A late, but timely prescription. There seems to be a case of DOCTORS IN HELL going around. You can prepare for the upcoming epidemic: now through both Kindle and Book. If you would like to warn people of what is to come, I hope that you will consider sharing this prescription and perhaps even investing into some reviews of your own.
And here is another infernal prescription for you: namely an interview of mine with Jennifer Loiske regarding my own strain of story in Doctors. Apparently in this case, I am the first of the fallen: namely the first Hellion to be featured on her site about our book. Bill Snider (ZombieZak) is right after me and while we are the first, we will definitely not be the last. Seriously, I hope — somehow, as I should have left that outside the gates by virtue and vice of what I have done — that you will check out the works of myself and my fellow Hellions.
My pandering to my readership aside, I think this is going to be a very short post. I’ve vastly overestimated my energies. The first week of my LDEEP program was a major adjustment, but even through the exhaustion at home I would still be able to write and engage more online. But now after the third week of the program, I find I’m more tired than before and it takes actual energy to write anything — or indeed do anything — after an early day and night. I’m honestly just hoping I won’t pass out at my computer again like I’ve, admittedly, been doing from time to time.
I am finding that I really need to pace myself. If I have time to myself for a bit in the morning and I can leave at my own speed, I am generally fine. It’s not an exact science and sometimes I feel like I have traded issues with my headaches for my stomach: though the stress management is universal. Deep breathing really helps: along with, again, having my own space. But either way, it is an ongoing experiment.
I do know, however, what I want. I want to do what I am doing now. I want to write the way I do, and get paid for it. That’s it. That should be one of my focuses. For now, though, I’m going to take a step back and enjoy what I’ve actually achieved so far, and see where I go from here.
If you are a comics geek and you haven’t been reading writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s and artist co-creator Valentine De Landro’s Bitch Planet, you should be.
My first impression of Bitch Planet, from what I saw of Issue #1 was that it would be a comic not unlike something Pat Mills would make: something gritty with major punk themes that, in particular, would parody an established comics trope or convention. Even more so, I was expecting a highly political grindhouse death battle situation where the characters would screaming “Fuck the Man!” in literal cage grudge matches when not engaging in gang wars or creating anarchist havens for one another.
Of course what I found was something that — while it plays with those themes — is entirely different. I suppose anyone who is part of the Carol Corps would have been able to tell me that. This was before I’d actually started reading Kelly Sue’s Captain Marvel run and while I saw the great potential in the mythos of Pretty Deadly I had a feeling that Bitch Planet would have a very different story.
I’ve read that Bitch Planet essentially exploits the exploitation genre: specifically with regards to fictional stories about women in prison. So picture the following scenario. Imagine you are in the future. Space travel, surveillance, and holographic technology exists. There is at least one civilization, or national government, that seems to be able to colonize other planets. Everyone is in smart suits and dresses and they get their creature comforts. But crime still exists and there still means, read: prisons, to deal with it. There is one prison planet in particular referred to as the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost.
It is this world that deals with particularly extreme female criminals. Their crimes are numerous: theft, assault and battery, murder, infidelity, abortion, gender treason, hysteria, and a slew of other crimes that — when you get right down to it — are all acts of non-compliance.
I think you can see where this is going. Still, I’m now going to go into some spoiler territory so if you want to read this ongoing comics series and you don’t want to be surprised, or should I say too surprised, you might want to stop here.
The fact is, non-compliance is a very real theme in Bitch Planet: not just within the society of the New Protectorate and its Council of Fathers, but also in how Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro play with the comics series’ women in prison exploitation genre itself.
Issue #1 starts off at a place with a woman attempting to get through a crowd to her job constantly apologizing. This in itself might not mean anything on the surface until you see the transition to where the story is going. It’s pretty clear that the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, or Bitch Planet as many call it, is a metaphor for that entire society. There are little signs of this in how all of the female characters behave. Even in Issue #3, which is a character origin story, a woman at a bakery goes as far as to tell a particularly obnoxious man that she isn’t rolling her eyes at him. Women’s behaviour is observed and policed in this futuristic setting for a variety of reasons: sometimes to the point of incarceration and “re-education.”
Kelly Sue herself is already tapping into that place of patriarchy where women’s behaviour is expected to be conciliatory and passive with regards to men in society. At the very least, she is bringing to light, through her narrative, these traits that women are still expected on some level to embrace to get along in “polite society.” But the creative team go further with this. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro depict the guards of Bitch Planet wearing visors not unlike mirrors. Virginia Woolf, in A Room of One’s Own utilizes the metaphor of the mirror: of patriarchy needing women to be an inferior or more coveted reflections of men in order to make them more powerful or heroic.
And in Issue # 3 of Bitch Planet it’s shown that the New Protectorate is attempting to see into the minds of women with something called a cerebral action-potential integration and extrapolation machine. It’s purpose is, apparently, to reveal to a committee of men exactly what a woman’s “ideal self” truly is in order to “help her” reach it. Conveniently the device utilizes a mirror.
