Writing! All the writing…

Dear Cyber-Friends,

So, you might have noticed an absence of new posts recently. This is just a quick update to let you know that 1) sorry about that, 2) I will eventually have proper new posts again, even if it’s just the Goodreads Crossovers, and 3) tell you why I haven’t been blogging.

The past two-and-a-bit weeks, I’ve been visiting a friend of mine in Portland. We’re both basically unpublished writers, and we’re both working on our first novels, and have been encouraging each other towards this endeavor for, I think, about the past two years. We keep in touch on Twitter a lot, but getting to hang out in person to bounce ideas of each other and cheer each other on is so much better. While I’ve been here, my friend has finished their first draft, and I went from zero words to around 30k words for my second draft/kind of major rewrite.

It’s been amazing and unreal and so very very productive (for novel writing), but it also means I’ve done very little besides write a ridiculous amount of words every day and then tried to recover from the feeling of my brain starting to ooze out my ears a little. On a really good writing day, I have to recover enough to even form proper sentences and find the correct words when I’m talking out loud, because I’ve used up all the words I have for the day in my writing. Those are the days we pretty much end up sitting around laughing at the cat for an hour or so because the cat is hilarious and we don’t have the energy to do anything requiring more concentration. In fact if I seem a bit silly or rambling right now, it’s because I’ve already written over 2k words for the novel, as well as note for the plot. For comparison, NaNoWrMo says to average just over 1.6k to finish a novel-length in a month. I’ve been averaging well over that for less than two weeks.

The thing is, I don’t know how much longer I’ll have this much free time, and I know I only have a few more days here in Portland with my friend, so I really want to get as much done as possible while I have those advantages. Ideally, I think my goal is that by the end of the year I’d like to have this novel done and have started working on getting it proof-read and edited and looking into publishing. It’s been a long time coming, and I’d really like to see this story out there–at least on a small scale, but who knows?

Anyway, I’m not proof-reading this post or anything, and it’s already about twice as long as I expected, so I’m just going to sign off now and go to bed.

Keep chasing those dreams, friends, and stay safe out there.

Love,

GeGi.

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Goodreads Review: Carry On.

Carry OnCarry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I read Fangirl, one of the things I really connected to in that book was the fanfiction aspect (since I read AT LEAST as much fanfic as I do published fic). I really liked the made-up-yet-Harry-Potter-like “Original Fic” that Cath was writing fic for, because it got to play with all the familiar things I love about HP fanfic while not getting bogged down by actual HP canon. So when I found out that Carry On was actually a thing out there that I could read, I was obviously pretty excited. I was also pretty curious, because I wasn’t sure exactly how a Simon Snow novel would play out independently.

Like the author says, though, this isn’t the canon Snow of Fangirl, or Cath’s fanfic Snow. This is Rainbow Rowell’s Snow. And it’s pretty fantastic. First off, as noted multiple times in my status updates, I really loved the magical system in this book. It’s consistent and logical, brilliant and fresh, and utterly ridiculous and fun. It certainly makes the battles entertaining as hell to read. I didn’t mention in my updates, but I equally loved the replacement swears and exclamations that were mixed in with the more recognizable and everyday types. I definitely have a thing for that in media, because it makes language more believable to have swearing and slang (especially when it’s teenagers/adults), and it makes it more unique and world-building to have at least some of it be original. Or maybe my Buffy influence is showing a little there…

Either way, I think when it’s done well it adds to the dialogue and makes a more natural flow to conversation. And here it really felt like it worked; I could hear the characters’ voices in my head when I was reading, because their words and thoughts felt like real speech and real people. That doesn’t always happen — in fact it doesn’t happen for me very often at all — so it made it extra special for me.

Speaking of the characters, there are quite a few amazingly awesome characters in this book. Baz is sassy and snarky as hell, and I utterly love him to bits and want more. Penelope kicks ass, obviously, and I even really liked Agatha after a while. Simon was not actually as annoying as I thought he’d be, given that Harry Potter tends to drive me up the wall. Even a lot of the adults were pretty cool and interesting. I really appreciated all the diversity, of course, but I can’t help but be a little annoyed at the UTTER LACK of, at any point in Simon wondering if he’s gay now, that there was ZERO mention of the word “bisexual” in his or anyone else’s mind. In fact, I’m pretty sure that for all the times gay and queer get talked about (not just for Simon, and not just him and Baz, either), bisexual NEVER gets mentioned once, for any of them. Which is a real shame, because otherwise I have no complaints or criticisms.

