An Essential Reset

I’ve been saving this one for a while, because, total honesty: I’ve just been recovering and processing a lot of stuff.

But, to finally break some news, I moved out of that terrible room I was living in. The place with the neighbors downstairs blasting music all day every day. The neighborhood where I was totally present for a gas station getting robbed.

Yeah. I moved out of there.

To the only place I could move during COVID and unemployment–back with the family. It’s a little depressing, but it was an essential reset. And it is out of this world how much better my living situation got the moment I moved back in. Like, we’re talkin’ “Wait–why did I stay at the other place for so long??” level.

Because, on top of the downstairs neighbors starting with the all day parties again, stereo blasting directly under my room, my roommates started with incense–the kind that’s made with benzene (which, if you don’t know, some incense is made with harmful chemicals, like benzene, that induce headaches and fatigue). Seriously, the first time they burned incense, I nearly lost a full day because, at 5pm, I got really tired, lay down for a nap, and woke up the next day at 2PM. It’s pretty bad.

So, in late February, there came a day–the fourth day in a row–where the downstairs neighbors turned on their four-song playlist. And I decided to take a shower to hopefully drown out the music for a bit. But when I stepped out of my room, I immediately got hit with the benzene–extremely strong, like my roommates had been burning incense all morning and walking around the apartment with it. And I just remember walking to the bathroom with an immediate ache behind my eyes, shutting the bathroom door . . .

And there was just shit in the toilet.

Like, no toilet paper. Just shit.

To this day, I don’t understand the logistics. But I don’t want to.

I definitely didn’t try to figure it out in that moment. I just blinked and said, out loud, “I’m moving out of here.” Like it was a realization of an empirical fact. “I’m just gonna go.”

I’d been determined to stick it out and find a new job and get a new apartment during COVID, all while staying away from the old apartment because I didn’t want my mother to potentially get sick from me going outside. But I’d just texted my mom about NYC Vaccine List and she already had her first shot scheduled.

And I just couldn’t anymore.

As if the world was egging me on too, I started watching Steven Universe Future, not expecting its main theme to be, “Stop torturing yourself–it’s time to move on,” the same week I watched the finale for WandaVision. Seriously, it almost felt like an audience somewhere was like, “Finally! We threw every goddamn hint at him but he just stood in that room for so long!”

I want to tell you that I gave a heartfelt goodbye to that place–my tiny room high up on Fordham Road.

But I really, really didn’t. I didn’t even sleep there for the last few nights I was renting the room; I just kept hauling stuff on the bus to the old apartment and sleeping here instead. The move was a surgical six hours where I was in zero-fucks mode, determinedly moving my property as quickly as I could to ensure the nightmare was over. Even when I walked around Fordham asking for spare boxes at stores, trying to drum up some emotion for a place I’d lived for nearly two years, I just couldn’t.

But . . . there was one thing that I knew I had to do before I left.

One thing that I liked about the room so much that I wrote about it here.

One thing that I wanted to contribute to the neighborhood.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.

It was so old that it wouldn’t even turn on.

And I’m exactly the kind of Loki who couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Cause, seriously, can you even imagine when someone woke up the next day, made coffee, looked out the window and was like, “Wha . . . Wait. There’re two PS4 controllers out there? Who the fuck is throwing these controllers out there!?”

I mean, there’s every chance that no one will notice or care.

But I’d like to imagine that, in May, someone like me is going to move into an apartment over there.

And they’re going to look out their window, at the one roof across the way, and say, “Huh. There’s a PS4 controller out there. I wonder who–Wha–! There’re two!”

And maybe they’ll be so intrigued–by the fact that they’re the same color and facing the same way–that they’ll spend an afternoon thinking about them, the same way I thought about the first. Best case: they come up with their own story for how those controllers got there.

Or, even better case: they contribute their own controller.

Seriously, I’ll die happy if I go back one day and there are 300 broken PS4 controllers on that roof.

~~~

Thanks for reading. I didn’t want to fall back into life updates, but my other post ideas weren’t gelling and I couldn’t take the usual extra day to decide on something else.

That said, this will probably be my last life update for a while, because things are going to be calm for a bit (seriously, I moved nearly a month ago and I’ve been able to sleep, write, and think whenever I want, every single day–it’s been amazing).

But that means I will be back to writing-talk next week Sunday. Feel free to stop by then, or if you’d rather read the most recent thing I’ve posted about Fantasy writing, it’s my last post, which was about realistically messy worldbuilding.

Anyway, until next time, take care, stay safe, and Thin Mints come in two sleeves. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. This is a warning: a single box of Thin Mints has wa-a-a-a-a-ay too many Thin Mints in it. Like, a dangerous amount of Thin Mints to be surprised by.

Bye!

Let’s Talk About – “Uncanny Mess Realism” in Worldbuilding

Welcome back! Or Happy . . . First Time Here? Uh . . .

Welcome!

Holy shit, I’m never trying to write a normal intro ever again.

Today, I wanted to get back to writer talk. I have an important life update I’ll drop on you guys, but nothing crazy . . . Well, it is crazy, but not in a bad way or a great way. It can wait.

Especially because a really good topic came to me in my weekly zoom call with other writers last Saturday.

How to use a very specific type of realistic complexity in worldbuilding.

As I brought it up to my writing buddies, I realized, Maybe this isn’t a facet of worldbuilding everyone thinks about?

To put it simply, it’s the messy, microcosm-riddled complexity of both in-world institutions and pre-story timelines.

I took a week and tried doing some research about this topic, but I was only able to turn up a bunch of basic worldbuilding tips. Which means no one (from what I saw) has talked about this before. I’m choosing to believe that’s because I’m just obsessing over miniscule facets of writing again. But whatever.

I’d like to point out that I didn’t create this concept. I learned it from watching a DM on Twitch ages ago; Adam Koebel, who possibly still DM’s for the Rollplay D&D channel, used to do worldbuilding sessions for the games he ran and after watching a few, this one aspect of his approach to worldbuilding stood out to me. I don’t remember him calling special attention to it or naming it, but I’ve come to think of it as . . .

Uncanny Mess Realism

Okay. Hear me out.

Your basic worldbuilding for the guards in a Fantasy city is this:

The guards in this city are servants of the king and they ride horses from the stables at the castle’s guardhouse.

Uncanny Mess worldbuilding for the guards in a Fantasy city is this:

The guards in this city were a mercenary faction that was employed so long by the kingdom that they were folded into the military 300 years ago (which is why they’re called “the Wolves” [I dunno–it’s 3am] and why their coat of arms is the kingdom’s sigil with a full moon behind it. Among the Wolves, there are two pretty distinct mindsets–those who love the kingdom (who grew up here or came here because they heard stories of it and are content to protect it) and those who want to be Wolves because they have “Wolf’s blood” in their family line or grew up on stories about the sell swords (and who don’t care nearly as much about the kingdom and its citizens). Also, they use horses from three different stables–Lockley’s, West End, and Minish, which are all on retainer with the king. A normal person can still buy or rent horses from those stables, but their warhorses are technically property of the crown, shared by the Wolves when necessary. Yeah, the previous queen used the castle stables to outfit the Wolves, but the current king loves horses, so the castle stables are full of his personal stock.

Basic worldbuilding for a company that makes androids is this:

Android Co. [3:30am now] makes androids in its facility in Silicon Valley! They sell androids at their fancy chain stores, and even though they are the only android manufacturer in the world, their androids are incredibly high tech and basically human.

Uncanny Mess worldbuilding for a company that makes androids looks like this:

Android Co., like the 5 other major android manufacturers, gets a lot of their parts from third party manufacturers. Considering, for example, the highest quality processors come from one company and heat sinks come from another, they have a bunch of contracts with a lot of third party firms who ship parts to their factories. Even after you take into account proprietary technology, their androids are still about 40% identical to every other android on the market. Android Co.’s major claim to fame is the hyper realistic synthetic skin they use on their products, but even that is a commissioned variant from the same firm who sells to everyone because they make the best, least creepy-looking synthetic parts.

What I’m trying to get at here is that, in the real world, organizations and institutions are very messy.

If you go to the bear enclosure at your local zoo, and you see the one brown bear you’ve always seen there, who now has *gasp* an adorable bear cub with them, the temptation is go, “Aww! He/She had a baby!?” But, in reality, that cub was possibly brought in from another zoo or a sanctuary. In fact, if you’re not particularly keen on the bears, maybe you don’t even notice that the one brown bear you’ve always seen is a totally different bear–that yours was moved to a different zoo and a new one was brought in and you’re 30 feet away and can’t tell regardless.

Okay, it’s starting to sound like I’m roasting your ability to identify bears from 30 feet away, but no–what we’re focusing on here is that zoos 100% operate like that. All organizations do.

A security firm orders their uniforms from one local outfitter that buys shirts from a different company that mass produces them. Every pizza place in New York uses boxes that don’t advertise their pizzeria. I don’t know why, but clearly, there’s some needlessly complicated reason why that happens.

That complexity is just the way organizations actually work. They are these messy chimeras of intentions, business decisions, and contracts that are constantly changing. And making the organizations in your fictional worlds operate in this way will make them weirdly realistic.

If that is something you want to do.

As always, whether to use this approach depends entirely on what you want to do with your story. I build organizations like this in my stories for the same reason that I do pre-story timelines for my characters–it just adds potential fuel to my work and sometimes influences the entire story in important ways.

Another thing to keep in mind: organizations can be as Uncannily Messy as you want. Android Co. can purchase 100% of their parts from other manufacturers and have them assembled by a contractor. Or they can ship in 10% of their parts, the rest all proprietary, made in a massive complex of factories in Canada. Obviously, all of this is your call and subject to whatever facet of realism you think fits.

But I will add that . . .

Uncanny Mess Can Also
Be Applied to Character Timelines

Obviously, Uncanny Mess is a beast of timelines; in all of the example above, it is a tool I used to flesh out the timelines of different organizations.

However, even though a character isn’t assembled at a bunch of different factories, their pasts can definitely be that complex.

Which I only say because, was I was younger, the reflex was always to be like, “And before this character walked into the plot, he was a knight. He grew up in this town, became a knight, fought in the Old War, and now he’s old. A-a-a-a-and done.”

But, really, that knight’s history should be, “He grew up in this town. Maybe right when its trade in–oh man . . . Okay. Wait. I have to come up with what they traded in. Fish? Okay. Wait. So I guess he was a fisherman’s son? Maybe that affects how he talks? Did he hate fishing? Maybe that’s why he became a knight? Or wait . . . Maybe he loved fishing but he had to leave that town anyway? Maybe he, like, fell in love with someone in the big city, but had to become a knight to gain the status necessary to marry him/her? Okay. Whatever. He was a fisherman until he was 16. Then he went on a trip with his family to the big city, maybe to deliver a bunch of fish, and that’s when he met–wait! . . . How did he get to the big city? Was it on a ship? His family probably didn’t own it, so was it a merchant’s vessel, commissioned by the king?”

I mean, look, you don’t have to be as crazy as I am when it comes to designing characters’ pasts, but the potential to find some interesting facet of a character is always somewhere back there. There could be an experience he has on that ship that inspires him to become a knight–anything from getting to see different ports to living through a pirate raid, thwarted by a royal vessel full of knights.

Again, none of this is essential. In fact, there’s a very real chance that going back and entertaining all of this for a story you’re already writing would just be detrimental.

But if you feel like your characters aren’t round enough–if you aren’t sure about their motivations or what story you want to tell through them, maybe give their past a second look.

And if you’re writing an intrigue story centered around some organization and you’re having a hard time figuring out the pieces of the plot, maybe take a second look at that organization’s past.

And make an absolute mess of all of it.

