Working On A Comics Script and Submissions

I thought I should make a proper update while I still have some time.

My Displacement Twine became something of a one-off project that I came up with late at night while I’ve been dealing with other matters. I’ve already mentioned that I’ve got ODSP and I didn’t, in fact, have to go into a hearing as my community lawyer settled it “out of court.” It takes a major load off that’s been weighing on me for the better part of a year, but even though I know there will be more challenges and annoyances ahead, it still feels like progress.

But now for the stuff that you don’t know about.

A little while ago, I was a student at Ty Templeton’s Comic Book Bootcamp Writing for Comics course. During that time, after doing many assignments, we were supposed to hand in a script: in order to get feedback from Ty himself. Unfortunately, due to life’s circumstances I was only able to submit a rough outline of the script that I wanted to write. So I found peace with that in order to get at least some feedback from Ty.

Instead, he gave me a considerable amount of feedback and actually wants to see a completed script.

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So that is basically why I’d been gone for a month. I’ve been working on my comics script to show Ty Templeton. So far, I’ve finished the Story Mapping phase: where I try to approximate the story beats and pacing on each page. It’s actually made me look at details I might have missed before and even given me the opportunity to hone down other aspects of my outline. I had so much more to say about this a little while ago, but I have been busy. Suffice to say, though, I’m drawing it out by hand in my Mythic Bios notebook with my 1989 Batman movie pencil that you can, no doubt, see in the graphic of this Blog post.

It’s sad because I know there are other insights I could talk about and refer back to, but basically for me this has been creating the skeleton of my story which, considering its subject matter, is very appropriate. But basically I am outlining each page, sectioning it off into threes, and placing the basic idea of what happens in every section followed by beats to show what happens in each panel of that section on each page.

But now I have entered the Storyboarding (wow doesn’t that sound like some kind of psychological torture technique) Phase: where I am going to have to approximate what visually goes on in those panels. Much of this is going to start off with me reviewing the notes I’ve taken from Ty’s class to the point where I’m confident in drawing it all out with crude and inclusive stick figures that I will have to describe with thorough wording for the Writing Phase of the Script: and that doesn’t even include the dialogue and captions that I need to write clearly and distinctively.

Then I’m going to show it to one of my fellow classmates, Kim — who is awesome — and then submit it to Ty when everything is said and done. But yes. I even have plans for further stories after this one, but the World-Building Phase — which includes more descriptive writing — will have to continue along with my capacity to do so and remember that an artist needs to know details but also have the freedom to do their own thing.

I’m almost done with my update. But script writing and submission aside, and have the attention span to finally sit down and knock this post out, I also want to mention that I’ve applied for a writing position in an online magazine called Panels: a place that talks about comics, comics subcultures, and the writer’s reactions and insights into them. It’s right up my alley and it’s a paying job.

Some of the sample works I’ve sent them include: When I Recognized Elfquest and Chasing Amy and Reviewing the Laurel Leaves.  So we will see whether or not I get accepted into their ranks and, if so, it is definitely an exciting start.

So yes. A lot of stuff is happening on my end, finally, and I just need to keep at it while — at the same time — I also need to pace myself. I don’t know when I will write here next, but hopefully I will have more to talk about and more to report.

Take care everyone and thank you for continuing to follow me on this journey.

Displacement: A Twine About A Learning Disabled Experience

People almost always gravitate towards personal stories. I’ve probably said this already in some way or form, and I know if I haven’t many other people have.

For the longest time, even though I’ve been very busy, I’ve wanted to have an excuse to make another Twine story. I almost did a few times: such as when I was tempted to create a Twine called Bureaucracy Quest in which you have to go on a scavenger hunt of varying documents, while keeping labyrinthine and mandatory appointments, while running into dead-ends and recursive story loops which are specifically designed to make you shut off the Twine from complete and utter frustration. But, fittingly enough, I didn’t have the patience to make this game while living the experiences that inspired it.

It was one night, between other projects I’ve been attempting to work on, that the cynical idea came to me. I was still waiting to hear back from my legal counsel as to whether or not I was going to get on the Ontario Disability Support Program settled out of court, or if I were going to need to attend the hearing that was going to happen this month. The good news is that the community lawyer working on my case was excellent and got me onto this new system. But at the time, I’d been waiting to hear back from ODSP for about a year and I didn’t know what was happening at the time.

There was a series of muscles I must have been holding for over a year, and a few days before I finally heard the decision on the phone from my lawyer, a lot of different elements began to gather in my mind. It began with the first rejection letter I’d ever gotten from ODSP: essentially stating that according to their guidelines I didn’t have a permanent disability.

I had been diagnosed as being learning disabled, as being what nowadays might be called “non-neurotypical” since I was a child. I had to attend special kindergarten, then classes, and then alternate classes. I had an especially hard time in high school: as I only had one class that dealt with learning disabilities and I had to get extra help from the teachers themselves without much in the way of a department to back me up.

My plan was simple. I had gradually weened myself off and away from the programs that I had difficulty completing. I mean, you can imagine how disabilities such as dyscalculia, spatial difficulties, and even challenges in hand-eye coordination and mental focus — in needing finer instructions — can get in the way of mathematics, geometry, fine arts, geography, and even aspects of the hard sciences. Phys. Ed was especially bad for me due to physical coordination issues. So I got through them with the bare minimum. And then I replaced them with philosophy, sociological, historical, and literary courses. I focused on what I was strong in doing: and even then I needed special help with regards to tests and exams.

But I was told, and I hoped, that by University I could take the courses that I wanted and build the education that suited me: making me ready for a career in academics. I was going to focus on my strengths and leave my weaknesses behind. I was going to make it so that my learning disability was irrelevant and I wouldn’t have to identify with it anymore. I believed that I could succeed through sheer merit, through personal work, discipline, and sacrifice: and that, with some help and support behind me, I could excel.

