October 5, 2015
I’m still on the “clean the house and get rid of stuff” kick. Complicated by the fact that my parents and grandparents are doing the same thing and keep dropping off more boxes of stuff. I can’t remember when I started but clearly this is going to take years. On the other hand, I managed to get rid of an entire box of books! Maybe there’s hope!
If I spend a half-hour a day tidying for the next month, I think I can make a dent. Not that my house will actually look cleaner, but I’ll feel better.
I need to knit something right freaking now. I haven’t knitted anything in over a month.
Why haven’t I started knitting something? Because I spent last week making my niece’s Halloween costume:
Emmy and her dad have been reading Zita the Spacegirl, and so that’s who she wants to be this year. I obliged. I’m pretty proud of this one. It’s the first accurate cosplay I’ve attempted for someone else. And it’s TINY. So adorable. I can’t stop giggling.
September 28, 2015
If I may indulge in a little TV literary analysis. I think I mentioned I’m rewatching Babylon 5. I’m about halfway through season 2. I might also have mentioned that one of my favorite TV shows of all time is Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, an obscure one-season wonder kids show from the 80’s. I was fourteen when it aired, and the show had a huge impact on me creatively.
I mentioned this because the story editor and head writer of Captain Power was J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5. I make an argument that Captain Power was something of a dry run for Babylon 5 — maybe not intentionally or consciously, but you can see Straczynski trying out ideas that would come to fruition in B5: an ongoing science fictional storyline with a plot that builds from episode to episode, an ensemble cast of close-knit characters who all have rich and diverse backstories. An ethos that values peace over war and is continually determined to show the destructive cost of warfare. It’s unusual to be able to track common literary impulses of a single creator across TV shows and/or movies because they’re usually so collaborative, but I think this is one example where it’s possible. (Another is Joss Whedon and his talent for writing stories about broken people coming together into emotionally close-knit teams, and his reliance on impalement as a plot device.)
Then there are moments where the ties between the two shows are a lot more obvious. Like how both shows have ultraviolet clearances, and how CP character Tank comes from a genetic engineering program called Babylon 5.
And then I’m watching B 5 and suddenly think, “Wait a minute, that scene looks really familiar.” Which leads to this:
This is destroyed San Diego from B5 Season 2 Ep. 6, “Spider in the Web:”
This is destroyed San Francisco from Captain Power Ep. 1, “Shattered” (I tweaked the brightness a bit because the original was really dark):
And taking screen caps in order to do a side by side comparison may very well be the third nerdiest thing I’ve ever done.
September 16, 2015
Do I think magic exists? Yes. You wanna know I how know? Because I was able to turn this:
Into a bunch of pesto that will last me all winter:
(Okay, so I didn’t actually turn all the mint into pesto, just the basil and sage, because mint pesto would probably be kind of…interesting. But I will turn the mint into tea which will be AWESOME. And magical.)
September 14, 2015
I was on a panel last year with a writer and activist who explained that superhero stories — and particularly the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — are fascistic. They’re about Aryan ubermensch acting as judges, juries, and executioners, essentially becoming dictators, larger than life and certainly larger than the faceless masses they’re supposedly saving. Who do they work for? Who are they accountable to? Nobody. They’re an abdication of democracy and an embracing of authoritarianism. And I thought — well, she’s not necessarily wrong about any of that. But I don’t think she’s entirely right, either. Because I don’t think superheroes are fascistic.
Atavism: “The tendency to revert to an ancestral type.” They reach back to a time when the world was large and poorly understood. Think primal, rather than primitive.
The impulse to create heroes with special powers — to believe in them, to celebrate them — is very old indeed. Gilgamesh old. As long as we’ve had writing, we’ve had magical, superpowered heroes. We can assume the oral tradition of heroics goes back even further — those written stories came from somewhere.
Heroes are the tools that human storytellers invented to give us hope. And that hope is distinctly human. Not gods, not demons, not supernatural creatures. They’re human beings who take these supernatural powers and use them for good, rather than destruction. That’s the key, I think: These ancient heroes, and their modern counterparts, are how storytellers take things that scare us and turn them into things that save us.
