Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's resolution

I was in BC with my family for the holidays during this week, and Christmas Day we happened on the last 30 minutes of The Runaway Bride (the Doctor Who special from 2006.) I found myself watching with a comforting sort of deja vu.

Toward the end of the special, the Tenth Doctor tells Donna to "be magnificent." It stopped me cold, because I remember watching it for the first time and taking that suggestion as my new year's resolution—that I would be magnificent in 2007.

2007 was when I went back to Japan for the first time since I'd lived there. It was when I decided to be serious about publishing and started querying agents. It was a hell of year. I was most definitely magnificent. (I was stupendous in 2008, if you're wondering.)

Now, New Year's resolution time is here again. So many promises I want to make myself, so many things I want to accomplish. Feels a bit like I spent a lot of this year banging my head against a wall—a wall that I couldn't quite convince myself to admit was there. (It's hard to let go of things, and it's hardest to let go of the things you love.)

I am unafraid of what is coming next. I have no idea what it is, but I'm ready for it. In 2013 I am going to finish writing a manuscript. Then I am going to start writing another one. In between and around and during that process, I'm going to be magnificent.

That's it. That's really all there needs to be.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Five things I want you to know should the world end tomorrow


1) I'm sorry for being awful about staying in touch. Email, phone call, text, whatever you sent that I didn't reply to. I'd love to tell you that I've been incredibly busy, but we both know that I've been spending way too much time on Twitter.

2) I'm sorry if I glared at you for no reason as you passed me on the street or on the TTC or in the office. The truth is: I didn't even see you and I was thinking about something completely unrelated to you. (Except when I wasn't, and it was absolutely your fault that I was unhappy. But in the spirit of the apocalypse, I'll forgive you.)

3) Despite every effort of the world to prove me wrong, I still believe that people want to be good and that kindness is not an illusion. As idealistic or flawed in logic as it sounds: I believe the root of the horrors we do onto each other can be explained as "lack of empathy." Empathy and kindness will always be important, regardless of whether or not the world as we know it ends.

4) I think the greatest harm we do to ourselves is to allow one thing to define us. We're each of us good at many things and able to learn to be good at many others. Connected to this: Don't be afraid to kill your dreams. It'll help you learn what's really important to you, and there is an amazing freedom in being able to let go and dream anything again. If the dream you killed returns, you can be sure it's better and stronger and wiser.

5) There is a world full of people doing what they love. Find a way to be part of it. Should the world end tomorrow, my one regret will be the time I spent doing things that fundamentally didn't matter to me instead of all the things that did.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Trees pressed thin together in the dark

Got out of the city proper this weekend and went to stay with a friend in Creemore. A crow cawed in a tree outside her place early in the morning and filtered into my dreams; even asleep, I recognize the sound and I can place it as familiar and part of what still makes up home. Magpies and crows and ravens are mountain birds, but they're also the birds of where I grew up. I miss seeing them in the city, as strange and morbid as that might be, because they make up the background of what is supposed to be there. Toronto has gulls, of course, but these pigeons do not really substitute for oil-sheen and white or cawing black. (Even Japan had crows.)

But it was good to leave the city—to get out to trees pressed thin together and dark, dark, dark stretched across the sky. Hills and woods and all that space. Don't get me wrong, I love this city, but there are weeks when I feel it pressed up against my sides and too close to my back. And I get restless in November, it's an old hold-over habit from knowing things go quiet in December. News comes in November or it doesn't come until January. I've got that muscle-memory of waiting—of watching the holiday radio silence getting closer.

I miss traveling. I miss feeling like I could pack it up and go off somewhere, and I know it's just being restless and it's not how things actually are. But I miss the clarity of travel, the perspective shift, and the collecting of experiences.

I was just on a plane in October to go to Edmonton, so I shouldn't be counting down to when I can get on another one and go home to B.C. for the holidays. I should not be thrilled at the prospect of losing a somewhat functioning transit system and convenience of amenities for a week. But I am. Maybe it's the wanting to remind myself what it feels like to breathe in mountains and forests and that lingering wildness that never quite left B.C.