What I didn’t understand, at the time, was that our society is not — and has never been — a meritocracy. It is a bureaucracy: with specific rules and procedures. Networking is also a social skill that is integral to navigating the labyrinth. And while I had instructors and academic representatives that told me about the importance of this element, I just couldn’t relate to it. Not really. Again, I thought it was about what you did and not who you know: or even who knew you.

Then there are the psychological factors to consider. Other kids are hyper-aware of differences and if you have trouble socializing, or counting fast enough, or telling directions, or the fact that you rock back and forth when you are excited or nervous and your hands fidget, or even when you talk to yourself they will notice. They will notice and they will laugh at you, or bully you, or avoid you.

And those are just the children: your peers. I’m not even talking about the adults. Between having my grandfather thinking of my math disability as a sign of laziness, and others snapping at me to stop fidgeting or talking to myself — for fear that I would “look ridiculous” — you can already understand why I’d want to leave that all behind me. You can also more than imagine where a lot of my anger comes from, and where some of my own present difficulties spring.

I was also lucky. My parents recognized that I had cognitive difficulties and got me as much treatment for them as possible. But as such, most of the family emphasis was less on me learning life skills as it was actually succeeding in school: as that was a major difficulty of mine. But it cost me: as by the time I moved out a few years ago, I didn’t really know how to take care of myself. I didn’t really have a stable network of people to help me with that, and I was left to figure out a lot of these things on my own, or deal with people and organizations that gave me basic — or bad — advice and nothing really of substance.

There was a lot of weight on my mind in getting through my Master’s and juggling real life: and I hated, absolutely resented the idea that my learning disabilities — that the make-up of my brain — was still affecting me despite all the calculators and GPSes of the world.

So you can imagine that when I finally swallowed my pride, the first time with Ontario Works, and the second with ODSP that when I got my first rejection letter telling me: “By our guidelines you do not have a permanent disability” that it was the equivalent of a slap to the face.

I had a long time to think about this. It took a while but I had to accept that my disabilities, that my “non-neurotypical” brain are still parts of my life. It took me even longer to embrace the fact that I have to identify what is just another wiring of my brain and experience as a disability: in order to get the current social structure to help me survive it. I thought about all the people that have told me to “suck it up” or just tolerate what I can’t focus on in order to exist. I’ve had to fight against the idea that I am “coping out” when I identify as being learning disabled instead of “earning my place like everyone else”: whatever that means.

And so I decided to call ODSP on its punitive structure. I sent in my forms and my diagnosis from my therapist, which they rejected the first time. I had them do an internal review, in which they found no fault in their decision. And then I faced down a hearing in a game of “Chicken” to see who would give way first. I am a really stubborn person when I have a mind to be. In fact, I do extremely well when I have something passionate and real to focus on instead of settling for something less than.

I’m also aware of how privileged I am. Between my family that actually recognizes learning disabilities and finds itself there for me, to the community counsel that got my case settled out of court, to the best therapist I’ve ever had with or without Canadian OHIP, and a lot of Affirmative Action protocols, I have been exceedingly lucky. And I know that just as all learning disabled people aren’t the same, many others haven’t had — and don’t have — the backgrounds or resources that I do.

But there is one other thing that stuck with me after that experience of having my disability and experiences not acknowledged until I faced them head on. I thought about how we all experience and interact with the world. And that night, a few nights ago, when I was thinking about how best to communicate what it was like to be in the world with a learning disability, I came up with this idea for an interactive story.

I asked myself this: how would someone navigate a world if they had trouble reading maps or telling directions? What would it look like, in words, to see someone with dyscalculia doing equations or basic math? How would I portray the psychological baggage that comes with dealing with these issues since childhood? Can I do all of this and show they have something of a commonality?

And can I communicate my experience — my voice on this — through a creative medium with which I still have limitations? Can I express my story simply through the description of perception and emotion?

I realized, a few days before the bittersweet moment of finally having ODSP recognize that I have a permanent disability, that living with spatial, mathematical, and even body movement issues is like existing out of the same space-time as most people. You are somewhat out of synchronicity with the rest: both cognitively and socially. And that was where I eventually got the name for my story idea the following day.

Displacement.

It’s by no means an exhaustive story about all learning disabilities, or even the different gradations of the ones that I possess. It came out very rough in its first iteration — I had to par down the psychological elements — and even now I think I could have portrayed the experiences of the narrator more effectively: such as using that recursive loop of repeating hyperlinks I mentioned earlier to symbolize getting physically lost. But I also don’t know how accurate that would be and, honestly, I think right now this is as good as it gets.

This will have been my third post dealing with learning disabilities on this Blog: or at least the latest one after my experiences from this past summer. I hope, after this, to go back to writing posts about video games, comics, fictional universes, and projects that I’m working on. Those are the things which I want to be known by and remembered.

That being said, I would like to thank Gaming Pixie for looking over and providing input into the Twine story that I have linked above. Whatever else, I hope you find the story, and this post, educational at the very least.

A Winding Path of Angels, Glitches, and Binary Parallels: Gaming Pixie’s Raziel

Sometimes a series of lines curve and become a circle. Then that same line curves outward and makes the circle into a spiral. And then the line, that particular line, continues around the spiral and creates the second level of the spiral, emulates three dimensions, and breaks down into its essential numerical binary parts.

So after you imagine Gaming Pixie’s circle of Twine games leading to another string of personal dimensions, think of the second layer of her spiral of game making as a circle of glowing ones and zeroes in the form of Raziel.

Raziel Title Screen

For me the main challenge in writing about Raziel is that much of it is already documented by Gaming Pixie herself on her Games site. In a series of relatively short entries you will find that she began Raziel as a Twine for a Cyberpunk Game Jam: the premise of which expanding over time to include a few more details and various changes in mechanics as it became a short 16-bit game made on RPG Maker.

To be honest, even though I’d played the Twine game some time ago, and I was following the developer posts on Gaming Pixie’s Blog, I actually didn’t know what to expect from Raziel.