~~~

Well, that was fun.

If you’re new here, I post in this web zone every Sunday. And I’m going to try to start posting as early in the day as I possibly can, because I’ve realized that by the time I’m posting every Sunday (usually at night), I’ve always missed a spike in visitation. So I tell people to stop by, and they do–to find nothing. I feel really bad about that, so I will officially start aiming for 12am on Sundays.

So, stop by next Sunday! Or, if you would rather just avoid all of this scheduling BS, you could always follow me here (a button on the left sidebar on desktop and the top right menu on mobile) so my posts can get emailed to you.

Either way, thanks for reading. I am flirting with the idea of making audio recordings of these posts–but that’s going to rely heavily on how easy it is for me to read them/the cost of apps and equipment. If it’s not too bad, I’m throwin’ the stimmy at it.

Anyway, until next time, take care, stay safe, and hug your cats! Just a full-on hug. Unless they’d hate that–LOL. Bye!

A March Break . . . with “Creme” Eggs

Yeah. That’s how they spell it. “Creme.”

Did I just Mandela Effect you? Cause I definitely just Mandela Effected myself when I glanced at the box.

Anyway, hello! I’m taking a break today.

On one hand because I woke up from weird dreams earlier. Dreams that were chok-full of people from my past. People I don’t even think about anymore until my brain decides to drop them into my dreams like, “Hyuck! Guess who!” I woke up from that immediately weirded out, didn’t eat breakfast . . . and then left the apartment to run errands, only realizing I forgot my glasses? Just not a great start.

On the other hand though, I’m taking a break because . . . I actually did write the majority of a good post, but I realized I really needed to do research before publishing it. Basically, I wanted to coin a term for a type of worldbuilding, but it occurred to me while writing that there must already be a term for it, so rather than pig-headedly pretending I came up with an idea that probably already exists, I want to do the proper research instead, find that term, and elevate the woman or man who came up with it.

So I figure I’m going to let that post sit, take a Sunday off, do a ton of research next week, and post a hardcore article with sources–which is something I want to start doing more of anyway.

In the meantime . . . someone gave me Cadbury Creme Eggs. I am not going to eat all of them in one sitting, because I’m at the age where I genuinely think I’d die if I did.

But a single Creme Egg with vanilla soy milk and Spiritfarer? That sounds like a beautiful night off.

So, I’m going to get to that.

If this is your first time here, I post every Sunday, but, once a month, I give myself the luxury of days off (like today). For a hint of what I’ll be posting in coming weeks, I have the aforementioned post about worldbuilding, a life update, and a post about the genre tropes of certain decades (and what they say about the generations who wrote them).

For tonight though, stay safe, wash your hands, and be careful when you’re buying glasses online. Seriously, if the website you use has a preview feature where they use your camera so you can virtually try glasses on, use it. Does not matter how good the glasses look on their own–they might just look wrong on your face.

Okay–bye!

Process in Progress #2 – The Character Wall

Hi there.

I had a bunch of things I wanted to write about today, and, in choosing one, I wound up shooting wa-a-a-a-ay over the typical release deadline. Apologies for that.

But I didn’t want to publish another life update. And I didn’t want to vent about my presence on social media either (which I’m displeased with not from a popularity standpoint, but from an “I hate what I do on there” standpoint [more on that in the Afterword]).

What I did want to do: actually talk about writing again, which I feel I haven’t done for a while.

The topic? The weird way a story requires you to prioritize certain character arcs. In a roundabout way. Let me explain.

I’m Honing One of My Protagonist’s Motivations
(& I Was Having a Harder Time with It Than I Wanted)

The situation: one of the protagonists in my current WIP is named Kole Buchanon. As that WIP is a rewrite of a book I wrote years ago, Kole’s personality has drastically changed.

In the original, he was insecure from a lifetime of being mistreated. Lacking in confidence, he was often unwilling to face challenges and his arc centered on defying that–putting himself in harm’s way to help other people. The hang up of being mistreated is something I still want to use in a future book somewhere, because I think that has merit, but the arc was as typical as they come.

New Kole is a capable, fledgling rebel. A person who’s challenged the setting’s corrupt Emperor by engaging in (admittedly low-impact) criminal activity. His hang up is experiencing, in the Prologue, the futility of challenging the Emperor when he tries a slightly higher-impact heist and it goes horribly wrong. His arc is . . . still up in the air actually, but that doesn’t matter for this post! Ha ha!

What matters is, in my outline for the rewrite, I kept referring to Original Kole’s arc.

I’m not sure how that happened. I knew he was a different character in the rewrite, but somehow, I focused so heavily on my other protagonist, Memory, that I just didn’t realize the adjustment to his personality was as intense as it was. Or maybe I was just so hellbent on getting the outline done that I didn’t realize I needed to slow down for Kole’s sake?

Either way, all of this came to a head when I got to the last chapters, and finally looked at the notes my writing group gave me about Kole’s motivations: that they weren’t clear. And, after I revisited those motivations and his arc as a whole, I finally realized the mix up.

Now, why am I writing about this at all?

Because, on one hand, after the last session of my writing group, I realized not only that Kole needed a totally new background story, but that the arc he needs for this first novel . . . isn’t going to be his best arc?

Like, I came up with a really awesome arc for him when I was brainstorming what his best character arc could be, but it just doesn’t fit in the first book? He needs to react to the situation in front of him, and that awesome potential arc works way better for a potential sequel?

I definitely explain, but first . . .

The Character Wall

When I realized I needed to rewrite Kole’s past, I realized that there were certain aspects of him that I wanted to focus on.

And, if you’re here exclusively for the “Process in Progress” part, then this is it.

I realized that, with Kole and all of my characters going forward, I want to know:

  1. The Hang Ups – Probably the most important thing for me is going to be the emotional problems that a character has. It’s “hang ups” plural because there are going to be a bunch of these. “Regrets abandoning his family.” “Experienced a lot of horrible things in the war.” Not all of these will heavily impact the plot, but in my mind, they’re as prevalent as “Favorite Color” and way more important.
  2. The Arcs – Specifically the arcs the character is going to go through and how those arcs are split up among the different entries in the series (if it’s a series). I can’t predict this right off the bat–I’ll have to work on each installment of the story before I know what arcs fit where.

But I’m here mentioning all of this now because . . .

A Character’s Arc in a Story Needs to Fit the Story

Okay. Seriously, forgive me for sounding dense.

But what I meant with that heading is . . . a character’s arc can’t just be what you want it to be for a novel.

You can’t just design a setting, establish a plot, and then just force the character’s best arc to happen in that setting and plot if it doesn’t fit.

Kole Buchanon is going to learn some hard truths about his past. It’s going to happen.

But as absolutely bizarre as it is to say, he’s not going to learn any of those truths in the first book.

Because it just doesn’t fit what’s happening and what he’s feeling in the setting and plot I’ve created for the first novel.

