  • Edit some short work and start sending things out again
  • Keep working on social media coursework
  • Write even more poems!

Personal

  • Finish off the school year with good grades
  • Apply to my university’s social work program
  • Use social media more
  • Keep making healthier decisions
  • Start exercising twice a day
  • Keep my house clean

What did you get up to this month? Let me know in the comments below?

Until next time,

A Brief Announcement

Hey friendos and dears.

If you’ve been here for a while, you know how much I value transparency and honesty. If you’re new here, then…

Hi, my name is Elka, I write all sorts of dark stuff my mother hates and I think too much about everything and then blurt it out here. Also I review books sometimes.

Anyways, all joking aside, I realize that I haven’t really been living up to my plans for the month that I set out in my September Month-End Round Up. I was considering just quietly ignoring that I was doing that, talk about it in the October Round Up, and then announce my plans to participate in NaNo, but that’s just not me. I may not have the biggest audience ever, but the audience I do have is awesome and they deserve my best. So, I want to tell you why you, the audience, haven’t been getting what you deserve.

With the help of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In short, my personal offline life has gotten very, very hectic.

Work

As I’ve said before, I’m an essential worker, so I’ve barely had time off for months. My job is demanding, even now that the kiddos are back at school, and there’s been a lot of changes in the organization I work for that I’m not necessarily sure are for the better. I’m trying to adapt to this new paradigm at work, but my coworkers and I have been a little bit stressed while upper management tries to sort out their stuff.

School

I’m also back at school, and while I’m only in two classes, I’m not the seventeen year old autumn chicken I was when I started my first degree. Since grad school is…a mess, I’m back at the same college I did my undergrad at, doing another undergrad, and it’s a different ballgame than grad school. Or the first degree. I’m older now, and I’m having to relearn how to balance school and work again. In grad school, I took one to two classes at a time, with very structured work plans. Now, I’m a self-directed person, and I manage my own time decently. But….it’s still hard to be a student. Unlike my undergrad, I’m a grown up adult who has to pay rent, work, and care for children. So I’ve been having to make sacrifices, and blogging, unfortunately, has been one of those sacrifices.

Writing

I’ve also been getting ready for NaNoWriMo. I want to finish my Camp projects from this year. Luckily for me, most of my assignments are due in October. Unluckily for me…most of my assignments are due in October, and my prep-work has been stunted as a result. In addition, and I don’t want to go into too much detail yet because I don’t have all the details yet, I was selected for a program in my city to teach creatives social media, and I’ve been working on that too.

So…

So, what does that mean for the blog? Well, I took last November off to focus on NaNo, but I’ve been seeing a lot of upward momentum here and I don’t want to kill my own buzz. So, I’m going to put up some listicles for the rest of October and November. Things might start to change due to the training I mentioned, but I’m at least going to keep going in my current style for a couple more months. I’m really thankful for the audience this style has garnered, but I think I need a change sooner or later regardless of how this training goes. So, TL;DR: Change is coming, and so are listicles.

I’ll have more to tell you fabulous humans at the end of the month. Thank you for being on this journey with me.

How have you been doing, friendos and dears? Have you been hanging in there? Please let me know down below…and if you don’t want to get into it, that’s cool too, and I really hope you have a great October.

Until next time,

Spooky Season Listicles: My Top 5 Vampire Novels

Let’s start Spooky Season ™ off right with my first love in the horror genre: vampires! I was an angsty gothic fourteen year old AFAB, so you KNOW I read a crap-load of vampire novels as a young person. I was fortunate enough to be a teenager right in the middle of the vampire craze…but unfortunate enough at the same time, because I hated Twilight and that was the only point of reference my friends had for vampires. Still, I managed to find some real gems along the way, and I’m going to share them with you today!

  • The story of Dracula updated and adapted to the modern (ish) era
  • Creeping horror
  • Fun with the old tropes that have largely been left behind
  • Actually really enjoyed the child character
  • The vampire is not sexy. Sweet Apollo, he is not sexy AT ALL. And I love it
  • Maybe the movie will ruin it for me, but I’ll keep you posted.
  • Fun take on the vampire mythos
  • Set in Australia, which is probably the worst place to be a vampire TBH
  • Characters were lovable and fun
  • Worldbuilding was interesting
  • Vampire writing vampire fiction writing vampire fiction
  • Where it all started
  • This was the first proper grown-up vampire I ever read….at fourteen
  • And that was it. It was over. I was HOOKED.
  • The books are a little dated and very campy (especially Queen of the Damned) but they’re a lot of fun
  • Loaded, and I mean LOADED, with homoerotic tension
  • Also, Lestat is a bisexual disaster (TM) and I love it
  • Incredible story
  • Well written, well crafted, everything about is *chef’s kiss*
  • The characters are very well done, and I enjoyed my time with them
  • True creeping horror, starts kind of horror lite and just ramps up
  • The ending stabbed me in the goddamn heart and I loved every minute of it
  • If you’ve only seen the movies, you’re missing out
  • The ending is incredible
  • Biological vampires = gold. Pure gold
  • Very interesting social commentary on horror, culture, and the idea of monsters as a whole
  • Also, very claustrophobic. So claustrophobic
  • I’m not sure if I’m supposed to like anyone in this book, and I’m okay with that.

And there you have it!

Did I miss your favourite vampire novel? Let me know down below, I’ll probably read it!

Eat, drink, and be scary,

Month-End Roundup: September 2020

Hi there, friendos and dears!

What a month. What. A. Month. I feel like August was three months ago, and that summer was years ago. September was a really busy month, and didn’t really slow down from August. I went back to school, there was a bunch of changes at work, and my attempts to get into a routine haven’t been going well. It’s just…it’s hard. I’ve been sick on and off, I’ve been tired all the time, and I just want things to go back to normal. I also wish the government would get their butts in gear so I can pay for my schooling and get a new laptop, but that’s neither here nor there. 

On the plus side, while I didn’t post as much as I said I would, I did post a lot. I had quite a few posts, and two were unplanned–I’ve discovered a love of tag games, so please feel free to tag me in those, should you ever feel like doing one! I’m proud of that. I decided to cut back on the quantity of posting I was doing on twitter, instagram and tumblr and I’ve been focusing on quality. I haven’t been seeing the engagement or gains I was hoping for, but I have been happier with myself and my own artistic integrity, so there’s that. 

I’m looking forward to October; I have a lot of spook-tacular things planned, and it’ll be very busy here on the blog. I hope you’ll join me in the new month, and I’m looking forward to sharing the scary season with you. 

Video Editing and Writing: Lessons Learned

Reviewsday: Imager by L. E. Modesitt

Finally Fall! Tag

Backpack Chronicles: A Birthday Special; Or, Dragons all the Way Down

TV Shows

  • Drag Race All Stars Season 5
    • Just gotta say: I called the top 3 from the very first episode
    • Very good season of All Stars. Not as shady as season four, but with enough juicy drama to keep you going
    • Who knows how much is real, but it did keep me watching
    • I just love drag race. That’s just it. Having something new to watch was nice, until I can *ahem* legally obtain Drag Race Canada

YouTube

  • D’ Angelo Wallace
    • I’ve watched his Dramageddon Aftermath series about three times this month…which is about 12 hours, which is a little sad, but hey
    • D’Angelo in general has really good content. He doesn’t pull his punches and isn’t afraid to go after people or companies with massive followings while being funny and charming the whole time. 
    • Do check him out, he’s funny
    • Check out his channels here and here
  • Joey the Otter
    • Livestream of a rescued baby sea otter 
    • That’s it. You just get to watch this baby otter eat, and swim, and sleep. He’s so cute. Even though he’s a chonky adolescent otter now, he’s very cute
  • Brutal Moose
    • Entertaining man reviewing video games, movies, and food
    • He also does cooking shows, which is where I found him because your critter loves to cook
    • He seems like a very nice, very normal guy just doing interesting things and cooking weird food
    • Check out his channel here!
  • Casually Explained
    • Just discovered this channel the other day, but I enjoy it
    • He’s Canadian, so I appreciate his perspective
    • He’s also really funny and explains things in an extremely funny way
    • I haven’t watched his dating videos, because I’m married and that just doesn’t really appeal to me, but his other videos were pretty good. Healthy eating is a good one to start with.
  • Penguiz0
    • This man is an absolute legend.
    • It’s hard to describe what this man does, exactly, because he does a little bit of everything. Music, movie reviews, comedy…mostly comedy, but all sorts of different kinds of comedy
    • I watched his (insert name) series, which is just him giving a funny narration over as seen on TV products, and it’s my favourite.
    • Check him out here

