Trickster Peter: The Story

Twitter is such an odd duck sometimes.  It’s a platform which is open to vile hate and also moments of genius hilarity.  And sometimes you can just have fun or make a friend.

Lately, I’ve actually been avoiding Twitter just for the sake of preserving my inner calm and mental health.  But, that doesn’t mean Twitter will avoid you in return, for good or ill.  This time, it was for good.

More than a year ago, I made friends with the Real Ghostbusters accounts on Twitter.  We’ve had moments of contention, but overall I really like the characters and I have a ton of respect for the people actually behind the accounts themselves.  And they don’t seem to think I’m a pile of garbage, in spite of us exchanging words — politely, mind — and sometimes very disparate opinions.

Anyway.

RGB Peter is the most most likely to reach out to me from Twitter on occasion, whenever he’s bored, I think.  And this time he specifically asked me for a story.

You have to understand, the reason these guys ever got on my radar, and I on theirs, was because of my RGB fanfic.  We have differing opinions on the concept of fanfic, its legality/ethics, and what we like to read, but what I write has gone over well with them in general.  So to have Peter ask me for a story, intentionally…

Well, I sure wasn’t going to disappoint him.

I was also, I’ll be honest, just fresh off a brain-numbing project at work and I was THINKING in spreadsheets — and not in the helpful way that enables creativity on my part.  So Peter’s request hit me at just the right time, when I was thrilled to think about anything other than math.

So this happened:

I don’t know that I’ll put the story up at my AO3 or Fanfiction.net accounts just because it’s really told best in Tweet format and I have absolutely no ability to embed Tweets or texts or anything else with graphics on AO3 (and ff.net doesn’t even have the capability).  But I thought I’d put it here since he asked me to post it somewhere.

You know?  I worry sometimes that my innate creativity is struggling, that I’m losing my edge.  And I won’t say this is a Nobel-worthy piece of literature.  But I invented it on the fly, thinking while typing (and trying to avoid autocorrects), and it fell together as easily as sunlight from the sky.

If I can tell Peter a slightly funny, slightly quirky, slightly clever story from out of nowhere with my mind dulled to everything but teleinformatics in the time it takes to type it out, I must not be doing too poorly, after all.

And it was fun!

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I think we can file this under “Unqualified Success”

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

— C.S. Lewis, from “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”

Anyone who has read much on this blog or who knows me outside of it knows that my love for writing and, of course, reading, does not only extend to “great literature.”  It extends deeply into stuff which ranges from “published but silly” to “fanfiction and supremely silly.”  I’ve read Shakespeare and Ovid and Bronte, and loved them, but I’ve also read stories written by 13-year-olds about cartoon characters and loved those, too.

Sometimes a person just needs to love what they love without feeling bad about it.

And that’s not just about people of varying gender expressions.

It’s about EVERYTHING.

When I was 5, I was introduced to the cartoon Rainbow Brite.  It’s a perfect show for kids in that age-range, and it hooked me completely.  But what came as a great consternation to my parents was that I CONTINUED to love it long past age 5.  They felt it was too childish for me, not advanced enough for my growing age, intelligence, and awareness.  They worried that it would stunt me to love something aimed at barely-out-of-toddlerdom.

What they couldn’t understand was that the only thing which could stunt me was to prevent me from loving the thing I loved.  And still love.  Though differently.

Rainbow Brite is not epic, Nobel-worthy work, but it has great value.  It was the first cartoon I ever saw as a child which was uncompromising in its feminism and egalitarianism.  Rainbow goes on a quest as ambitious as any Frodo or Taren or Luke Skywalker or Aladdin or Indiana Jones.  She defeats an evil monster on her own and wins rule over a kingdom which she is charged to defend against further evil.  She accepts the responsibility for caring for the planet Earth as a daily job — while her friends are playing games or having fun, she goes to her daily work of keeping the Earth beautiful and filled with joy.  The only times her gender ever comes up is in contrast to a few boy characters who argue that her competence is somehow lessened by her being a girl, which she promptly proves to be wrong.  Rainbow outsmarts various villains, enters into magical “combat” without backup, saves the universe, and continues to carry the mantle of leader and ruler and joy-bringer.  She has friends who help her, she has allies who fight with her, but she never needs to be saved or rescued from the harshness she herself is sworn to defeat.