Kole can’t reconcile his bad experiences with his family because that just doesn’t work with the theme and plot of the first novel. Even if I tried to wedge it in, with would be rushed, rigid, and would not land like it would in book 2.

So I can’t do it in book one. And, as a person who’s never written a sequel, that blows my goddamn mind.

The Memory Roadmap–which is a things I have now?–is set for Kole to have his big arc in book 2 and Memory to have hers in book 3.

And, aside from that being weird and surprising, it also brings me a lot of hope.

Because, for the first time in my life, a sequel is coming together in my mind.

And just yes.

Please.

I am so goddamn pumped to write an amazing sequel.

This is a weird milestone that I have to imagine other writers hurdled right over.

But whatever. I’m not them, and I’m massively grateful to be experiencing this progress.

Book 2? I’m coming for you.

~Afterword~

Thanks for reading.

Yeah, about social media–I hate it. LOL I just don’t do it well. Like, when I hop on Twitter, it’s just to look at cute cat videos or get massively angry about political stuff. Or, at the worst of times, I scroll through fandom hashtags and get inspired to talk shit about things I don’t like.

And–I’ve said it so many times on here–I just don’t want to do that anymore. Dissecting multi-million dollar blockbuster films is one thing, but talking shit about something people love–on Twitter–is another thing entirely. Like . . . why? Why shit on someone for being excited about Justice League, or for liking the DCEU in general? I unironically loved Aquaman. It was a stupid, fun spectacle and I’m super excited for it’s sequel.

I’d just rather dole out that love than fling hate.

So, yeah, I’m deleting my Twitter. I would keep it and say positive things, but I’d feel trapped not being able to speak my mind, and speaking my mind has the chance to spark an argument, yadda yadda yadda.

So, on the chance you’re following me there, expect me to just disappear.

And, hey, just follow me here instead.

Where, ya know, we can chat about dumb stuff in more than 280 goddamn characters.

If you enjoyed this post, I do this every Sunday (unless it’s a day like today where I got to posting after 12am). You can always stop by next week for something else that could be anything. Between now and then, I could go to space and write about how that felt. Probably not gonna happen, but maybe.

Anyway, until next time, stay safe, and take care of yourself. Really though–make sure you’re drinking enough water and don’t push it all the time, even if you want to. You are the only person capable of pampering yourself the way you deserve to be pampered. Basic human rights, like water, are a good start.

Bye!

The “MCU Glorifies the Military” Hottake is Stupid, But This Other Take Isn’t

Like a large portion of America, I watched the finale of WandaVision this week.

And, before I continue, I know this isn’t what I said I’d write about. I will, forever and always, stop myself from making promises about what I’ll write on Sunday, because it almost always changes.

The thing is, like anything, WandaVision is prone to takes. I have friends who loved it and friends who hated the finale so much that it ruined the entire rest of the show for them. That is fine and totally normal. I still really enjoyed it while (as I usually do with absolutely anything) acknowledging that it was not perfect.

That said, I couldn’t help thinking about the weirder, hotter takes that’ve popped up about the MCU lately. Well, to be honest, I’m not sure the take I’m thinking of is a recent development, but I only recently heard about it.

It’s the idea that the MCU . . . glorifies the military?

Like, I’ve seen this vehemently passed around Twitter by someone who attached a photo of Brie Larson posing with fighter pilots.

And, I almost never use this platform to be like, “People’s hottakes are stupid.”

But holy shit is that a stupid hottake.

If you’re a person who believes in that take, I’m sorry, but it’s just a bad take. However . . . there is absolutely a solid, reasonable take available (one that I really think needs attention), and I am going to lay out that take in this post. Because I don’t think MCU films are all sunshine and rainbows (I straight-up hate a bunch of them), and I think superhero movies in general need a reckoning when it comes to this one issue.

But first . . .

The Stupid Military Industrial Complex Hottake

The belief: MCU films portray a worldwide police state as a good thing that is both essential and inevitable.

When I hear a take like that, my immediate reaction is, “Hmm. Is that true?” Because, ya know, I always want to deliberate and consider issues and, especially, criticisms of things that I like.

But, the weird thing about this hottake . . . is that Iron Man–like, part-fucking-1–portrays military weapons-mongering as wrong. It’s not a huge moral, it’s not given a ton of attention, but that lesson is a sizeable, noticeable part of Tony Stark’s arc. He goes to sell weapons to the someone, gets captured, is finally forced to come face-to-face with the violence and death his weapons cause, and decides he’s not going to take any more military contracts or sell weapons.

Part of the tension in Iron Man 2 is that James Rhodes, Tony’s friend, takes one of his suits and brings it to the military, and, yes, the soundtrack goes all brassy when Rhodey lands the high tech power armor at a military base (absolutely not a good look). However, even that moment does not equal “police state propaganda.” Does it show the military through a rose-tinted lens? Yes. The first Captain America also does that. Do either movies show anything that actually suggests it would be great if the military controlled the world? No. Does S.H.I.E.L.D. as portrayed in the first Avengers movie come close to depicting a “world policing organization” as good? Sure. There’s outright talk among S.H.I.E.L.D. agents about missions in other countries. It’s typical spy shit, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is never shown enforcing a 6PM curfew on protesters, but still, a bunch of American spies in a giant floating fortress that has stealth tech is absolutely not a good thing that was, undeniably, portrayed as cool.

But . . . All of the films I just mentioned are followed up by many films in the franchise that work directly portray police states as bad.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (a movie I hate), makes a very (beating you over the head) obvious case for a police state being wrong when Tony Stark tries to create one–with a legion of robots controlled by a single AI–and it creates a monster, for which everyone else on the team is understandably pissed In my opinion, the film doesn’t stay pissed at Tony nearly long enough, but there is a scene where everyone is mad at him and he’s played almost like a mad scientist.

Captain America: Winter Soldier focuses very, very heavily on how bad it would be for the military to obtain weapons they can use to “neutralize threats before they happen.” “Enforcement of the law through fear is wrong” is seriously a main theme of that film.

Captain America: Civil War actively challenges the idea of government control to the extent that it basically makes Iron Man a villain.

Both Infinity War and Endgame have the heroes fighting a militaristic dictator who wants to impose his will on everyone.

Even fucking Captain Marvel has a hero fighting a duplicitous space government that demands control from everyone.

And, seriously, between all of those movies, there are a bunch of N/A’s like Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy that don’t glorify military might at all. In fact, I think the first Captain America is the only film where the American military was even portrayed as competent; every other movie has military personal in the background, getting their asses kicked, including S.H.I.E.L.D. more often than not.

So my point here is no.

If you ascribe to this hottake, you’re absolutely right to think that something is off about the MCU, but it’s not this. If the final goalpost is, “Well, in Endgame, they show that the heroes are, like, monitoring Earth,” then, seriously, just stop, because that’s a group of 5 characters trying to find problems to fix, not a militarized force monitoring the world. The films just don’t glorify the military or support the idea that the world is inevitably heading toward a necessary police state.

However . . .

MCU Films, Like Most Comic Book Media,
Absolutely Glorify Capitalist Control

Part of the reason I’m so annoyed about the military hottake is because it’s drawing attention away from a conversation that should be had about the MCU and too many comic books.

They glorify Capitalist ideals. Like, right out of the fucking gate, in your face, a lot of comic book media does it, because many of the superheroes who are popular now were made here in America, the Capitalist shithole of the world.

Seriously, it’s not even a contest. Iron Man was the guy in the MCU, and his entire thing was that he was a rich genius who was rich because he was a genius and a genius because he was rich and only he was capable of saving the universe!

I mean, you can contest this with the two, major cases where he was portrayed being completely wrong about big issues in the MCU (again, Age of Ultron and Civil War), but Iron Man was still the billionaire, Private Sector savior that the American government keeps saying exists but fucking doesn’t really.

Like, don’t get me wrong–I love Iron Man–but he glorifies a system that ruins countless fucking lives on the regular. He is a fairytale–born out of old timey America’s love of industry and business.

🎶 Just 👏 like 👏 fucki-i-i-ing Batman! 🎶

Yeah, that’s right. The same way Tony Stark is a rich dude who gets to be the bestest superhero ever because he has money, so is Batman. In fact, Batman goes around and studies a ton of martial arts (and whatever else a writer decides at the moment) because he’s rich. Because Capitalism is great, you guys. If it wasn’t for Capitalism, Batman wouldn’t have the amazing car he uses in Batman V Superman to explode people who don’t have as much money as he does–don’t you get it?

Look, I’m not going to pretend the majority of superheroes are rich, because they aren’t, but two of the most popular ones in the world are, and they seriously aren’t the only ones.

Oliver Queen is another rich kid.

Doctor Strange.

Iron Fist.

Aquaman (who I didn’t even realize was rich, but he’s the king of the vast majority of livable space on planet Earth, so of course).

Thor (also a literal prince).

Black Adam, which I only mention because we’re going to get a movie for him–get ready.

Wasp is rich, which I didn’t even know.

Black Panther.