Many of the farmhouses I saw in between Creemore and Toronto were made of brick (or at least had brick facades.) There isn't a lot of brick in Alberta and B.C. Not for farmhouses. Brick is a strangely permanent thing to see in a field. It's like the structure got lost and is waiting for someone to come return it to the rest of the city.

There was also a moment this weekend where the world got really small. Canadians, we are not doing well at disproving this belief that we all know each other. The degrees of separation between us are often less than six.

But this knowing people, it feels good. I don't believe I knew people a year ago, and now I do. To pack up and leave wouldn't be the easy thing it might've been a year ago. If I stay here long enough, will that magnetic pull back to the forests and the mountains and magpies fade? Will brick become commonplace, a detail barely worth the time its takes to recognize? It's not an aversion to things becoming familiar, but more of a query as to how long that it might take.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chasing Shadows

First of all, I have an interview on Elizabeth M Thurmond's blog as part of her Woman Writer Wednesday series. It also re-shares a reading that we recorded in Montreal at the end of Anticipation (WorldCon) in 2009. Good times. The glow of hope was on everything that weekend. And I met Neil Gaiman.

Yesterday I met Libba Bray. Libba Bray is one of the voices that hooked me and kept in YA Fiction back when I had no idea what modern YA Fiction even meant. She is one of the most interesting people I've ever met, and getting to sit and listen to her speak about just people things was possibly the best thing that's happened to me all year. (Yes, even moreso than Maggie Stiefvater—I love love The Raven Boys, but I have a history with Libba Bray's books that I don't have with Stiefvater's backlist.)

Libba Bray wrote a book called Going Bovine, which was one of the best books I read in 2009. It was the book that said to me to put no limitation on concept or plot or fear writing about something that maybe not everyone is going to understand. She also wrote Beauty Queens, which was the best book I read in 2011. Beauty Queens changed the way I watch TV/films and how I read books; Beauty Queens, and Sarah Rees Brennan taught me how to be a feminist in today's world and how to write about feminism in a way that is accessible.

I decided early in this whole interacting with authors at events thing that I would not tell someone their book changed my life—that's why I have Twitter or a blog for. I decided when I met people, I would treat them like people. Sometimes I wonder if that's the right decision—if it maybe disguises how much things mean to me more than I want it to. But I do it because I have seen the glimmer of admiration, and it scares the fuck out of me. One of the most terrifying things I've seen at events or cons is when authors cease to be people and become—I don't know—what's the word for someone burdened with the weight of having all of the answers?

I mean, I want people to respect what I do and enjoy what I write and get from it what they need. But I don't want the burden of being expected to be right all the time. What do I know? Just what I do—and my answers are very much a result of my life and my experiences, which I feel serves more as a cautionary folktale than a howto-wiki.

Also, I meet people and often lose the ability to vocalize. It's very difficult for me to speak to people I don't know or haven't met in person before, which I can hide to a certain extent beneath my job. But get me out of that element and I'm very quiet because I'm shy and because... when I meet someone like Libba Bray, who is so damn interesting, I don't really want to talk—I want to listen. It's not because I think she has all the answers or that I'd even consider asking for any of them, I just like interesting people. I know about me—me and my internal monologue are BFFs like Oliver Queen and his internal monologue—so I'd rather hear about someone else. I have plenty of opportunity to talk about myself because I, too, have a blog.

Hmm... I've completely lost track of what this post was about. Right! Chasing shadows. There's this thing in shounen manga/anime about chasing the back of your sempai or the person you admire—you follow their back and keep your eyes on that point between their shoulder blades because it'll guide you. As I've said before, sometimes you realize that shadow your following has disappeared because you have this moment of getting to stand or sit next to the person.

And it's wonderful and terrifying and awesome. Because they're right there—right. there. You could reach over and poke them to make sure they're there, but maybe don't because that's a little weird. You get to talk and instead of asking for all the answers, maybe you get to offer some—like what a butter tart is or the difference between a Danforth and a Parkdale hipster and these little interesting things you know get added to the conversation with all the little interesting things they know and everyone is just a person.