Yes, of course, sometimes there are dumb episodes or setups.  Yes, of course, there are aspects of the story which can be problematic (or downright confusing for anyone who actually tries to reason out her capacity to ride a horse in the actual void of space at speeds that would make Star Trek engineers faint).  Yes, it is still a cartoon aimed at little girls.

But it has great value.  It set me up to believe that if you work hard, if you are willing to sacrifice and do the right things, if you hold onto joy and hope, you can do anything.  Even if you’re a girl.  Is there any doubt why I loved it?  And why it stuck with me for so long?

More and more, mainstream movies and media are realizing that it is not only possible to make childrens’ programming accessible and enjoyable to adults, but it is profitable.  It’s not just about dropping one or two jokes into a movie to shore up parents stuck watching something with their toddlers.  It’s about making art which works on various levels for everyone.  Some of the best movies of the last few years are traditionally for kids, but have been touted and loved by adults; Pixar in particular is incredibly good at this.  Think about Up, Inside Out, Toy Story 3.  Yes, movies for the PG crowd.  But it was adults who bawled their eyes out while their kids laughed at the fart jokes.

If you investigate the fanfiction I write, you’ll find it’s mostly cartoons.  Some anime, which has much fuzzier lines of adult vs kid content, and some live-action “grown up” shows, but mostly I stick to American cartoons.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of my most active fandoms.  Mighty Max, a show literally invented to sell plastic toys to 8-year-old boys is one of the closest things to my heart — ever.  I have written stories for Rainbow Brite (of course I have) and Teddy Ruxpin, and I’ve spent time carving out an entire mythology to go along with their worlds to explain what threads are left hanging by the originals.

The fact of my deep love for what one could easily call “childish” stuff does not, however, mean it is wrong.  The fact that these cartoons for kids not out of kindergarten give me profound, life-affirming joy, is not wrong or demeaning or indicative of some kind of immaturity.

Because really?  All it means is that these things have what I need in the moment I need it.

Sometimes you want complexity, deep political messages, complex sexual tensions.  There’s lots of places to get those between books, TV, movies, and the internet.  Sometimes you need something gritty and too real and bloody just to help you see your own world clearly.

But I think there’s a great mistake in thinking ONLY those things can entertain, can offer value, can hold you up.  If you count on Game of Thrones to alleviate all your worries about the real world, I fear you’re going to be in trouble.  GOT may have many amazing messages and things to say, but it is not necessarily going to be a comfort.  Not all the time.

Sometimes, comfort is what you need more than anything.

If it hasn’t been obvious from the last few weeks of my posts, I’ve really been struggling here in 2017 with my anxieties and depression.  I’ve swung back and forth between an empty apathy even to the things I truly and always love, and a dark despair edging close to danger.  I’ve had enormous difficulty finding the clarity and calm inside myself to write, to sing, to want to engage any part of me that’s real in a world I don’t want to be in.  To live creatively, you have to live with your chest torn open and your heart bared to every slice of wind and ice and iron that flies around in the wider world.  I don’t think it’s possible to be an artist and to also be immune to the world in which your art emerges.

At this time in 2016, I had written about 143,500 words.  In 2015 I was at 118,650; in 2014 I was around 131,260.  This year?  2017?  I’m somewhere around 76,000 — a little bit more than half what I did last year.  And they aren’t all complete stories, either; for every one that I’ve actually finished, I have another I began but just couldn’t pull all the way together.  It’s been enormously frustrating and vexing.  It isn’t a block and it isn’t lack of interest or discipline.  This is anxiety and depression, pure and simple.

And for me, for me personally, the only cure I’ve ever had to get me writing even in the midst of my worst downturn, is a shock of joy and love.

Early in 2015, I was in a dark place.  It was different from here, tinged with far more depression and far less existential anxiety, but it was no less damaging or dangerous.  And yet I still wrote 118,650ish words in the first months of the year.  How?  By writing in fandoms that fed me when nothing else did.  More than anything else, I needed Donatello and Quatre and Max.  I needed them like I needed air, and nothing else worked.  I needed them because they fed bright happiness into the dark well that was dragging down everything else inside me.

This year, I turned to them again, but they just didn’t hold me.  I wrote a bit and petered out just as quickly.  What I needed this year was something else, something new.  Something I had yet to find.