And, for sure, there are a bunch of rich villains on both sides. It’s not insanely on the nose with Batman’s villain being, like, “The Socialist!” (although I’m not going to look it up, because I’m fucking sure there is a Socialist villain somewhere out there). But when a villain with money exists in the same world as a hero with money, the problem in that equation ceases to be the money. And before anyone is like, “Um, actually, Lex Luthor is Superman’s villain, not Batman’s,” holy shit, the point is that modern superhero media glorifies Capitalism by presenting rich dudes who go out and beat the shit out of people they don’t know as a good thing. We should be questioning that.

In the MCU, Iron Man is already dead and, hopefully, they’ll replace him with someone who isn’t a mascot for Capitalism. But Batman is alive and strong, mercilessly beating the shit out of people in the trailer for his new movie. And. I. Hate it.

Because we shouldn’t live in a country where some people are so rich that the law doesn’t apply to them while others are so poor that they need to work multiple jobs and come home too tired to do anything but go to sleep.

Or, at the very fucking least, when Iron Man decides he’s going to make an AI that’s going to police the planet Earth because he’s a genius and it’s okay, he should be punished really heavily for it instead of being given a pass for the world to see.

And when Batman beats the shit out of someone or indiscriminately murders them (which he just canonically does now) and the music swells and gets super triumphant, maybe we question why the rich people who made The Batman commissioned other rich people to write that music.

“Why do they want me to get super excited when Batman punches an underprivileged stranger in the face 8 times?”

And what does that say about them?

~~~

Thanks for reading. This one’s been brewing for a while because it’s an issue I’ve had with comics in general for some time, but I only just realized it applies to the MCU. I guess that in the same way that the Punisher is significantly less appealing now after 2020, rich assholes who people deify are always going to be a sticking point for me.

If you enjoyed this post, I’ll be back next week to talk about something less . . . charged. Maybe. Not definitely, but maybe?

Until next time, take care, and if you see Love Crunch Espresso Vanilla Cream Granola, just trust me, it’s the crack of granolas. Like, obviously not something you can have a lot of, but if you want to treat yourself, it’s insane. Okay, bye!

Dream Diary – A Ton of Dreams in 1 Night

There is a bizarre disconnect that happens when you (apparently) remember every single dream you had over the course of one night.

Disclaimer: I don’t know if that’s actually what happened to me Tuesday evening–I don’t know how dreams work.

But by the second time I woke up exhausted and confused by the batch of dreams I’d just had and remembered, I remember thinking, Okay. That’s it. There can’t possibly be more of them.

And then I went back to sleep, and had, I swear, more.

I don’t know why I had double-digits dreams on Tuesday night, but I do know there are a few factors that might have contributed to it:

  1. I finally got my sleeping schedule in order that night. Went to sleep around 12am and woke up at 10am.
  2. I ate right before bed. I know–terrible. But I was that level of hungry where I just wouldn’t have been able to fall asleep if I didn’t have something.
  3. A-a-a-a-and melatonin. As a man who doesn’t even drink anymore, melatonin hits me in genuinely bizarre ways, I guess.

Somehow, all of that led to a crazy marathon that I’m going to describe . . . part of. Because, A) the idea of describing absolutely everything is really daunting, B) I did eventually forget most of it, and C) not all of what I remember was interesting. What I will say here is, combined with things I’d forgotten, I think I hit all genres–horror, comedy, mystery. It was ridiculous.

Okay. That said, let’s jump in–in the order I remember these:

The Girder Sword

I was walking into a forge in the woods, carrying half of a girder that I know I’d cut (length-wise) myself, in a previous dream that I can’t remember.

The forge was lit yellow, like a movie set–designed to convey a different tone from the sun-backed green waving through the loose slat walls.

There was an old master smith in that forge, and although I don’t remember anything about him, I know he said I could make the half-girder into a sword, and I proceeded to do so. A super difficult feat to achieve in real life, but I montaged straight through it in 10 dream-seconds.

In the end, the sword I made was a two-handed, curved blade. Oddly flat and unrealistically thin, I remember it having a strange pattern on it. Not damascus; this was more like brushed steel, crossing the blade in weird directions–like its entire profile was haphazardly ground into the edge using a power tool.

Which meant it looked really cheap and unfinished. As if my brain was like, “You better take some more melatonin and keep on dreaming you think you can make a giant sword from a girder in 10 seconds. The fuck outta here.”

Still, I was super proud, and totally ready to take it outside (I don’t know why–sharpness test on fruit?), but the old smith said I should wait. He didn’t specify why–didn’t suggest sharpening it, working on the handle, heat-treating, or anything else that might actually be good reasons to wait. He just said I should give it a day, and I was like, “. . . Okay!”

So I just walked out of the forge, gleeful and proud until I discovered there were fucking

Monsters in the Forest

I think that even in the dream, I was like, “Fuck . . . This is why I wanted to bring the sword with me!”

I don’t remember exactly how I encountered the monsters–I just knew they were there, and then, at some point, one of them slashed me, full on, in the back.

Which should’ve just killed me, because they were video game-style armored monster dudes with swords. In fact, if you’re familiar, I’m sure they were Abyss Watchers from Dark Souls III:

Dark Souls 3 concept art of the Abyss Watchers.

I didn’t get a good look because I just started running, which must’ve come directly from my experience in the gas station last week. However, I don’t want to send the wrong message that I’m still massively hung up about that, so I will say that, somehow, this was not a nightmare.

Maybe because the monsters were video game enemies, this entire part of the dream just felt like a video game; the fear maxed out at the tension of having 1 HP and trying to run past enemies to get to a checkpoint. Only a little less tense because, even in the dream, I thought, “I’ve fought the Abyss Watchers so many times. I got this.”

So this part of the dream was me running, turning around, dodging an attack at the last second, and then turning, running again. I was trying to stick to a thin, dirt path that snaked through the forest, but it was dotted with other monsters, so I kept veering off into the brush, ducking, listening for footsteps, dodging again, running. At some point, I knew the Abyss Watcher chasing me would see another monster on the road and attack them instead.

And, after I jumped into a bush and started sneaking (while muttering, “Please don’t see me, please don’t see me, please don’t see me”), the Abyss Watcher finally did just that and ran off to wail on some other monster.

The River Ruin Museum

I know for a fact that there were a bunch of dreams in between this and the forest of monsters, but all I remember is winding up in a museum.

Just a totally normal museum . . . until the side of one hallway opened up to an outdoor river, a ruin on its other side.

The ruin itself was vague dream-construction–old stone in slanted, long strips at different elevations, leading nowhere. Some of that stone was on the museum side of the river, sloping down into the green water, but most of it was on the other bank, flanking a giant goddess statue, cross-legged, arms out, hair big.

I’m pretty sure this was just the part of my brain that misses being outside going nuts, because it was totally acceptable to just jump into the river, swim around, check out the ruin, and then return to the museum.

I don’t remember ever going back to the museum though. I just stood out there, laid back on an empty slope on the museum-side of the river, looking around at the sandstone hills rolling up and away from the goddess.

The Sea Creature Crafts Show
with a Former Supervisor of Mine

This is the last dream I remember well enough to talk about.

In a dream that happened after the River Ruin Museum and this one . . . I got a job at the River Ruin Museum.

That meant (I guess) that I would be working in the section devoted to aquatic life, which totally makes sense–I love sea creatures despite having Thalassophobia.

What made less sense is that I had to make a quilt of aquatic wildlife for a contest . . . with my coworkers . . . and all of it was being judged by one of my least favorite supervisors from my last job IRL?

And I somehow used a net . . . to make a quilt that was made out of water?

I mean . . . That just feels a little unfair to everyone else, really. Fucking water magic in a work talent show? Come on.

In typical dream speed, the preparations and the contest were all set to take place in the same location: the Aquatic Life Hall of the museum.

And, because I remember it so well, I’ll describe that Hall. All old, polished wood. Just, head-to-toe; every surface that could be rich, dark wood was. It had the kind of fittings and moldings you’d expect from the walls of an old building, only with an extra bit of weird embellishment–molds sanded into rounded waves, rolling up walls that were three stories high for reasons I don’t understand. At ground level, there were display cases with real sea creatures in them, but there were also mountings of creatures that ran up the walls, higher up than anyone could be expected to examine them (with no stairs or ladders to reach them).

And as I stood in that hall with my net, an old supervisor of mine walked in and said something that I must not have listened to because I don’t remember it at all (which is the most accurate-to-life moment in any of my dreams ever).

Without instruction, I proceeded to toss out the net, which hovered in the air (because, of course), did whatever the fuck I did to fill it with water (I think I just said, “And now . . . water!” and it was there), and then proceeded to put replicas of animals into the water.

And if you’re asking, “Wait. Why replicas? It’s real water,” well, fuck, I don’t know. I vaguely remember that, even in the dream, my supervisor came back and asked why they couldn’t be real animals, and I was like, “They need to be replicas or it won’t work.”

But then, the replica animals did start moving, but only because they were in the water. And my old supervisor was like, “Whoa! Dude, they’re alive!?” and I was like, “omfg you’re so annoying.

I grudgingly explained that they weren’t, but, “Ha ha. Shucks–yeah, they sure do look real though, boss. Ho ho,” and then continued putting more of them into the quilt, one-by-one.

And, because my dreams are just like this, that was the end of the dream. The contest never happened, although, again, fucking water magic–I won.

In Conclusion

After, between, and around all of those dreams, I had a bunch more that I remembered while waking up but lost minutes after. There was definitely a horror one that had something to do with a YouTuber. And another one where I had a task I needed to complete but just could not remember it. There was even a weird recurring one that acted like . . . a dream meta-game? Like, I kept coming back to a resting state where, having completed another dream, I got a point to put towards leveling up a dream skill tree? And I remember going all-fucking-in on one stat . . . which I think was Inventory Size?

Whatever. It was fucking bizarre.

And I’ve been trying to do it again every night since with no success.

I’m probably going to look up info on having vivid dreams after this.

Not only because I think I’ll find crazy story ideas in those dreams . . .

. . . but also because I just kind of love it?

I definitely wouldn’t want to do it every single night, but one night a week of vivid dreams sounds pretty cool.

And I’m sure it’ll continue being pretty cool until I have a night of horrific nightmares! : D

~~~

Thanks for joining me on this weird dream-venture.

