Connecting the Doughnuts: Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking

Even though I’m not a musician, or even a complete music literate (whatever that ultimately means), I had been looking forward to Amanda Palmer’s first book for quite some time. And now that I finally finished reading it a few days ago, I’m now in a place where I can actually say something about it.

Amanda Palmer

It wasn’t easy and, to some extent, it’s still very challenging. The Art of Asking is something like what might happen if you take a blender, to borrow one of Amanda’s creative sayings, put it on a low setting, and introduce autobiographical anecdotes, self-help philosophy, social media excerpts, a few literary quotes, and of course musical lyrics, to the blade and mix. Chronological events are sometimes parallel with each other in the narrative, but these instances are often separated by philosophical musings and personal moments.

Whatever else, The Art of Asking is, it’s definitely not an ordinary book: as if something that’s a fusion of the creative and the personal can ever be ordinary.

I’ll also admit that it took me a while to get into the book, and sometimes I had trouble actually staying inside it. I mean, I knew that — even based on the title — that Amanda’s book would have some significant roots in her TED Talk of the same name, but it is both fascinating and sometimes off-putting to consider that there is a fair amount of her book that you can already find to some extent in her Blog and even in her introduction to Anthony Martignetti’s Lunatic Heroes.

The intertextuality, the way her book relates to the narratives and circumstances behind Anthony’s Lunatic Heroes and Beloved Demons, as well as to Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane really does intrigue me and it puts some elements into perspective. I’d argue that The Art of Asking has details that can give you something of a holistic approach to looking at all four narratives upon risk of falling into the authorial fallacy: of looking at the people behind the works instead of the works themselves on their own merits.

I mean, it’s no secret that Amanda encouraged Anthony to hone and publish his personal stories — many of which he’d already told her before during their time together — and that Neil’s Ocean was the result of a story that he actually wanted to tell her while she was in the middle of her own solitary creative struggles. When you look at how those narratives talk to each other, like the people that made them and talked to each other in turn, The Art of Asking is almost something of a bridge between three different and creative spaces. It is my opinion that they all belong together.

The downside was that sometimes these references felt like filler. I think what really confused me was something that Amanda said which, ironically, I truly appreciated. It was a reference to another part of her creative process. After a fascinating look at different types of creative processes from her perspective, Amanda mentions that to create something is to “connect the dots” between things that you gather or experience. This, for me, pretty much sums up how creativity happens. As a creator, you take things that don’t seem to relate to each on the surface and you find or make connections between these elements. This thought particularly jived with me.

Unfortunately, at least from my perspective as a reader, I couldn’t always see how Amanda connected the dots of her ideas and anecdotes or even her musical lyric interludes within the structure of The Art of Asking itself. Perhaps I just don’t have a good eye for it, or for that matter even a good ear. Maybe, as Amanda herself isn’t generally a book writer — this being her first one — she writes prose much in the way her mind generates rhythm and lyric: through music. This is just a thought that I’m throwing out there myself. However, maybe the narrative is a lot like Amanda herself in that her art and her performance seems to be a 24/7 deal where you cannot particularly separate them: even in another medium.

The Art of Asking, to me, felt like a balancing act: much like the way I reacted to it. The tone of it got to me sometimes. On one hand it sometimes felt like it was rather self-involved, but on the other hand it is to some extent a memoir and of course Amanda would be talking about her experiences and her feelings. At times I felt a self-help vibe from the book and I had a personal reaction to whenever Amanda would talk about giving herself to trust and love as, in my own experience, most people who expose surrendering themselves to absolute abstracts of benevolence, revolution, peace, and love often want something from you and are anything but the ideals that they claim to represent. Something about Koolaid comes to mind.

Then again, these very sentiments on Amanda’s part are tied into some considerably shrewd business and people sense. The Art of Asking specifically outlines how love and trust are relational. What I mean is that by opening yourself up to other people, by interacting with them, by actually relating to them as fellow human beings you create a bond — at least on some level — and they will become more willing to actually help you. Amanda very correctly identifies this precept in why some crowdfunding campaigns excel and why others fail completely.

In asking for help without shame and taking what is offered you without forced expectations or, again, humiliation, you are attempting to embrace a different mindset. I can personally respect and even understand this idea. Amanda even applies it well to just why her former label and the music industry are simply failing to understand their customers: as they only relate to people as customers, artists as commodities, and not as people.

Really, what I learned from this as a potential crowdfunder artist myself, is that I have a long way to go — in building relationships of some kind with my readers, in networking, and in relating to others — before I can even begin to approach the place where others can support me: and where I can provide consistent content for their support. It’s actually very humbling, and sometimes discouraging as I am not a natural extrovert and I don’t have access to the support that I need to get there, or a coherent and stable vision to attract others. Yet.

In this sense, it’s not about connecting the dots per see.  It isn’t even about giving out “the flower,” a metaphor and literal fact from Amanda’s time as a living bride statue in her early busking years that can be accepted or rejected in an attempt at staring someone in the eye and relating to them.

To me, it’s about doughnuts.

In late November 2014, I actually attended the last part of Amanda’s Book Circus Tour in Toronto. As we waited in line outside of Lee’s Palace, a volunteer kept handing out Timbits: small, round, balls of assorted doughnuts. During the event itself Amanda actually read us a part of her book in which apparently David Thoreau, during the time he wrote Walden, accepted free food from his family as help in completing his work. And Eric Alper, Amanda’s guest and interviewer bought us all tons of Timbits to hit home the point that it is okay to “Take the doughnuts.”

The way I ultimately see it, The Art of Asking is a collection of Timbits: a collection of little doughnuts of many kinds. Some might prefer specific flavours of Timbit, or all of them, or none at all. Yet all of them are doughnuts and all of them are offered to the reader.