And Bitch Planet also uses painfully neon holograms to parody the New Protectorate’s “ideal form” of women: to use them to train, indoctrinate, and punish the prisoners at will: a twisted derivative of advertising turned propaganda to a socially — and now physically — captive female audience.
The mirror visors, the mind device, and the holograms are created to symbolize one very important fact: that women in Bitch Planet should prioritize how others see them over how they see themselves.
And, of course, this is always done for “women’s own good.” The New Protectorate seems to have a very paternalistic view of how to deal with women, and this chauvinistic attitude peters down from the Council of Fathers, to the almost exclusively male-committees making decisions about women’s bodies and minds, and to the common man and woman. Even men, if they are not in certain standing within the hierarchy are, at best, useful tools and at worst underlings to be reminded of their place. And either way, they are just another form of commodity that can be disposed of at will.
The fact that Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro are able to convey the humanity of both oppressors and victims only makes this dynamic even more disturbing.
It is also clear that, unlike H.Y.D.R.A. in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. it isn’t so much that “compliance will be rewarded.” On the contrary: compliance is expected. And non-compliance will always be punished. And even then, like any good patriarchal model, there is the other side of the same coin: violence. It’s safe to say that beatings are commonplace on Bitch Planet and abuse of power as well. The two male supervisors of Bitch Planet seem to view their prisoners as little more than trite entertainment for their arbitrary attentions, and seem detached from sending guards in to break up riots in any way possible: whether the prisoners are violent or not.
So whether women in Bitch Planet are compliant or not, it almost doesn’t really seem to matter. Their lives are dependent on the whims of men in power and those to whom they give power. Women’s privacy, personal space and sexuality are something to be bartered and compromised. This can be see from Issue #2’s emphasis on a man slapping two waitresses on the buttocks all the way to Issue #4, where there are more unpleasant metaphors abound when the reader finds out there is a hole in the shower areas where two women can be intimate with each other provided that they do so in front of the guard viewing them behind the wall: another metaphor for the male gaze.
There are also some very loaded racial descriptions, body-shaming, and gender terminologies bandied about by those in power: terms that women are expected to accept as commonplace. Bitch Planet shows the reader a patriarchal setting that thrives from “keeping up appearances” and encouraging others to do so: from the guards who hide behind the power of their masked anonymity when doling out violence and violation — perhaps a metaphorical jibe at Internet trolling of women by Kelly Sue and creative company — all the way to using the veneer of events such as funerals, blood sports, and camera smiling to maintain the status quo. And it goes without saying that if this system somehow “makes a mistake,” it will not hesitate to use any means to “correct it” and save face: even if they officially decry state-sponsored murder.
This is the structure of compliance and it is all the more terrifying when you consider that it is only a few steps away from a lot of the attitudes of people in power in our time. Indeed, according to an interaction between the apparent series’ protagonist and one of her jailers, this New Protectorate seems to have developed not too long ago in that world’s future. In fact, the creators could leave this world on its own: as a cautionary tale as to what kind of dystopia might happen if we take our freedoms for granted and let them get legislated out of the way for expediency’s sake or out of fear born from a particular trauma.
But, if there is one thing I’ve learned, Kelly Sue DeConnick does not like to leave these things the way they stand.
The creative team begins with the protagonist. At first, the reader doesn’t know who the main character is going to be or even if there is going to be one. Then the narrative starts to focus on an older white woman named Marian Collins who has apparently been wrongfully imprisoned on Bitch Planet. Kamau Kogo, a Black athletic fighter who, at the moment, seems to be the actual story’s protagonist after starting off as a peripheral or secondary character.
What is even more interesting is that, four issues in, we still don’t know much about Kam or why she is on Bitch Planet. There are clues. In Issue#1 the head prison supervisors actually discuss some of the prisoners and mention the inclusion of one volunteer. Whether or not this person is in the prison program as an inmate or a guard is another story entirely: especially, as by Issue #4, the reader finds out about the existence of an unnamed — an anonymous — prisoner. But what is known is that the protagonist is looking for someone, or something. Only time will tell if these elements will interlap and, at the moment, Kelly Sue is keeping her cards to herself.
What we do know is that while Kam comes from one of the most exploited groups in all of history — being a Black female — she is also physically strong, athletic, well-trained and apparently had a career before the establishment of the New Protectorate. And she is extremely smart. For instance, she takes that hole in the shower walls, with its unfortunate dual metaphor of female exploitation and the male gaze, and she smashes through it: making it into a spot on the wall of possibility of which Virginia Woolf may have been proud. The guard behind that hole is brought painfully into the situation. His anonymity and the power behind it is taken from him as she knocks off his helmet: leaving him vulnerable to her as she plans to exploit the system that is exploiting her and her fellow inmates. Essentially, she takes the obligatory shower scene, uses it and destroys it to further her own plans.