If you’re new here, I post every Sunday, usually about things other than my dreams, although I have done that before too (the most popular by far was the time I dreamt I was Willy Wonka and there was a Game of Thrones-style plot where someone in the Wonka family was trying to steal the Chocolate Factory].

Usually though, I’m talking about writing, my life, or I’m issuing brutal takedowns of multi-million dollar budget Hollywood films that are horribly written. Feel free to pass by next week, where I think I’m finally going to muse on how story tropes manifest in different generations.

Until then, take care, stay safe, and, ya know what? It’s time. If you have the choice today . . . maybe actually pick oatmeal raisin. I know! I know! It was terrible last time, but we’re older now and, who knows? Maybe oatmeal raisin is amazing now. Some people reading this already love it. We’ll never know unless we try it.

And if you do try it, hit me up after with #oatmealraisinstillsucks.

Bye!

Writer’s Workshop – Being in a Gas Station While It’s Getting Robbed

This post was written on Monday the 15th, the day after my February “break” post.

A lot of things happened today.

By way of update: I was woken up by the guy upstairs playing his music. But when I went on an investigation (fully contemplating gross sabotage of their front door), I discovered that not only was the music actually coming from downstairs, the people blasting it were an old couple. Which I discovered because they cranked it so loud that I heard it through my noise-cancelling headphones (which work, but aren’t literal magic capable of perfectly muting 80 decibels), so I just had to go down there, knock, ask nicely for whoever to turn it down, and pray for the best. Thankfully, they turned down the music enough where I barely hear it without the headphones, and don’t hear it at all with the headphones.

With that out of the way, I was also in a gas station earlier, when it was getting robbed.

And, this totally was not what I intended to write about.

But how the fuck could I not?

Because, on one hand, I’m still processing. And, on the other hand, in the most mercenary-writer way, it’s at least a useful experience.

I will say immediately that I’m pretty sure the other people involved were fine. I was literally the only person not behind a counter, and the people the robber was threatening were behind a protective barrier, but they still immediately gave him money (meaning the chances of him shooting them were extremely low–if you don’t know, people committing robberies in real life usually don’t want to shoot anyone and make their rap sheet worse). Anyway, this was also not a small mom and pop gas station, so the only loser today was the gas station chain (and, whatever–get fucked American corporation).

That said . . .

The confusion hit first. Something like the Uncanny Valley. I was hearing an amalgam of a million movie quotes, but spoken aloud–sincerely.

My brain took a moment to catch up, so it’s impossible to remember what he said, but it was something like, “Alright! I am not fucking around! Let’s go!The words of a caricature, stepping out of the fourth wall to remind me that, yes, these things happen.

I looked and saw a man poised against the gas station’s counter, his hands on it, arranged to conceal what could only be a gun (there was no way clerks behind a wall wound freak out for a knife). And as I turned back, I realized a few of things:

  1. I didn’t wear my glasses today. Half-awake and in the heat of preparing to confront a noisy neighbor, I stumbled out of my apartment without putting them on. Because of course I did.
  2. A lifetime of action movies trained me to expect Arnold Schwarzenegger, Spider-Man, or whoever to show up and stop this. As a writer hearing dialogue and auto-assigning the next step in the action, I know I thought of this for a moment, but only in relation to whatever process reigned it in–the part of my brain that sounded the This Is Not A Fucking Movie alarm.
  3. I was the only person standing on the store floor. There were people behind the gas station’s counter–women who were screaming and a guy who kept shouting something–and one guy behind its mini Dunkin Donuts counter (who disappeared into the back immediately to–I assume–call the police) but I was the only person on the floor itself.
  4. And I was standing at the ATM, which still had my card, and was slowly dispensing my rent.

All it would take was for this man to look to his left, see me at the ATM, and he could’ve walked up and demanded what I was taking out. Because I, a person who has experienced guns before, knew that they are the ultimate means of control. If someone points a gun at you and tells you to do something, you do it–unless you have real life training that gives you other options (which almost no one does).

In that scenario, I would either give him the money, or he’d shoot me for it.

But . . . he was too busy shouting for the clerks to “Get the other one! The other one!” which I guess meant “the other register.”

I stood there, frozen, staring at the ATM screen as it processed the withdrawal, contemplating if I should just leave, aware that the clerks would be fine because this was a chain (they had nothing to lose, were already giving the robber the money, and thus, he was extremely unlikely to shoot them). Honestly never for a single second did I think I should help (all of the boyhood fantasies I’ve had about confronting a robber and / or talking them down were lost immediately in the sea of adulthood–the cold, hard realization that “there is no wall protecting me, so on the off-chance that he really is trigger happy, he can just fucking shoot me whenever”).

A thousand breathless thoughts before the ATM flicked to “Your transaction is approved!” and the male clerk behind the gas station counter shouted, “That’s it! We’re closed, man!” And then, in an oddly casual way, like either he was tired of shouting or he and the other clerks had retreated far enough–into a room behind the counter–that they knew they were fine, “We’re closed, man. Nah, we’re closed.” I still don’t know what that means.

But the ATM whirred and finally finished dispensing.

And then, I did not even look back, certain that if I did, I’d be spotted.

I just took the money–folding it into my wallet in one quick motion which, in retrospect, was probably the dumbest thing I could’ve done (guaranteeing that if he saw me, “Give me the money!” would’ve turned into “Give me the wallet!”).

But, if he did see, he deemed the risk of trying to rob a dude who was already walking out of the store–a man who maybe didn’t see him?–not worth it.

The only reason I didn’t run is because, when I came out, there was another guy standing near the door who had to be a look out, and I didn’t want to draw attention. For the same reason (I honestly did not remember the Dunkin worker at the time), I didn’t call the cops, assuming that keeping an eye out for snitches was part of guy #2’s job. I just crossed the street immediately, looked back (which was another stupid mistake because, without my glasses, the station and guy #2 were just a massive blur from that distance [so all looking back did was almost get me caught]) and then kept walking.

I’ve been checking the news since to see if I could find details about the robbery. I even made the mistake of downloading Citizen App again–which, if you’re unfamiliar, is an app that shows incidents, like stabbings and fires, in a region (which means it’s massively depressing for New York)–but I’ve found nothing. [Edit: Even checking back now, on Sunday afternoon, I found nothing about my robbery.]

Which cranks the hopelessness meter to ‘Ultra Max,’ even though I didn’t lose anything, and–to my knowledge–no one else did either.

In part, it’s because I could not give a single detail about this robber–the ATM was far enough away from the counter that I, a blind man without his glasses, couldn’t have made out the dude’s face even if he looked back at me and I stared, neither of which happened. The glance I took was on the dude’s hands and posture, so I’m not even secure in the observation that he had a dark jacket on.

So, basically, I would be less-than-no-help in this situation, which makes me feel so oddly stupid.

And that’s probably the major takeaway here, writing-wise; I’ve been robbed at gunpoint before–when I was much, much younger–and that came with its own, way more acute sense of hopelessness, but even just being a bystander, realizing that there was genuinely nothing helpful that I could do in the moment (that legitimately I would only make the situation worse) fucking sucks. But that feeling goes beyond the moment; having been involved in police investigations before–working security and the aforementioned time I was mugged–I can’t help imagining the look on an officer’s face when I tell him, “No, I didn’t have my glasses, but maybe he had a dark jacket on?” I can almost hear him sighing, “Waste of my fucking time.” Like, thanks. I fucking hate it. I hate that sleepily deciding not to go back for my glasses impacted the day that strongly. And I hate that, even if I had gone back for them, I would only be able to provide a detail or two to the NYPD, an institution that, after 2020, demonstrably doesn’t give a fuck about me or any of the minorities working that gas station–an institution that would only be motivated to catch that robber if it turned out he wasn’t white.

Okay. I’m just moving on from that. I’m frustrated, guys. My bad. Focusing now–we’re focusing.

Another writing takeaway: in the moment, information is crystal clear but processing at such a hectic rate that you easily forget things. Like, all data is streamlined for your survival (i.e. “I’m at the ATM,” “he has a gun,” “no one else is on this side of the counters with him but me,” etc.), but that means some data is shoved right the fuck out of your brain to make space; I saw that dude working the Dunkin Donuts counter, looked at his face and acknowledged he was not the dude who was normally there, and then noted that he disappeared during the incident, but by the time I was outside (10 seconds later) I completely forgot he’d been there at all when I was considering calling the cops. That weird survival instinct to, I guess, override non-threatening information is totally new to me. Like, if it wasn’t pertinent to me getting the fuck out of that gas station, it did not exist.