Movies

  • First Knight
    • Richard Gere is a vampire. He looks the same now as he did in the 1990’s. I’m not judging, I just want him to bite me so I can also be a vampire, just as God intended
    • Anyways, the movie is a version of the King Arthur legends where King Arthur is old, Guinevere is young, and Lancelot is somewhere in the middle and also played by a very smiley Richard Gere
    • It was fine. It was serviceable. I like the ones with Merlin in more, because period dramas are boring and wizards are cool
  • Troy
    • I’m a big Greek mythology nerd….and I hated this movie. 
    • They made Paris a bitch, removed the Greek pantheon, and made Achilles straight. 
    • It was Ancient Greece. Heterosexuality hadn’t been invented yet…it wasn’t created until shortly after the invention of saltine crackers
    • I kid, I kid. But in all seriousness, Achilles has been straight-washed in this movie, and it’s kind of offensive. I didn’t care for that. 
  • Hacksaw Ridge
    • Very good movie. I’m biased, because I’m Christian, but I really, really liked this movie
    • I thought Andrew Garfield did a good job, which wasn’t surprising, but I think Vince Vaughn also did a great job, which WAS surprising
    • This is a really inspiring movie, and I think it was well shot. The director, Mel Gibson, is a trash fire, but if you can separate the art from the artist (and can pirate it, fight me NSA) give it a go

Imager by L. E. Modesitt

  • See the above post
  • I managed to finish off this book in September! Yay! Only….*gulps* seven more to complete my reading challenge! *weeps internally*
  • Great book, still recommend it, 10/10

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

  • I just started this one and I’m really loving it
  • This will be my first full length Ursula K. LeGuin novel–I’ve read and enjoyed her short stories before but not her longer works
  • She’s describing being bored, hot and sweaty at a parade…and I love it. I love it so much. I’m looking forward to reading more of this in October!

  • I’ll be honest, it’s been a mixed bag.
  • On the good side….
    • As I’ve tweeted and Instagrammed about, I finally finished my NaNo project from last year! It’s finally done! Until I rewrite it, which I’m not sure when that will be…I’m taking a break from it before I start. I have lots of good ideas to make it a better story that I’m really excited to work with. 
    • I also was selected for a social media training thingy in my hometown! Things might start looking a little different around here, depending on what I learn. I’ll keep you posted. 
  • On the downside…
    • I have writer’s block. I’ve been really struggling with my confidence as a writer lately, and I’ve been having trouble with some of my work because I keep over-thinking everything. I try to read more because I’ve heard that helps, and then I just feel bad and like I’ll never be as good as the people I’m reading, or I see friends who are working on an MFA and I feel like I’m wasting my potential as a writer by not devoting my entire life to it, and I feel like everything I write is garbage and no one will ever like it…
    • Getting form rejections for some of my submissions isn’t helping either. Some of these places had my work for a year. An entire. Freaking. Year. I know editors are busy, but it’s still very frustrating. 
      • It just feels like…my friends and acquaintances tell me that they love a piece and it’s my best work, and then I’ll send it out and get told that it’s mediocre. It’s aggravating. I don’t think my friends are lying, but I don’t know if they can separate their esteem for me from my work, and I can’t pay an editor, and I either hate all my work or think it’s awesome, and neither is conducive to effective editing…. 
    • So…yeah.
    • Thus, my other two projects, my fanfiction and my pet project, are really suffering as a result. I’ve been working hard on them, and things just aren’t going the way I want to. It’s really exhausting. 
    • I try to write what I feel like, so I’m at least writing, but it can be hard to keep motivated to keep being a writer and to keep pursuing the level I want to be at. I’m hoping, as I keep working through October, that I can get there.

Blog posts

  • Blog: 
    • Spooky Saturday Listicles:
      • Top Five Vampire Novels
      • Top Five Short Horror Movies
      • Top Five Horror Comics
      • Top Five Frankenstein Movies
      • Top Five Under-rated Horror Monsters
    • On Writing Villains: A Two-Part Examination
    • Deep Dive: Frankenstein, and Who the Real Monsters are
    • Reviewsday: TBA

Projects

  • Finish rewrites for Transformers fanfiction
  • Finish world-building for pet project
  • Start rewrite for pet project
  • Write more poems
  • Write/finish a short story
  • World-build and make profiles for NaNoWriMo

Personal

  • Book a therapy session
  • Do well in school
  • Finish school papers
  • Get ahead at school to prepare for NaNo
  • Make healthier decisions

Until next month,

Backpack Chronicles: A Birthday Special; Or, Dragons all the Way Down

There’s a quote that you’ve probably heard, from an author (G. K. Chesterton) you might not have heard of: “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed”. I think of this quote frequently, especially now that I work with children who’ve faced more dragons than I could ever imagine. I’ve been thinking of it a lot lately, now that another birthday is looming ahead, reminding me that I am growing further and further from childhood. Things have certainly changed since G. K Chesterton passed on. Media for children has evolved past written fairy tales into expensive, expensive movies. As I’ve grown older, I’ve been getting more and more contemplative of the media I consume. And that’s saying something because I’ve been overthinking everything I’ve watched since I was a child in the early 2000s. I won’t argue that children don’t need media that remind them that dragons can be beaten. I find myself wondering, more and more if adults don’t need to be reminded of this too, from time to time.

Stories that proudly brand themselves as “adult” and “mature” seem to revel in the existence of metaphorical dragons with no desire to show that they can be eliminated. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown especially critical of “edgy” content, because I think the term has spun out and changed so far from the original usage and now is an umbrella term for anything remotely dark. It’s an insult now, usually used to disparage young people, but I think it can be a useful term. It refers to things that are on the edge of good taste and the expected, that are pushing a boundary, and that deal with subject matter that may not be socially acceptable to talk about in a more mainstream context. I’ve had my own writing dismissed as “edgy” before but I didn’t really start critically thinking about it until I was out of my teen years and into my 20’s, and was starting to develop a certain sense of nostalgia. It was easy to dismiss “the haters” because I knew what I was creating. What I didn’t understand was why.

Let’s put a pin in that.

There was a recent…adaptation of an old show from the 1970s called “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour”. The original program was a variety show centred around a fictional band of cartoonish costumed animals. I will admit that it was before my time. Way before my time. It’s almost before my parent’s time, to be honest. However, thanks to the magic of Teletoon Retro, I’ve seen bits and pieces of the show (waiting for Transformers to come on, of course). I liked it. I thought it was sweet and innocent, and cute.

Then they adapted it into a horror movie, where the cute animal characters go on a killing spree around the studio.

When I saw a video about the body count of the film, I was horrified. However, I couldn’t figure out why. I had very little emotional attachment to the show. I like horror movies. I don’t usually go for slasher films, as Halloween was the first one I saw and it ruined the rest for me with its quality, but I still appreciate horror and darkness and gratuitous bloodshed. As I contemplated, I started to notice more and more changes in how people spoke about and interacted with properties made for children. Whether it be fan theories stating that Megamind, the lovable anti-villain, is probably a murderer or violent criminal, or ‘edgy’ YouTube parodies, there’s almost a push-back against things being just…pure. I don’t think people should stop making those things. I just found myself, again, wondering why.

I think, on the cusp of my twenty-seventh birthday, that I’ve figured out why.

Now, I see the point to some of the ‘edgification’ of innocent/pure children’s process. For one, children’s media often perpetuates and reinforces the values of society, telling children what they are supposed to think or do, or how to be a functional member of society. Pointing out the flaws in this media is an important way of critiquing the culture as a whole. I also understand why people would want to find darkness where it doesn’t appear immediately on the surface. The world is a dark and scary place. It would be naive to dismiss that. I think there’s a sense of artistic beauty of making something pure into something gritty, or dark. I think, when done right, it can be a comment on growing up, or on losing innocence in the modern world, and provide another opportunity for cultural critique. However, it’s usually done wrong, and done without artistic purpose, a cheap way to grab attention and shock an audience.