In Issue #2 of Bitch Planet, Kam is approached by a special operative with a proposition to create an all-female prisoner sports team to fund the Bureau of the New Protectorate. The sport is called Megaton, or Duemila: a form of Calcio fiorentino: an activity reminiscent of football with the ability to throw punches and kicks. It is a bloodthirsty sport and while there may be “no crying in baseball,” I suspect there might be some dying in Megaton. At the same time, however, the game will give the prisoners a chance to fight an all-male guard team on their own unconventional terms. It will be a publicly viewed game and everyone in the Protectorate and the world will be watching. It is an opportunity to challenge the game: to subvert their own exploitation.
And while I’ve also read that Bitch Planet is considered to be Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale meeting Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds: I would add that it also has some Orange is the New Black, some Battle Royale and a little bit of A League of Their Own for good measure.
So here we have both Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro playing with stereotypes of femininity, or perceptions of it in much the same way that her characters will be exploiting the hell out of their own system. This may be a dystopia, but there is some resistance: even in the very design of the comic itself. I’ve already mentioned that Valentine De Landro’s art in Bitch Planet has a very gritty punk aesthetic. In fact, I can go further and state that it’s reminiscent of the style of drawing found in many comics from the eighties and nineties: complete with stark colours and eerie neons. But it is the series’ usage of the back matter of each issue — each one designed by Laurenn McCubbin — that is truly something to behold. Each one utilizes the aesthetic of an old, pulpy classified page: in which subliminal patriarchal ads are subverted by feminist messages and parody for the discerning reader.
In fact, one of my few regrets about Bitch Planet being collected into trades is that the back matters, the essays from inspired feminist contributors, and the comments sections won’t be included. At the same time, it makes me very thankful that I’ve started to read Bitch Planet in their separate comics issues. For the first time in ages, I can almost understand what it felt like to be a reader collecting an issue of Sandman, V For Vendetta, or Watchmen each month: while eagerly waiting for the next story to come out and somehow feeling involved in some of the process as a reader. Really, I feel like I am somehow a part of watching a masterpiece continue to grow into fruition. To those who say that no one has created an epic stories equally those of Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, or Grant Morrison I would just love to direct their attention to what Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro are doing right now.
So, to end this off, let me just say this. If you like murder mysteries, prison dramas, dystopias, political intrigue, grindhouse violence, human characters, and a feminist story that shows clearly what it is critiquing through clever storytelling and human characters — if you yourself are non-compliant — then come acquaint yourselves with Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s Bitch Planet.
While I’m writing this, I’m wearing my Lunatic Heroes T-Shirt: a green one.
In 2013, I was lost. I’d been writing in my Mythic Bios for a while to keep my mind off of the pain of a past of perceived independence that had slowly receded away from me and a terrifyingly uncertain future of continued unemployment. But I kept writing in here. I kept reviewing stories and games in the way that I knew how to get noticed. To be seen. For everything that happened to me and that I did to have meant at least … something.
I found out about Anthony the same time as many other people did: through Amanda Palmer’s Blog. She told us about him, his importance, their relationship, and the sickness that he was in the process of battling. She told us that she convinced Anthony to write down some of his most poignant stories. Between her, Neil Gaiman, Nivi Nagiel of 3 Swallys Press, and many others he managed to get his first book published: Lunatic Heroes.
Like I said, I wanted to be seen. But it was more than that. I read and heard an excerpt from Lunatic Heroes: “Bullfrog.” And that was when I knew I needed to read his work. I needed to say something about it. It tapped into that space where I wanted to go: into that place of personal writing. And I read it. I read it and I took my method, my need to go back and look at the source of things, and write a review about it. And after I did that I looked at the quotes that I related to the most and I found that while we had many differences, Anthony and I also had similarities.
So I wrote about the Lunatic Heroes we were. And something happened.
Anthony noticed my writing.
Actually, that is an understatement. After we talked on Twitter and eventually Facebook, Anthony and Nivi added a quote from my review to his Endorsements page: within the same space as Amanda Palmer’s words. Then he actually requested that I write a review of his next book Beloved Demons. It was not without some irritation, of course. I did give his first book four out of five stars and I said I wanted to see more from him: that I knew he could do even better.
They gave me the T-Shirt I’m wearing for my work.
So I had to put my money where my mouth was, especially after he threatened to come to Canada to “hang a rat” (please read his books if you want the context to that particular phrase). It took … a lot more time to review Beloved Demons. While I go into a lot more detail about the circumstances around it in my review, there was a terrible ice storm in December 2013: so much so there was a blackout that essentially eliminated most traffic lights and electronics. I felt alone in this great, icy darkness that had once been my parents’ house and my virtual hermitage.
During this time, somehow the postal worker came and delivered Beloved Demons. I had to wait for my power to come back and actually focus on writing something on this work of Anthony’s. I felt intimated. I had to make sure it was good. I had to make sure it was right. And when I did finish it, from the appropriate place of darkness and ice and fear of mortality, Anthony and Nivi took the time to edit the post and link to it on Anthony’s Endorsement page.
Suffice to say, it got five stars.
Basically, if you go on there, you will see that Anthony placed my reviews about his books among the ranks of such people as Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman. He didn’t have to. I would have been content just to have my reviews on his books retweeted or hyperlinked. To place my opinion, even in the context of reviewing his works, in the company of Neil and Amanda really … it really meant a lot to me.