And, last thing, having that event just absorbed by the general horror of life–finding that it was not bad enough to make headlines–is also kind of terrible.

Because worse things happened in the Bronx [that day].

At least it’s a soft confirmation that no one in that gas station got shot.

The little things, I guess.

~~~

Phew.

I genuinely don’t get how my life has become this batshit. Like, everything is a bad mess lately. I don’t want to go into detail, but yeah, the rest of the week was bad too.

But I’m just tired of focusing on all of that. I really want to get back to posting happy, fun stuff. I also want to redesign the website (I made a new logo for it and everything, and I’m excited to settle into a new, more fun vibe).

So, today, I’m gonna go order a veggie burger with coffee and get to work making things better for myself–in whatever ways I can.

Thanks for listening, and hopefully my account of this experience can be useful to your writing.

If you’re new here, thanks for passing by. I post every Sunday, so if you’re keen to hear more–about my life or my writing progress–feel free to stop by next Sunday.

Until then, take care, breathe deep, and maybe just lie down for a minute. Like, just breathe slowly and let a nap happen if you can. Cause we all deserve it.

My Valentine’s Day Gift to Myself: A Break

Last week, I predicted that I would either be bummed but chill or happy but stressed.

Oh, my sweet Summer child.

Somehow, I didn’t account for the possibility that I’d be bummed and stressed, but here we are!

To make a long story short, that freelancing gig is taking forever, and the dude who lives directly above me has started blasting the same bodega-top-40 playlist (by which I mean the set of songs that are currently playing in bodegas) for at least five hours every. Single. Day. And, to be clear, as a Puerto Rican man, I have nothing against reggaetón, bachata, etc. But when it’s muffled by a ceiling, primarily what you get are percussions. And the percussions are extremely formulaic for each type of Latin music.

Which means that it sounds like the same five songs are on loop for (again, at best) five hours every day. On Friday, the loop was playing from 4pm to 2am.

Now, I would like to clarify first that I am not exaggerating.

But, on top of that, I think I’ve just become especially susceptible to noise. Whether it’s because I’m just a quiet dude who doesn’t like loud noises because of his past, or because I’m just physically wired to dislike noise, I dunno. I am not a “cover my ears when trains pull into a station” person. But I am, 100%, a “please stop blasting your music–it’s 12am on a Thursday and I’m trying to write” person.

Who is stuck in a room during COVID where he has no lease and literally can’t go upstairs to confront a dickhead who does. At best, I’ll be told to fuck off, and, at worst, I’ll have a knife put in my body (I live in a legitimately terrible neighborhood).

What I’m saying here is, I managed to get some light graphic design work done at the beginning of the week, but then started getting headaches and ultimately switched to zero-fucks mode, tanking the rest of the week playing Slay the Spire.

Yesterday, I splurged on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and today–for the first time in a week–the dickhead upstairs didn’t play music at all, so there is hope for next week.

But, for me, today’s vibe is still “what-the fuck-ever.”

Which means I needed a break from the blog too.

I will be back next week, of course, and, hopefully, I’ll be able to develop the topic I have into a weird post.

Until then, take care. And if you live somewhere safe and quiet, just take a minute today to sit down with a coffee or tea at a window, and enjoy the underrated freedom of inviolable thought.

Let’s Talk About – My Writer Quirks

So, if there’s one thing my writing group has exposed to me by accident, it’s my collection of what I think of as “Writer Quirks”: illogical standards / habits that dictate how and what I write.

I mean, I knew they were there, but some of them have been discovered by my writing group, so I’m thinking about them more this weekend.

And, since I woke up to some serious snowfall, I thought ‘why not just take a chill snow day and talk about my Quirks–the things that make me the weird writer I am?’

Yeah. Yeah, that could be fun and chill, so let’s do it.

Number 1 – I love writing in inclement weather.

There’s something about rain in particular that gets the creative juices flowing for me.

And, to be totally honest . . . I think it’s because of Jurassic Park.

Please don’t tease me, but one of the first stories I wrote was about me and my cousins trapped in my old apartment with my cats, who’d become Velociraptor-sized for some mysterious reason.

I was, like, 10 and had just seen Jurassic Park, so cut me some slack.

Anyway, yes, that movie was massively influential for me, so whenever it rains (like it did in the T-Rex scene), the urge to write hits really hard.

And, even if it isn’t raining, I can find an ambient rain sounds video on YouTube, put on headphones, and just go.

Number 2 – I love mustache-twirling villains.

Despite evidence to the contrary on this site, I do love villains. But not the misunderstood, “morally ascendant” ones.

No, I love obviously evil mustache-twirlers.

Like, the more ‘comically evil visual cues’ they toss out at first glance, the better. Is that villain in a black leather coat? Great. Is that villain in a black leather trench coat with shades on, and eyes that are burning so fucking red you can see them through the shades? Fucking glorious.

Paramount among them (obviously) is Albert Wesker as he appeared in Resident Evil 5, where he takes “obviously evil” to the ultra max.

Like, “Guys . . . I don’t want to jump to conclusions here, but . . . I think this guy is evil?”

Making him look like a stern, Aryan man was not enough; he had to be a stern, Aryan Terminator in (what looks like) head-to-toe snake skin.

It’s just so over-the-top. I love it.

Number 3 – I love writing outside
(but I hate writing at coffee shops).

I know–I should hand in my Writer Card right now.

But, seriously, I must have missed the window where it was comfortable to write in a coffee shop.

Because, every time I try, the “You can only sit for 30 minutes while eating” sign blares at me. Or the overhead music does. Or there’s a group in the corner, laughing and talking loudly about whatever. Or there are the people around me, working on/looking at who-knows-what on their computers (porn being a very real option from the Starbucks stories I’ve heard). And, real talk, that mystery of “What are they working on/looking at?” emboldens people to just stare at your computer screen while you write; seriously, the last time I wrote at a Starbucks, the woman sitting next to me went zero-fucks and openly started reading what I was writing.

Yeah. Thanks–I’m good.

However, I do like writing pretty much anywhere else outdoors–the more secluded, the better.

And this all came from my first NaNoWriMo, where I discovery-wrote Memory in different spots all over New York. The first post in that series, (which I called 30 Days of NaNoWriMo) starts at home (which was not the plan), but what followed was a fun, 30-day romp where I searched for places I could viably write, ending with the Cloisters. And I think that romp ruined me forever. I can (and still do) write from home, but I will almost always write more enthusiastically outside.

Unless it’s at a coffee shop.

Number 4 – I was heavily inspired by
Samus Aran from Metroid.

I’ve probably talked about this on here before, but a major influence for my strong female protagonists was Samus Aran. In particular, the above diagram from the Super Metroid Nintendo Player’s Guide.

My Samus is and always will be 6’3” and 200 lbs.

That said, Samus is only one side of the “Strong Female Character” spectrum; on the other side is Mabel Pines, who I’ve wanted to write an entire post about for a while. For now, suffice it to say that I love Samus for being a strong woman who’s massive, imposing, and badass . . . and I also love Mabel Pines for being a strong woman who’s nerdy, boy-thirsty, and hilarious.

Samus was an awesome gateway for me and I will always love her, but it’s important to say that she is not the end-all example of what a strong woman is.

Number 5 – FFVI made me want to write Fantasy.
FFVII guaranteed I’d never write anything else.

I was massively inspired by Jurassic Park, but my desire to write awesome stuff was forever turned from “no-frills American action movie” to “Fantasy” when I played Final Fantasy VI for the first time.

The Magitek Armor (made weird and fluid by the art of Yoshitaka Amano), the presence of fae-like Espers (who were not simple analogues of traditional deities), the variety of characters (who reach into pretty much every extreme a crew can have [from a spunky kid to a weary old man]), and the 11th hour twist that the villain succeeds in destroying the world (and you have to fight through the aftermath) made me irrevocably invested in Fantasy’s potential to be unique.

But I didn’t really understand Fantasy’s range until I played Final Fantasy VII.

I don’t want to rant about that game, so I’ll just say that it was the first time I experienced a Fantasy story set in a modern city.

And, as a kid growing up in the Bronx, the idea that a Fantasy story could be based in a modern city–that the slums under a giant city could be the starting point for an adventure with otherworldly monsters and magic–blew my goddamn mind.

I wouldn’t trade the bizarre potential and impossible range of Fantasy for the world.

Number 6 – I have a special designation for music
I want to write stories for–“righteous.”

Last thing–I take crazy amounts of inspiration from music, which I think a lot of us do.

However, I often find songs I want to write for. And, at some point, I started thinking of those songs as “righteous.”

I don’t know how this “righteous song” thing started, but most of the time, those songs will never fit into any of my WIP’s. For example, “Spectre” by Radiohead is the intro theme for a story I am not writing. What is that story? No idea, but I want to write something that fits “Spectre” so badly, and I don’t know why. It just triggers a part of my brain and evokes emotions that I really want to make into a story. I used imagine it as the theme for Aixa the Hexcaster, but it doesn’t fit Aixa’s tone either, so it will forever float as the intro theme for . . . something in my brain.

Once in a blue moon though, the visceral muse of certain songs does inspire entire stories; “Time’s Scar,” from the intro to Chrono Cross, is directly responsible for The Hand and the Tempest, the big project I’m working on after Memory. I heard that song in high school and created an entire story from it. Well, I was in high school, so really, I imagined a CG intro for a story, and then, 15 years later, made that CG intro into a workable plot, but still, if a = b, and b = c, then something-something-math.