I’ll tell you what I did find though. Imagine a combination of The Matrix with its artificial intelligences and hacker themes, Inception with its levels of intersecting reality and memory, Christine Love’s *AI games with their background of gender, sexuality, and treatment of AI as individual entities, and Kan Gao’s To the Moon with its heartfelt use of virtual capsules and subversion of a single instance of combat. Raziel is reminiscent of these films and games, but it is more.

Raziel Intro

On the surface, Raziel is a cyberpunk game about a hacker named Glitch who seeks to kill a fallen angel: someone who must leave the Real World and enter the virtual Otherworld in order to fulfill this task.

The Real World itself in the game is a grey and closed off space: with very few places to go or see. As per some cyberpunk settings, it is almost a closed linear circuit of grim reality: to the point where the extra rooms and levels in the protagonist’s apartment building and the virtual chambers in the material version of Raziel’s Tower are almost superfluous. It’s specifically designed to be a world where you don’t want to spend much time.

Raziel Apartment

Basically you are navigating a cyberpunk world that interfaces from the Real World into Otherworld and, eventually, a series of inaccessible and non-human user junk code in the form of Etherworld. Otherworld and Etherworld, one decked in bright neon colours and the latter in light-screen fragments and binary are circular worlds: the former possessing few barriers and the latter possessing random ones.

Getting into and out of Otherworld, which is essentially an over-world map to other places is easy, but traveling into and interacting with, and getting out of, Etherworld is much more difficult: a series of different levels that — appropriately — intermix an over-world map layout with specific levels depending on what you access.

But this is where our overview ends: because if we journey any further into Otherworld’s circle of eternity, or Etherworld’s realm of code we are inevitably going to find a class of virtual sprite known as Spoilers.

So now that we are here, past the point of safety, I am going to give you the same choice that Gaming Pixie gives all of her players.

If you don’t want to use the Augment, read no further unless you’d like to hack further and remote-view said spoilers. However, if you’ve agreed to take the Augment then prepare yourself for exploration.

The warning above is somewhat misleading, when all things are considered. The option to use Augments, illegal and dangerous cybernetic enhancements that were both more prevalent and allowed you to access Otherworld in the Twine, exist only in the RPG as a plot device: something that gains you, through the character of Glitch, the initial notice of Raziel himself. The rest of what happens after that is entirely up to you. The game has an edgy attitude like that.

Raziel Twine

As such, there are quite a few differences between the Twine and RPG versions of Raziel. While the Twine has only the Real World and Otherworld, Gaming Pixie added Etherworld to the RPG: a place where the users’ intentions from reality intermix with junk data. In addition, only AI can generally access Etherworld. The best way to look at Etherworld is to imagine looking at the real workings of a living body dissected right in front of you, except you’re interacting with its subconscious mind that’s also laid bare. It is disturbing and it is meant to be.

Whereas in the Twine Augments were the only way you could “unofficially” access Otherworld, in the Raziel RPG Augments are used to heighten sensations in Otherworld: bringing you into a state of Null Space that we never see in the game but which we see quite a few references. People can go mad or die from using either “bad” or, again, illegal Augments. Also, if you look carefully enough you’ll realize just how important Augments have been in Glitch’s decision making. I wish you happy hunting on the latter, by the way, as I totally missed it on my first playthrough.

There are also no AI in the Twine version of this game. In order to create an RPG, Gaming Pixie had to expand on the world she first created but it pays off. First of all, you don’t always know who the AI are. It’s true that there are AI that serve one rudimentary purpose — similar to the Virtual Intelligences of Mass Effect — but there are others who are friendly, standoffish, and even creative in their own rights. Second of all, even the former type of AI is important to the game: in the form of Gates. Gates also don’t exist in the Twine predecessor of this game: essentially they are messengers or avatars of the fallen angel Raziel that actually allow you to access Etherworld as a human user.

Raziel Gates

But activating these living Gate AIs is not as easy as merely identifying and approaching them. What you really need to do is get hints from your handler, a woman named Maven — about specific interactions that you need to undertake, find where those are situated, and then find the Gates and access them. You will find that Raziel is subversive in that it uses the mode of the 16-bit RPG to explore: accessing an environment that is literally composed of navigating built-in puzzles specifically in the form of interactions with other characters. Everything is connected in Raziel. That is the point.

Even though Gaming Pixie helpfully provides you with a Database of beautifully pixelated sprite profiles and useful information that you gather as you interact with the world it is only through your interactions with the cybernetic aspects of this virtual reality — the humanoid elements in the electronics — that you even get this information, or feel any investment with it beyond your character’s own enigmatic self-interest.

Raziel Hub

Just like in the Twine version of Raziel, it is your mission as Glitch to destroy Otherworld by killing its living CPU the angel Raziel: and there are implications in doing so. Whereas in the Twine game destroying Otherworld potentially frees human users from the stasis of their own ennui, in ignoring the real world and beginning to get them to face the painful but inevitable task of making their offline lives better, there is a lot more at stake in the RPG. It’s true that many people come to Otherworld for escapism, but there are other programs that exist there as well.

For example, there is Esme: a snow princess who was created to be the friend of a girl who later committed suicide and who now exists to remember her and help other girls. There is an elderly couple that were programmed to function as foster parents: as the only loving guardians a young girl has ever had. And then you have Persephone: an AI who has exceeded her programming, changing her original name of Penelope, and creating artistic programs in her own right. If you destroy Otherworld, you will not only rob some of the human users of their friends and family, but you will basically murder other self-aware beings in the process.

Raziel Etherworld

But even then, it’s not as easy as merely stopping. There is Raziel himself to consider. The reason you have to kill Raziel doesn’t change from the Twine to the RPG. Raziel was a human being connected to the Otherworld for over fifty years. His physical form has been hanging between life and death, leaving him in constant agony, as his mind has been used to create and maintain the reality of Otherworld. Essentially, he is the one who gives you the mission to kill him: to end his pain. While you have to directly find him yourself in the Twine, his contact and friend Maven is the one who recruits you, after he finds you in another form, to undertake this act of mercy.