No, it still means a lot to me. It told me what I had to say was worth writing: that what I am doing is worth a damn. For me, in my admittedly biased way, it told me a lot about the person that he was and will always be: at least to me.
Anthony and I exchanged emails and witticisms on Twitter. I showed him some of my stories and he gave me nothing but encouragement. I sent him a copy of Poets In Hell: the volume containing my first print published short story. I introduced his work to my psychotherapist. Anthony even made a crack about me getting my budgie drunk after seeing a FB picture of him wearing one of his bell toys as a hat. I listened to his other short story sketches. I met Neil and then, when I met Amanda I asked her to say hello to him from me if she go the chance. And, when I reviewed Neil’s Ocean at the End of the Lane and Amanda’s The Art of Asking I made a point of illustrating just how the three of them influenced each other, and were influenced by one another.
I am so glad I got to show Anthony my reviews of his work and my other articles showcasing the literary effects he had on two of his best friends: both of whom have also influenced my own creative expression.
I’m sad that he’s gone. Anthony always seemed like he was fighting: that the cancer was just the latest manifestation of an enemy he had been in combat with his entire life. But, in the end, he won. He won in a lot of the ways we will hopefully be allowed to win. It might be somewhat trite, but there is immortality in being remembered by your words and the people that love and care for you. Not everyone gets this, but I am glad that C. Anthony Martignetti — my friend — got to be one of those people. I’d like to believe that he crossed that line: from lunatic hero to beloved demon. In doing so, he made and became his sign on a living door to the real stories: the true ones.
My only regret is that we never ended up talking on the phone, or meeting up to have some owl sandwiches.
The title is not what it seems especially when you take into account the graphic that you’re, no doubt, seeing at this time. It’s funny: I could have written this post up earlier in the weekend but one thing I’ve noticed in having a set schedule in the morning now is how much more tired I am when I finally get home, or finally get to the weekend.
There are a lot of things I wanted to do this weekend: like work on my “Serpent and The Fox” or more background material for the game I’m collaborating on: especially the latter after my sessions at LDEEP.
It’s still taking a while for my body to adjust to being up and functioning again at daylight hours: especially during what is now pretty much the summer time. It feels weird. It’s hard to explain really. Sometimes I feel the stress taking over my body and it seems to react on its own. Having IBS also doesn’t help matters and, to be honest, I could really do without it. It can make travel … interesting: especially in traffic.
At the same time, though, it’s not an exaggeration to say that my head has been light and airy. For a few years now I’ve generally only gone outside later in the day and in limited bursts. My interactions with other people were cursory or perfunctionary at best. Sometimes, even now, I need some space and I find that I need to move around in order to feel comfortable in my body in another space as well. I’ve always had that last element in the form of fidgeting: and it manifests through needing to express excitement and channel nervous energy. But I have also been taking it in stride and working through my body to get my tasks finished. I mean, if I have to deal with matters I might as well get as much from doing so as possible. That is my philosophy now.
Right now I have something of a functional resume and cover letter that I plan to use as a foundation to network and from which to create other elements. Chances are, again, I will be looking for collaborations and contract work, but I wouldn’t rule out using these resources from which I would create my own job. It wouldn’t be the first time.
One other nice thing about LDEEP is the fact that a lot of the work we do stays at the centre. This allows me to come home, rest, and even do some of my own creative work. It isn’t always in my face and it has its own place where I can engage it with help. So that structure does help a lot. And I am dealing: still trying to find a balance of work, rest, and eating as I finished the second week of my program.
Also my flip-phone, which was nearly a decade old, dislocated its head and I had to get a new phone. Last week I wrote a GeekPr0n article on the Netflix series Sense8: which might as well be an extended metaphor for wireless, online and long-distance relationships. My new phone is, by necessity of my career plans and current work, linked to the Internet and while the process of getting and programming it — and sometimes unlocking the damned thing — has been stressful, I feel a lot more connected to some of the people I know. It makes things a little better for me and sometimes that’s all you can ask. That said, I’m also getting to know people in my course and even though we are different, it is still nice to get to interact with other people face-to-face.
And now, for the Hell element of this post. It’s not living in daylight again, or going out more, or doing a ton of work, or even readjusting my body. Rather, it is more information about my upcoming published story. Allow me to reintroduce you to DOCTORS IN HELL.
It is a beautiful advertisement and I just thought I’d share it with all of you: to show you I am there and that this is happening again. It’s also nice to see my name, with my fellow Hellions, all front and centre. A lot of last week was me filling out an interview and biographies and other minutiae after my days at LDEEP. Each interaction left me with a sense of accomplishment.
My story inHeroes in Hell Volume 18: Doctors in Hell, “Let Us Kill The Spirit of Gravity” continues just after Nietzsche runs into Lilith for the first time. It can be read on its own, but “When You Gaze Into An Abyss” from Poets in Hell is also a nice read, in my relatively biased opinion, before you start this one.