I used to like that sort of thing. I used to be drawn to it. When I was a kid, I clung to anything cute as a security blanket. I felt very alone and very, very small, and I was too sensitive for most people to deal with. I didn’t feel understood by anyone except the characters I saw on TV or my stuffed animals. Even as I got older, I was still lonely. I had writing, and I knew if I kept working on it I’d make something out of myself one day. But I didn’t really have any deep connections, and I was naive and curious about “adult things”. I was a lone traveller laden with gold, walking down a deserted path through the forest, oblivious to the dragon circling above.

The dragon swooped down. Everything ruptured. I was taken out of childhood and shoved into a liminal space between childhood and adulthood that I didn’t know how to navigate. I was floating, and I was empty.

After my abuse, after surviving it, I wanted to see things corrupted. I wanted to reassure myself that my new belief that the world was a terrible, dark place where innocence went to die was true. I wanted to think about things in a new way because I had been violently forced to shift my world-view. I wanted to be grown up and be tough because I didn’t want to feel weak. One of the things my abuser liked to tell me was that I’m cute. I’m not fishing for compliments. I know I’m cute. I was a very small critter. I was short and pretty scrawny (I wasn’t skinny, I was a weird stick person in the middle of puberty) and I have a gentle, soft speaking voice and fluffy hair. I am quite cute, but cuteness made me a target. I didn’t want to be cute. I didn’t want to be something small, I wanted to prove I could handle the world and try to regain a sense of power.

I didn’t want cute around me. I wanted to be a grown-up.

As I got older, I left high school, the place where I saw my abuser every day. I could finally heal, away from the place that reminded me of the hurt. And when I had some time away, and some clarity, I could fully understand what I’d lost.

Even though I was a teenager, already losing some of my childlike whimsy, I’d had most of it taken from me by force. I was still, in many ways, a child, when my ex found me, and after he was done…I wasn’t anymore. It was gone. I didn’t figure out how sex actually worked until I was 14, shortly before I met him, and I was naive and sheltered from some of the bad things in the world. I already knew adults weren’t the gods they seemed to like, but now no one was trustworthy. Everyone was bad. Everyone was a dragon, and they seemed immortal and undefeatable.

Part of my recovery was taking some of that back, and picking up what I’d dropped. I had grown up and been pushed down, and I was wallowing in edgy sludge. I love animals. I’d forgotten how much because loving animals (to me) was childish (I thank my dear friend, who became a vegan, for showing me it wasn’t). I now openly obsess over animals. I love children’s cartoons. Some of them. I stopped watching them, but I love them. I love Winnie the Pooh. I have Winnie the Pooh and stuffed animals and cute things all over my house. My partner acts like he doesn’t really like it, but he deals with it. I think he secretly loves the cute little stuffies and figures around the living room. I’m not saying the world should conform to what I want. I’m saying that I seek out things that are pure, and that are innocent because I want to feel like that again.

I think there’s a lot of people out there who feel like that too.

As there’s value in being edgy as a cultural critique, there is equal value of remaining hopeful, and optimistic. Optimism, real, true optimism, is counter-culture. While toxic positivity permeates the culture, there’s also money to be made in making people feel bad about themselves, and in reminding them that there are so many dragons out there. It’s dragons all the way down. There’s beauty in being the last bastion of hope, the last knight with a half-broken sword facing down a murderous flying lizard. While the world changes, I think there’s something profound about staying innocent and staying pure. I think, for example, of Archie Comics. Like many kids, I grew up reading my parent’s Archie collection. While he’s gotten an…edgification (I’m not talking about Riverdale. I’m not talking about Riverdale. I’m not talking about…) The main comics themselves have stayed upbeat over the years, despite pushback from the real world. I think of how Kevin Keller gets to just be Kevin, and have wacky adventures with his friends, away from the homophobia and bigotry that makes so many queer lives hell here. There’s something subversive about it, about imagining a world where being different doesn’t make you a villain, or a tragedy. Where you just get to be.

There should be places to go to contemplate the dark realities of the world. There should be art to explore it. But, in turn, in the interests of balance, there should be places to go to escape from them. There should be something I can watch without being reminded that things like murder and bigotry exist. I know damn well that dragons are real. I’ve faced them before. But as I recover, I start to see that the dragons aren’t everywhere. Maybe there’s a little enchanted forest away from them, where I can take a break, catch my breath, and go back out with the sword.

Media made for adults has lost something along the way. I think that creators forgot that adults need to be reminded of hope and strength and goodness too. After all, we know the full extent of the cruelty of the world. I think, as I prepare to get even closer to thirty, that we should know the full extent of its wonder and kindness too.

We know the dragons are real.

But goddamn it, they don’t get to burn the world to ash.

Finally Fall! Tag

Hey there, friendos and dears!

The lovely Amber over at The Literary Phoenix (https://theliteraryphoenix.com/) recently participated in a fall-based tag, and invited everyone who wanted to participate to participate in it. So, while I wasn’t tagged directly (please tag me in things, friends! You know I’ll do them) I thought it sounded like a lot of fun, so here we are! Fall is my favourite season, so I just jumped on the chance to share some fall favourites with you folkx.

Let’s begin!

In fall, the air is crisp and clear: name a book with a vivid setting!

Imager by L. E. Modessit

Summary from Goodreads:

Imager is the beginning of a whole new fantasy in a whole new magical world from the bestselling creator of Recluce. Although Rhennthyl is the son of a leading wool merchant in L’Excelsis, the capital of Solidar, the most powerful nation on Terahnar, he has spent years becoming a journeyman artist and is skilled and diligent enough to be considered for the status of master artisan—in another two years. Then, in a single moment, his entire life is transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager—one of the few in the entire world of Terahnar who can visualize things and make them real.

He must leave his family and join the Collegium of Imagisle. Imagers live separately from the rest of society because of their abilities (they can do accidental magic even while asleep), and because they are both feared and vulnerable. In this new life, Rhenn discovers that all too many of the “truths” he knew were nothing of the sort. Every day brings a new threat to his life. He makes a powerful enemy while righting a wrong, and begins to learn to do magic in secret. Imager is the innovative and enchanting opening of an involving new fantasy story.

  • This one feels like cheating, because I literally just reviewed it, but I’m not kidding when I say that this book has the most vivid setting in any book I’ve ever read
  • It felt like I was in L’Excelsis from the very first chapter, and it didn’t let go until the very end
  • I’m not going to go into too much detail, I’m just going to plug my review here

Nature is beautiful… but also dying: name a book that is beautifully written, but also deals with a heavy topic like loss or grief.

God and I Broke Up by Katarina Mazetti, Translated by Maria Lundin

  • I haven’t read this book in a long, long time…but I still think about it, a lot.
  • I still think of the line about Pia’s cucumber smile when I write description
  • It was really well written, and kind of like poetry in the flow of the prose
  • That is rare for a translated book, because I feel like written art has the tendency to lose something in translation, especially books that are translated to English from another language
  • There are so many words that don’t translate between other languages and English that sometimes translated books just aren’t as good as they were in their original language
  • Many, many memes have been made about dubbed versus subbed anime, after all
  • This one, however, was really, really good, and the emotions carried over.
  • It’s really sad, but it’s worth a read

Fall is back to school season: share a non-fiction book that taught you something new.

The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing and the New Era of Personalized Medicine

  • I’m a big genetics and science nerd, so I ordered this book for that alone
  • I don’t know very much about economics. I know some of the basics, but I don’t know all that much—and I don’t care to. I find most business kind of stuff a little dull, and with my dyscalculia the numbers make no damn sense.
  • But, I think the intersection between science and economics is interesting, because research is business. Discovering something is only half the battle; then you have to deal with getting your discovery monetized and out to the public
  • With biology, it gets even more complicated, because you’re monopolizing living things
  • For example, this book talked about genetics as a form of data that companies could buy, sell and use, or that could be used to deny people things like loans, health insurance, and jobs…and I’d never thought of that before!
  • This book is very dense, but it’s very good. It’s really getting me to think about the business of biology.

In order to keep warm, it’s good to spend some time with the people we love: name a fictional family/household/friend-group that you’d like to be a part of.