As a side note, the final confrontation between Simon and the Humdrum actually played out thematically a lot like the climax of a novella I wrote as a teen. I should go look at it again, brush up the writing a little, etc. It’s a good theme for a final showdown, and it’s nice to see it get used. But first, I need to go read Fangirl again…and then maybe Carry On again…which might make me need to read Fangirl again…

If you don’t hear from me again, I’m stuck in an endless reread loop. Send help. (Or chocolate and scones and tea.) (Either way is good.)

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Goodreads Review: Winter.

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)Winter by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I reviewed the Lunar Chronicles on my blog back while waiting for Fairest to be released. Now that I’ve read Winter and the series is complete, I’d just like to officially place all of them on my personal THIS SERIES/BOOK IS TOTAL PERFECTION MY FAVORITE FOREVER list. That’s a little hyperbolic, but you get the idea.

I stand by my gushing in the old post, and especially by my saying this series just gets better with each book. Winter had me on the edge of my seat for, well, a lot of the book judging by my progress updates. I still adore my precious OTPs (all of them. I ship them all so hard), and the writing is so accessible and easy and fun, and the characters and dialogue and relationships (friendships included because they are just as precious and perfect and shippable) all sparkle off the page, and the act is tense and nerve-wracking and…

Ahem, anyway. Again, all that comes across very strongly in my progress updates. Along with a lot of shouty-typing. I love this book, I love this series, and I never want to say good-bye to this world. I’m not sure I can coherently say much more than that about it. But that’s what happens when I love something this much: too many feels = diminishing eloquence. Everything becomes gushing and flailing and shouting and hyperbole. So let my shortened review of this final installment of the Lunar Chronicles stand as testimony of just how incredible it is, and how much I think everyone should read all the books in the series.

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Storytelling is a superpower, and other thoughts.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’ve said (written) a lot of positive things on here about fanfiction. I stand by everything I’ve said before, but due to some recent discussions I’ve been seeing on Twitter lately, I wanted to add a little complexity to my position on some of the issues surrounding fanfic.

Storytelling is important. How we tell the story, what we choose to focus on, and what we do with it afterward, all matter very deeply. These things effect people in a very real way, with very real consequences to their lives. This post is going to talk about some topics that you might not want to expose yourself to right now. I talk about them in pretty general terms, but if even hearing (reading) the name of an issue will adversely effect you, please take care of yourself first and not read this post until/unless you’re in a mentally and emotionally safe place to do so.

The discussions that sparked my own thoughts into wanting to write this post was about toxic shipping in fandom and fanfics. The release of Jessica Jones on Netflix is starting lots of very awesome powerful dialogue due to the incredible handling of PTSD, abuse, rape, misogyny, and other relevant topics for today’s culture. It’s also brought out some less awesome behavior with those people who seem to see romantic tragedy where others see abuse, manipulation, and rape. These are people who ship Kilgrave/Jessica Jones, ignoring all evidence that that’s about the most sickening and unhealthy thing they could possible do. That’s not even touching on the fact that shipping an abusive one-sided relationship is triggering for survivors of such, and also the fact that it’s showing support and/or excusing that kind of behavior in the real world.

The things we create in fiction don’t live in a vacuum, safe and away from all “real world” consequences. It doesn’t matter if we’re creating TV shows, best-selling YA fiction, or internet-only fanfic. All it takes is other people, even just one other person, seeing it. The moment that happens, it’s effecting the real world. It has become part of the world, released into the wild to spawn and grown and change in someone’s mind, becoming part of their thoughts and ideas. So us storytellers must, MUST, be responsible about what we say. But we also have to let go after it’s out there. The time for us to make sure we’re getting it as right as we can is while we’re creating it. After that, it’s too late. It’s already out there, and we don’t get a second change to fix our mistakes.