As for me, I took my favourite doughnuts from Amanda. Some of them were crisp and instrumental. Some were multiple flavours that branched into different places, that reminded me of other things, and gave me insight about my favourite people behind the scenes. I know I ate one or two confections that Amanda had never offered before outside of her book: and the flavours hit me hard and without mercy: that were real. At least one was a moment that touched me to the core.

But all of them, even the ones I don’t always like or require an acquired taste, are in the same box of words: a bread and circuses on paper thanking everyone that it asks.

To The Room: You Fail At What You Pretend To Be … And That’s Ok

So let me just say, right now, that I watched Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. In fact, not only did I watch The Room, but I read Greg Sestero’s The Disaster Artist even before seeing the film which, I’ve been told, is highly irregular in the scheme of things.

A long time ago, I read Thomas Mann’s “Tonio Kröger.” And there is this one scene in that story that never left my mind. The aforementioned protagonist is watching his classmates dance. They are blond-haired, blue-eyed, and uniform. The dancers do not pay as much attention to why or how they dance, so much as they are just good at performing this communal act. Meanwhile, dark-haired Tonio knows that he can’t dance as they do, but he actually observes and understands their dancing far better than many of them ever can.

And then, there is the character of the dark-haired girl. She, unlike Tonio, doesn’t understand — or perhaps want to understand — that she doesn’t fit into the synchronous dance of her peers. Still, she continues to dance with them. She dances with them while stumbling around awkwardly, and even physically hurting herself. Her movements are not at all in unity with the other dancers and she stands out from them no matter how much she wants to fit in.

Now consider that someone like Thomas Mann’s dark-haired girl knows, deep down, that they’re different and just thinks that more intensity will make up for it: more passion, more resources, and more random elements. Aside from the fact that someone should definitely, if they haven’t already, write a story from the perspective of the dark-haired girl, I think you can see where I’m going with this comparison with regards to The Room.

I’m not going to go into the many flaws of this film because many more qualified people have gone to great lengths to describe them all. But what I think is really intriguing here, especially since I read The Disaster Artist first, is how you can arguably state that this is the closest thing I’ve had to seeing the inside of another person’s mind on film.

So here is my own tentative reading of The Room.

When I watched The Room I thought of a mind that wants to accept reality at face value: both with regards to its immediate environment and its cultural surroundings. It searches for all the tropes, all the archetypes and stereotypes: all of the human stories. In particular, it looks at American culture: at the American Dream of the frontier and wide open spaces, a successful career, romantic love and marriage, friendship, family, and relations between the genders verses a cramped psychological place of disappointment and dysfunction. In particular, it tried to go into that place of love and tragedy to create something of a … narrative.

This attempt to create connection between these elements fails. There is a dissonance underlying all of this mind’s attempts. You see it in the way that words and sounds are out of sync with the actor’s mouths: particularly those of the protagonist Johnny. The film opens up with an almost pastoral theme amid a distant sunny splendour that never seems to completely reach the characters except for those rare moments of sublime silliness between them. Love and sex is accompanied by music that sounds suspiciously like a stereotypically tacky and kitsche soft-core porn soundtrack: while ending off the film after the final death.

And sex and death are seen as awkward, dissociative things. Bodies never really quite find themselves in the right places: and even the death at the end is a long time in coming. It’s like a mind and perspective that just can’t link the ideas, emotions, and people together no matter how badly it seems to want to do so. You can see it even in how the actors behind the characters, and how the characters themselves want to reveal their truths and themselves. They’re trapped in the marble of ideas and meshed together: only connecting intermittently.

The parts and ingredients are all there: even if it seems like the mind of this movie is looking out at its world from a mishmash of extra body parts. It’s like a soufflé that didn’t rise, or a Frankenstein creature that never galvanized into life. And I think it is a horror story in how causality and even space and time are never really consistent, with the strangeness of the roof exit and the unexplained additions and disappearances of different characters.

At the same time, I also look at The Room as something of a tragedy: of realizing that there is a mind that so desperately wants to hold onto the conventions of its surroundings that it ends up revealing their flaws. In an attempt to reveal a truth through non-sequiturs– of pathways leading nowhere — it unintentionally and accidentally satirizes and parodies what it attempts to love and glorify: be it American culture, the Dream, human relationships, humanity, life, and itself. And yet, even in all of this, there are moments of sublime ridiculousness — in the form of football throwing for instance — that are almost peaceful and serene in the way that the characters play with each as though they are children. Those are perhaps some of the most wistful, surreal, and innocent segments of this entire film: this strange cinematic reality.

The writers David Gilmour and C. Anthony Martignetti both seem to agree that our minds play our lives, desires, and pain within the theatres of our mind’s eyes. And here, in Tommy Wiseau’s film, we are looking into one such theatre. And this mindscape, this inner theatre, this place is called The Room. Certainly, after reading The Disaster Artist the movie’s scenes with Johnny talking about how he met Lisa, and Lisa explaining how Johnny takes care of Denny take on a whole other connotation.

I’m not going to lie: The Room, and The Disaster Artist exposed me to something of a paradox from which my brain is still attempting to recover. The experiences I witnessed and read about were painful, hilarious, sometimes depressing, and just outright puzzling at times. But all of it was a fine study in just how someone creates their own mythos: a creative process that seems to have translated over to Tommy Wiseau’s sitcom project The Neighbors. Certainly, there is at least a consistency in how Tommy Wiseau seems to act and work if you are interested in looking at his AV Club Interview: and I can’t help but wonder what would happen if he had ever met the former Torontonian bicycle shop owner Igor Kenk with his own unique world-view. Would they get along, or would the universe implode?