X-men

  • I’ve always wanted to be an X-man. They appealed the lonely little queer kid who just wanted to have some damn friends
  • And, you know, super powers, instead of the actual mutations I have, which consist of having a self-destructing digestion system and pretty eyes
  • Even though they always are in danger, they have each other. They’re not a family like the Fantastic Four, which is fine with me, I’ve already got one of those, and I want to spend my time with sexy folkx in spandex or leather
  • Hugh Jackman…oh, yes….
  • Where was I?
  • Oh, right. Teams.
  • What I always loved about the X-men is that they weren’t related to each other, but they stuck together no matter what, even if they were upset at each other…even if someone left, they were always welcome back (after proving they’d learned from their mistakes, but they were always given the chance to prove that)
  • I’ve always wanted to be a super-hero too, and I love to help people
  • Flying around in an awesome jet plane with my awesome super powers and hot friends? That’s the kind of team I want to be on

The colorful leaves are piling up on the ground: show us a pile of fall-colored spines!

Fall is the perfect time for some storytelling by the fireside: share a book wherein somebody is telling a story.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • I don’t know if this counts, but you know what? I think it does, and I relish the opportunity to talk about this book
  • Some books are classics for…reasons. I’ve read them, and I have no idea why they’re so famous. I could go on and on about my hatred for Wuthering Heights, but I won’t.
  • My point is, I know EXACTLY why Great Gatsby is a classic
  • It’s so well written, and so timely even now, as the tide of Western society shifts more and more towards materialism
  • I don’t think the story would be as engaging without Nick’s voice, and the way Fitzgerald uses him to tell the story is expert and perfection. I love it. The story gives me fall energy too; Gatsby is desperately trying to hold onto summer, but he cannot avoid the cold that’s creeping in, where Nick just accepts that the seasons are changing
  • It’s perfection, and if you haven’t given it a chance, please do. It’s worth the hype, and it’s like hearing a story from your sad old uncle on a cool fall visit with the family

The nights are getting darker: share a dark, creepy read.

The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman

  • This book is an emotional roller coaster through a graveyard
  • I don’t want to say too much about this book, because I feel like telling people too much takes away from the spooky surprises contained within the story
  • The story takes place on the margins of society, right under the surface, and I think using vampires as the main characters was spot on for this particular story
  • It’s not your grandmother’s vampire novel, baby, and the New York setting, which is associated with both glitz and glamour and grit and grime is perfect
  • It’s atmospheric, and it’s perfection, and if you’re looking for a book for Halloween this is it. You can’t do better.

The days are getting colder: name a short, heartwarming read that could warm up somebody’s cold and rainy day.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

  • God I wish I had something to plug here, but that just ain’t me
  • I also don’t read a lot of heartwarming books—I get most of my heartwarming from fanfiction and webcomics, which are often pretty short
  • It’s not a read, or shade, because my Mom loves those kinds of books and I think they’re well written and valuable, it’s just not something I usually seek out
  • So, when I looked back through my Goodreads history, I remembered one of my favourite books ever: Ella Enchanted
  • I read this book at least five times when I was a little critter, and I still reference it
  • I’m trying to convince my husband to read it, I like it so much, and he is WAY out of the target audience
  • It’s a story we all know and love, but told in a unique and funny way, and Ella is a really engaging character who I wanted to see more and more of
  • You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll have a good time
  • And, because it’s written for a younger audience, it’s a nice short read.

Fall returns every year: name an old favorite that you’d like to return to soon.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

  • Frankenstein:
    • Frankenstein is one of my favourite books ever, and it’s the season of spook
    • The Creature is one of my favourite characters EVER. I paint him. I collect him. I’m planning to get a tattoo of him.
    • The real monster, of course, is Victor Frankenstein. I will be returning to this topic next month, and I hope you’ll all join me, but I am looking forward to re-visiting this timeless classic for this season of spook
  • I Am Legend:
    • This is one of the best vampire novels of all time (another topic I will soon be returning to) and it’s just…none of the movies do it justice. If you think you can skip the book to watch any of the movies, think again.
    • This book is full of surprises every time. Every time I read it, I see something different in it
    • I’m not spoiling it, even though it’s old, but it also really makes you think about the notion of monsters, and who is a monster and who isn’t, and who makes that distinction
    • It’s also a spooky book about being stalked by hordes of the undead. Fun for the whole family!

Fall is the perfect time for cozy reading nights: share your favorite cozy reading “accessories”!

And that’s that! Thank you for the open invitation, Literary Phoenix! I had a lot of fun, and I welcome anyone who wants to participate to do so as well!

Yours,

Imager: Reviewsday, September 2020

Hey there, friendos and dears!

We haven’t…been here for a while, have we? I think it’s been four months since my last Reviewsday. I don’t know if any of you lovely folkx have missed it, but I sure have! I’ve been too busy to read, with moving, going back to school, life crashing down around me in the wake of a global pandemic….you know, normal stuff for this topsy-turvy day and age. I’ve been working on the same two books for months, and they were both very dense and, while interesting, took some brain-power that I just didn’t have at my disposal all the time.

HOWEVER, now that things have calmed down a little, I’m ready to tell you about one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read. Oh yes, really. Without a single word of a lie, “Imager” by L. E. Modessit is an incredible book, and I am so happy to tell you about it today. Without further ado:

From Goodreads:

Imager is the beginning of a whole new fantasy in a whole new magical world from the bestselling creator of Recluce. Although Rhennthyl is the son of a leading wool merchant in L’Excelsis, the capital of Solidar, the most powerful nation on Terahnar, he has spent years becoming a journeyman artist and is skilled and diligent enough to be considered for the status of master artisan—in another two years. Then, in a single moment, his entire life is transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager—one of the few in the entire world of Terahnar who can visualize things and make them real.

He must leave his family and join the Collegium of Imagisle.  Imagers live separately from the rest of society because of their abilities (they can do accidental magic even while asleep), and because they are both feared and vulnerable. In this new life, Rhenn discovers that all too many of the “truths” he knew were nothing of the sort. Every day brings a new threat to his life.  He makes a powerful enemy while righting a wrong, and begins to learn to do magic in secret. Imager is the innovative and enchanting opening of an involving new fantasy story.

Bests:

  • Food, glorious food (and other description)
  • Characterization
  • Worldbuilding
  • Magic System

Flaws:

  • Pacing
  • That’s it, that’s the only one. This book was that good.

Food (And Description in General)

Modessit made me want meat. I haven’t eaten meat for six years. I’ve been a pescatarian forever, and L. E. Goddamn Modessit made me want chicken like nobodies business. He has such a gift for description. I’ve talked before about the movie set problem, which is when I feel like a story takes place on a movie set, like I’m watching a play rather than being immersed in the character’s lives. Modessit’s descriptions made me feel like I was right there, with Rhenn, eating chicken, getting nosebleeds, and stopping assassins. It’s honestly some of the best description I’ve ever read in any novel ever, and I’ve read a lot of books in my time. It’s incredible.

Modessit has the opposite problem as some books I’ve mentioned before, which had the “movie set problem”. It was almost too real, and while I was seeing things from Rhenn’s viewpoint, I wanted to see more. I wanted to know more. I know that’s a bit of a weird complaint, but I felt so immersed that, when I had questions, I wanted them answered, and I wanted them answered quickly. I felt like Rhenn knew things I didn’t, and I didn’t think that was fair! It made sense, since he grew up in the universe and I didn’t, but come on!

Still, I loved this. I loved getting to walk through this world, and learn about it as Rhenn did. I felt like I was there with him, every step of the way.

Are you ever happy, Elka? The answer to that is no, I’m not. I’m never happy.

Characters

The characters are the other stand-out feature of this novel. While there were characters I didn’t like, that was because Rhenn didn’t like them. They were real enough that I had an idea of who they were as people through him, and I decided that if my boy Rhenn hated them, so did I.

Needless to say, I adored Rhenn. I thought he was fantastic. He was a really convincing young person, and really well-rounded. He’s the viewpoint character, so he had to be good. I found him very funny and very likable. Of course, as a creative myself, I was just as invested in his journey as an artist as I was in his journey as an Imager, but his whole story is interesting. I feel like today’s young people would relate to him a lot—you train for years at a craft (or a subject), you finish your training and get a crappy job where your boss talks down to you and half the people you work with are there because of nepotism, and then you lose that job through no fault of your own and it’s back to the drawing board (literally, in Rhenn’s case, because, you know, artist). I feel like that’s a struggle a lot of people today can relate to, despite this story taking place in a world we don’t live in. But, he doesn’t wallow in self-pity. Rhenn never gives up, and doesn’t even stop doing art when he becomes an imager. Mad respect, Rhenn D’Imager. Mad respect.