So when the story is about an abusive relationship, it needs to be called out on being an abusive relationship IN THE NARRATIVE. This is something Jessica Jones did. My skin crawled seeing Kilgrave, despite how much I adore David Tennant. They never shrank away from the fact he was a horrible awful person, even when they gave him complexity and backstory and explanations (and please note: these were NEVER framed as excuses except by Kilgrave). Not all narratives do this; in fact, very few of them do at all. They turn abusers into someone misunderstood, broken but fixable through love and sacrifice. That’s the lessons learned by people who ship Kilgrave/Jessica, because like Kilgrave, they learned about love by seeing it in movies and TV shows. That kind of narrative about love not how the real world works, and survivors of abusive relationships know it.

People who buy into the toxic narrative and defend it are hurting the survivors. They’re also hurting themselves and anyone else who listens to that narrative, because it makes it easier for the myth to perpetuate. They’re giving confusion and uncertainty to people who won’t always recognize abuse because it’s been dressed up as romance. They’re giving excuses and justification to those who will use romanticized abuse to get what they want from other people, consciously or not. They’re supporting a culture that doesn’t acknowledge rape, abuse, misogynist, violence against women. They’re supporting a culture that can’t tell the difference between what’s okay and what isn’t. They’re supporting a culture that devalues the abused and their experiences.

I’m not saying the people who ship these things are bad, necessarily. They might be. I don’t know, because I don’t know them at all. All I can tell is that they’re certainly misinformed and in desperate need of some feminist education. I’m sure a lot of them would disagree with me and call me a lot of horrible things if they read this. I’m sure a lot of them wouldn’t even realize the irony of doing that, how it would in fact prove my point better than my own words can. This happens all the time, both on the internet and in the “real world”. Despite all progress, we’re still living in a toxic culture, one where just telling the truth about it on the internet can, and often does, lead to death threats, rape threats, and verbal abuse.

Which is why storytelling is so desperately important. The real world hurts, and a lot of us use escapism to survive it — I certainly do. The thing is, it isn’t really escapism. It’s just a different way to change and explore the very same narrative we’re living in day after day. The way that narrative is framed will either make our wounds bleed more, or help them to heal. If someone is telling a story with toxic relationships, framing them as tragic romance is adding to the very thing that’s hurting us in the first place. But framing them with in-your-face honest realism, showing just how bad and awful and insidious they are, makes them become something we can then point to and say, “See, this is what’s really going on. This is what it feels like to be stalked and manipulated and trapped and then survive. It’s not romantic. It’s not something you get over by the next episode. It’s scary as hell, and it changes you for life. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you strong. It’s awful, and it’s happening every day. But we can still fight back.”

There was another conversation happening a few days ago. It was about how J.K. Rowling was continuing to tell people the right and wrong ways to interpret her characters. These people were talking about how hurtful it was for an author to do that. They had bonded with the people in these stories because the characters resonated with real life experiences and people. The characters were real to them, like all our favorite fiction characters are real to us. They had claimed them, had written and read fanfiction about them, had created their own narrative and framing about them, both by using what was in the text and by going beyond it. These people were offended and outraged at the author telling them they were wrong in their own interpretations.

So how are those people different from the people shipping Kilgrave/Jessica Jones?

They’re different for a very simple reason: the framing and narrative created by toxic shipping is ADDING to a toxic culture. But these outraged fans are creating interpretations to DISMANTLE toxic culture. They’re creating narrative to add POC, to add queer relationships, to call out abusers, and other important issues that were overlooked or deemed unimportant in the original text. No work of fiction is perfect, even Harry Potter, and it can certainly be hard to tackling every issue at once. So these people are taking something they love, something profoundly important to our generation, a touchstone of our culture, and they’re adding this framing to it. They’re doing it because they love it, and because they have the real life experiences and knowledge to understand where the failings and shortcomings are, and they have the passion to try and fix them. This is something I love and adore about fandom, by the way.

J.K. Rowling coming along and telling them that no, those things are wrong, is hugely upsetting. Harry Potter and co are her creations, but as soon as she published the stories, their names and experience became ours, too. They’re part of everyone who reads the books or watches the movies or listens to the audiotapes. They’re part of our culture, a lexicon in our ongoing dialogue about the world. She doesn’t get to invalidate that by telling us we’re doing it wrong. She can and does try, but it doesn’t mean we have to listen to it. She had her chance to tell that story, and now it’s our turn. Which means the responsibility in how the story is framed falls to us, too.