But when this is all said and done, I think The Room is its own person: a mindset that fails — spectacularly, beautifully — at being what it pretends: namely, at what it thinks is normalcy. And that’s okay. Here, at Mythic Bios, I absolutely adore being able to examine another form of personal reality. In fact, I’d like to think if The Room were an incarnated personality it’d be what would happen if the dark-haired female character from Thomas Mann’s “Tonio Kröger” tried to dance with our contemporary reality: except she would be a blonde and she insists on being what she pretends to be instead of who she really is: and what I think is an even greater tragedy. She attempts to embrace what she thinks is supposed to be normal yet she can never be so by her very nature.

And her name would be Lisa. Because, even after watching you Lisa, you are tearing me apart.

The Room

Of Serpents and Foxes

Hello again everyone. I’ve been away, and busy, for a change but I want to start writing again on Mythic Bios at least once a week as I originally planned. I didn’t actually feel like writing anything until I got another Project of mine finished, but I feel the need to you updated on some of the things that I’m doing and to keep a record of some of my work as well.

It’s been tough for me this past while. I’ve had this Twine idea in my mind for some time and it was only at this year’s Toronto Global Game Jam that I’d been able to even start on it beyond the modest notes I’d researched and taken.

Unlike last year, I didn’t force myself to stay up until twelve or two in the afternoon to finish off my game. Aside from the fact that I had a headache during the Jam, even when I was better I realized that rushing through it and making something out of pure exhaustion would only give me sloppy work and very little to show for it: never mind the fact that it wouldn’t have even been a working narrative.

I’d gotten as far as creating an entry for it on the Global Game Jam site. At the moment, my Twine creation is called The Serpent and The Fox. I spent a whole night trying to think up a good abstract summary and a title for my creation in progress. Unfortunately, the late first night of the Jam cost me in stamina: to the point where I couldn’t even create an outline.

In the end, though, it was just as well. Most of my creative works each have their own unique processes and this one didn’t really want a pre-existing outline. Rather, it wants to use the fragments I’ve written down or have in my mind and flesh itself out from there. However, what’s really interesting about this interactive narrative is that it may well be the most structured Twine game that I’ve made to date.

Each part of my story is going to be an interlinking series of haiku: a poetic structure of five syllables, then seven on the next line, and five on the last. Of course, for the sake of storytelling — and sanity on my part — they are probably not all traditional haiku. They don’t all deal with descriptions of nature, and while I attempt to capture emotion in them, sometimes I need to use them to detail other matters. And while haiku apparently aren’t supposed to utilize metaphors, I might have to break those rules: if only to make them part of a metaphorical structure themselves. And while I will be using the five/seven/five schema when I can, I will vary up how many lines I use in each section and take essential creative liberties.

This brief discussion of poetic structure aside (and years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of talking about this, never mind finding it remotely interesting), I am particularly focusing on the perspective of the story. I can tell you right now that my story seems to start from a third person perspective, but depending on the choices that you make as a reader — on where and what character you click on — this will change.

What I am pondering at the moment is whether to follow the usual Twine and interactive choose your own adventure tradition of the second-person perspective, or go right into the first-person.

If I make it first-person, then you can see into the minds of the characters themselves even as you can choose their actions. However, ironically enough the perspective of “I” can be alienating for a reader: it’s just another divide between them and the character even if it might provide more insight. One of the texts that inspired me to make this Twine uses the first-person and I can see its strengths in that.

On the other hand, the second-person flat out, through its use of “you” makes you — the reader — into the character. It places you into their mind and body. When you make the choices that the game provides you with, you could feel a greater relation to that character. But then there is the issue of what happens when the character feels something and narrative attempts to claim that you are feeling it or thinking it too.

Either way, there is going to be some audacity involved. Another issue is that I wonder if I can get the different character perspectives to intersect again at some point and become unified depending on what the reader-player chooses: without being totally boring and repeating myself. And would the second-person, would “you” be able to relate to another character and feel the beginnings of some kind of relationship compared to whether or not you are an “I.”

I will have to find a healthy medium and keep exploring this issue further. I was reluctant to talk about this, link my entry to Mythic Bios, or even mention the name of a work that isn’t finished yet. I generally like to either link to finished works or just hint on the unfinished. It’s been weighing on my brain for a little while and taking up a good portion of its memory (I am also a less than closeted perfectionist).

Me and my Head

 

But it’s been a while and I thought you’d find this digression interesting in some way.

I hope I will be able to continue and finish this. I want to see how people react to it and I want to move on with my writing and other plans. I hope the world is treating you all reasonably. Hopefully I’ll be back next week. Until next time.

On A Half-Written Page

For those of you who don’t follow me on GeekPr0n or know me, surprise: I’m still alive.

This may well be the first and last post I make for this December and before another year takes us. I remember when I used to write so much on here. I used to write a post on Mythic Bios every day, and then every day, and then every two days, one day, and now occasionally. I suppose what I didn’t realize, at the time I started this, was as I began writing more I would have less time to Blog than I once did.

At the very least this has not been the result of a creative block or major depression. I have been busy this past while. I’m not even going to try to catch up on what I’ve been doing since my last post because so many things have happened.

I think what I really wanted to write about this time around was something about writing and life: as I’ve not done in a while. I’ve been working on a long-term project this past while that has taken a lot of time, energy, and concentration on my part. I made good progress on it for a while. I planned to have it finished before seeing my girlfriend for Thanksgiving.

Of course, that didn’t happen.