All of characters felt like real people. They weren’t given as much attention as Rhenn, which makes sense since we spend all our time in Rhenn’s head and young people are nothing if not self-obsessed (that’s a joke, I’m under thirty please don’t cancel me), but I love all the side characters—the ones that Rhenn does, at least. There are a lot of characters in this novel, and most of them have fantasy names that I’m not 100% sure how to pronounce, but each of them are their own people, even the other imagers that he talks to a few times, and never for more than a page. I particularly enjoyed his love interest Seliora and her family, who come from a different race than Rhenn that I’m told will become more important later. They’re a tight knit but large family, and Seliora takes no shit from anyone, especially not Rhenn. While in some stories the love interest of the hero is all worried about the danger they’re in, and Seliora (perhaps due to her precognition) is 100% behind Rhenn, and is fine with him getting into danger because she trusts he can get himself out of it. I LOVE this. It’s such a refreshing dynamic compared to other, similar stories. Her entire family was so cute, and so entertaining, that I’m mostly reading the sequel to see more of them. Sorry, not sorry.

I also enjoyed Rhenn’s sister. She was spunky, smart and a good counterpoint to her artist brother. While Modessit’s female characters are not the focus of the story, they were all extremely well written. I cannot thank the man enough for that. He’s one of the best fantasy writers I’ve ever read, and this is part of it. It’s sad that I have to appreciate good writing that should be the norm, but here we are. Even beyond that, the man has a real gift for writing characters. Even if the development of the female characters was the norm, his writing is still stand-out in it’s craft. The fact that he’s so far ahead just makes it better. All the characters were fantastic, but these ones stood out to me the most.

Worldbuilding

The world that Modessit created was also very interesting. I hinted to it in my section about the description, but this world-building is incredible. I felt like I was there, as I said. I won’t belabor the point, but I’d like to expand on it. There was a lot of detail put into it, despite the…mundane-ness it could have had otherwise.

Let me explain. A lot of fantasy worlds are big, bombastic and in your face about how they’re different from our world. See: Avatar, the Last Airbender. See: A Darker Shade of Magic. I LOVE both of those stories. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having a big, loud, world that makes sure you know how different it is.

On the surface, Solidar isn’t that different from our world, beyond differences in religion, time telling, etc.

Yes I know those are big differences. I’m not done explaining!

But, most people’s daily lives are the same as they would have been in a similar time period in our world. Hours are still around sixty minutes. Religion is still…religion. The biggest difference is the prescence of imagers, which is very subtle.

But I love that.

To Rhenn, all this stuff is normal, so to us, it all feels normal, until we get to the weird stuff, and then it’s introduced to us in a way that’s not jarring, or obtrusive. The world is built like a real place. Everything is thought out, down to the last details.

The politics are there, but not in your face, as it would be in real life, and I appreciated that.

I don’t mind politics in books—if that’s what I’m expecting. But, I liked that I felt like it was a story with politics, rather than a story about politics. There was enough to tell us about this world, and about Rhenn’s place in the political system (The Imagers are a political class, because of their differences—more on that later), and about how things worked—and that’s it. It was real. I liked that.

I loved the way the religion worked, which was also there but not in your face about it. I find myself talking about the nameless and the namer with my partner, who is the only other person I know who’s read this book. I was raised Catholic, so I have a special appreciation for their religion, and Rhenn’s boredom at church. It’s even less in your face than the politics, but you get a sense of where it fits in this society, and it lets you know what the society values and how it views people who go against it’s values. I feel like Modessit is setting up something. Lead on, baby. Lead on. I’m with you to the end of the line.

The whole place felt real, is what I’m saying.

The Magic System

The magic system was very interesting. It reminded me of Full Metal Alchemist, which is only a bit of a spoiler if you’ve actually seen FMA.

Imaging appears to be the only magic at play, and it’s very interesting for a fantasy novel. Many stories have magic as a protected skill that only some can do, but this novel plays with that idea. The Imagers are powerful, but realistically so. I don’t want to go into too much more detail on that, because exploring the system entails a lot of spoilers. We learn as Rhen does, and we learn only bits at a time, so I’m not telling you a lot about it on purpose.

Basically, imagers can create things. Not out of nothing, much like FMA (honestly, more things should be like FMA. FMA is great), but that’s how it appears to the average person, and to Rhenn, at first. Despite this, the Imagers have limits on their powers. It’s a very hard magic system, and that works for this story.

I also appreciate the power scaling. I find in some magic systems there is no good reason for the magic users to not be in charge over the non-magic users. See; X-men, Tokyo Ghoul, Harry Potter.

I love all these things, but…some of the realism is sacrificed to tell a good story. And that’s okay! But here’s the thing:

  • X-men: most mutants may not be Magneto, but they still can do things other people can’t. There’s enough powerful mutants that the ones that aren’t would still be in charge, because there’s no reason that the first mutants wouldn’t have just taken over as soon as they appeared. Alternate history hub made a video explaining it better than I can
  • Tokyo Ghoul: the ghouls have their “quiniques” and they eat people. If they had some actual weaknesses, it would be believable that they’re a hunted class, but they’re freaking bullet proof. The one thing humans have to even the odds in most series just straight up doesn’t work. The ghouls are hella powerful. There’s no way the humans would have developed their anti-ghoul tech before the ghouls took over. Maybe I need to finish Re: but whatever. In the original series, there’s no good reason the ghouls aren’t running people farms.
  • Harry Potter: Bullets actually do work on wizards, but that’s a recent invention. Wizards and witches have been around for a while, there’s no goddamn reason they’re not in charge. What’s a stick or a spear or a sword going to do against expliearmis, or a freaking patronus!
  • J. K. Rowling, perhaps, should put more thought into what she does, and she would see the clear and obvious flaws in her reasoning.
  • And she’s a transphobe. I’m saying, in a very long-winded way, that she’s a transphobe and she sucks.

But, in Imager, it is very clear why the imagers aren’t in charge, despite their powers. Modessit actually thought about this. Thank Christ, someone finally did. Their powers make sense, their isolation makes sense. It all works. It’s *chef’s kiss* perfection

Pacing

HOWEVER, and hubby might hate this, but nothing is perfect, and this book, while excellent, is no exception. I LOVED it, but there are some distinct flaws that stuck out more because the rest of the book was so good.

My biggest complaint in this book was the pacing. It was very slow, and that worked for the first…three quarters? And then I noticed that I was nearing the end and there was a lot left up in the air. There was a lot to tidy up before the book ended, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to get dusted, swept and put away.

And…I guess disappointed is a strong word, but anti-climactic is not.

As a result I felt like the ending was anti-climactic. It was like a water slide, smoothly going along until one big drop right at the end. (Side note: why do all waterslides do this? Are they all made by the same person? WHY?!). I felt like they didn’t wrap up enough for it to feel like Rhenn had accomplished much besides getting his magical powers and getting shot at a lot. Oh, and meeting this blonde THOT…if this turns into a love triangle, I’m willing myself into this story and slapping Rhenn because Seliora is a queen and he’d better not forget it.

Too much was left open-ended. I was a little disappointed. Even the grand battle at the end seems like it’s over so quick. I swear, Modessit spends more time describing a pie than this crucial moment. (Another side note: Please write a cookbook, L. E. I’d buy 100 copies. It would hit the best-seller list). It left room for a sequel, which is good, because I didn’t feel satisfied AT ALL by the ending, but I cared enough to read more.

This is one of the best books I’ve reviewed on this blog. Pacing issues aside, I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. And I have. I think my friends are sick of me telling them to read it. It’s just that good. Please, give it a shot. Imager is well written, it’s expertly told, and it’s criminally underrated.

That’s the TL:DR right there. I give it four and a half chickens out of a possible five.

Have you read Imager? Are you a fan of authors describing food so well you want to get it in ‘ya? How do you feel about the Drag Race gifs? Let me know down below!

Yours in the Nameless,

Video Editing and Writing: Lessons Learned

I don’t know many artists, whether they be writers, visual artists or musicians, who only dabble in one form of art making. This seems to confuse people who aren’t artists, or who don’t know any well enough to know their hobbies. If this is you, then what are you doing with your life? You should get out more, once we’re allowed to again. Meet more people, especially artists. We’re not so bad when you get to know us, I promise!