And you can order it on Kindle today. 🙂
In this sense everything here is not so much that a road to hell paved with good intentions, but rather that an idle mind (read an ever-busy mind) is the devil’s workshop. And I am going to keep working in it, and at it. I promise.
It’s hard to talk about a series like Sense8. I know that, when I first heard about it — this original series coming to Netflix about people whose perceptions were linked with each other — I didn’t think much of it at the time. But in retrospect it makes sense that a series created by J. Michael Straczynski and the Wachowskis, creators of Babylon 5 and The Matrix respectively, would be nothing short of brilliant.
Still, it’d be very easy to write it off a product of vague and exaggerated hype on first glance: especially with a name that sounds like a spell from Final Fantasy or a deadly weapon from science fiction like Ice-Nine. The introduction scenes have a lot going on: with various human activities all over the world that seem to have almost nothing to do with each other aside from the fact that people are doing them. In fact, the only thing that seems to unify these montages are the overall dramatic tones of the music in the background.
Even the premise: of people being able to get into each other’s minds simultaneously felt like more like a vague idea than an actual compelling story: the kind of thing that a director, or writer would use as a guideline into making an actual plot and could just as easily get lost in a desk drawer gathering dust.
Perhaps it’s due to the medium in which the series has been presented. As a film or a once-a-week television show, Sense8 might not have even been considered: or the resources available might not have allowed it to live to even its inherent potential in the first season. Think of an epic story — of reading A Song of Ice and Fire and The Lord of the Rings — and having to wait once a week, or a few years just to read the next chapter. Whereas with Sense8‘s model in Netflix, by June 5 everyone was capable of watching all twelve episodes at once: giving you that feeling of staying up late into the night reading “just one more chapter” to a good and multi-layered story. This form allows you to pretty much follow what is going on and keep it relatable.
Despite what I said earlier, the premise of Sense8 is not just a creative novelty: something that many powers in Hollywood might have just kept at the level of mere spectacle. And it could have gone that route had it not been for J. Michael Straczynski, known for creating indepth characters and complex story lines stepped in mythology and the human experience, and the Wachowskis and their penchant to examine themes of philosophy, metaphysics, and human consciousness.
One of the challenges is that there is so much to explore with the theme of sharing one’s sense of self with other selves. Sense8 manages to look at what is to be human: to have your own individuality and privacy, but also being inherently alone for it. For instance, you live in your own body and no one else can do that for you. But what happens when someone else can not only see you, but read your thoughts, experience your physical state, and feel your emotions? And vice-versa.
And then take it a step further. Imagine you can not only draw on people’s knowledge, but their skill sets as well. For instance, Wolfgang Bogdanow is a safe-cracker who needs to bluff his way out of a situation and draws on Lito Rodriguez’s acting skills to do so, and when Lito needs to actually fight he either draws on Wolfgang’s skills in mayhem, Will Gorski’s self-defense skills as a policeman, or South Korean businesswoman Sun Bak’s martial arts. Or Capheus, a bus driver in Kenya, can draw on the research and skills of the hacker Nomi Marks, or Kala Dandekar’s knowledge to do something ad hoc with her knowledge of chemistry.
Being a Sensate — becoming “aware” in Sense8, is having access to a skills and knowledge pool of your cluster: of seven other people of various places, backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. But then there is the matter of memories and feelings to consider as part of the pool as well. Boundaries between individuals can blur in many ways. For instance, if Will gets injured on the job Wolfgang might feel it. The Icelander DJ Riley Blue could be taking some ecstasy and it could effect Kala at her job. And let’s not even go into what happens when the various Sensates in a cluster are having sex … or menstruating.
Season One of Sense8 mostly has the characters realizing just what they are, figuring out how they work, and how it’s played out is one of the most beautiful things of all. The whole Mary Sue moment of realizing that they are different is downplayed a lot by this intrinsic feeling of understanding: they are all interlinked after all. The hows and whys of it are almost secondary to that. Some of them accept it in a dream-like way, while others think they are suffering from hallucinations. But you can see it all coming together.
And Sense8 has a plot.
It’s hard to see and get a feel for it in the first episode. You still wonder where it is going but as you run with it you realize that there are people who knows that the Sensates exist: powerful people that want them dead, neutralized, or controlled. And the main antagonist is a cold and detached being that fits well into the story, even as a renegade Sensate helping the main characters explains that Sensates have existed throughout history: that they may not be the next evolution of humankind, but a throwback to how sentient life began: together instead of separate and isolated.
It leaves you with so many questions. Can Sensates block who sees or selectively reveal what in their minds? Can they control how they are perceived by others in the cluster? Just how far can they synchronize their movements and actions together? Are there ways to override one individual’s consciousness: to make someone into an extension of your will? And is there a danger in becoming too close: in becoming a melded together gestalt consciousness?
The implications and possibilities of Sense8 go much further than this. Imagine if Sensates had existed in history? If Alexander the Great and his inner circle had all been born in the same month and year? Or if there were clusters in the ranks of the Spartans? Or even if someone like Adolf Hitler was a Sensate? The point is, there are so many ways beyond even alternative fictional history to tell more stories with this idea.