Instead, after dealing with writing other articles, interviews, and life stuff I had to put it aside and prepare to recharge for a while: but not before going to my first Amanda Palmer Book Circus when she came to Toronto. I still haven’t had the time to read her Art of Asking. That is how busy and preoccupied I have been.

So I came back from a well-deserved hiatus to my assignment only to get stuck. Some writers might tell you that the worst thing in the world, aside from deadlines, is staring at a blank page and having nothing come to you. Well, I’m here to tell you that this is not the worst that can happen.

From my experience, be that as it may, the worst thing that can happen to a writer is looking a half-completed work of theirs and totally having lost their train of thought, while knowing how the story continues in their head, but fighting the details to get it all down. It is downright infuriating and it’s made all the worse when you just want to get it out of your system, and move on with your life.

Sometimes you’ll even begin to develop some performance anxiety and avoid looking at it. It will sit there in the back of your mind, but you are torn between wanting the fucker done, and despairing that you will not do it well enough. Procrastination becomes your writerly alcohol or drugs: that is, if you don’t like alcohol or drugs already.

A little while ago, I finally managed to get my story to where I needed it to go. It’s not perfect but now I feel the excitement again: and the passion and momentum to keep pushing forward. There will be editing and formatting and such to keep in mind, but those are secondary concerns at the moment: as I now feel that this will happen.

I think that what I’m trying to say is that, because a year where some promises and potential breaks didn’t pan out, where I sometimes wonder what I’m doing with my life and if I will get anything out of it, that — right now — I don’t feel like a fucking failure. 🙂 And I’d like to say that’s pretty something.

I’ve also been getting used to going outside again without feeling a whole lot of tension: though it will take some time. I’ve decided that Tuesdays are now my Suspect Video days with alternating Library days as well: to keep my mind fresh with films, books, and comics so that I don’t go completely insane. And who knows, I might even learn how to socialize again and function outdoors without too much anxiety after all this time.

Anyway, I hope that the next time I see you all in Mythic Bios will be when I have finished my work and I get to finally work on something new.

Until then the writing: it continues.

This is Halloween

This will be the first of two posts that you will see today.

I spent a lot of weeks before and during Halloween differently. When I was a child I would be inundated with television specials, movies, school events, and trick-or-treating. As an adolescent, I spent some time with my group of friends. In my early adulthood I spent a lot of it by myself trying to remember how happy I used to be and imagining all the other people who were having fun that I did not. I spent the rest of my young adulthood, alternatively, with friends and sometimes on my own.

I almost went to a Halloween party last year but I didn’t. I was too depressed and I did what I often do in that state: sleep and work.

This past while I’ve been doing something different for Halloween. Instead of wandering around outside at night in the dark aimlessly, or watching television, or hanging out with friends and lovers I have been busy.

I have been busy.

Last week or so, I covered six films in the 2014 Toronto After Dark for GEEKPR0N. I even covered an extra day, a Wednesday, so I could watch one film that was recommended to me. Those of you that read this Blog or my work at GEEKPR0N already know about this. I wrote reviews on The Drownsman, Wolves, Late Phases, Wyrmwood, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and Why Horror?

And it was difficult. There were many times I thought I could just watch the films, then go straight home, and write something out that night. But even though I got wiped out, it was totally worth it. The irony is that once, long ago, I was told that I should write reviews for movies — or movies like these — and I didn’t think I was qualified to do so. It’s only in relatively recent times that I’ve realized that the only way to be qualified to do anything is to make yourself so, and start to believe it.

I got some other things published in honour of Halloween as well. Not only did I write a nice short article on the end of Kris Straub’s Broodhollow Book Two, but I got to examine and see just how a creepypasta created by Eric Heisserer the subreddit no/sleep truly lures readers into fear and trepidation. If you have read my articles on creepypastas, you know something of what you might be in for when you read this particular piece of mine.

But I think there is one achievement in particular that I can really be proud of mentioning. Do you recall, that week or so ago before I went off the Mythic Bios grid again, that I was doing another interview: this one live and in-person? Well, with the help and guidance of GEEKPR0N and Toronto After Dark organization … the following actually occurred.

David Hayter Fav and Retweet

Not only did David Hayter, the screen writer of the first two X-Men films and Watchmen as well as the voice of Solid Snake favourite and retweet my review of his movie Wolves I also got to interview him before Werewolf Night at the Toronto After Dark.

You can find my interview with David Hayter right here.

So that has been my time leading up to Halloween so far. The rest of what I intend to do, however, is as follows. Later this evening I am going to the Silver Snail Halloween Party: the same one I didn’t end up attending last year. I don’t have a costume idea as of yet and I’m having some difficulty finding make-up after my last misadventure but I’m going and to anyone living in Toronto or nearby, I hope that you will join me. It’s organized by GEEKPR0N, in part, and it makes some pretty awesome parties and I don’t intend to miss this one this time around.

The next day I’m going to the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery to pay a visit to Drawing For Deb: In Support of Epilepsy Toronto. There will be signings and a 12-Hour Comics Marathon: Special Edition there to raise money to combat epilepsy which claimed the life of Debra Jane Shelly: a well-known friend of the comics community and someone that I only began to know when I first started coming to the Lounge. She was an awesome person and there will be some good people there. I’ve realized long ago that I am just not an artist with pictures, so I will be attending to pay my respects and I may not be there the entire day.

And then the next day I will be going to Horror-Rama: an all-horror convention where I want to explore and particularly meet Jovanka Vuckovic: the brilliant upcoming director of the Jacqueline Ess film adaptation.

Then somewhere, somehow I will catch up with my Doctor Who recaps and next week get back to my fiction writing and probably sleep for a few centuries as I am bloody exhausted.