So I floundered.  I pushed and tried to write in familiar fandoms and unfamiliar ones.  I let my new discovery of and love for the show Leverage carry me for a while.  I went back to my TTSA ‘verse and put an AU spin on it so I could put psychics into Jaegers.  I started several works that have been on my to-do list because they helped bandage up the parts of me that are bleeding.  It wasn’t enough, but it was something.

Anybody with depression or anxiety will tell you that something, even if it isn’t halfway to everything, can keep you afloat.  Even a twig is better than nothing if it’s all you have to keep you from drowning.  I made a basket of my twigs and I clung to them.

Because eventually, if you hold on long enough and keep fighting the water and keep looking for alternatives, eventually a life raft will come into view.  You might have to break yourself in half to reach it, but when you do, you’ll get out.  You’ll be okay.  You’ll have something strong enough and stable enough to carry you through the storm.

I’ll try to talk about that part more some other time.

Because now, mostly thanks to the FX channel running a bunch of wacky movies together on a night when I was too listless to do anything else but sit and stare, I have found something new to hold onto, something new to cherish and fill me with effortless joy.

Yes.  It is stupid.  It’s a movie fandom made for 8 year-olds.  It’s a movie that didn’t even do particularly well at the box office or with the reviews it received.

But it struck just the right tone, hit all the right emotional notes and dramatic points for me.  It made me laugh; it filled me with ideas; and I’ve watched it 2.5 times in 3 days and can’t wait to watch it again.

As with all things that I find I suddenly love, that also meant my creativity burst open and a world of various new headcanons emerged.

(The last time this happened was when I discovered the TV show The Sentinel and I promptly wrote 4 novels and 14 short stories, almost 400,000 words in 8 months.)

Now, it’s not impossible that this new love will not prove quite enduring enough to hold out and the depression and anxiety will return all too soon.  But right now this child’s movie is exactly what I need to love in order to breathe.  I don’t care anymore if it’s “good” or not by some outside scale.  It’s good for me.  It’s holding me up.  It’s making me FEEL again.

So I’m not going to knock it.  Sometimes a person just needs to love what they love without feeling bad about it.

Right now, I just need to love a competent, charming, genius father and his clumsy, loyal, struggling-for-confidence son.

That love is keeping me together.  And I never would have found it if I had limited myself to “adult” shows and movies and books.  I never would have devoured every fanfic written about these characters I now adore and found myself desperately wanting more.  I found my mind firing at speed again, my heart pounding, and, of course, sighing with dramatic frustration as I realized that these ideas are not something I can tie up neatly in a oneshot.  Looks like I have another novel on the horizon.

There’s another C.S. Lewis quote for this part:

I wrote the books I should have liked to read. That’s always been my reason for writing. People won’t write the books I want, so I have to do it for myself.

–As quoted in C.S. Lewis, by Roger Lancelyn Green

Because when you really love something and it changes you, you want as much of it as you can get.  And if you create as a default approach to the world, it means you write the stories you want and need to exist for you to have.  I have wanted and needed so many stories, and they litter my fanfic portfolio.

(And sometimes other people need those stories, too.  That novel I’mma have to write at some point here?  It’s at least as much for Sarah, my wife and (in this case) more importantly, my beta.  I’m not the only one glomming onto this fandom.  I’m not the only one being fed happiness and betterment by it.  Which means she wants more of it, too.  And I can deny her absolutely nothing.  Blame any subsequent writings on her, if you would.  But credit them to me, of course.)

Rainbow Brite kept me together as a child and as I exited childhood, the example and beacon of the kind of person I could be if I lived without fear.  Mighty Max taught me to think about facing reality and having the courage to keep going even when there was blood on the floor and death on the horizon (yes, it’s for little boys but it is DARK; there’s a reason the Nightmare Fuel section on TVTropes for this show is FULL).  What began as youthful fannish squee became something real, something that influenced the way I think about myself and the life I can build.  Something that held me so completely, I could only add to it, create more of it, and offer it to anyone else with the same love and need.

I don’t know yet where this one will take me — I’m still in the fannish squee stage.  But it WILL take me somewhere, somewhere better than where I am right now.

And I haven’t cared about loving something meant for children since I was a child myself and holding onto the things that brought me joy even then.  Is it too young for me?  I dunno.  Is JOY too young for a person?  Helpless giggles at terrible puns?  How about simple, uncomplicated discussions about the meaning of family?