A storyteller gets one shot to get it right. And, regardless of if they do or not, everyone who received that story then gets their own shot to get it right. And on, and on, and on. Stories never really die or go away. They keep mutating, traveling, forming and breaking apart and reforming, over and over and over. Stories are alive, even the ones pinned down with print or film or tape. They’re alive in our minds, as soon as we read them or watch them or listen to them. They never leave us, and they never stop changing our thoughts and feelings and actions. They get passed on, warping themselves through the lens of our perceptions and experiences, and again through those same things of the ones who receive it from us.

How we tell the stories is so important. They can literally change the world for someone, for good or bad. The moment we’ve told the story, we’ve lost the chance to tell it better. So we’d better get it the best we can the first time, because that’s all we get, and with that one chance we can heal or break someone else. It’s scary and huge and real, and it’s powerful and beautiful and magic. Storytelling is the ultimate superpower. It doesn’t matter if you think you have an audience or not. Chances are, someone somewhere is still listening. You’re touching their life. So you can either add to the toxic culture that’s probably already hurting them, or you can use that superpower to help create dialogue to dismantle it, and let them know they’re not alone.

We all have our own experiences, our own truths and struggles and wounds and insights. Storytelling is how we can share those things, finding the common ground with others and opening the eyes and minds of those who never realized what life was like for us. It’s a chance create understanding, compassion, empathy, outrage, revelation, and a myriad of other things that are extremely hard to pass on without the wonder that is storytelling. Storytelling is how we learn about other people, it’s how we can grow to understand the world, how we remember the past, and how we can shape the future.

That’s one reason why I think fanfiction is so important. Not everyone has the same experiences (obviously), so when someone can take a beloved narrative like the Harry Potter books and flesh it out even more by drawing on their own unique view, that adds to both the story as a whole, and to my own views of other people. I can become a little more aware of other peoples’ realities in the real world, and the world of Harry Potter gets a little closer to being complete because more than one voice is adding to it. The more voices and the more diversity gets added to it, the better it gets at breaking down toxic culture for more people. No one is going to get things 100% right, but the more people who add to it, the better the chances get for the overlap to make up the difference. Not to mention how cathartic it can be to add to that narrative and framing yourself, which is exactly what I experienced the first time I venture into writing fanfic as an angsty teen.

I’m a storyteller myself. Not just in this blog, either. I recently finished a first draft of a novel I hope to actually publish in the next year or so, and I’ve started on a sequel already. I’ve been world-building fantasy and sci-fi worlds for stories since I was about twelve or so, and do it by playing Let’s Pretend for as long as I can remember. Saying I love it is kind of a “does not compute” understatement moment for me, because it’s just part of who I am. It’s not something I’m passionate about, because it’s synonymous with passion for me. I breath, I blink, my heart beats, I create people and worlds and scenarios in my head. It just is. Obviously, thinking about getting to share one of those worlds and some of those characters is exciting and cool. But you know what the thing I’m most excited about is? It’s seeing what other people will do with them.

I want to see my own stories get out there, because I want to see how they grow and change with each new interpretation. I want to see what other stories get told with these characters who are real to me, because that means they’re real enough to someone else to inspire those other stories. I want to see what will happen when someone else uses them to tell personal stories, uses them to explore other issues, uses them fulfill other dreams and hopes. I want to see how someone else thinks the story should end. I want those things because seeing them will make me a better storyteller, and a better person. Those are the things that will help me understand someone else, and help me to understand the world and the cultures and all those other things I’m not going to experience as myself. I don’t know what it’s like to live the world as someone else, but using stories like this helps me get closer to that. Especially if they’re using the power of storytelling for good.

Stay strong, cyber-friends, and keep telling stories that help to heal and dismantle those toxic cultures.

Love,

GeGi.

Talking about: @shipitmovie and fandom.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Today I want to talk about a script I just read. Let’s back up just a bit first before I get into it, though.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll have seen posts about various fandoms, how canon treats fan ships, queerness, sexuality and gender, etc. I’ve even talked about how fanfic is so very important, and why. I might not always be the most eloquent on a subject, but it’s probably pretty clear that these things are important to me, that I’m passionate about them, and that I like to gently educate and explain them to others.

I haven’t been doing that lately, though. Lately, I’ve either not been blogging at all, or I’ve been blogging about my travels — which, fair enough, that’s what I started this blog for in the first place. Hence the name, and all. Blogging about my travels is fun, and it’s a good way to share parts of my non-cyber life with everyone, but I’m realizing how much I miss the other kinds of blogging I do. I miss geeking out about stuff that excites me, and I miss talking through a subject to myself in an attempt to make it accessible and interesting and informative to all of you. I’m going to try to do that kind of blogging more often; we’ll see if that actually happens.