That’s right. The final boss of the game wants you to kill him and even helps you to do so after an awe-inspiring cut scene and a particularly vicious battle.  There are no other random battles in Raziel. The other encounters you have are by necessity those that you don’t confront in Etherworld. There is no grinding, or leveling up your character. There is one boss battle: and it is the most difficult challenge you will have in this game, morally and physically.

If you kill Raziel, the Angel of Mysteries in Judeo-Christian theology, you will end his pain but you will destroy Otherworld and every AI in it: robbing its human users of their one joy and connection in contrast to a dull and colourless existence in the Real World. But if you let him live, he will inevitably go insane, crash Otherworld, and take everyone down with him. It’s much like the illusion of alternate paths in Gaming Pixie’s games What’s In a Name? or, fittingly enough, The Choice. In fact, it doesn’t really feel like much of a choice at all, does it?

That is something else both the Twine and RPG versions of this game have in common. In fact, should you choose the “wrong” options, the game will shut itself down much in the way Toby Fox’s Undertale will do when you also choose wrong, or lose.

But here is the interesting part: in contrast to the idea of the illusion of free will, in Raziel it is actually about a lack of choice being the illusionEven if your choices seem limited, they still exist and if you think about the greater good, you will make the right one. Yet while the Raziel Twine leads to the game “crashing” no matter what you do, choosing the option of the lesser evil, the RPG is more nuanced. The battle with Raziel is inevitable, but how you choose to fight Raziel depends on how you much you explore beforehand, and how much you pay attention.

swfm paths

You can see the influence of Gaming Pixie’s She Who Fights Monsters on the ultimate outcome of the RPG. At the end of Monsters you — as the protagonist of Jenny — encounter a screen where you have to choose between three boxes: love, hate, and indifference. Some of those options will be opened or closed to you depending what karmic choices you undertook in that game: and specifically whether or not you accessed the places where the game’s Memory Crystals are found.

temple-final

However, in the Raziel RPG it is different. In the cavern that represents Raziel’s virtual prison, there are four other rooms guarded by the Gates with which you’ve interacted to get this far. In it are four coloured Flames that represent different aspects of Raziel’s power and suffering: pain as defense, anger as attack, sadness as magic, and regret as evasion. Whereas accessing Monsters’ boxes or Crystals determines Jenny’s developing personality and future, encountering and defusing the Flames actually de-buffs Raziel’s stats: keeping you from getting curb-stomped in your battle with him.

Trust me: you know that box that comes up before you go into Raziel’s main prison cell asking you if you want to go further and if there is anything else you want to do? For the love of God, listen to that message for what it is: a warning. According to Gaming Pixie, this box wasn’t originally there — she had to add it so that the encounter wouldn’t be completely impossible — and once you go into that cell you will save and not be able to get out again. You will die: many, many times against the power of Raziel.

Yet why is it that despite Raziel’s aid, his manipulations, and his request for death that he fights you with every fiber of his being? Why doesn’t he just give up and let you kill him? Are there safeguards in place that automate him to protect himself? Or is it more than that?

Raziel Existence

I am going to reveal to you Raziel’s and ultimately the RPG Raziel‘s ultimate secret. The truth is that Raziel doesn’t really want to die. The Otherworld built from Raziel is wondrous, but there has always been something missing from it: some component that the best scientists and technicians could never replicate. Glitch has felt this and other users have no doubt done the same: perhaps even influencing their need to leave the banality of the Real World and use questionable Augments and experience Null Space while they are there. But that’s just it: it is merely existence. And existence does not necessarily equal essence. Existence is not life.

It’s Raziel’s sense of self-preservation that makes him fight you. It’s your sense of wanting to live that makes you, as Glitch, want to fight back and finish the deed. It is that moment on the edge of death, of contemplating oblivion, that the will to live is arguably the strongest impulse any living being can ever possess. And this is where the two Raziel games diverge with extreme prejudice: the Twine game being a grim lesson in the lesser of two evils and the RPG — Raziel itself — becoming a story about connecting with others, learning to feel the needs of others above your own, helping them shed the pain of their old and cumbersome attachments, and allowing things to be renewed: allowing the angel to be reborn.

It is a redemptive ending as Raziel leaves his physical body behind and becomes a powerful AI that flushes the will to live throughout the entire system of Otherworld. It’s as though Raziel played Gaming Pixie’s The Choice himself — a game about suicide — and realized the most positive and powerful choice is to live. But it is not just Raziel who makes this decision.

If you consult Gaming Pixie’s Blog entries on Raziel, you’ll realize that she wanted to incorporate the karmic system that is popular in her Eden, Shadow of a Soul, and She Who Fights Monsters games as well as many other independent ones of late, but she decided against it and took another approach. While Raziel is about the angelic CPU of Otherworld, it is also about Glitch.

Raziel Glitch Menu

Glitch becomes more than an optional name in a Twine game. In another loop between her video game creations, Gaming Pixie takes you out of the second-persona of “you,” and places you behind Glitch’s first-person “I” perspective. Glitch follows your commands: within reason. This game persona mechanic is reminiscent of Christine Love’s don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story. The hacker is caustic, sarcastic, and sometimes outright impatient. You might want to explore, and Glitch will indulge you until you intrude on someone else’s personal space, go against their wishes, or you waste Glitch’s time. In this sense, Glitch is the narrative of the game. Even Etherworld and one ending of the game where it crashes is a reference to Glitch’s actual name and what it means in a system like a video game.