Sometimes a person just needs to love what they love without feeling bad about it.

I have a deep regard for this dog and his boy, and I finally feel better.

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Yuletide

Something I have discovered while writing as much fanfiction as I do is that the community around fic is ENORMOUS.  It is wide and vast and deep.  Whatever weird, obscure thing you love, there is somebody out there who loves it just like you, or maybe more.  Whatever bizarre crossover fills your heart with glee will cause someone else somewhere to die of delight.  This has always been true of fandom, and the internet has really opened up the world to expanding the ability of fans to connect and share.

(It’s not all roses.  There are trolls everywhere and fandom is absolutely no exception.  For everyone person you find who LOVES Thing X, you’ll find someone who HATES it just as much.  And for as many long, involved, and fulfilling discussions you can have with the person who loves Thing X, you might also be drawn into an argument or a dissection of Thing X with its opponent.  To say nothing of people throwing flames, being asshats, and generally taking Thing That Is Fun and covering it with shit.  It happens.)

Now, for as prolific as my writing has become, I’ve never been much of an “active” fan.  I never really joined sites or launched into forum discussions or attended meet-ups.  Some of this is my natural reticence.  But some of it may also be that, as usual, I have managed to slot myself into fandoms where it just doesn’t work — maybe because the fandom is 20 years old and people have moved on, or because the fandom is obscure enough that only 20 people in the whole world share it.

Lack of a community has never kept me from writing, of course.  (I can’t imagine much that would, really.)  But there is something uniquely satisfying about writing to an audience and KNOWING that they will be interested in what you have to share.  It wasn’t something I knew how to seek out, or even necessarily would have tried to, but then a friend introduced me to Yuletide.

Here’s some links should you want to read the meaty explanations:
yuletide-admin.livejournal.com/
https://fanlore.org/wiki/Yuletide
archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide

In short, Yuletide is a massive exchange of obscure fandoms between fic writers.  People sign up in the fall and receive their assignments with several weeks to fulfill them so they can be delivered to their recipients on Dec 25th.  In return, if you sign up, you are guaranteed to receive a story in one of your chosen tiny fandoms of at least 1,000 words.  You sign up to write in some obscure fandoms and give a gift of your own as well.  And you know what?  I really, really enjoy it.

The first year I signed up for Yuletide, I was able to draw upon a recent fandom which I had revived in myself to the tune of 4 novels and 400,000+ words for a oneshot over 5,000 words long that I still think helped inform the way I think about that particular fandom even now.  The second year I went NUTS and wrote something like 25,000 words in two extremely long chapters (and, yes, I do have a novel sequel idea to follow up with someday; I just haven’t gotten there yet).

Both times, there was something very meaningful about writing a story I hoped would make someone’s season a little brighter.  We all have those fandoms we quietly love alone.  Yuletide was my chance to add a new breath of life and a new pillar into those tiny corners and hidden loves.  And I got to make a person happy at the same time!

Funnily enough, the two Yuletide gifts I received in those years were for the same obscure fandom, which, by the way, is TOTALLY FINE.  Both stories were very different and both made me puppy-in-the-first-snow happy to receive.  I also know that there are some participants in Yuletide who write extra stories so a few people come away with more gifts than just the one, but I’ve never done it myself.  I thought I might this year, and then November exploded.  But I have always been happy with receiving my one beautiful gift of writing and fandom love and I can’t wait to see what this year brings.

There’s a privilege in being able to write something to someone, and there is an equal privilege in being gifted a work born of someone’s heart.

My Yuletide 2016 entry was done a while ago, and I won’t say anything about it except that it made my beta-reader REALLY happy.  If it makes my recipient even half as happy, I’ll count it a very worthwhile expenditure of my efforts for the season.

There are some people who participate in fandom exchanges not only to give and receive, but also to find new authors and to be found in return — and I can say that I didn’t go into it looking for that, but it’s certainly worked out for me.  I’ve pretty much read everything by those who give me stories and liked most of it.  I’ve also searched the Yuletide collection for fandoms I know and found more gems to love and more authors to follow.    I can’t say if I’ve gained new readers/followers this way, but I’ve certainly gained new stories to enjoy.

And really?  When it comes to fic, that’s what it’s about for me.  Would it be amazing to get a story read and liked a million times?  Sure.  Does that part matter?  Nope.