Sense8 is also a tremendously geeky series. The concept of clusters some of the situations and events that occur on Sense8 are reminiscent of various polyamorous themes in Robert A. Heinlein stories, while you could make an argument that clusters are similar to the idea of the karass — a group of people linked together in a cosmic manner — in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.
But for me, it isn’t so much the fictional and dramatic possibilities of Sense8 that appeal to me. We live in the Information Age: an age of wireless Internet where we communicate with people all across the world. A lot of us have friends, family, and other relationships in Europe, or the Middle-East, Asia, the Americas, and other places. In many places, we are becoming a long-distance species in a world becoming much smaller. This is definitely one theme that Sense8 is bringing to the fore and tapping into: something with which many people can relate.
Certainly, there is a theme of loneliness in physically being around people while feeling more together with someone communicating with you halfway across the world. The best examples of this are when Riley Blue and Will Gorski are communing with each other while the latter is at a bar with his police friends. Will is a seemingly normal and straightforward police officer but it becomes apparent that he really doesn’t relate to most of his colleagues beyond a casual level while Riley, who is in another country can talk with him about the things with which he can actually begin to be himself. Or even how Sun, in one of the worst, most isolating situations of her life can have the seemingly physical and moral support of Riley as she herself is outside looking at the sun.
It’s these moments that really jive with me and they are captured well by the show. So, when all is said and done, if you are geeky in any way and you like diverse human stories and you have been that geeky person with someone you care for across a state line or another ocean — and you know this feeling — then Sense8 is the series for you: with some new seasons with which to look forward.
Also Freema Agyeman, who once played Doctor Who‘s Martha Jones, is an LGBTQ character and bad ass girlfriend of Nomi.
Almost every superhero comic has its own alternative “what if” stories. As a fan myself, it can sometimes be difficult to suspend my disbelief when reading these tales. At the very least, I keep thinking to myself “that’s fascinating, but that’s not how — for example — Superman would be, or that person is not Superman.” We have an interpretation of a hero, villain, or character and we generally compare the alternative to the original. That is how a lot of alternative comics universes work: they work by comparing and contrasting the new with the original.
With superhero comics universes like DC, it often goes further into making those alternate worlds actually relate and connect to each other. Alternate Superman will meet the “real” Superman and we can go home thinking about how fascinating that was, but ultimately finding “our” Superman more valid.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters does something similar. We can see echoes of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in these characters: or at least their roles. However, at least two of the characters already exist in the DC Universe in a different form, and this darker take on that universe says something about what it takes to be a hero with it.
Machinima and Warner Bros. have teamed up to create a trilogy of sorts: of three shorts that will provide backgrounds for the heroes of the main feature Justice League: Gods and Monsters: a DC Universe Animated Movie that will go straight to DVD.
You can view all three of these shorts: “Twisted,” “Bomb” and “Big” online and right here for your viewing pleasure.
Episode One: Twisted: In which there is honour even in one of the darkest of souls.
Episode Two: Bomb: In which the Son of Zod wishes he was a good man, rather than a Superman.
Episode Three: Big: In which Steve Trevor realizes that it is sometimes okay to ask for help. And that “help” can be a safe word.
This season of three shorts will lead into another ten episode long series in 2016. A four-issue prequel comic by J. M. DeMatteis and Bruce Timm will be released along with the movie: which will come out in July 28, 2015. Hopefully we will get to see these three characters stand on their own and look at where they are headed next into the dark, but honest horizon.
Here is my update for this week. I got through the first week of LDEEP. Right now I am still in the place where I’m trying to figure out where to go from here. The major challenges for me are waking up early and the differences it’s had on my bio-rhythms.
But I think what has really gotten to me is the fact that I’m adjusting to being in something of a classroom setting again and being around people in the morning. I’m lucky in that the people I’m working with, my peers in the program, are very nice and we are trying to figure out similar issues together. Our instructor and advocate is doing a good job relating the government-mandated material to us and giving us extra information and personal anecdotes that can come in handy later down the road.
Yet this last week, it was difficult for me. I had to remind myself that it was okay for me to get up from my chair around the table if I needed to do so. Usually I spend time on my own on my bed with my laptop and I’m generally not around people. Another issue is that our work space is somewhat out of the way for me to get to so I need to rely on my Dad or public transportation to get there and it: causes me some stress.
It’s strange. I’m still hoping that I will get some contract work and flexible hours so I won’t have to wake up so early after my time in the program is done, but after my body was really adjusting to this new schedule last week I also realized I somewhat miss being around people and, when I have the energy to not be so introverted, socializing and helping others can be nice. Just as a part of me would be relieved to have time to myself again as I had before, another part is terrified at losing a sense of structure and getting bogged down in the fog of war in my head again.