Raziel Glitch

Yet Glitch is more than this. It’s strange. In Gaming Pixie’s other games, your gender is neutral, default female, or you have a choice between three genders of “him,” “her,” and “they.” In Raziel, however, you only get two genders to choose from. This is a controversial move in a lot of ways: especially when you consider that depending on whether Glitch is male or female, this protagonist will interact with other characters in different ways. Even so, his or her personality is generally the same and is more than just a blank slate silent or unnamed protagonist. And if you look closely, very closely, and double-check all information about Augments in the game you might also find just what might be the motivation behind Glitch wanting to destroy Otherworld.

There is, however, one other element that definitely shines through. Whether you choose to be male or female, Glitch is always going to be a Black bisexual person. Bisexuality is a core theme in many of Gaming Pixie’s games as a legitimate sexual orientation and identity: just as it is for her main characters to generally have a default Black identity. The way this is introduced is just as a given. Everything else in Raziel is utterly fantastic, whereas diversity, bisexuality and indeed the LGBTQIA spectrum is seen as commonplace: especially in a virtual world where you can appear as you want to be.

Raziel Dance

Even so, it is intriguing how when Glitch is female you get a little more clue as to her mental state as she develops a relationship with Maven, who is a lesbian, whereas the information about Glitch’s past is hinted upon differently when he is male and he tells a gay and newly incarnated Raziel — who becomes his lover — that it has been a while since he has been with a man. But either way, Glitch has his or her own exposure to that life affirming moment where they realize they want to live: and actually move on with a real life past their former self-destructive Augments by the game’s end.

Writing about Raziel is hard. It feels like every time I thought I was making progress, I encountered one of the angel’s Gates, or I had to search for a node to access in a confusing realm of junk data and ideas threatening to diverge from the point, or that each time I was missing the prison chambers that could lessen the stats on my sense of intimidation in writing about the game. Certainly, I began to wish that I could take an Augment just to make sense of it all: just to organize these experiences. But Raziel is about binaries. It’s about the differences and similarities between the Real World and Otherworld, male and female, human and AI, hope and despair, Gaming Pixie’s other games and Raziel, and even the Twine and the RPG version of Raziel.

Essentially, I’ve had to make an Etherworld out of Gaming Pixie’s game: exposing some of its bones and shapes, while giving you hints about its codes and interactions. It’s like weaving behind a curtain while simultaneously painting the scene of the stage. But it’s more than that. If I’m going to refer to Gaming Pixie’s Etherworld, I should mention that it is the heart of Raziel. It is its soul and its very being: and it says something powerful about the human condition.

Raziel Heart

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that I had no idea what to make of Raziel but I can safely say that through this short game built from her Twine, Gaming Pixie has more than exceeded my expectations. Her particular voice shines through both her pixels and her text with the strength of empathy. In fact, if there is one flaw in what she’s built it’s that she’d built an entire world that deserves more than just one interactive story.

You can find Raziel, for free, at Gaming Pixie’s Games and I couldn’t recommend it more.

What I’ve Been Doing For Over A Month

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, so I think it’s about high time for an update.

A lot of things have happened during the time I’ve been gone. I’ll admit that some of my previous plans … didn’t go well. In fact, it’s not so much that they failed in that they just didn’t happen. I had some expectations and assumptions and while the results of these didn’t pan out, at least they were learning experiences.

Still, I admit I was disappointed. And there was a period of time where I honestly got fed up and depressed: where I was actually having panic attacks. I honestly didn’t really know what else to write in my Mythic Bios during that time: where I was regrouping and gathering up my strength again.

But it hasn’t been a total waste. I’m still writing my GEEKPR0N articles. In fact, I covered the beginning and end of the Toronto After Dark not too long ago. It’s always awesome to get to attend on GEEKPR0N’s behalf: to be among such enthusiastic horror and gorehounds and know that people are reading my reviews on those films. If you are interested, I wrote about Tales of Halloween, The Hallow, Patchwork, and Deathgasm.

In addition, I’ve been taking classes: specifically Ty Templeton’s How to Write Comics in his Comicbook Bootcamp Program. Working with Ty and my peers has been pretty awesome. It’s the first time in a decade that I felt like I was in a creative writing class that actually inspired me and genuinely felt constructive. The first seminar focused on writing techniques, story-making, and how to write for an audience. The second seminar, which I just started, focuses on how to world-build, create pitches, and write for a publisher. In all ways we are encouraged to think creatively: to work outside of the box while understanding just what that box is. I don’t know how much of this information I’m absorbing — as I’ve stated before that I have a different manner of learning and retaining knowledge — but what I have gleaned is excellent. And it is good to feel something to encourage my sense of purpose again: even if it is as bittersweet as finding it on College and Spadina with all those memories of that place.

In other news, I found a lawyer through the Social Justice system who is willing to take on my case to get me onto ODSP. It is a relief in a lot of ways and at least some of the pressure on me has been lifted. I know it is just a start, but a start is a good thing. Everything I’m doing is going to help me in some way.

I will admit it. I am not where I want to be right now. Sometimes, at my worst I honestly feel like I am in hell. But I have to keep reminding myself to moving forward. After all, the only time travel that any human being is capable of accomplishing is going towards the future. Slowly. Gradually. And inexorably.

Perhaps while I’m at it I’ll get to make more new memories in the process.

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After Week Three: A Book and an Interview

Hell Prescription Form

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.

Week Two, Hell, Awareness, And Readjustment

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.

Doctors In Hell Advertisement

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 in Heroes 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.

One Week, Doctors In Hell, The Serpent And The Fox, and The Se’reti Empire

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.

Doctors In Hell

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.”

Unwritten

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.

It’s Almost Time Now

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.

Looking Outward

Chasing Amy, Finding Alyssa, And Revenge Of The Shit

So I worked on a little bit of a side thing.

I wouldn’t have even called it a project, at first. As you know, I finally watched Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy not too long ago and, as a result, it did something my brain. So, one night, I was thinking about the last part of the movie and this rather, shall we say, fucked up parallel occurred to me.