See? Look at how friendly we can be!

You see this way of thinking with celebrities. When an actor goes into music, or vice-versa, the public seems to wonder who they think they are, using their fame to promote their sub-par work, when there are “real” musicians who work hard for their fame. What they miss is that a lot of these people trained in both. This confuses people. Why, they ask, when one form of art is so hard to master and perfect, would they bother branching out further than their “one big thing”. The answer is deceptively simple: because doing one thing all the time is really, really boring. Nothing exists in a vacuum. One discipline has much to teach an artist about another discipline, and about life itself.

Well, maybe not that last thing, but definitely the art thing.

I myself am something of an artist myself. Other than writing, I dabble in visual art, such as drawing and painting, cooking (making good gluten free and pescatarian food is an art, shut up) and video editing, such as creating amvs and fanvideos. Some of you may be rolling your eyes at the sheer cringe of it, and some others may be genuinely excited by this. I’d wager most of you are wondering what the hell an amv is and why it’s art. The acronym “amv” is short for “anime music video”. If you don’t know what anime is, I’m not sure why you’re here. Fanvideos is the generally accepted term for music videos made with Western media. It is the act of, essentially, making a music video with a property you love. Here are some examples (some of which are mine!):

I started video editing when I was around 11, because my friend was doing it and I thought it looked cool (shout out to Gillian, that shit was rad). Of course, I was writing far before that, but I enjoyed both of them immensely. I’ve putting my work on YouTube for almost as long. I’ve seen it all, kids. I’ve been through mean comments (who’s that mean to a twelve year old? Honestly?), arguments over military engagement in Afghanistan in the comments of an X-men video (yes, really) and losing subs. I’ve been on YouTube (not with the same account, because you will never find my old videos, mwa-ha-ha) for YEARS. Things have changed. I’ve changed. I finished puberty. I have a job. I have a bunch of life experience that I couldn’t dream of at that age. And I’m still making fanvideos.

As I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve grown as a video editor. During the “big stop”, a time in my life where I stopped writing entirely for a couple years, I stopped video editing. But it was getting back into video editing that made me want to keep going as a writer. These disciplines have always been tied for me, despite how different they seem. One is writing words on a paper, or on a screen. There are no fancy filters or jump cuts here. One is making it seem like two characters who met once are deeply in love. No word play, no literary devices. Why, you may ask? Because one taught me about the other.

It seems a bit dorky, I’ll admit, but it’s a recognized art form. Early slide-show style fanvideos (of Star Trek, because what else) are featured in national galleries. Now, we’ve evolved past timing slideshows to music. There are so many programs you can use, so many types of video you can make, and so many things you can do with them, but the core of it all is this: It’s about self expression, and appreciation of the art you’re borrowing from to make it. It’s digital collage, but with complicated zoom effects and strobe lighting.

Yes, really.

Read on, my friends, and I’ll tell you exactly why.

When I edit videos, I like to tell a story. To tell the story of why these two characters either love or hate each other, or to portray the state of mind of a character, I chose from the clips of the show. Sometimes, in certain shows (especially anime) there are many scenes that are similar, or many scenes that convey similar feelings. I can’t put all of them in. The video would be longer than the song, and it would be painful to watch. So, I have to pick the most important, most impactful moments to use, even if I like the look of another scene more. It’s not exclusively about aesthetics, despite being an audiovisual medium. It’s about what works best for the mood, story or moment in the show you want to capture.

In writing, sometimes you repeat yourself. That’s fine. Everyone does it. The question then becomes, what do I do with this? How many scenes of a character deciding whether or not they want to murder another character is too many? Is murder bad? When did that happen? Like video editing, I’m trying to incorporate visuals into my work. I want people to be able to imagine my story in their heads. I want them to see what I want them to see. Too many murder moments? Which is the best one? Which tells me the most about the characters involved? Pick that.

Video editing has given me some insights into how and when to do this, through the process of concise editing and visual storytelling.

Not the murder thing. Video editing doesn’t teach you much about that.

Sometimes, I have ideas for videos that I think are really, really good. I think they’re going to be the best thing I’ve ever made, or that they’re going to be really cool and get me mad YouTube amv clout (I want it so bad. Please. Give me clout). Then, I get partway through, sometimes two hours into a video, sometimes half an hour, and sometimes five, that a video just…isn’t working. Maybe it has less clips than I anticipated, maybe the song’s mood just isn’t working, maybe it’s a pain to edit and every second I work on it feels like another year off my short, miserable life.…

Let’s pull it back.

Sometimes, even if you put a lot of work into something, and had high hopes for it…it’s just not meant to be. I could keep plugging away at it, but that’s time I could spend editing things I’m more passionate about. I could come back to it later, but…I could also just…not?

I used to be convinced that I had to finish EVERYTHING I started. EVERYTHING. Even stories I started when I was eleven that I found hidden on a USB as an adult. Even stories that I HATE writing. Even stories I know I don’t know the ending of, and more writing isn’t making that anymore clear. Video editing takes time, but so does writing. It’s deceptive: you don’t always notice how much time it really takes. If I spend all that time finishing things I hate, that’s time taken away from projects I actually like. I didn’t start letting it lie until I got back into video editing. Coincidence? I think not.

We’re about to get a little more…fancy with this one.

There are many ways to edit videos, depending on what you want to express. But the way I see it, there are two ways it boils down to: Linear versus non-linear. Linear would be picking clips in the order that they happened in the show/movie/media, and non-linear would be picking clips from any part of the media, and putting them out of chronological order in the video. I used to think about videos like I thought about writing. Everything had to be linear. A story had to be told as it happened, didn’t it? Or else how would it make any sense.

No, not so.

You CAN do that, but sometimes, especially for a video focusing on emotions or on a pairing, non-linear is the better option. Is it harder? For me, in some ways. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an inferior style.

As I got more and more comfortable with this style of editing, the more my poetry and stories changed. Especially my poetry. I felt like I could jump around through time and it would still make sense, as long as I focused on the feeling or point of the piece. Would I have gotten there without video editing? Maybe, but it wouldn’t have taken so long, and it wouldn’t have been as seamless as it was. It would have felt like a shock to the system rather than a natural progression of my art, and I know that for a fact.

Videos take a long time.

I’ve done some math and I take about 1-2 hours per 20 seconds of video. Most of my videos are between 2-3 minutes long, so that’s about 6 to 9 hours per video. It used to take much less time. I would finish a video, give it one watch through to make sure that the clips were actually where I wanted them to be and that nothing went wrong in the exporting process, and then post it. Done.

However…then I’d be re-watching the videos and I would see all the easy fixes I could have made to make them better. It would have taken an extra hour, maybe, to have gone back in and fixed the bad transitions or the weird effects or what have you. The point is, making it perfect would have taken some time, but it would have saved me a long of embarrassment in the long run.

Now, in writing, I went through a similar process. I used to be a one-draft wonder (in my mind only, I’m sure) and then I’d read it back and see all the easy fixes or places where things didn’t quite work. I was, like, 13, so please don’t judge me too harshly.

Then, I realized the importance of drafting. It was okay to do more work to make it better. I wasn’t a special savant: I’m just a writer, who was learning their craft, and learning the importance of drafting. Like my Dad always told me: If something was worth doing, it was worth doing it your absolute best.

Still, I was stubborn with video editing. I didn’t want to have to re-do the long, loooong process again. But, I realized the same thing I did with my writing. I wasn’t perfect. I needed to fix things and make it the best it could be. Does it take longer? Yes, yes it does. Do I cringe at my videos anymore? No, not really. I’m proud of the work I put out, just like I am with my writing. And at the end of the day, whether you have no subscribers and basically do it for your own amusement or have thousands waiting for new videos or new stories, that’s what counts: what you think of it.

When I write, I try to be as “tight” as possible. I don’t want to be Hemingway levels of sparse and minimal. I personally think that way of storytelling is over-rated and works better for visual media, but that’s a tale for another day. The point is, I try not to have things that are unnecessary, and I try to have everything in the story serve the purpose of the story. No fan-service, no pointless repetition, no unnecessary scenes. I try to think of the story like an essay: what is the thesis? What am I trying to say? What is this story trying to do for people? I narrow my focus when I edit to figure out exactly what I need to do to make the story shine.