It’s going to happen today at least, though. Like I say, I just read this script that I want to talk about to everyone. It’s called Ship It, and it’s written by an amazing person called Britta Lundin, a filmmaker and writer based in L.A. I’ve been following Britta on Twitter for a while now, not knowing any of this.

I followed Britta at first because I was following anyone who had interesting or feelsy things to say about Destiel and the Destiel corner of the Supernatural fandom. I’ve mentioned the Destiel fandom before on my blog; it’s the shipping of Dean and Cas, and it’s what made me start watching Supernatural in the first place. I heard and found so much that was so compelling about it online, that it made me curious about the canon (the actual show).

Even before that, back in the days of angsty teenhood with dial-up internet in Backwoods, North Idaho, I was emotionally invested in fanfic and shipping. At that time it mostly revolved around Harry Potter fics, from what I can remember. Oh, and Lord of the Rings, whose corners of fandom were my first real interactions and friendships with other fans. There were a few others, but that’s what I remember most: going through pages and pages of HP on fanfic sites, even writing some myself, and late night chat rooms with LotR fans who shared their fics with me.

I’d stopping being around fandom for years since then, but then I had a conversation with my cousin about Supernatural (she was watching it, and telling me about it), and then I started looking it up, and I found rediscovering the wonderful things that exist down that particular internet rabbit hole. Not just Supernatural, either, of course. There’s numerous fandoms and ships out there, something for everyone, and it’s that the point? The magic of fandom is that we don’t have to stick to canon; we can create new things that speak to us using an already establish language, if you will. We all know the origin, so we can take each other on journeys into unexplored territories or deeper into familiar ground. But I digress, and I’ve also talked about all this before.

The point is, it was the fandom and a slash ship that seemingly only exists in canon as queerbaiting that got me to start watching a show. It doesn’t really matter what show that was, because it’s a formula that’s repeated over and over on TV right now, and has been for years.

See, this whole queerbaiting-the-fandom-to-create-interest-without-committing-to-queerness thing is just plain wrong. Yes, it does get people to watch and keep watching the show. But then they stop watching it after a while. They get sick of being yanked around by the creators, actors, or show itself. They get sick of being bullied by the other kind of fans, the mean and entitled ones. They find shows with real actual representation instead, which is what they were looking for in the first place. But they keep the friendships, in the end. They keep the parts they love, which are usually all fandom-based, and ditch the bits that just hurt them over and over, which is usual the canon (and the fans who are actually bullies more than fans).

Enter this script I keep mentioned, for a movie trying to get made, called Ship It.

Ship It is about a teenage girl from a small town, a huge fan of a first-season CW show and a fanfic slash writer. She doesn’t have friends because she doesn’t have common ground or interests with the other more “typical” kids around. But online, she’s hugely popular because she writes really good fic. Raise your hand if you can already relate to her… *raises my own hand*.

She goes to a convention for her favorite show, and as the last person to ask a question, she asks the one all slash-shippers want to know the answer to: will the two super-hot leads with explosive on-screen chemistry and compelling story arcs finally kiss already? The answer gets badly fumbled, which instantly leads to bad PR online because, well, online fandom is everything these days. This is a first-season show, after all, and they’re trying to get renewed. They can’t afford their fandom’s wrath or scorn.

This leads to her getting invited along the rest of the con tour to help with their online PR, despite the fact that the show creator doesn’t want her there and one of the lead actors is dismissive of both her and the rest of the fan base. Events transpire from there, including a budding relationship for our heroine with another fan and fanartist of the show.

What unfolds is a relatively simple plot with a deeply resonant and compelling emotional journey for not only our heroine, but also the resistant lead actor. It’s a tale of self-discovery with gentle and not-so-gentle help from others. It touches on a lot of issues, both lightly and more in-depth, with the care and understanding of someone who is actually part of that world and who gets it, because of course, that’s exactly what’s happening. It’s truly a movie about fandom, by someone actually in fandom, and it’s a movie for everyone, not just fans. It’s about people.