Originally, it was going to be a post written on Mythic Bios after I got the article that I intended to do, for tonight, right on here. Then, as per usual, my brain asked me: “What would happen if you made this into a Twine?” Then I got silly. See, I had this plan. I was going to cut Holden McNeil’s infamous scene with Banky and Alyssa Jones: with Anakin Skywalker jumping into Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber blade, getting amputated, and igniting on fire.

Alyssa and Banky Scene

Then I was going to end it with Holden McNeil coming out of a movie theatre, having just watched Revenge of the Sith for the first time, and say something smart ass about how bad it was. The implication, of course, was that the film and the prequel Trilogy was so bad to Holden, that it brought back terrible memories. You know the ones.

This short Twine of few scenes, mostly quoted lines with that ending, was going to be called Revenge of the Shit. Personally, I think it’s a title that some of Kevin Smith’s film characters might have appreciated: among other disgruntled Star Wars fans. And yes, I was tempted to put a certain … demon of excrement into the story somewhere: perhaps asking him how the movie was.

Of course, I also came up with another — more grim and random scene — right after that which would have taken the piss out of the comedy right then and there. But, really, what I planned could have been done better by someone with actual video editing and splicing skills: of which I have neither.

It was supposed to be a throwaway project: a one-off. It was supposed to be something that was fun and light and made light of a fictional character’s ridiculous choices and suffering.

But, as usual, I can never really do anything simple.

The fact of the matter is, the little bit of fan fun and snark mutated out of my control: and into something else. At the same time, it took precision to find those quotes, describe those settings and character feelings, and build something from it. It became something else. I realize that even though these characters and lines belong to Kevin Smith, George Lucas, and now Disney, I actually had something of a story to tell.

And I had fun telling this fan homage genetic freak, bordering on a crack fic — an off-the wall story– that I hope also says something meaningful.

My Twine making skills haven’t really progressed since The Looking Glass, save for learning how to format fonts in Twine, but as always I tend to focus on story and pacing the amount of text, of making a rhythm through each hyperlink more than anything else. But before I go on, there is one more thing I’d like to say.

There is one part in this Twine story where, should you choose to find it — and it isn’t hard to do so — Holden enters something of a “What If” or “Infinities” reality with regards to Chasing Amy. There was one story I was so tempted to tell, or outline: where Holden is so overcome by Banky trying to sabotage his relationship with Alyssa, and finding out about Alyssa’s past at a point where he is not mature enough to deal with it that he actually leaves both of them — and his old life behind — without a word.

Holden

Alyssa ends up coming to his and Banky’s apartment to find out where Holden was, even as Banky is left in the lurch with regards to their creative work Bluntman and Chronic, as well as their own friendship. Alyssa demands to know what Banky told Holden after he admits that he said something to him about her past. Suffice to say, she gets mad when she finds out, while Banky gets defensive.

Alyssa decides to go looking for Holden, actually concerned that he has had some kind of mental breakdown. Banky also goes with her and, reluctantly over a car trip start working together. Unlike Holden, she warns Banky that she will do more than tell him to “shut up” if he gets out of line. Banky tells her that the reason he dug into her past, to get “evidence” on her, was because he was protecting his friend: that he was afraid she was just using him as “a sexual phase” or some kind of game. Alyssa actually calls Banky out on the fact that he loves Holden and sees her as a threat.

But they do bond, and perhaps meet some weird characters along the way. At one point they realize that they could have actually been friends if this hadn’t gone down after they begin exchanging more stories. They realize they have a lot in common in addition to their bad experiences with women. At one point, they seem dangerously close to being intimate with each other, but they both go “Nah” at the same time. Banky says something about man-hating lesbians, and Alyssa counters him with misogynous (closeted or not) gay men. It’s Banky that admits he hates the fact he never saw Holden smile more than when he saw him with her. He realizes he hurt his childhood friend badly and, for the first time, actually starts to cry. It occurs to the both of them, in a poignant moment, that they love the same man.

Holden, Alyssa, and Banky

Alyssa also tells Banky that the reason she wants to find Holden is that she’s worried about him, but that if something like her past is enough to get him to leave her, he should do the opposite of being “chicken-shit” and make it clear: giving her closure. So to spoil the ending of this alternate universe “What If” story I’m never going to write, these two flawed but genuine human beings do locate Holden. He has been in the middle of nowhere, in a barnhouse: pretty much acting like J.D. Salinger, the creator of his namesake and working on a new comic. Chasing Amy is that comic: as he had seen Jay and Silent Bob before he left. He’s spent a while regretting having left, but by his logic he “needed some space.”

Holden’s peaceful yet sad Old Ben persona (see what I did there with “Ben”) is shattered as Alyssa brings her fury on him along with Banky. It’s been a while, so Holden doesn’t really know what to feel any more. Alyssa storms off. Holden tells Banky he feels bad about leaving their partnership in the lurch and tells him he’s done with Bluntman and Chronic: giving him his share of the intellectual property which he has prepared in writing and had prepared to mail to him. Banky takes it, and then tells Holden that Alyssa went through the fire to love him, and that he is making a mistake: that he remembers how he smiled at her. Banky tells Holden to go after her. And the story ends right there.

I would have called that story Finding Holden. But this is not my Twine. Instead, my Twine is called Finding Alyssa and I hope that you will enjoy it: for what it is.

Chasing Amy And Reviewing The Laurel Leaves

I wasn’t originally going to watch this film. In fact, my plan was to avoid it into the unforeseeable future. In the beginning, back in 1997 when Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy was first released, I just wasn’t interested. At the time my interest in comics and superheroes was waning and I was in the phase in my life before I went into any conventions, panels, geek communities, or had any relationships. Later, after I got back into comics and saw them for all the adult potential they could contain, I still didn’t watch this film because I’d heard about the messiness of the relationships between them and, at the time, I didn’t understand and I wasn’t interested in subtexts of other sexualities, geek subcultures, the minutiae of romantic comedy and failed relationships beyond the theoretical, and I felt safer in my own head.