Related to my above point about the most impactful moments, I used to just use the first clip I saw when I was surveying whatever I was working with. Beyond choosing the most impactful moments, I also realized that I needed to focus on something for each video. What feeling did I want my audience to take from it? What is the thesis? What am I trying to say? So I started tightening my editing skills, and I started making more efficient, tight videos that are cohesive and tell a complete story or paint a complete picture of the mood I want to communicate

Editing isn’t just about taking things out, even though that’s part of it. You can edit while you’re writing. Crazy, but true. It’s also about focusing, and knowing what you want to do as you’re doing it.

Now, I make videos like I write. Tight, concise, and full of things that make sense to me and me alone.

I love to write. I am DEDICATED to my craft. Part of my dedication is writing in different styles, and trying new things, in service of becoming a better writer. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. But I tried, and I always take away something from each failure. That way, I haven’t wasted my time.But, I’ve also gained a lot from my experimentation. I’ve written some good stuff, stuff I never would have thought of otherwise.

My videos used to be all the same. They were all these linear things, with minimal effects and transitions, focusing on the exact interpretation of the lyrics. Then, one day, I saw some videos from other editors I’m subscribed to, and I saw how experimental and artistic they were, and I thought of my writing, and how much fun I had experimenting.

So, I started switching up my style. I started adding lyrics to my videos. I started getting more metaphorical with the lyrics of the songs I picked. I started using film-making techniques to make my videos. And I’d watch them back and think that I did something cool. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes, it didn’t. But I was happy that I tried. I was happy I’d tried something new and that I could take those techniques to another video that might work better.

I doubt I would have done this without my experimentation in writing. It’s part of growing as an artist, and I feel more like an artist now than I ever have.

High School Musical lied to you.

No one is just one thing. It doesn’t matter what they seem to do the most, be it drawing, writing or music; most people have a lot of stuff going on. Most people do more than one thing with their time. It’s not a sign that they’re bad at their main thing, or that they secretly hate it. It’s just part of being human, and part of being an artist. It’s good to branch out, and try new things. You never know what you could learn, and you never know what you can create.

For me, it’s Berserk amvs. For you, it could be something legendary.

With sore fingers and sore-er eyes,

Month-End Roundup: August 2020

Well hello there.

Welcome to the Month End Round-Up for August 2020. I haven’t done one of these for a while, and it feels like I’m stretching my sea-legs. I’ll start with some house-keeping before I get into the official Roundup. Yeehaw?

I didn’t post as much as I said I would this month, and that’s on me. I’m having trouble getting into a routine. Summer is a super busy time for most folkx, but I found it incredibly hectic this year. I’m an essential worker, so I’ve been working a lot. My partner and I have been over-loaded with family camping trips and moving and unpacking and getting ready to go back to school. None of these are bad things, but it really ate into my time and I’m sorry for that. I’m going to hold myself accountable for September to post more (on both the blog and my social media) and to prepare further in advance. While I can’t guarantee I’ll post every day, like I want to (because of school and work and ugh) I’m going to post at least four days a week.

Also…we finally unpacked the last box in the house. I think we’re finally, officially, moved in!

And it only took three months. ;klj;kljs;ij;gkld

August’s Posts:

https://elkascott.wordpress.com/2020/08/06/the-state-of-the-blog/

https://elkascott.wordpress.com/2020/08/12/from-storybook-weaver-to-scrivener-a-brief-review-of-writing-software/

Broken (On Netflix!)

  • Re-watched this documentary this month. I’ve seen it before, but I was telling my partner about it and realized I’d forgotten a couple things, so I binge-watched the entire series in one day
  • My personal favourite episodes are the ones on counterfeit make-up and furniture, though I enjoyed the vape one as well.
    • By favourite, I don’t mean that I enjoyed watching them, but that I found them well-made and interesting in addition to being INFURIATING.
    • Seriously. I’ve never been more angry at a dresser in my life. Give it a watch. It’s a great documentary series.

(Un)Well (On Netflix!)

  • Half the YouTubers I watch were talking about this Netflix series, so I hopped on the bandwagon and drove it all the way to Alternative Health Town. I enjoyed the ride, but I’m not staying in this little municipality.
  • Full disclosure: there were a couple episodes I skipped because they made me uncomfortable (the breast milk episode and the bee-sting therapy episode, respectively) and I fast forwarded some of the weird moaning in the tantric sex episode for the same reason. No shame on anyone participating in tantric sex therapy, I just did NOT want to listen to other people making sex noises. No. I have housemates, one of whom is a kid. NO.
  • HOWEVER, I really enjoyed this documentary regardless.
    • I am personally someone who believes in both natural remedies and modern medicine (since I take daily medication to keep myself sane), but I don’t think you should take ANYTHING medicinally without researching it, whether it’s essential oils or anti-depressants.
    • The oil episode has been getting the most attention because of it’s connection to two massive MLMs, but the whole series is really, really interesting. My personal favourite was the one on ayahuasca.

Saint Seiya

  • Oh, my goodness. This show is absolutely bonkers, and I love every second of it.
  • It’s…it’s hard to explain. So, there’s these magic suits of armour called cloths, and they’re from the zodiac, and they belong to “saints” for the Greek goddess Athena, and there’s bad saints who work for an evil pope…I’m only on Season Two and it’s a RIDE.
  • If you’re not familiar with the shonen style of anime/manga/story-telling, it might be a bit of sensory overload, but if you are familiar, Saint Seiya is one of the first big shonen properties and it’s very influential.
  • I actually watched Saint Seiya: Lost Canvas before this one, and so far I like that one a bit better, but I’m going to finish the OG Seiya before I go back to Lost Canvas. If you like mindless action with lots of heart, this show is a good choice.

PhilosophyTube (On YouTube!)

  • I’ve actually been watching the lovely Oliver Thorne’s YouTube channel for a while, but I’ve recently binge-watched all his videos again.
  • Mr. Thorne does videos about philosophy (wow, great observation there) but explains things in a way that everyone can understand.
  • He also employs theatrics and costumes and humour to teach you about these really complicated concepts.
  • I recommend him to anyone with a passing interest in philosophy, and a major interest in social issues and making the world a better place.

ALSO!

In a similar vein, I’ve also been committing to reading/watching more content from marginalized authors (BIPOC, 2SPLGBTQIAA+ people, older people and younger people). I’ll be putting some of the people I started following in a special round-up sometime in September.

  • I didn’t read much this month. I’ve been too busy, and I find it easier to just put something on to watch rather than sitting down to read.
  • I’m still reading Imager. Don’t judge me. It’s a long book, I’ve been busy, and it’s very densely written. I’m really enjoying it, and I’m hoping I’ll finally have it finished in time for September’s Reviewsday.
  • I also started reading more academic articles to research for my writing. It’s been cool to learn more about 2SPLGBTQIAA+ therapy and PTSD treatment in the 90’s.

  • This section won’t be as detailed as usual. Nothing new is really happening. I’m a little disappointed in myself, given that I’m still working on the same stuff as I was in April, but…you know what, I’m not going to give into negativity. I’m doing my very best.
  • I’m still working on re-writing and simultaneously writing new material for my novel-length Transformers fanfiction. It’s going pretty well, mostly thanks to WriteTrack keeping me on track, and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve created. I hope that my audience forgives me for taking so much time to do this and that they enjoy the new material.
  • I’m almost finished my NaNo (the OG November one) project. Almost. It’s been a slog sometimes, because I’ve been working on it for sooooo long, but I’m looking forward to having a completed finished draft that I can edit and incorporate some of my new ideas into.
  • Speaking of re-writes, my little pet project is also going well. I’m re-doing the timeline and making the story more complex and rounded. I hope to have something concrete and ready to show people by the end of the year.
  • I also wrote some poetry! I’m trying not to neglect the forms of writing I do outside of novels, and I wrote parts of about four poems, some spoken word and some page. My poetry has been getting rejected a lot and that’s discouraging, but I’m going to keep on writing it because I like it.