I write because I can’t not write.  I write in the fandoms I choose not because they will garner accolades and popular status, but because I love the source material too much not to write about it.  When I’m trying to publish an original work, THEN I’ll torture myself worrying about whether or not my writing is reaching enough of an audience.  For now, I am happy with the 2 or 3 loyal people who leave me such wonderful comments and invest so much effort in appreciating what I could not help but create.

Yuletide 2016 is drawing to a close and, as always, I am so glad to have been part of it.  Trolls and flames and drama aside, at its heart this is an exchange of love and kindness.  It’s thousands of people working together to create stories that weren’t there before — in order to give them all away to readers who might really need a special gift come Dec 25th.  It’s all of us of the obscure fandom world getting to open our minds and our readership just a little bit wider, to spread our joy to each other and relish in being the only 4 fans in the world of Whatever-It-Is.

Collectively gift-giving art?  Selflessly and anonymously?  And celebrating our tiny fandoms which have won our loyalty and our love forever?

Hell yeah.

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What we can be, we must be.” — Abraham Maslow

“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a good day.” — Alex Noble

It has been a good Yuletide.  And it’s not even over yet!

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The Shed of Infamy

Written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge as posted here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/05/20/flash-fiction-challenge-kids-say-the-darnderniest-things/

Please note the following disclaimer: The story, all names, characters, Sheds, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, famous authors’ Sheds, and/or products is intended or should be inferred. This Author has the highest respect for authors’ Sheds, particularly Chuck Wendig’s!

I give to you: The Shed of Infamy


For the record, it wasn’t entirely my fault.

Uncle Robbie’s Shed has been the punchline of every family joke going back probably since he put up the damn thing.  Its auspicious beginning as a Shed of Infamy was noted by the fact that it collapsed on top Uncle Robbie — twice — while under construction.

Of course, given that the only thing Robbie’s any good at building is accounting ledgers, that wasn’t really a shocker.

The Shed, when completed and after withstanding its first rainfall, was like the ugly duckling of sheds if that ugly duckling had been put through a car wash, dropped in cement, and then zapped with an electric cattle-prod.  It wasn’t square, the corners of the roof didn’t line up with the corners of the walls, it had boards that stuck out like hands waiting for high-fives that would never come, and because Robbie went cheap on the paint, it faded in about a month from “rustic brown” to what Mom called “cat piss tea.”

Still, an ugly shed is only really worthy of a good joke every other Thanksgiving and whatever Saturday in March Uncle Robbie and Mom get together to watch basketball and cheer against each other.  If the Shed’s main problem was its outside, it would have been the Ugly Shed, not the Shed of Infamy.

They say Evil is drawn to Evil.

I don’t know — I’ve never met him.

But, trust me, oddball is definitely drawn to oddball.

Uncle Robbie never gave anyone a straight answer as to where the first one came from.  He just mentioned it over the grill at the family reunion: “I can’t get home too late.  Bastian likes a bedtime story.”

Everyone in hearing-range jumped on it.  Bastian who?  Got a boyfriend?  Can we meet him?

“No.  It’s not like that.  I had to name them to keep them straight.”

More questions.  Name what?  Name who?  How many boyfriends are you keeping from us?

It took four beers and two hotdogs before Uncle Robbie confessed that somehow the Shed of Infamy had become the Retirement Home for Truly Weird Shit.

Every time Uncle Robbie came over, we pestered him for stories about whatever had decided to take up residence in the Shed this time, and he never let us down because there was no end to it.  There was the snowman who only melted during thunderstorms.  Moths that glowed in the dark.  A box Uncle Robbie really, really hoped wasn’t Pandora’s.

And then, in a moment of true stupidity, I yelled across the table at Grandpa’s birthday, “Hey!  If you want some help cleaning it out sometime, I just did Mister Tanhehco’s and he paid me fifty bucks!”

Uncle Robbie doubled it on the spot.  Which is why I wound up there on a perfectly lovely Saturday in May in old jeans and wondering if I was about to die.  The only good part was that I talked Mariela into keeping me company.  I did offer to split the pay, and I promised to protect her if it were necessary.

She laughed and reminded me about the time in middle school I tried to protect John by squashing a spider and I managed to fling it into his hair.