Much later, after opening myself up to more life experiences, the reason I avoided Chasing Amy was out of fear. In retrospect, it was always out of fear. It’s only know that I’ve realized that by avoiding Chasing Amy that I’ve actually been running towards it. And tonight, for the first time, I decided to actively run towards what I can see of its heart.

If you don’t want Spoilers to a 1997 movie, please don’t read any further.

I think there are two reasons I kept away from this film. The first was that I knew how it was going to end. Knowing how a work is going to end before you experience it definitely affects how you might react to it.

And the second reason is that I knew its setting — at a convention amongst comics geeks and creators — would hit close to home. Holden and Banky’s introduction in signing their ridiculous superhero parody comic Bluntman and Chronic (modelled after the in-movie and in-Smith universe Jay and Silent Bob characters), with Holden’s high-brow intelligence and Banky’s sarcastic and hair-trigger irate temper — along with how they dealt with and understood their fandom — already threatened to draw me in. Even Hooper X and his ludicrously over-the-top Black Power White Man hating persona — to the point of claiming Darth Vader to be an icon for Black slavery and repression — got me to smile when I realized it was all a clever subversive act to keep up his image.

Then there is Alyssa Jones. She is the creator of what seems to be an even more subversive take on the Archie comics genre through the creation of Idiosyncratic Routine: a comic with what seems to be lesbian or queer oriented relationships story. I really appreciated some of the subtext here: that throughout the interactions in the beginning of the film towards the end we are seeing the difference between generic superhero comics and the personal stories of which they are capable of telling.

Idiosyncratic Routine

To be honest, I didn’t want to like anyone in this film. To be fair, it would have been worse when I was younger: back when I hated crudity and was taught to think it was wrong. Even now, the fact that all four characters had — at times — had superficial relationships with people. However, I also know there is a difference between casual talk at a bar and a character’s actions: as well as context.

The thing is, I can understand why each character does what they do and Kevin Smith takes pains to show us little details along the way. You can see Banky’s over-insistence that he isn’t gay, his homophobic comments, and his need to carry around an excessive amount of porn magazines as a major source of emotional compensation. He likes, at least his long-time homosocial friendship and creative partnership, with Holden and doesn’t want it disrupted in any way.

You can even understand Holden: at least in the beginning. Imagine being in a small bubble of society and only hearing about other things beyond it through spectacle and fiction. Then imagine you meet someone and you totally hit it off with them, or so you think — even getting invited to event by this person — only for them to begin making out with their partner right in front of you for an extended period of time. When I saw Holden sitting at that bar table with Banky, and watching — or trying not to watch Alyssa and her girlfriend of that time — I could see that for every time he told Banky to shut up, he was really venting his disappointment and discomfort: all the way to the point where he just wanted to straight out leave the bar.

Of course, there is Alyssa herself. As you get to know her, you realize she is a woman of some extremes. Sometimes, she genuinely seems to act like a very perceptive brat: knowing that she’s doing some shit-disturbing but entertaining herself in the process. And I say this with some fondness. She is witty, clever, and awkward in a way in which she can laugh at herself. At the same time, when she gets angry: she gets … angry. I’ll admit, Joey Lauren Adams’ voice has an extremely high-pitch and it can be off-putting: especially when drawing on the self-righteous fury of her character. But often, when she gets angry, it’s because Holden manages to trigger a place of hurt inside of her and she reacts accordingly.

But one thing I like about Alyssa is that even when she is an angry manic pixie girl, she still possesses enough self-consciousness to admit her faults and, honestly, has some painful moments of eloquence.

This is a woman who has spent a good portion of her life discovering who she is: experimenting with what she likes, who she relates to, and going to places that sometimes cause her pain. Unlike Holden and Banky, she’s a lot more aware of who she is and what she wants due to the struggles in getting there.

You have to figure Alyssa has gone through a lot. She experimented with her sexuality when she was younger and less mature. Boys took advantage of her and spread rumours and video tapes depicting her acts with them. By the time where Chasing Amy starts she has already dealt with having to come out of the closet and deal with her sexuality in college, fully identifying herself as a lesbian.

And then she and Holden meet each other.

Alyssa’s sexual orientation is not primarily where the tragedy begins in this dynamic. Imagine coming out of the closet: to yourself, to your family, and friends. You have a group of friends that orient their group and political identity around a particular sexual orientation. Then imagine meeting someone, a person, who challenges all of those preconceived notions. Holden, who seems to be a straight man, can’t begin to understand just what the implications of their attraction actually might mean for her. Alyssa could, and seemingly does, get exiled from her group of lesbian friends. And while I’m sure this doesn’t always happen, this phenomenon is definitely known to occur. In fact, what Alyssa seems to go through, at least in that one brief scene around the table with her friends, is reminiscent of works such as Gaming Pixie’s What’s In A Name? in which some gay-identified people consider bisexuality to be a fake designation: a cover for someone pretending to be gay but who is secretly straight.

It’s tempting to say that just as Banky’s internalized homophobia might be the result of repressed homosexual feelings towards Holden, Alyssa runs — and arguably succumbs — to the danger of dealing with some internalized and externalized biphobia. However, as I said Alyssa has done the work before and gradually accepts Holden as the person that she loves beyond sexual orientation, social structuring and despite — even because — of his messiness as a human being.

Holden, unfortunately, can’t seem to afford her the same courtesy. He has never had to deal with figuring out who he is to this regard. Moreover, he is still hung-up on power dynamics and hierarchy: on needing to feel equal to Alyssa in terms of experience. He ignores the fact that she loves him as an individual and not for the “prestige” of being “the first man” she’s slept with.

Chasing Amy Breakup Scene

One sad element about Holden is that there are points in the film where you can see him beginning to change. You see him calling out Banky on his homophobia and questioning just what kind of creative work and legacy he wants to undertake instead of the shallow superhero story of Bluntman and Chronic.