I’m also not sure if a job can be found for me: one that can pay reasonably and that I’d actually like. One thing you learn as a learning disabled person is that sometimes you need to find a different criteria for yourself and make your own way. If you have an excellent helper, then they will work with you. Very soon, I will be working with our instructor for one hour to determine what it is I can do and what I want to do. I mean, I want to be a writer. That is not going to change. And I have some ideas. I think what I will do is I will write them down when I get the chance and we can see where to go from there.
So aside from the fact that I act on negative modifiers, especially for motor skills in the morning, I feel like … something is happening. We will just have to see. However, I do have more news.
I am getting published again in Janet Morris’ shared Heroes in Hell universe Doctors in Hell. In my story “Let Us Kill The Spirit of Gravity” we get to meet a fallen angel and the Earth Beast of the Apocalypse. But the most important element will be how Friedrich Nietzsche and Lilith, the First Woman, actually come into an accord that they hope will get them out of hell. I mean, good luck on that you guys. You are going to need it. The book isn’t out yet, but I will let you know when it is. In the meantime, here is a link to the book as a Kindle on Amazon.
I also mentioned that I am working on a game with some friends. But what I haven’t yet is that I’m working with Angela O’Hara on some projects as well: including my Twine “The Serpent and The Fox.” Angela is an excellent illustrator and artist and it is my hope that we can make my story of interlinked haikus have some appropriate and beautiful illustrations to go along with it. I really want to get to work on that Twine, but I am also learning that with something like a “day job” like LDEEP, I have to pace myself accordingly.
However, I have another excellent bit of news for you. A few days ago, I got my copy of Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages of MYST and Beyond. It is a table-top RPG based off of the world of Myst and its Ages. Scott L. Hamilton, C. Eleri Hamilton and their team did an excellent job creating this book and I look forward to reading it and hoping others will play in the sandbox that Cyan Inc. has authorized for them. But I … actually wrote a sample Age in this book. You can find it on page 196. It is called “The Ser’eti Empire.”
It’s funny … I actually created the Ser’eti in 2000, when I was nineteen years old. I always wanted to write an Age for Myst and learn D’Ni Writing. Years later I got to be a part of the Guild of Writers for this project and now I got credited again in print. It kind of feels like I’ve gone full circle in a lot of ways. And it was totally worth it. I also love the illustration that Miguel Santos did for my Age. Thank you Miguel, wherever you are.
So there you go. I am still getting out there and I am working relatively hard. The funny thing is, being out from nine to three five days a week has gotten me tired but I still have energy to write things when I get home. I don’t know how that happened or if it will continue to do so, but I like that aspect of this part of my life so far: and this positive and creative energy that will hopefully not lag too much into exhaustion and nerves.
All I can add is this: thanks for continuing to read and let’s see what’s going to happen next.
So last week was my Orientation Day for LDEEP: the government assistance program that will help me find some work appropriate to my skills. Starting tomorrow and for the foreseeable future, I’m going to be attending workshops from nine in the morning until the late afternoon.
Am I nervous? Yes. It’s been a while since I have had my time structured in this manner. To be honest, I would have preferred to keep more flexible hours. I am definitely not a morning person and, while it’s occasionally a lark to be up in the morning, I am much more of a night-owl. I do a lot of my thinking and writing at night.
I am used to keeping my own hours and, hopefully, I will be able to do so again with perhaps the added benefit of having excuses to go outside, socialize, and get a job that is appropriate for me. This is definitely going to take some getting used to with regards to my routine and I hope I will be able to ask the right questions and take note of advantages when I can.
Things are changing. But they are not all stressful: or at least not stressful in a bad way. I am getting another story published soon — which I will keep you posted on as I get more details — and I am actually working on another creative collaboration. This time I am working with some friends of mine on a video game. Again, I can’t go into too many details as we are still conceptualizing a lot of the world and its minutiae, but I am really excited about it.
Perhaps more than the potential of getting some pay of my part in the collaboration, I get to work with some people whom I’ve known since high school. I will be honest with you: I’ve looked forward to working with these friends of mine for years on a project that could go public or, indeed, any game project at all. We are all talented in our own ways and I know I will do my best to flesh out what we have.
When I am working with them, working on material for the game, I actually feel enthusiasm and a sense of purpose that I don’t get often. For a while now I’ve been working on critical articles or within the sandboxes of other established worlds. This time I am helping to make a world and its background. It’s that feeling of this is what we should be doing. This is what I should be doing. It is my hope that we will continue working on this project and that we will have something awesome to show the world: or at the very least to ourselves and our other friends.
And there are other things I am planning to do besides.
That is pretty much my most recent update. I’m not sure where I am going with all of this. We are just going to have to see. I hope that some of you will join me in the journey.
Last year Will Brooker, along with his creative collaborators Sarah Zaidan and Susan Shore, published volume one of My So-Called Secret Identity through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Now they are doing it again.
My So-Called Secret Identity Volume Two takes place in the aftermath of Catherine Abigail Daniels’ — or Cat’s — encounter with the villain Carnival. Cat has gone from being a Do-It-Yourself amateur superhero that invited herself into “the theater” — the dynamic between heroes and villains of vast social means and damages done towards innocent bystanders — to becoming a celebrity and power in her own right.