Yeah, that’s about par for the course with me.  Mariela knew it better than anyone and she’d heard Uncle Robbie’s stories for years.  What happened next was definitely not only my fault.

I blame Uncle Robbie.  And that stupid Shed.

We didn’t begin by cleaning.  First, we got a series of introductions.

“This is Bastian.  I’m sure he’d appreciate being dusted, but don’t wash him with water.”

“This one I call Marley.  She gets smelly around soap so you might want to carry her outside first.  She won’t mind.  She only moves on Tuesdays.”

“Watch out for this guy.  Sampson’s nice enough, but every now and again he decides to eat one of the others.  If they’re not in range, he’ll go for you.  I suggest wherever you move him you put a few other things within reach so he doesn’t go berserk.”

An hour of increasingly-unsettling instructions later and of course Uncle Robbie suddenly remembered an appointment and left us alone in the Shed of Infamy.

“Perfect.  Fantastic.”

Mariela tossed a rag at me.  “Your fault.”

“I’m an idiot.”

“Yup.  Now let’s move these things and try not to get eaten.”

We worked for two hours and we were doing so well!  We hadn’t gotten eaten, the only injury was to the creepy statue of a dog that was Sampson’s first snack, and we managed to keep the oil painting from suffocating me.  The Shed was almost clean!

I was just rinsing my rag of choice in the coffee can I borrowed from Grandpa’s garage for hauling my stuff around when Mariela yelped.  I jumped to rescue her — or not, given my history — and managed to plow into a shoebox full of what I thought were the keys to a piano.

And the keys shattered on the ground and a purple thing appeared.

It was almost too tall for the Shed, with long arms and legs shorter than mine.  Its head was easily a yard long, but only a half-foot wide.  It was wearing something like a toga that shifted and moved and its eyes were shiny and black like buttons.

“You have awakened me.”

“No.  We really didn’t.”  Mariela was backing up slightly, but she held her voice to calm, even tones.  She also had the base of her thumb in her mouth and I could see it bleeding sluggishly.

“Arrrrgh.  Mariela!  You scared me because you got a cut?”

She shrugged.  “Sorry.  Bastian was sharp.”

“And now we’ve got a…whatever that is!”

Ahem.”

We both looked up to the purple thing.

“You have awakened me,” it said again.  “I am the herald of storms, the feller of mountains.  I can cut down a thousand trees with my teeth.  I am queen of the goats of the shadow realm.”

“Yay?”  I didn’t quite squeak.

“Fear my power!  You shall be the first and soon all the mortals of your land will be mine to command!”

Suddenly Grandpa’s coffee can glowed brightly orange and a tiny calico in samurai armor appeared, dripping wet with suds.

“I have heard your plight, peasants!  Fear not the evil!  I will defeat it with Kitten Magic!”

“You impertinent, pitiful worm.  I will consume you!”

Mariela buried her face in her hands.  “Your relatives have the worst luck!”

“Or maybe it’s just me.”  I reached for her arm.  “Come on.  Let’s let them duke it out and go get a snack.”

We made our way out of the Shed, carefully righting Sampson and putting him in range of an entire bookshelf of clocks.  We even cleaned up our supplies as we went.  No sense in leaving things any worse than they were about to get.

The calico between us and the purple thing looked back over its tiny shoulder-guard and winked at us just as we reached the door.  “Bring me back some ice cream, okay?”

What could we say to that?

We left the Shed to our tiny samurai defender and went out for ice cream.  Uncle Robbie paid me two hundred bucks when he got back.  By the end of the fight, the Shed was empty except for the kitten’s coffee can, Marley, and a really big scorch mark.

We named the calico Darth Katana and started a YouTube series about its adventures.  Mariela’s thinking movie option, but DK and I would rather go for a miniseries.

And Uncle Robbie’s cleaning his own goddamn Shed from now on.

The End

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Miyazaki Universe Headcanon

Sorry about disappearing.  The first weeks of May are always a crazy time for me in my real life where I sing with the Twin Cities Women’s Choir and we hold our big gala at the end of our season.  And I’ve also been writing and, even more important, trying to catch up on sleep and TV shows.

To return, then, I’ve decided it’s time to address one of those things that has been on my mind a lot lately due to the looming date of CONvergence 2016.