So this is both what I have been doing, and what I am going to do. It’s funny. When I was reviewing Why Horror? I started thinking about just how it is effective. When I was a child I read many abridged versions of horror stories, listened to and read written down folktales and urban myths. And I would spend time in the now-defunct Hollywood Movies store reading the backs of horror film VHS tapes. I would attempt to avoid watching them, scared of being caught in the web of their details and becoming committed, but so very fascinated with what I might find.

Not much has changed. I think the reason that horror is so fascinating is the fact that when you look at all the gore, the grisliness, and the uncanny you see what you are not and you also get to see a bit of what you are. You are ultimately safe and in sensible surroundings, or so you think, and it gives you a rush of life — of vitality — in the autumn.

That’s why some people have sex after watching horror. That’s why some people have an urge to create stories and study mythologies after watching horror. That’s why people gather around their friends and celebrate their grisly façades: the orange light in the darkness. That’s ultimately why I’m rambling right now.

I’ve spent my life fascinated by, and avoiding life. But it lures you in. It is the ultimate horror but it is also a spectacle, and best experienced in good company. I hope that, today in sharing all of this with you, that I got to be the latter.

Happy Halloween, my friends.

Interviews and More Writing

I’m still doing my writing, but I just thought I’d go into a little more detail about what I was talking about in my last post.

If you remember I talked about an interview I did for GEEKPR0N. That interview was actually with Larry Wilson: the co-writer and co-producer of Beetlejuice, The Addams Family, and the writer and director of Tales From the Crypt for six seasons. Our interview centred around his current project the web series Cindy: a twenty-first century retelling of Cinderella with elements of Reality TV parody, dark humour, and just plain weirdness.

To be honest, I never dreamed that I would be talking to one of the people integral in creating a large feature of my childhood. I first got to know Beetlejuice through the cartoons and it goes without saying that while I knew about The Addams Family before the film, I recall spending a recess in the corner of my elementary school reading its novelization. And I’m not even going into the time where I would to sneak up late and watch some Tales From the Crypt on Fox.

And I will tell you right now that if I had the money and even basic screenwriting experience, I would definitely take up Larry’s script consultation reward. I honestly hope that if I can’t, someone else does.

I’ve also written a little something for Clive Barker. Yes: that’s right. You read that correctly. Basically he has put a challenge out there to write a story for an image he painted and posted on Deviantart. I will link to the image and I’ll post what I wrote here: because one requirement was placing the narrative in the Comments section.

ON WHOSE DREAMS

They built cities to keep them out.

People will tell you all manner of more pragmatic reasons for the creation of cities. They will mention the intersection of culture and trade, of the need for propaganda art to cow enemies and citizens alike, of a place to better house the billions of human beings being born every day.

But some will tell you something else. They’ll inform you, secretly where they think no one else can hear, that all of that art and architecture, the arrangement of the paths, streets, and buildings, and even the placement of certain homes and peoples were arranged as a pattern: to ward them off.

Yet ultimately it is the enclosures that are the thing.

They are no new innovation. It’s well known that ancient humans and their predecessors would hide in their caves during the night after saying farewell to their loved ones, their friends, and their enemies. And even now they would like to forget the howling outside, the scraping against the rock walls and their paintings of animal blood,  the hunger deeper than the tunnels in which they hid and the pleading: to be accepted back among their people.

However, all of them are wrong. They remember it all wrong. Cities weren’t made for the living to hide and hoard their food against the seasons and the predators. The lost weren’t put outside to roam around for eternity. No. The tribes often placed their lost in their homes: sealing them up and painstakingly maintaining them. They would bring them food, tools, and the results of trade. Over time they bargained with them, prayed to them … worshipped their memory and what yet remained.

Caves like wombs became camps. Camps became villages. Villages towns and towns cities. The monuments grew higher each day: growing from the foundation of countless generations and those that tended their ground: which they still do to this very day.

So now do you understand? Do you know why sometimes you feel so tired: so drained? Even as the symbols lengthen like shadows into the sky and expand across the land, nothing truly changes. It is amazing how, simultaneously, you are cramped and alone: like you are the one living in the coffin. You are the one that’s trapped here.

No. Cities were not built to keep them out, but to keep them in.

For cities are not built for the living, but for the dead: in which everything within truly belongs.

So to say I’ve been busy would be something of an understatement. I’ve already told you about the fact that I’m going to be covering the Toronto After Dark. I actually tried to do this last year with Mythic Bios and for my efforts I got an invitation to view and write a review of their opening night. This time, however, I’m attending on behalf of GEEKPR0N. Expect to see me there for the Sunday and Thursday showings.

And I am going to be interviewing someone else. Again, I’m not going to go into any details as of yet but I will say that it will be my first in-person interview ever and I’m both cautious and excited over that prospect.

I remember once being the person that never even dreamed of having these opportunities or being this person as immersed in geek culture as I am now: even when people encouraged me to do so. And well … here we are.

Don’t worry. I will take time to peer in here and update all of you. I just thought you’d like to know about this. And please, read my articles and tell me what you think. It means a lot to me. Yet again, take care everyone. 🙂

Writing Time Again: And More To Come

Hello everyone. I’m glad I got to spoil you with two articles last week, but this will probably be an exception and not the rule. Still, for a while there it felt almost like old times and it was all creative writing: as I obviously have Doctor Who on the brain.

Basically I am going into writing and deadline mode again. So I am going to be focusing a lot of my energies on my current assignment and, when it’s done in some way or form, I’ll be back in force. But before I go, let me tell you a little bit about what has been happening with me so far.