In Greek mythology, people were most scared of the gods and goddesses of Olympus. They were capricious, cruel, they caused storms and earthquakes, they blighted crops and killed babies. One committed a lifetime of prayers and sacrifices in the hopes of propitiating these gods, and of averting their attention from your tiny human life. But then came the heroes. Theseus, Perseus, Hercules, and so on. What they all have in common: they’re demi-gods. They’re the children of gods, but they’re also human, and they bring superpowers literally down to Earth. They represent those fearful divine powers, but in a form that will slay monsters and tyrants and rescue the innocent from certain doom. They are semi-divine, but they are human, and they want to help.
Fast forward to the Middle Ages in Europe. Saints were the superheroes of the western medieval world, performing miracles and interceding with an absent God to protect us poor mortals, once again making the thing that scared us — divine wrath — a thing that could save and protect us. Their stories were presented in full color in the stained glass windows of a thousand churches for all to see and celebrate. Medieval graphic novels, read over and over again by the faithful.
Where do modern superheroes get their powers? From radiation. From genetic mutation and manipulation. From accidents, from toxic waste. From aliens and outer space. The terrible mysteries of our modern age, transmuted into a form that is human, that can battle all manner of disasters. Notice the different origin stories for Spider-Man in the comic and the 2001 Sam Raimi movie? A bite from an irradiated spider became a bite from a genetically engineered spider. Because radiation was the big scary thing in the 60’s, but at the dawn of the twenty-first century, it was genetic engineering.
Superhero stories change to reflect the times and people writing them. They’re supposed to adapt — they were built that way. That’s why we’re still telling this kind of story, after 10,000 years of civilization. Superheroes are the oldest form of storytelling. Archetype and melodrama and battling monsters and making cosmic journeys and encountering crazy shit like giant scorpions and holy cedar forests. These stories are as old as writing.
Psychologically and emotionally, superheroes are a shield against darkness. Against evil, against death. Against the terrible things that happen to us that we have no control over, like the wrath of the gods. If a portal to deep space and the alien army waiting there opens up over New York City — metaphorically speaking — we want to believe that something will be there to save us. Something human, who we can understand and relate to. We want to be inspired to maybe do that saving ourselves.
Superheroes aren’t just for fun. We need them. We’ve always needed them. Superheroes are atavistic, and that’s not a bad thing.
August 28, 2015
This is my first full garment made with the new serger:
It’s a lined wrap-around skirt. I got a couple of yards of this beautiful, silky print a couple of years ago, not really knowing what I was going to do with it. Then it turned out I was scared to death of cutting into it, and finishing any seams after I did cut into it. This is the kind of fabric that starts to unravel as soon as it looks at a pair of scissors.
The serger took all that fear away. And rolled hems on a very lightweight fabric — divine. It was a pretty simple pattern, which is good. I still ran into a few issues — there are things a serger really can’t do, like start and stop seams in the middle for if you want to run a drawstring or ties through a waistband, for example. (I ended up just tacking the ties on by hand.) It took a little thought to figure out how to put it all together. But I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
August 14, 2015
I really was worried that people wouldn’t like Kitty Saves the World. Would it live up to expectation? Would it be a satisfying close? Well, it’s got a 90% five star rating on Amazon. I think that may be the best of any of them. So I guess people liked it!
To celebrate, I posted a new G.I. Joe story that I wrote on a roadtrip last month. It just kind of happened. And I thought, why not let people read it? So here it is: G.I. Joe: That Famous Silent Issue. (Which will make sense to you if you’re a real old-school fan. Yes, it’s a Scarlett and Snake-Eyes story!)
In other news, both my parents and grandparents are in a downsizing phase, which means lots of boxes are going back and forth, to the thrift store, and so on. The last bits of childhood stuff that my parents had stored in their basement are finding their way back to me. Which means, my entire run of original Wild Cards novels are together again:
Aren’t they pretty? And yes, well-read indeed. But I think they’re pretty because they’re well read.