But what does this ultimately mean for Gloria City, her rivals, her peers, the people who admire her, and Cat herself?
Then, to complicate matters further, the theater changes: or at least enters another Act. Most of the important top-tier male superheroes such as the Urbanite and the Major go off-world: leaving the majority of female superheroes and lower-tier heroes to their own devices in Gloria City. Carnival, Gloria City’s Joker analogue, is now in custody and at their mercy. Perhaps at any other time, Carnival would have “Joker immunity”: that no matter what atrocity he commits or incident he finds himself caught in, he will always survive and be captured only to escape yet again.
Yet now the superhero women of Gloria City are wondering the same thing: after everything he has done, should they kill Carnival? And Cat, one of his former victims and his recent jailer, ponders this and more. She came into the superhero scene to dismantle “the theater” from the inside, or not play by its rules altogether and save lives. Will she help make new rules, break old ones, or become a part of the system of violence, retribution, and collateral damage that she once wanted to destroy?
Smart is a superpower, but will it still be enough?
My So-Called Secret Identity Volume Two will explore these thoughts and themes and more. My only regret is that Will Brooker says that this will be the end of Cat’s story. As a fan, I feel there are many more stories that can still be told in this influential series. And they can be.
Among other goodies, such as pin-ups, sketches, exclusive T-shirts, and even personalized water-colours if the Kickstarter Campaign’s stretch goal of 12,000 pounds is exceeded, you’ll not only be paying artists for their work but also the inclusion of three extra short stories that will expand on the backgrounds of key characters.
My So-Called Secret Identity is important: in the way it looks at power dynamics, the superhero mythos, the mentality of practical DIY costumes branching into cosplay, and how it treats female superheroes. With accolades from comics artists such as Mary Talbot, Pat Mills, Trina Robbins and others, I hope you will consider backing this Kickstarter Campaign.
Sometimes you have this dream. You have a dream, or a memory of a good moment in your life. And you run with it. At some of the worst, or most challenging points in your life you let it fuel you. You let it keep you going.
You keep telling yourself that one day if you work hard enough, if you’re honest enough, if you’re brave enough, or if you maintain that dream in your heart that you will attain it. After preserving or holding onto that memory you will find the means to bring it back to life.
But more often than not what really happens is that you hold an ideal in stasis. It never changes, even as you continue to do so by virtue of being made up of flesh and imperfect recollection. Sometimes it rots and becomes a heavy weight inside you that keeps you from moving on.
Somewhere along the line I realized that this one vision of what I wanted just wasn’t going to happen. It simply isn’t possible: at least not in the way that I held onto. A little while ago, I gave up on a Twine novel idea of mine. It was going to be the first Twine creation I ever made and it was going to draw from my life in a heavily abstract but emotionally poignant manner. There were some interesting ideas in that work, and at some point I may rework them into something a lot less long-winded and laboured: something smaller, sleek, and to the point. There is another work I want to continue as well and, perhaps, it may be more doable.
But here I am at the crossroads, or the threshold where I knew I was getting to for a very long time now. The truth is, once I realized that dream was over, I’m wondering what my next one is going to be. Perhaps parts of the old can be integrated into the new. I do know that I want to make new articles and stories. I want to be writing.
And I want to be paid for my writing. Some of you have been reading about how I Have A Disability, and how I am also dealing with Depression. It sucks to be virtually unemployed for about three years, and practically house-bound for a good portion of it: remembering the good old days even if they didn’t actually exist. I will always be dealing with those struggles. That’s just how it’s going to be.
By the time this Blog entry gets posted, I am going to my first orientation at the LDEEP. It is a program that helps people with learning disabilities find employment and perhaps begin to shape their career paths. I’m not going to lie to you: a part of me is afraid. My routine is going to be different very soon. I most likely won’t be able to keep the hours that I have, and my time may well be used differently. I’ve been in something of a twilight world for so many years now that sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to do, or how this is going to work out.
I’m also, through a legal clinic, attempting to get ODSP and get — unironically — the Social Justice Tribunal to reconsider my status: to get me the aid that I need. My hearing is next year. We will see if the clinic will take me on as a client and all I can do is deal with bureaucracy with bureaucracy and hope for the best.
I’m lucky that I had the resources to find this help and that I also have access to psychological counselling: which may give me some more resources in dealing with my anxiety. I’ve realized that I’ve had anxiety and panic attacks my entire life: I just didn’t name them until now. And now that I know them for what they are, I can make strategies in dealing with them.
But what it comes down to, for me, is the fact that I know I can’t go back. I can’t look back. I need to be at the point where I can finally move on and begin that process of actually living my life. So this is my Blog entry to start off this scary but exciting week.
There’s this thing about archetypes. They might be a constant or an essential idea, but they are never in the same form twice. Not really. The myth is the same in essence but different in form and execution. It’s adaptation. I’m terrified of not feeling comfortable or lost in memories anymore. Maybe that is a good thing.
Maybe it’s an old idea waiting to be reborn again.