You see just all the time Holden and Alyssa spend together: even before they know they are developing romantic feelings for one another. Hell, there are points when Alyssa and Banky seem to get along. You’d think that she would get incredibly offended by Banky’s homophobic statements, but the way I see it to her they are a lot like Archie Bunker’s comments and she can at least respect the honesty of them if nothing else.

Alyssa and Banky

Certainly, Banky’s prejudices are a whole lot more open than Holden’s internalized ones: ones that he thinks he can overcome by virtue of being with Alyssa. Also, the characters themselves are crude and open about matters generally: though Holden himself due to his more reserved and conservative nature does this a lot less.

For me, Chasing Amy is less a romantic comedy and more of a tragedy: especially as you get this horrible mounting dread as the film moves towards its end. Holden just can’t shake off the taboos and power-structures in his head in time to save his relationships. In a horrible mangle, he tries to create a threesome between him, Banky, and Alyssa: after vehemently rejecting Alyssa for her sexual past with other men. This is a breakdown of communication and the terminal phase of a relationship gone dysfunctional. From my perspective, Alyssa should have told him about this past but, really, Holden should have been the one to ask her in a direct and respectful manner, outside of a hockey game, and with time put aside. Of course, Holden also should have borne in mind that many of the qualities he admires in Alyssa comes from all the experiences, mistakes, and work that she had undertaken.

Banky could have looked at himself and realized his feelings for Holden: or at least communicated just why Alyssa bothered him so much. I really noticed that the three of them could have easily been friends if nothing else.

Holden, Alyssa, and Banky

And then there is the fascinating element of Alyssa herself. When I was watching this spectacle unravel and she was explaining to Holden just why it wouldn’t work, I realized that Alyssa wasn’t just talking about the threesomes and play that she had done in the past. Even in her lesbian relationships, I strongly suspect she and previous partners attempted polyamory: or at least some kind of non-monogamy. As she states, there are many permutations of how it might not work out, and Alyssa herself saw those earlier relationships as experiments that she went through before finding what and who she wanted.

Alyssa, at least at this point, is monogamous and wants to be so with Holden. But Holden’s arrogance and insecurity poisons and destroys what they had: or could have had. Certainly, Holden’s fever-logic idea of creating a threesome to eliminate insecurities would, by Alyssa’s own words, have only made things worse. Perhaps with time, effort, patience, and actual talking — maybe even experimentation on Holden’s part and Alyssa’s understanding — all of this could have been salvaged. Instead, Holden loses Alyssa and Banky. Due to his own actions, he is essentially left with nothing.

The end of the film reminds me of the ancient Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo. The god Apollo seeks the naiad Daphne and she is not interested in his romantic overtures. He ends up pursuing her: chasing her to the point where she asks her river god father to change her into a tree to escape the god. Daphne became the first laurel tree. Apollo, in his grief, takes on her laurel leaves as his new crown. Laurel leaf crowns were awarded to ancient Greek athletes and victorious Roman warriors: perhaps reminding them of that kernel of defeat and loss at the centre of triumph.

Apollo and Daphne

Silent Bob tells Holden the story about a girl he knew named Amy who, because of her previous experience with multiple men, he couldn’t accept: leaving her and realizing, only too late, that she loved him just for who he was. Hence we have the title of the film: Chasing Amy.

A person is not an ideal even if they can, by their presence and loss, inspire creation. Holden ends up creating a new, personal comic sharing the title of the film. He gives a copy to Alyssa a year after their relationship ended. It is a comic book whose pages are laurel leaves and whose panels are lost moments of time. It is made up of the beauty, maturity, and understanding that he gained after losing the woman he loved by chasing an impossible ideal and, in doing so, chased away the flawed, vulnerable, and ultimately human person that she is.

And Alyssa? She ends up dating women again and doesn’t even acknowledge what Holden was to her newest partner. Even though he still clearly means much to her, he is part of her past now: the same past that she hid from him and so many others in order to psychologically protect herself. I’m even tempted to say, in a very less than qualified way, that she buries down what might have been a delving into bisexuality to embrace the relatively easier notion of homosexuality once more, leaving us with perhaps an example of bisexual self-erasure. Or, again sexuality doesn’t come into it. This was just about people relating to one another: and failing.

I am not in the LGBTQ spectrum and I know this film has been written about many times and probably in better ways, so hopefully you’ll understand when I say that I hope you take everything I’ve written with a grain of salt. After seeing the movie, I kind of wish that we could see another one: not from Holden’s perspective in gaining his laurel leaves, but Alyssa’s, or Amy’s — or even Daphne’s — defiance of that trope.

Chasing Amy Comic Cover

As such I hope it goes without saying that women, obviously, do not exist so that they can “be lost” by men in order to gain them a certain level of maturity and humility. But there is a trope here — a Western and Classic idea in which love is a “forbidden knowledge” that you must fall into, and that only through loss can you begin to understand who you are — and it is tragic in that it exists at all. The truth is, I didn’t want to like Chasing Amy: a personal enlightenment tragedy wearing the layers of romance, comedy, geekdom, comics arts and meta-fiction that it is. And I realize the reason I was so afraid of it was because there were many times in my life that I almost became Holden. Sometimes I’m afraid it still might happen.

Fear of loss is reason is why I didn’t want to get attached to the characters: to become affected by their loss and their pain of loss. But by not becoming attached to something, you attempt to hold off relating to it — and by not relating to it you can let an opportunity pass you by, develop a dysfunctional relationship with it, or let a part of yourself become mangled and ruined before it can grow. And I can’t do that any more.

I’d like to think that, in watching Chasing Amy I took a chance and looked at the forces that shaped it. As I have attempted to do in my own relationships, I accepted the experiences it had — and has with others — and realized that they only made it all the richer for me to learn from and relate to in my own right.