Very soon you are going to be seeing a lot of GeekPr0n articles. In fact, you already have in some ways. Cyan Worlds even retweeted my article on their plans to make a Myst television series. Myst was prevalent in a lot of my young adulthood and there is something very full circle about being recognized by its creators: especially as it is an article about worlds — Ages — linked to by Writing.

But that all said and done, it’s the season of Halloween and I found a lot of current news to talk about. As the zombies moan, spread the love and you know where to follow me.

There are two things of note that I’d like to mention, though, to this regard. First, I had an important interview with someone who has informed many a geeky childhood and is currently doing some good work. The second thing I’d like to mention is that I will be covering some of the upcoming Toronto After Dark for GeekPr0n.

And it’s funny. For years I had nowhere to go and nothing to for Halloween night proper and now I have two events around that time which I am going to attend. I’m excited and I feel different these days. There is still a lot I have to deal with but, and I think this has been happening for a while, I am not the same person that I used to be.

It’s hard to explain and it doesn’t involve spiritual or alien possession, cloning, mutations, or the dark side of the Force as far as I know. I’ve been producing words like a fiend and even though I didn’t get to undertake my Twine projects like I planned, I still haven’t ruled them out and they will be in my thoughts for the future.

In the meantime, I have some other writing to do and I hope to see you all soon and well. Once again, take care everyone. You are all awesome.

My Last Geeky Weekend

My last weekend did not go as expected.

There’s an understatement for you. I knew that Fan Expo was happening and I was going to avoid it. I had some bad experiences with it the previous year (in the form of getting a prepaid ticket for the last day, getting lost, and not getting a straight answer of where to go: even from the volunteers). It got me so angry that not only did I write to the previous managers of the event, but I vowed to personally boycott them. It was a sad decision: as I know people who go to it that I rarely ever see.

My original plan was go to GeekPr0n’s Cosplay Ball Friday evening and the next day go to the Silver Snail Black Canary Espresso Bar to meet my friend John, who was coming in from Michigan, for their Midnight Madness sale. In this way, I would avoid the lines, the confusion and be able to take my time at things: while possibly meeting my friends regardless.

But as I said, things did not go as planned.

First let’s start with the GeekPr0n Cosplay Ball. I left late that evening and I hadn’t eaten anything. After nearly getting lost, though not nearly as badly as I used to get because fuck geography, I found a Subway store nearby, only to have less than a half an hour to eat and get out. My original plan was to eat and then put on my make-up: instead of walking through suburban Thornhill, riding the TTC system all in pseudo-goth, and messing up my make-up by eating.

Instead, I was forced to go to a nearby Tim Hortons and do a rush job in the bathroom. Here is a lesson to making yourself up like the Crow. Number One: don’t rush it. Especially if you haven’t put on your own make-up in a few years. And Number Two: remember that putting black make-up over white dilutes it.

And you end up resembling something like this.

DSC00117

So after I left the Tim Hortons as a combination Crow and Kiss Halloween experiment, I got into the Mod Club: where we were having the event and due to my excellent sense of timing I missed a lot of things.

A lot of things.

It actually makes my heart hurt a bit to realize just what I missed. And you can find all of that at GeekPr0n, if you’d like. I’m not in any of those pictures because, yeah, I was late and it’s probably just as well. Still, I got some dancing in and met a few people. Our magazine manager actually got me a drink and I felt bad that I don’t really drink, but I definitely appreciated the sentiment and I still do. After helping pack up some stuff, I walked all the way to College and Spadina from the Mod where I formally said goodbye to the physical resting place of the Neutral Lounge that once meant so much to me.

DSC00118

It’s amazing how people treat you differently when you are wearing a costume. Most Torontonians ignored me, but I got a few jeers (there was one guy at the club that was always dancing near me and patting me on the shoulder and what-not because, you know, men always don’t mind physical contact apparently) and even some appreciation. Sometimes I don’t know whether someone is complimenting me or making a joke at my expense in the form of a compliment. I guess that says a lot about my early life with my peers. But on the bus ride home some giggling young ladies were sitting around and one wanted to take her picture with me. And I thought to myself: so that is how my cosplaying friends feel. It was a pretty cool feeling.

So after a late night walking back and talking with a friend of mine on the phone all the way home, I went to sleep extremely late and planned to slum to the Espresso Bar later in the evening the following day.

All right. Now let’s talk about the rest of that weekend.

So my friend John had this cockamame plan to get into Fan Expo and buy tickets on the busiest day of the event: Saturday. I told him good fucking luck, after trying to make him see the error of this insanity, and quite honestly waited for the messages of horror to come.

The following Saturday I woke up towards two and got a Facebook message from John saying he was heading out. All right. Again, good luck to him. I felt a little disappointment as I knew he was going to be meeting some of our friends, but I made my own plan and I was going to stick with it.

John messages me some minutes later telling me that he’s “here.”

“You’re downtown now?” I asked him.

“Nope. I’m on your driveway.”

My jaw dropped and I have to admit, I swore a lot. I asked him what he was doing here as I told him about my plan and he said he just thought it would be convenient if he drove me to the Snail or to Dundas and we could meet up later. Bear in mind: I was still in bed and I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. But since John was already here, I decided “Fuck it, I’m going downtown.”

As we were going downtown, we decided to try for the Expo and get tickets for Sunday. Instead, we got tickets for that day and Sunday. You know, a part of me almost thinks that this entire thing was planned. I mean, John did tell our friends that he was going to try to get me down there, but for god’s sakes this was ridiculous.

So we ended up walking around the south building and eventually we met up with my friend Angela O’Hara was cosplaying Ariel: complete with a combing fork. We looked at drawings, sketches, and then comics. We met some more people we knew. I got a signed Manborg comic. And then we got a picture with some Daleks who decided to serve me:

Served by the Daleks

Or whom I decided to serve.