~~~

Okay. it is now the late afternoon, so I’m going to clean up what I have and post this. I hope everyone is doing well, and if you liked this post, I’ll be posting again next Sunday . . . or Monday, depending on how insane next week is. I’m potentially landing a freelancing contract, so I will either be bummed but relaxed next week, or happy but wild-eyed and hyperventilating from the effort of making a design project perfect.

Either way, stay safe, enjoy the rest of your day, and eat your oatmeal.

. . .

I started eating oatmeal again recently and found that my old man taste buds think it’s delicious, so I’m on that kick now . . . Anyway, bye!

A Writer Watching – Wonder Woman 1984, Part 2

Well, it looks like it’s that time again. What time, you ask?

1984. Unfortunately.

This second part of “A Writer Watching – Wonder Woman 1984″ feels like a doozy, so I’m going to jump right in.

However, this is the second part of a two-parter, so if you haven’t read part 1 yet, you might want to do that first.

That said, let’s do this . . .

Yay.

Wonder Woman 1984 (cont.)

  • (1:15:04) Barbara murders the gross dude from earlier.
    I understand that what I’m supposed to be getting from this scene is that the monkey’s paw is making Barbara evil, but, again, there’s been no build up to her becoming evil. At worst, she’s ignored people when they were speaking to her. To jump from that to murder is pre-e-e-e-etty big, even with her victim being a total scumbag.
    What’s really coming through for me is the “Nerd Rage” trope, where a person who’s perceived as weak gets powers and immediately turns evil to get back at the people who persecuted them.
    Fun.
  • (1:19:41) Okay. Max Lord goes to Emir Said Bin Abydos, who wishes for control of his land. The monkey’s paw part of our Deus Ex Machina erects a wall around that land, which means his people won’t have access to water.
    But isn’t Max Lord supposed to decide the punishment for the wish? Isn’t the blowback for Emir’s wish supposed to be that Max Lord takes his security team?
    What I’m getting at here is that this is the point where the rules for Max’s powers get muddled.
  • (1:21:58) Diana gets out of her car and starts running after Max Lord’s convoy.
    And it looks . . . terrible.
    I understand that this isn’t necessarily the writer’s fault, but I will take this opportunity to make a point: it doesn’t matter how awesome your character is; if you write them doing something that might look stupid, there’s a possibility they will look stupid.
    And I think this needs to be said because, more than any other genre, Fantasy is full of ‘might look stupid’ moments. For example, “he jumped up and kicked the first bad guy in the face, but also used his face as a foothold. In a second, he was running across all of their faces in a perfect circle, knocking a new bad guy out with every step!” Like . . . Okay. I’m not going to say you can’t write that, but the chances readers will read that and imagine it looking cool are pre-e-e-etty low.
  • (1:23:24) Diana gets hit with a bullet, and we’re supposed to realize she’s losing her powers.
    But Diana has never once been shot before this.
    There was a moment earlier (when she struggled to pull a lock off of door) that hinted at her powers being the price she paid for Steve Trevor coming back.
    But I thought the price was that Steve was in another man’s body (but Diana just oddly didn’t care about that).
    So, what I’m left to believe then is that . . . Diana did wish for Steve to come back in another man’s body?
    Whatever. This movie needed to do a better job seeding Diana losing her powers.
    Or, even better, just don’t do the “sequel where the hero loses/gives up their powers” trope, because it’s overdone.
  • (1:24:13) Diana flips over a truck that’s behind Max Lord’s vehicle, uses it to propel herself into the air, and . . . lands on the front of Max Lord’s vehicle, facing him. Notice that the movie does not show the mid-air turn necessary to get her into that position. Just a weird, disjointed cut from her falling, facing forward, to her on the hood of Max’s car, facing the opposite direction.
    Again, spacing and action execution in action scenes is so goddamn important. If you’re struggling to make a character pull off an awesome feat, just think of another awesome feat for them to do. One that makes sense.
  • (1:25:42) I realize this whole fight could be a lesson in spatial awareness in an action scene, but this last moment, where Steve fires a rocket and Diana whips onto it and sails through the air to save some kids ahead of the convoy, re-e-e-e-eally takes the cake. It’s silly, bizarre, and overly complicated (with Steve needing to understand how to fire a rocket out of a military vehicle he’s never seen before and Diana needing to whip the rocket away after getting far enough ahead [but not losing any momentum whatsoever while she does so]).
    But, on top of that, another common problem I see in fiction happens at the beginning of this scene; Steve shows Diana a rocket and shouts, “Diana!” and she nods, showing that, yep, she gets what he’s thinking—even though there’s no way she possibly could.
    I call this “the Look,” based on D&D players metagaming by giving each other “a look that says I’ll kill the first goblin while you grab the treasure.”
    Really? What kind of look? Please explain.
    The Look happens in fiction all the time as well, and it’s something to keep in mind because it can get out of hand very easily.
    “She gave him a look that said she didn’t buy the minister’s lies,” is totally fine and makes sense.
    “She gave him a look that said she didn’t believe the minister was telling the entire truth,” is pushing it.
    “She gave him a look that said she knew the minister was going to kill again tonight and that she was going to try and get it out of him right now,” does not make sense.
  • (1:29:04) The macguffin being tied to the mysterious downfalls of ancient civilizations is one of the most tired tropes a macguffin can have.
  • (1:29:45) Barbara Minerva is in full, post-murder bad guy gear, and I have to say, again, that I feel really bad for Kristen Wiig.
    There are a lot of 80’s styles Wardrobe could’ve used to make a woman look cool and evil.
    The outfits they gave her in this movie were not it.
  • (1:33:46) I just have to take a moment to point out here that I love Pedro Pascal, who does a great job in this moment (when he’s not directed to act like a weird goofball).
  • (1:35:44) If I had to pick one scene that I really like from this movie, it’s this heartbreaking moment with Max Lord and his son. Max, a living monkey’s paw, tries to get his son to wish for his own greatness, but his son, who loves him, winds up wishing for his dad’s greatness. Pascal’s reactions really sell how badly Max wants his son to succeed and how hard he takes it when that potential is unwittingly thrown away.
  • (1:41:11) Again, zero setup on a Deus Ex Machina—this time, the golden, winged armor Diana will use in the third act.
    And I’m sure that the argument can be made that this scene is the set up, but if a story spends 43 seconds setting up flashy armor that only exists to be flashy (and has absolutely no effect on the larger plot), then it’s A) a bad, rushed set up, and B) the armor isn’t worth having in the movie.
    And it’s a shame because, man, just imagine if the intro with the tournament had established that the armor would, like, magically manifest on the strongest of the Amazons. Maybe the Amazon who won that tournament has that armor bond with them because they made some crazy sacrifice (like Lynda Carter’s character did). Maybe the Amazon who earned the armor stopped in the middle of the tournament to help another, injured Amazon get to the finish line while young Diana ran past them because she didn’t realize or was too focused on winning (and that’s why she doesn’t win the prologue tournament). I mean, that’s off the top of my head, but what I’m getting at is, ffs, how much cooler would it have been if, after struggling with losing Steve, Diana sacrificed him (and her own happiness) at the end and that’s why the armor came to her. Not just a flashy suit upgrade, but a physical embodiment of her sacrifice that allowed her to fly, like Steve. At the very least, I would’ve been invested in it.
  • (1:42:26) Wonder Woman sees CCTV footage of Max Lord’s car driving through Washington D.C.
    And, for the millionth time, setting.
    How does she have a hook up to CCTV footage in Washington D.C. . . . in the 80’s?
    Was there already a complex network of surveillance set up in the 80’s, or did Wonder Woman go around and hook up cameras in different hot spots for years? And, if so, why did she put one here?
    Can’t help feeling it would’ve been cleaner to show a news broadcast with a reporter like, “This just in: the President has set aside an important foreign diplomacy meeting to meet with Max Lord.”
    Because even if there was a CCTV network in America in the 80’s, that would just make this a classic example of the Stranger than Fiction phenomenon.
  • (1:48:04) Steve picks up a sword with the intent to kill Secret Service officers, but Diana says, “No, Steve, you can’t use that,” because of course he shouldn’t just kill people who are under Max’s control (also, how a former American soldier would think of skewering Secret Service with a fucking sword is beyond me–I guess Steve is a Patriot?).
    But then, after telling Steve no, Diana throws her insane, razor sharp tiara at their heads, which they only narrowly duck.
    She doesn’t even throw it at the lights for cover. She throws it at them.
    Diana! If you want to murder them yourself, just say so!
  • (1:50:20) I still feel bad for Kristen Wiig. In part because the idea of a villain getting their powers by wishing on a monkey’s paw is interesting—to me. I think if they’d just left it there, that would’ve been pretty cool. I am absolutely sure it’s been done, but I still enjoy the cleanliness of that idea. No science experiment gone wrong. Just a person wishing they could be cool like their friend without knowing that A) their friend had super powers and B) their wish would be granted. I dig it. Especially because it could yield a very interesting mentoring situation gone wrong, maybe with Barbara learning about/going to Themiscyra, being corrupted by the idea that she, a human, is stronger than all of the Amazons.