CONvergence, by the way, is awesome.  It’s held in Bloomington, MN every summer and is the absolute HIGHLIGHT of my year.  It is a time of fandom and laughter and being completely myself and surrounding myself with people who love the things they love with all their hearts just like me.

This year, I will be part of a cosplay trio including my wife and one of our closest friends.  We’ll all be going as characters from various Hayao Miyazaki movies.  I’ll be Nausicaa (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind), Sarah will be Haku (Spirited Away), and our friend will be Kiki (Kiki’s Delivery Service).

As we’ve been sorting out our cosplay and getting help from a professional, it’s led me to start thinking about how our characters could have interacted.  Which, yes, led me to write a fic that I’ll post right around CONvergence about Kiki meeting Nausicaa and Haku.

But that led me to a whole new headcanon of Miyazaki movies.

(“Headcanon” for the uninitiated is “a particular belief which has not been used in the universe of whatever program or story they follow, but seems to make sense to that particular individual, and as such is adopted as a sort of ‘personal canon.’” per Urban Dictionary.  Basically, it’s what you see in a work of art/fiction/history/whatever that becomes your new interpretation of that reality.)

We’ve heard the Pixar Theory, yeah?  That all Pixar movies take place in the same continuity?

Well, I pretty much did that with Miyazaki.

First — a few caveats:

This theory does not (yet) encompass ALL Miyazaki works.  It doesn’t because I haven’t seen them all.  But it does encompass all the Miyazaki works that I have actually seen.

Also, you do have to take everything with at least one grain of salt.  Speculation is all I got, okay?

Here we go.

I propose that the Miyazaki movies take place within a single continuum centered around the Earth.  The movies fall into three periods: pre-Nausicaa, Nausicaa, and post-Nausicaa.  The story of this world is told thusly:

Long ago, the only source of what we would call magic was in the Earth itself and its spirits.  People lived in this world and our history as we know it continued normally, but for the occasional interference of those spirits in the lives of humans.

Any Miyazaki movies that take place in the world as we know it but with non-human creatures or spirits of some magic can fit in this part of the timeline.  Basically, this is our own history from the distant past to today.

So the first period is defined by these movies in chronological order:

Princess Mononoke (takes place in the distant past)
Porco Rosso (the only “magic” is Porco himself being transformed and that’s not different from Spirited Away, just post-WWI)
My Neighbor Totoro (1958)
From Up On Poppy Hill (1963)
The Castle of Cagliostro (mid-1960’s to early 1970’s)
Spirited Away (mid- to late-1990’s)

The next phase is mostly informed by Nausicaa.  In Nausicaa, the world was destroyed a thousand years prior due to the “seven days of fire” which involved the huge, obviously nuclear Giant Warriors and, I assume, a vast war across most of the globe.  It is also known in Nausicaa that humanity had advanced to the point of space-travel, so we can assume this colossal war took place sometime in our own future.  Then, as the Earth was littered with pollutants, it needed to find a way to heal itself.

The answer came from the spirits and the magic the Earth still carried.  The Earth created the toxic jungle to begin purifying itself (and without magic, it would take A LOT longer than 1,000 years for trees like that to evolve to this purpose).  The spirits, like the little kodama from Princess Mononoke, had to change as their world changed. Some spirits may even have become the insects in the toxic jungle like the Ohm (who have mystical abilities of their own).  It was this transfer of the innate magic of the Earth and the spirits to the material world that facilitated all that was to come after.

Following the events of Nausicaa, it’s obvious that the jungle and its subtle magic are making their way into the human population that remains in the world.  Nausicaa herself may be one carrier, since her blood was infused with the healing power of the Ohm, but we know that humanity is changing due to exposure to the toxic jungle.  My suggestion is that the line between Earth magic / spirit magic was starting to blur, and some of it was leaking into humanity.

So.  Thanks to Nausicaa and the persistence of the Earth, the devastation done in the seven days of fire began to heal and humanity returned to the world forever changed.  Magic had grown in the DNA of humanity and had been spread into the world, no longer the sole purview of the spirits.  Thus, the rocks themselves could hold magic, and slowly some bloodlines began to develop special abilities.

This leads us to movies like Castle in the Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle where magic is in both the Earth and the people.  The funny thing about both these movies is they have slightly inconsistent technology.  For example, the pirates in Castle in the Sky have little fliers that look remarkably like Nausicaa’s own glider, but clearly electricity and other advancements are still rare.  The same gliders can be seen in Howl’s Moving Castle.