Serving the Daleks

But while language is ambiguous for a reason, Toronto traffic is less so. We spent an hour getting out of the city: and this happened both days. But on Saturday, since we were already out, we decided to meet up with our friend James in Mississauga and see Guardians of the Galaxy. I’d given up hope of seeing it with any one of my friends and I was this close to seeing it by myself to see what the hell everyone was raving about.

So after we had dinner, the first meal of my whole day, and Groot later, I was grandly impressed by the film. It was a story well done with dialogue exchange that is reminiscent of how I like to hear dialogue and write it.  I made a vow to see all the Marvel movies I can access now as I have a fear of commitment and it’s about time to get over that at least to this regard. Suffice to say I passed out pretty hard that night.

The next day I had time to eat, John picked me up, and we went to the Sunday round of the Expo. We hung around a little more in the North building this time around (and there was a lot of walking and escalators involved in that, let me tell you) and I got to meet my fellow horror and Heroes in Hell writer ZombieZak at his booth. We explored until it was almost that time and we headed back into the Toronto traffic before finally escaping on a highway.

And to cap off that day, I watched the Doctor Who episode “Into the Dalek”: which my dad recorded for me the night before. I even wrote a review.

So yeah. My friend John is stubborn and loyal and I got to have the geekiest weekend I had in a very long time. I learned just why we are Groot and that I will never be late for GeekPr0n Party again if I have anything to say about it.

Still, traffic jams need to be exterminated.

Matthew and the Daleks

An Interview, A Poem, And Another Journey

I’m tired.

I won’t lie to you. I am really tired. It’s that kind of tired where everything has been happening on a time limit to the point of it all blurring together and becoming something of a singularity.

One of the major things I’d been working on for over a week, and in email correspondence, was My So-Called Secret Identity: An Interview with Will Brooker. I was on Twitter a while ago and, one day, Will Brooker asked me if I wanted to ask him some “difficult questions.” And that was how I gave my first interview.

My So-Called Secret Identity operates on the premise that superheroes, villains, and anti-heroes are celebrities that engage in an act called “the theater” in which they fight and capture each other: with average citizens suffering collateral damage as a result. This “theater” takes place in Gloria City where one young woman, a university student named Cat, has decided she has had enough and uses her considerable intelligence to attempt to actually save people and dismantle “the theater” from the inside.

It is a nice subversion of the superhero genre and trope. I can only think of Neil Gaiman’s Black Orchid series as another example, but I’m sure and I hope that there is more from that branch and fruit out there. It is definitely worth reading and supporting.

In other news, I’d also like to plug the fact that Klarissa Kocsis’ Klarissa Dreams has finally come out in paperback and on Kindle. A while ago I mentioned that I actually have a poem in there inspired from one of Klarissa’s paintings called “In Her Hand.” A few friends of mine, including some fellow Hellions, have some poems, short story and excerpts in this book. All proceeds from the anthology will go to charities for cancer and lupus research. So if you have the time, or the inclination, please check it out.

So an interview and a published print poem later, along with my Heroes in Hell story also released, I find myself pretty exhausted: so much so that I really don’t want to move. But I need to. I am going to be away from social media for a while: mainly this entire weekend. I consider it the beginning of my vacation.

It will be a challenge. I have always had Internet and writing to do along with a certain set way of things. It’s a weekend getaway outside in the sun and I am not sure if I will be used to that. I’m going to attempt to get out of my solitary workaholic shell a bit, socialize, network, and do things aside from work. It’s true: I will be bringing writing stuff and books. I am never that far away from those. But maybe this time I won’t need them.

I’ve done a lot of good work lately: so much so I think I leveled-up at least two times. I think it’s time to relax: at least for a little while. In any case, thank you for reading this far and I hope to see you all next week. Have an excellent weekend.

What Scares You Will Be Its Soul: My Dead Girlfriend and Project: Dark-Seed

This post contains horror, disturbing images and, worst of all, *spoilers.* Reader’s discretion is advised. 

When Dream created the Corinthian a long time ago in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, his original aim was to construct a sentient dream that represented humanity’s fear of its own darkness. In the end, of course, he became more like a simple serial killer than anything as grand as a being that could make dreamers face the worst parts of themselves.

Corinthian Uncreated

The Corinthian’s initial failure as a dark mirror in which humanity could see the other part of its soul is a fitting metaphor when you hear discussions about the horror genre: particularly how gore and spectacle can take precedence over slow, creeping, uncanny elements out of the corner of your eye and the fear of the unknown or the forgotten.

And then you have creepypastas.

Kris Straub is already doing a web series called Scared Yet in which he looks at and dissects creepypastas: examining how they work, and how they don’t. He said once, in his now defunct Ichor Falls Blog, that many creepypastas fall into a formula or a series of tropes. You know: Jeff the Killer that is the result of bullying and acid being thrown on his face becoming ala the Joker analogue, a whole series of cursed video games bought from a creepy old man who may or may not vanish after a purchase, every story about Disney symbolizing institutionalized and secretive evil, and all the rest of it.

Many beginning writers can do this: they find stories that appeal to that part of them and they imitate them. Even so, many of these pastas have somehow become viral memes as they tap — sometimes even in a shallow manner — into that sense of universal horror and dread in humanity.

But then there are others …

There. Are. Others.

I have talked about Candle Cove before: created by the aforementioned Kris Straub. But a few days ago this little gem manifested itself:

My dead girlfriend keeps messaging me on Facebook. I’ve got the screenshots. I don’t know what to do. It is a story that was created on a subreddit called r/nosleep: where people seemingly write stories that commenters respond to as if they are real accounts. You can find a more polished version of it right here. But in many ways the original is much more diabolical and I will explain why.