    Unfortunately, this movie hurdles right the fuck over all of that. In this fight scene in the White House, Barb even predicts and counters an attack Diana almost never uses, because this movie wants us to feel like they’ve been rivals for decades (because they have been–in the comics). Gotta love that good ol’ total-lack-of-patience!
  • (1:53:01) We get a few lines here from Kristen about how Wonder Woman has “always had everything” and “people like me have nothing.”
    The thing is, there is absolutely a conversation to be had about “pretty privilege” and other forms of discrimination (age, weight, color, sex). It’s too bad this movie actually demonizes the awkward nerd, who was genuinely being treated like shit at the beginning of the movie. Because the only thing worse than a nerd is a nerd who’s angry that everyone treats them like shit, amirite?
    Fuck this movie.
  • (1:53:59) Here, in the same conversation as above, Diana is bloody and bruised, her hair messy.
    And, as a fan of a hero getting fucked up over the course of their adventure, I just have to say . . . please, everybody, more of this. Especially if you’re writing a female protagonist. Because, I dunno about everyone else, but I am the kind of feminist who’s ready for his female protagonists to take battle damage. Like, straight up, fuck the male gaze; give me the female superhero who gets fucked up like Tobey’s Spider-Man at the end of their movies.
  • (1:55:25) I am a big fan of “shit is going down” super hero stories, where the threat feels palpable. I have to give it to this movie for at least selling me on the bizarre idea that one irresponsible dude being able to grant everyone whatever they wished for would destroy Earth in one day.
  •  (1:57:35) Diana tells Steve that she’ll never love again, but Steve tells her, “That isn’t true,” and can we please get more male characters who say extremely healthy shit like this, please?
    I still hate the entire Ghost Steve situation, but this one line is the kind of example more male characters need to provide.
  • (1:58:00) Also, Wonder Woman saying, “I can’t say goodbye” to you, and you replying, “You don’t have to. I’m already gone,” is just so good. Like, yes, sure, BDE. But more important, saying the perfect thing to get someone to revoke the wish that’s keeping you alive is incredible.
    Seriously, I always try to predict what characters are going to say in a movie (it’s just a bad habit I have), and I was actually surprised by that line.
  • (1:58:29) First, props to Gal Gadot for really selling this entire ordeal.
    Second though . . . you can just renounce your wish from anywhere, without touching the monkey’s paw?
    So . . . what’s the point of the monkey’s paw then? They’re supposed to punish you for being covetous, but if you can just cancel at any time, that means you can opt out of the punishment after getting the reward (if you’re smart). For example, I can be like, “I wish to be able to safely teleport anywhere I want.” According to this movie’s logic, I’d then have that power for, like, 3 days before anything bad starts to happen, and when it does, I can just say, “I renounce my wish,” and be fine. You could make the argument of, “Well, you would lose whatever you got with that power,” but does that include experiences? Cause I’d spend one day in Japan, another in New Zealand, a third day wild carding (like, on the moon and shit). This movie doesn’t indicate that people lose the memories, so I’m golden. Gimme that shit! Where’s it at!?
  • (1:58:58) I can’t believe the set up for Wonder Woman learning how to fly is “she whipped too hard, then whipped onto a plane for reasons that aren’t clear.”
    Just . . . what?
  • (2:01:05) Max Lord offers Barbara a second wish and she wishes she was in Cats.
    All of this is just stupid and I’m tired. LOL
    Just to scale it back and talk big picture here . . . why the fuck did they even need to make Kristen Wiig into cat lady? I get that she’s Cheetah, and fans want to see Cheetah VS Wonder Woman.
    But this is the kind of massive contrivance that ruins comic book movies—the moments where they have to adhere to their source material, even when that adherence is not properly set up.
    In an alternate reality somewhere, WW84 had the patience to set up Barbara as a morally grey sidekick, and then, in WW3, she becomes evil, finds the Jellicle Stone, and uses it to gain more power, becoming Cheetah in the process.
  • (2:02:23) The rules of Max Lord’s power go to absolute shit at the end here. Not a single fuck was given. “Oh. He can ‘touch’ people by being in a broadcasting station, broadcasting to televisions that no one is touching? Okay. Sure. What-the fuck-ever.”
  • (2:03:10) Max Lord manages to broadcast himself to everyone on planet Earth who has a TV, and I just have to laugh here. Because if I was alive for this—if Max Lord was real and he did this tomorrow—the moment he said, “All you have to do is make a wish,” I–freshly torn away from Control, which I just started playing–would absolutely roll my eyes and say, “Well, I wish Max Lord would shut the fuck up forever and let me get back to my game,” and his entire plan would be ruined. By just one smarmy asshole.
    And there is no way in hell I’m the only person who would do that.
    In fact, if I had just gotten home with a ton of groceries and I was tired, there’s a 95% chance I would sigh at my TV and say, “I wish Max Lord would fuck off and die.” Seriously, I say that kind of thing all the time without thinking—stupid, schoolyard exaggerations that I would logically never expect/actually want to happen.
    Max’s plan here would have failed immediately.
  • (2:04:34) I actually laughed really hard when the “She’s riding the lightning!” scene they kept showing in the promos was a totally pointless 5 seconds. Because of course it was.
  • (2:06:01) Cannons start shooting up into the clouds at something you can’t see. Turns out to be an awesome, badass, female superhero.
    No way you’ll ever see that in a Marvel movie.
  • (2:07:21) Cheetah finally appears. No transformation.
    Cheetah doesn’t look terrible, but this fight is . . . not great.
    And of course it isn’t. I mean, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that the writers behind this movie didn’t think about the space of their scenes and the execution of their action, so of course Diana blocks Cheetah’s attacks for (by my rough count) 35 seconds. She and Cheetah then spend about a minute swinging from Diana’s whip. Then, she and Diana fall in a pool of water, into which Diana pulls an electrical wire. And that electrocutes Cheetah . . . but not Diana?
    But, hold on, isn’t Cheetah also a god now? Actually, isn’t she better than one? Because she initially wished to be like Diana, who, per the first film, is a literal god . . . But then, Barb wished to be better than Diana and “everyone else.” So shouldn’t she be shifting reality and teleporting around? I mean, this is the DC universe, so she should’ve flown down on a god ray wearing a cape and punched Diana into the center of the Earth, because Superman counts as “everyone else.”
    Or, at the very least, she should’ve been able to withstand some fucking electricity.
  • (2:13:47) There’s not much else for me to go on here, but there is a moment that perfectly encapsulates this entire movie.
    Max Lord is taking wishes from people and building his own power. In a moment, Diana will use her whip to . . . talk to all of the people Max is transmitting to?
    It’s all-the-way stupid.
    I do like the idea of a villain being talked down instead of punched down, and (although it’s bizarre that he and Cheetah get off 100% Scot-free) I do find it interesting to see villains get passes. It even seems like Max gets a chance to reform, which is surprisingly healthy for a comic book movie.
    That said, in this moment at 2:13:47, Diana leans back against a wall, and her armor . . . pushes it in, making it clear that the wall is foam. And of course it is; Gal Gadot fell back against it, so it makes sense it would be made out of foam as a safety precaution on her behalf.
    But this shot, where her shoulder dips softly into concrete, is what this entire movie has been.
    No one cared. No one double-checked the plot or questioned the action. They saw the kinks—the weird hoops the story had to jump through—and they shrugged. In the same way an editor saw the wall pressing in and shrugged.
    “It’s fine,” they might have said aloud.
    “Yes, I see those obvious flaws, but whatever. There are cool moments and my main character is rad. I’m good.”
    And all I have to say is, “Please, no.”
    Please, never, ever think that.
    Writing—particularly editing—is a dangerous game. A lot of people keep working on their stories for eternity, never actually trying to get them published. That, obviously, is bad.
    But it’s just as bad to see genuine flaws in your work and just shrug them away.
    If something in your work is bad, it’s an opportunity to write something better. Because, at least in my experience, that’s almost always how correcting mistakes goes; no matter how deep I have to go into a plot to excise a loophole, my WIP’s are always better for it.

So, yes, if there’s one idea Wonder Woman 1984 reinforced in me, it’s the importance of editing, especially if you’re editing something you love.

But, also, it’s super important to understand settings.

Oh, and don’t ever put a dead character into a stranger’s body and totally disregard that stranger’s emotions.

And–goddammit, no. Nope. I’m just stopping! I need this part of my life to be over!

~~~

Thanks for passing by. I hope you enjoyed this honestly reserved criticism of a comic book movie that made millions of dollars regardless of how bad it was.

If you’d like to read another one, well boy howdy, I’ve done one other brutal takedown of a big budget Hollywood film, the cost and profit from which could’ve been used to save tons of people from poverty! Ha ha! Enjoy!

A Writer Watching – Solo: A Star Wars Story

Until next time, take care, stay safe, and if you know someone who’s lived totally by themselves for 10 months at this point, maybe check in on them? Everyone’s different, and everyone’s situation is unique, but if they’re still social distancing and they’re one of the many who probably won’t get the vaccine until the Summer, they’d probably appreciate hearing from you.