Blog:

  • Reviewsday: Imager by L. E. Modessit
  • Canadian Crime Stories: Some People are more Equal than Others (A Look at Racism in Canada)
  • On Writing and Video Editing
  • Back-Pack Chronicles: Birthday Special
  • Round-Up Special: Content from the Margins
  • Get started on Halloween/October posts

Projects:

  • Finish “The Winter Prince”
  • Finish rewrites for Transformers fanfiction
  • Finish world-building for pet project
  • Write more poems
  • Write/finish a short story

Personal:

  • Get healthier (exercise every day, eat out less)
  • Book therapy session
  • Start school
  • Get a second pet

Until next month,

P.S: Please consider buying me a ko-fi! https://ko-fi.com/inkyscott

From Storybook Weaver to Scrivener: A Brief Review of Writing Software

Back when I was a young(er) person, a nineteen year old just starting their blogging journey, I drafted a post about my history with writing software. I’m glad that I didn’t bother to post it, because I was very ignorant and computer illiterate at the time. However, there was one element of this old post that stuck out to me: my adventures with a program called Storybook Weaver.

I started my post talking about using Storybook Weaver back in grade one on the old Macintoshes in the computer lab. I remember it vividly, even now as an adult. It was a welcome break from the usual boring typing lessons (god, I wish I’d paid more attention to those now), and it was also pretty “radical”, and “sweet”, as was the parlance at the time. This program let you create a story book, through stickers you could add to the page, with a space to add text at the bottom. I remember that my classmates were in a competition, almost, of who could make the silliest, most outlandish story, and I was so focused n my own equally outlandish stories that I paid them no mind. I paid no mind to most of that class, honestly, and always lost the floppy discs I saved my masterpieces on. I wanted to create the stories that I wanted to hear, and being able to do this was part of what made me realize that I wanted to do this forever.

So goddamn you, Storybook Weaver. Everything that has followed is your fault.

And thus, I gaze upon my doom

(If you want to experience the program for yourself, it still exists. You can try it out here: https://playclassic.games/games/educational-dos-games-online/play-storybook-weaver-online/)

It was also the beginning of my experience with writing software. Despite software evolving with me as a writer, it took me a long time to start using it as frequently and reverently as I did with Storybook Weaver. My opinions at the time of my initial draft were based on the observations of a university student with no money, who didn’t believe in paying for writing software. Part of this was stubbornness, and the fool-hardy, young person belief that you should do everything yourself, with no help from anyone or anything. Part was from a general lack of understanding as to what software was out there, as all I’d heard of at the time was Scrivener. There simply wasn’t the same amount being widely used, because that was a few years ago, and I don’t have to tell you, fellow denizens of the internet, how much things have changed in seven years.

However, there are certain things that I still believe. The more things change, the more things stay the same, as it were. One thing I will standby is my assertion that one shouldn’t download the first program you see off Google, as (especially now) those might be the most popular (and have the most money to spend to get their program at the top) but popular does not mean best (see: Twilight). I also asserted that lists, articles and forums are your friend. As someone who uses writing software daily, I thought that perhaps I should create an article. Consider this me being a friend to you, yours, and the internet, by sharing my experience with different writing apps, software, and tools.

Presented in point form for your convenience.

Also: Not sponsored. No one paid me to say any of this. That would have been nice, though. If you want to send me a couple coins….I have a Ko-Fi now, which will be linked at the end of the post.

  • Writetracker is a site that I use every day
  • Yes, it is software, I checked with my IT Guy (TM) husband
  • I tried a few different word-tracker apps, and this is the one I landed on, and the one I like the most
  • It’s really easy to use, and works with other sites and programs like NaNoWriMo and MilWordY
  • It actually works much better than the NaNoWriMo site, in my humble opinion
  • You set a goal, it tells you how much you have to write every day to meet that goal, you track your progress, and that’s it. It’s really that simple.
  • My one complaint is that I don’t believe that there’s an option to set a goal for editing, and while that’s not a deal breaker, that’s good to know going in
  • The whole site was developed and is maintained by one man, and I also think that’s really, really cool. He’s kept it free since it launched, and that deserves respect.
  • Maybe I’m just stupid.
  • Most of the people I know who use Scrivener love it. However, most of them have Mac books, and I use my shitty HP Laptop my Mom gave me for free from her work, and before that I used my custom desktop that, while proficient with word processing and web browsing, barely ran iTunes
  • Even beyond the technical issues, I found that I could not figure out Scrivener AT ALL
  • I tried to go through the tutorial, but I found it long and confusing.
  • I’ve tried three times to figure out Scrivener, and I just don’t think it’s worth it. I need a program I can pick up and use right away, rather than spending literal hours trying to figure out how to add notes
  • Look. I love, appreciate, and respect the good folks at NaNoWriMo for running a great contest, and I am a better writer for having participated in the event last year and camp this year, but God. Damn.
  • The site itself is notoriously slow and buggy, or that’s what I confirmed for myself after I read an article when I Googled NaNoWriMo and got a post complaining about the site
  • You guys need better SEO. Just saying.
  • If you want something simpler, you’re better off going with WriteTrack, because it doesn’t have the same bells and whistles
  • I do appreciate that the site has statistics beyond just word count, and it’s nice to look back and see when I wrote the most, or how I felt when I was writing. I could navigate easily to these features, which is a plus
  • I only use it a few times a year, for the events, but you can use it all year round, should you choose to, you just won’t get the same badges (I don’t think)
  • I just wish it wasn’t so slow! I’d rather use something a little simpler, just to get my tracking done so I can get write back (ha! I crack myself up) to writing
  • Bare bones version of Scrivener
  • When I say bare bones, I mean bare bones. I didn’t realize how bare bones it was until I started using programs where I could create relationship webs, for instance.
  • Pretty easy to figure out, and has some cool features
  • However, it’s interface is pretty clunky, and multi media features like pictures don’t integrate well with the rest of the program
  • Some things are hard to find, and hidden within the tabs of the interface
  • You can’t upload two pictures to one category (ie: the outside view of a house in the story and the internal floor plan) and it’s hard to look at multiple things at once
  • If you accidentally move a chapter, good luck putting it back where it was
  • I decided to stop using it and move to a program I paid for because I just wanted more
  • So, if you want something really basic, and can handle a bit of clunkiness, this program is fine, but it’s not my favourite
  • Decided to give this a try after seeing it on the NaNoWriMo site
  • My husband likes it. He uses it for his D & D. I, on the other hand, find it kind of frustrating
  • Maybe I went in with the wrong expectations, but I expected to have the ability to make maps and stuff like that, but it’s more of a wiki for your story
  • And that’s cool and all, but that’s not really what I wanted. I already have a program that can do that, which confuses me a lot less
  • It’s very much made for role-players, and I’m glad my partner likes it
  • However, I don’t know if I want to use a web-based program to do what World Anvil does, as I want to be able to use the program if I don’t have access to the internet
    • This isn’t the site’s fault, to be clear. My partner and I went through a phase where we were really, really broke and our internet was cut off several times. Even though we’re in a better position now, I’m biased towards programs that don’t need the internet to work.
  • Purchased this product after winning Camp NaNoWriMo
  • While the coupon code was misleading, I still bought the software, and I’m still using it
  • I’ve been playing around with it quite a bit, and I’ve found it pretty fun so far
  • I like that I can do things that I couldn’t do (or figure out) with yWriter or Scrivener, like create character relationship webs and timelines within one program
  • I will update this post as I work on this software further, but I have a few nitpicks about it.
    • I don’t like that I have to click on the icons to figure out what they do. I’d prefer if it could show me it when I hovered over it, but that will just take a little while to remember on my own what each icon represents
    • When using the character tab, I moved some of the boxes around, and I couldn’t get them into a nice straight line again. This is such a nitpick, but I’d like to be able to make everything pretty again! Come on!
  • However, that said, I find the whole program easy to use. I figured it out pretty quick, which is big for me because I sometimes have trouble with new programs because I’m old and crabby and am not the wide-eyed, skinny bitch I used to be with a more plastic brain
  • I really enjoy this program so far. It does what I want it to, and a few things I didn’t know I wanted until I got it.

Look. At the end of the day, your writing is your writing. You know what you want, and you know what you need from any software you’re looking for. Whether you’re an old time pro or a newbie, there is a program out there for you. I cannot cover every piece of writing software in existence, and I don’t have the spoons to review all the ones I’ve tried, but I wanted to at least talk about the pieces of software I’ve used extensively. At the end of the day, all I can do is throw my voice into the ether, and hope that my thoughts give you some helpful advice, and a place to start.

With sore fingers,