First of all, like Candle Cove, it uses its medium to effect. But while Candle Cove emulates a Message Board, complete with user typos and all that loveliness, My Dead Girlfriend is already on a subreddit: a forum that functions as a series of comments stacked up on each other in a grey background with faded white fonts.

But goes further than that. My Dead Girlfriend also has links to what seem to be screen captures of Facebook Private and Public Chats. It utilizes Tags in empty spaces. And then there is the writing style to consider. While Kris Straub utilizes typos in Candle Cove, natesw or Nathan — which I suspect are personas — writes this from the first-person in something of a epistolary format: a series of journals or reports of the phenomenon occurring. Moreover, the writing from natesw’s persona on r/nosleep is clear, with no typos whatever, and possesses proper sentence structure, spelling, and grammar.

Yet the Facebook Chats he has “screen-captured” have the typos and fragmented sentences. And the dialogue between him and his dead girlfriend gets juxtaposed and played with like a twisted form of poetry. These two modes, the first-person of the subreddit text and the third-person and visual aids of the Facebook images complement each other. Unfortunately, if you go by the subreddit the ending could be lost: if it is indeed the ending.

Read the second, cleaner tickld version though: and look at the very last image that it shows you.

Creepy, no?

Remember, you have to find Candle Cove. My Dead Girlfriend finds you.

Ghost Writer

It’s still finding us. When Candle Cove was first sent to me, it had been around for a few years. Right now, though, My Dead Girlfriend is still spreading.

And the story had me before that image too. My friend and I were talking about this into the wee hours of Sunday and she told me that it had her at “FRE-EZING.” This was the only original word that “Emily” was able to construct, or revealed. You see, we never know whether Nathan’s torment is the result of a sick hacker, Nathan’s own subconscious mind projecting the grief of his trauma into messages from Emily, or … the fragments of Emily’s traumatized essence not completely realizing that she is dead and going to the place and person that she knows more than herself: perhaps even trying to make up for the reluctant displays of affection that she showed Nathan in life before she died on her way to their apartment.

Basically, the story is left open-ended. And there is the challenge in the recipe right there. You have to basically know that balance between detail and that open-endedness. If you have too much detail, people will question the specifics and your creepypasta will deflate into skepticism. On the other hand, if you are too grandiose and you try to encompass everything your structure will either never grow or will fall apart at the seams.

I think one element to know what medium you want to use and how you want to structure it. At the same time, you need to know what story you want to tell. Images, photoshopped or otherwise, help too. Another advantage that My Dead Girlfriend has is the fact that it has many commenters either playing along (being the poster’s friends or general fans of the subreddit) or are so taken by the Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds Effect that they are genuinely giving the poster natesw advice. But this story also manages to tap into the general and the specific. The characters and personas have names. There are dates. The accident that took Emily is revealed in slow and painful detail. The uncanny is tapped.

And that is the difference right there: that last ingredient. You can study the remnants of a miracle, but you can’t really reconstruct its soul from what is left. Or, in my case and in the case of other writers, you can’t create an original soul of a new story by purely examining leftovers alone.

I can tell you how these stories work, but it’s like deconstructing a joke. It’s just not funny after. It’s just not horrifying. And anything that I make from this, as it has been a long-term goal of mine to create a viral horror meme after my girlfriend had showed me Candle Cove, would just be a shallow or empty form.

I have many ideas for a creepypasta. It was the very aim of my Project: Dark-Seed. But after that conversation with my friend last night, I realized something. I realized just why the Corinthian was such a failure to Dream.

Dream even admitted that the fault was his own. Dream created the Corinthian to embody humanity’s fear of its own darkness, but despite the fact that Dream is an embodiment of the sentient impulse of imagination and dreaming, he isn’t human. Until his imprisonment in Preludes and Nocturnes, and slowly before with his human friend Hob he never tried to get close enough to humans to actually understand their perspective.

Dream could observe human darkness, but he didn’t really know how they experienced it. He couldn’t relate to his audience. The Corinthian, who was intended to be a classic horror tale became a gory spectacle because he only engaged humans on that superficial level. Unlike Dream’s other stories, other dreams and nightmares, the Corinthian wasn’t made from a pre-existing concept or a sentient being made into something more. He was Dream’s attempt at original creation and imitation of life and he failed.

He was an empty shell that tried to fill himself with gore and eyeballs and attention. As Dream’s creepypasta to humanity, the Corinthian falls short. That is the same reason why some creepypastas and horrors stories fail because the creator doesn’t try to relate to their audience. In terms of comedy, the joke doesn’t amuse them.

The story doesn’t scare them.

But what would have happened if the Corinthian scared Dream? What would have happened if Dream thought about what scared him and made the Corinthian in that image? What happens when a horror writer creates a monster that scares them, that makes them feel goose flesh at the mere thought of it: of that thing at the corner of their consciousness that they logically know can’t happen or exist, but deep down knows?

Who knows. Perhaps Dream’s re-creation of the Corinthian after his own imprisonment and exile changed the model. Perhaps he just needed a catalyst to tap him into that deep black pool of universal horror and white noise, take a piece of it, and fashion from its substance a soul to fill the emptiness.

Static

Perhaps a creator only needs to find something to be scared of in order to create a nightmare that can be shared with the world.

Now if that isn’t the beginning of a story of one’s descent into creative damnation, I don’t know what is. The powers help me. I think I have been writing too much in hell. But the moral of this story is that some people like their pastas filled with gore or emptiness.

I like my pastas to be filled with darkness: from the heart.

Corinthian