Could it be that Nausicaa’s people held onto their knowledge of jet technology, however advanced to allow for those gliders, and passed that forward?  I think it’s almost certain.

But then we reach another movie which has an additional advancement — television — and no such gliders: Kiki’s Delivery Service.  Now, some of that discrepancy could be nothing more than location.  Maybe Kiki is placed somewhere the gliders are not popular.  Or perhaps are not even legal.

Because if humanity had come that close to the brink once, even if we managed to forget virtually EVERYTHING about how we got there, I have a feeling there would be a few nations/societies that would look rather skeptically upon technology that had come from the past they wished never to revisit.

Kiki does show us that people are still interested in aviation, though, and also that magic has now so saturated humanity that families of witches are common enough to be known.

So from here on out, magic is alive in the world and is in the hands of lots of different kinds of people.  This leads us to Ponyo, which is the closest to our own “modern” world, but magic is in the hands of a powerful wizard, Ponyo’s father Fujimoto.  And the magic that takes place is strange, but not unexpected.  Which is really the proof that it belongs at the end of the timeline rather than back in the earliest period.

There are other Studio Ghibli films that can fit in this chronology such as When Marnie Was There, which I’d slot in the first half as being more Earth and spirit sort of magic than deliberate human magic.  I haven’t watched others, but if you have and want to add them, please do so!

I’ll try to update this theory as new movies come out or I catch up on older ones, but I’m thinking this will probably work pretty consistently.  There’s even room for stuff that happens on other planets thanks to Nausicaa making it explicit that humanity had space-travel before breaking the whole world.  The advantage my Miyazaki Theory has over the Pixar Theory is that the stories are a lot more internally consistent with mostly human or spirit protagonists.

What do you think?

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New Song: Ode to Fanfiction

So, when I’m not writing original novels or fanfic novels, I’m often helping my awesome wife write music for our band, Candles Enough.  We only do a few gigs a year for various reasons, but music is too much a part of us not to be forever digging into that side of our creativity.  In future posts I’ll talk about already-posted songs and what they mean to me or the context for them.

For today, here is our newest song, “Ode to Fanfiction” in all its YouTube glory!

I told you I wasn’t going to be shy about the fanfic side of my writing, didn’t I?

The song is basically what it says on the tin — not a lot of hidden meanings here.  Though I will note that the reference to the show “Merlin” is purely for the benefit of one of my dearest friends who is a Murthur shipper to the end.  And I’ve never ever read (and never intend to read) anything from the Twilight ‘verse.  But I couldn’t not toss Sherlock and HP in there.  Couldn’t not.  And if you’ve seen either of my profiles under Mendeia and looked at my favorites, you can see why.

Also?  I can tell you that until I wrote that song, I genuinely could have bet I would go my entire life and never sing the phrase “omega m-preg”…probably ever.  But that’s the great thing about writing parodies — even I don’t know where the hell we’re going with it until we get there!

Everybody wave to Sarah on guitar, the BEST WIFE EVAR (™) who writes all our original melodies, most of the harmonies, figures out the key we both like in which to perform, bugs me about rhythmic accuracy until I stop trying to squeeze in AS-MANY-SYLLABLES-AS-FIT-ON-ONE-NOTE-AS-POSSIBLE, and dives into my craziest ideas with me with very little eye-rolling.

(She’s far more accomplished musically than I, which is fine — I’m burstingly proud of her for it — and she plays something like 20 instruments where all I can do is play hand-drums but only then if I’m not also singing.  She’s the real powerhouse behind our music — I’m just the wacky frontperson.)

Sarah’s a nerd in totally different ways from me, particularly in her adoration of history, but she loves my nerdity and I love hers and she lets me sing about mine a lot.  SHE IS BEST.

And hey — if you like our song, go share it!  First of all, it’s good for everyone to see someone dorkier than themselves just loving the thing they love; I think it helps people find the freedom to embrace whatever it is they would adore but for Evil Pressures of Society of Cool People.  Second, yeah, we get paid.  Like…… $0.0000000000000001 for a view maybe.

Woo……the weight of wealth…….we can almost buy a stamp……

Anyway.

We’ll be singing this song live at CONvergence in Bloomington, MN over July 4th weekend, so if you’re local or if you’re at Con, come see us!

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