Because that’s what fandom is: it’s people. People who are passionate, people who are creative, people who share common loves and dreams and hopes and joys. People who are inspired by something, and who inspire others in return. It’s a vast and wondrous thing, when we let it. It can also be vicious and mean and awful, because people can be like that sometimes, when we get focused on the bad, on the fears, on the power-trips. But the differences and the common ground can both be cause for growth. It can inspire us to be better, do better, act better. It can teach us compassion, and can open our minds to the realities of other people. It can spark a creative spirit onto new and exciting heights. It can imagine a way to make the world better.

And yes, I may have gotten a little off-topic there, but that’s kind of my point. There’s so much potential in every form of media we consume, that there’s no way all of it can be explored by one person or even a team of people. When something we create gets shared with the world, it becomes exponentially bigger, with each possible path being explored leading to another maze of paths and even more potential. The explosive creative energy fandom generates is because people are all storytellers in our own ways, and we latch on to the things we feel passionate about.

Ship It makes me feel passionate. It does because I hear it speaking to me when I read it. It’s a story that badly needs to be out there, to get hear, to inspire others. It’s a story of what might be possible, in some way, some how. It’s a story of the hope in many fans’ hearts, that someday, someone with the power to make a difference will actually listen to us as we explain over and over how to do it better. It’s a story of fan’s journey, and an actor’s journey, but really it’s the story of fandom itself, as it evolves into the amazing and beautiful creative thing I love so much. It’s a personal story, speaking straight to each and every one of us.

Oh, and there’s lots of slash. And non-binary representation, which, if you know me at all, you know I fucking adore that.

If you want to know more about the awesomeness that is Ship It, check out and follow @shipitmovie and shipitmovie.tumblr.com. If you write to Britta (email on tumblr), you can even get to read the script yourself! And please make sure to spread the word about this hopefully-soon-to-be-made film; Britta is trying to make sure finances know just how much interest there is out there about this project, and I’m betting there’s a lot of us who’d love to see and support it.

Much love, and stay creative!

GeGi.

Travel Log: First Leg.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Today I basically woke up inside a cloud. With me inside this cloud is the city of Portland, OR.

View from the bedroom/living room window.

View from the bedroom/living room window.

After my adventures in Montana, I took the scenic route back into my old home-state of Idaho, driving on a two-lane highway winding alongside and back and forth over the Clark Fork river. I added several hours to my trip, but it was worth it for the beautiful scenery, the more relaxing experience, and the avoidance of a monotonous freeway.

I took a break from the road in Sandpoint, ID; the next largest town to where I grew up. I walked around a bit, seeing familiar sights and noticing changes from the last time I was there. It’s the first time I’ve been back since I moved out on my own, seven or eight years ago (I think… It might have been longer).

Back in the southern reaches of my old stomping grounds.

Back in the southern reaches of my old stomping grounds.

From here I continued on the more scenic highway until I got to Spokane, WA, where I finally relented to the necessities of time and got on the freeway to cross Washington. I headed towards Tacoma, and made it to my aunt and uncle’s house in time for dinner!

First order of business the next day — after tea, breakfast, and visiting, of course — was swinging by my storage unit to drop off as much as I could reasonably part with for the next year. After that, I took my car in to get a pre-road trip check-up, and then I was free to just relax and have fun the rest of my visit!

It was awesome getting to hang out with some of the family again; I went to a couple yoga classes with my aunt, went out to dinner with two of my cousins, hung out in the incredible apartment one of them just moved into (and meet her cat!), got treated to lunch by another uncle… I love my Washington-based relations, and it’s always a good time when we get together.

In the middle of my Tacoma stay, I took a quick trip up to Seattle and Bellevue to visit a few more friends. In Seattle, we went out for dinner at Some Random Bar (one of my favorite places — check it out the next time you’re there. Seriously.), and hung out afterwards watching a favorite show back at their home. In Bellevue, we test-ran a tabletop RPG one of the household has created, and had a total blast. That’s got to be one of the funnest gaming experiences I’ve had, and I absolutely want to play again!

After a short week in Washington, it was time to move on. I drove to Portland, OR yesterday, and am now enjoying the hospitality of a fellow unschooler and twitter-friend! Last night we listened to Welcome to Night Vale (the feral dogs episode), watched some Classic Doctor Who (Tom Baker era, “The Brain of Morbius”), and watched the first episode of Galavant. Much geeky fun was had by all (obviously!).

I’ll be here for a couple days, hanging out and exploring Portland. On Friday I’ll be taking off again, driving through Oregon, and meeting up with my brother for the first time since we were all last in Idaho. I’m so excited to visit him! I’ll be spending a long weekend at his place before I venture on into Territory Unknown…

I’ll keep you posted.

Love,

GeGi.

A Short(ish) Book Review.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

First off:

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This post will be talking about plot twists and reveals for the book I’m reviewing, and therefore the first season of the show inspired on it. The book is Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, and the show, of course, is Dexter.

I was giving the book by a co-worker, after it came up in conversation (I’m not sure how) and I mentioned an interest in reading things written from an atypical psychology angle. Since the book is from the perspective of an ethical serial killer, it obviously fit the bill. I had already watched the first season of Dexter — when something is THAT popular, I usually feel obligated to check out at least a little bit of it — but had stopped there because I hadn’t felt a need to continue. So I already knew what the twist would be at the end of the book. Still, books aren’t TV shows, and I decided to give it a try anyway.

For anyone who doesn’t know the basic premise, Dexter can’t remember ever feeling emotions or connections to people, and feels a compulsion to kill. He was adopted as a small child and raised by a policeman, who recognized the signs for this antisocial behavior early on. His adopted father decided to train Dexter to channel his impulses so that he only hunts other killers, never anyone innocent, and taught him how to be meticulous so he never gets caught, and how to blend in with other people so they never suspect what he’s like inside. As an adult, Dexter works as a tech for the Miami police. The plot kicks off with the investigation of another serial killer on the loose, one whose murders fascinate Dexter and cause conflict between his impulses and his code of ethics.

The narration style of the book is Causal First Person, almost like Dexter is inviting you into a conversation in his head, and it’s full of dark sarcastic self-deprecating humor. This all makes it a deceptively easy read, so you almost don’t realize just how twisted and disturbing our antihero truly is. It’s a clever and compelling method, one that seems to have been quite successful, but one that — for me, in this case — seemed to have kept things a little shallow. It was so busy being clever and quippy that the physiologic and depth became background, the building blocks but not the meat. I still enjoyed it, but I wasn’t feeling like I got a lot out of it. That’s perfectly okay sometimes, of course, but other times you want the other thing. It’s good to know which you’re getting.

That said, there was a moment near the end of the book which caught my attention and made me wish I hadn’t seem the TV first. The big reveal and twist is that the other serial killer is actually Dexter’s biological brother Brian, who is a year older and remembers the brutal murder of their mother that they witnessed as small children, which set them both on the path of emotionally void killers. But right before this reveal, the book builds up the connection Dexter feels to the strange murder scenes more and more, to the point where Dexter begins wondering if he himself is somehow committing them when he thinks he’s sleeping. At some point — probably later than would otherwise have been if I hadn’t had the TV show in mind while reading — I figured something out that made the whole thing much more interesting to the literary geek side of me: this was a modern retelling of Jekyll and Hyde.

Yes, there are different details between Dexter and Jekyll, not the least of which is that Brian isn’t physically the same person as Dexter like Hyde is to Jekyll. Unlike Jekyll, Dexter is also a killer — but he’s a killer with a strong code of ethics which the other self is tempting him to shatter and abandon. The struggle Dexter has between what he’s been taught and what he feels compelled to do, and the doubts and uncertainty he faces before and even after the reveal, are very much an echo of the struggles Jekyll faces in his own story.

As for the story being a metaphor/commentary on society and morals, the role is nicely filled by the fact Dexter is constantly and conscientiously observing his own emotionless and moral-less reactions, and mimicking the behaviors and ethics he’s learned from others. Brian, having never been taught those things, becomes the unshackled Hyde, the darker shadow whose existence forces conflict, shatters carefully built control and illusions, and destroys relationships and lives, by fully embracing the impulses society demands be suppressed.

I don’t know how much of these parallels are on purpose. Perhaps the author deliberately set out to write a modern take on Jekyll and Hyde, and possibly he just didn’t bother telling anyone. It might all be an accident, one of those things which come about when writers stumble upon archetypes. It doesn’t particularly matter to me how it happened; the important thing is that it exists. Remember the depth I was looking for earlier? THAT is where I found it.

Happy reading, and Happy 2015!

Love,

GeGi.