And it's the coolest thing. If this is repetitive, it's because this keeps happening. It keeps whispering in my ear that this feeling is important, and that I could be doing more to help facilitate it for other people. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? How do I pass these opportunities and graciousness that others have given me? Does it have to take the form that I always thought it would?

I swear this was supposed to be about how amazing it was to have dinner with Libba Bray and how incredibly grateful I am for that, but it seems to have wandered off the path. We are deep in the wood of self-inspection here.  So I'll just stop until I work out what I'm trying to say, but I'm good if anyone is wondering. I'm well. And for the first time in months that is not just a deflection to keep people from worrying, it's truth. I am good and well. And maybe a little lost but very determined I will find my way back.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

State of Grace

I'd say I don't know where October went, but this is becoming a pattern and I do know where it went; I just didn't realize it had gone so quickly.

It went to Thanksgiving, and the Beautiful Reread (rereading The Caster Chronicles in preparation for Beautiful Redemption's release); it went to rediscovering what's important and what stands between importance and action, and it went to being reminded that there is a whole collection of people who want me to be happy.

Also, I listened to a whole lot of Taylor Swift and went to an IOFA event featuring Cory Doctorow and China Mieville. I am now a little in love with China Mieville who presents as an incredibly thoughtful, eloquent man of words.

This first bit of November was spent at World Fantasy and the Blog Ontario Meet Up—and spent being reminded there is a whole world of people who are doing what they love. And feeling like anything is possible again.

World Fantasy last year was tough for me, it was the beginning of the great discontent, and I didn't walk into it open-hearted or handed. Fortunately some of the things that happened last year were too marvelous to be defeated by a little pessimism, but this year was... it was like visiting friends. Obviously my feeling included has to do with the location being Ontario and that I've been meeting more and more of the Ontario SF/F community over the past year.

I got a reading spot. I haven't read since the TNRD library tour (2010), and I haven't read at con level since Montreal (2009.) And I missed it—I really, really missed it. I forgot I'm good at it. (Sort of like how I forgot I'm good at events until I helped out at Chapters Brampton in September.)

When we don't practice, we don't forget how to do something—we forget our confidence in our ability to do it. (These are not the same.) Maybe we don't even forget, maybe we just misplace it. It's like misplacing happiness during a rough patch. You know you had it, and you're relatively certain you'll find it again, you just sometimes feel like you've looked everywhere.

During the autograph session, I met a woman and her husband who come looking for me to tell me how much she had enjoyed my reading. And I really hope I wasn't dismissive to her, because I was a little overwhelmed and really hope that thank you expressed all the things that I couldn't.

In fact, all of WFC was a lot of feeling like the community was saying "oh hey girl, we haven't seen you in a while. Welcome back."

Good conversations at WFC—interesting ones about the purpose of Hummer stretch limos after the apocalypse or metaphysics or how the lake beds in Australia often need to be mowed.

Also, Brian Hades appeared and offered a group of us having a hallway party apple pie around 1:30 am. If you know Brian, you know this is exactly the kind of thing that he would do. I met him probably... oh it must be nearly ten years ago in at the Shuswap Writers Festival; he was one of the first publishing professionals to believe that I might have something.

My point is, this path is twisting and long and most of the traveling we do of it is never seen by the people who will become your readers.

My other point is that sometimes you look around and realize you're surrounded by your people and you didn't notice because you were surrounded.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Start anew

During the summer, I spent a significant amount of time painstakingly outlining something. It held water, the details and motivations added up. About 8000 words into it I realized it was completely the wrong story for me. It was a good story, but it wasn't one I had any real interest in telling.

I felt like I had been pushed into telling the same story that I had always told and couldn't really articulate why. No one was telling me I had to write any specific kind of thing, but if asked for how and why I felt like my answers were the same ones.

We have our personal writing tropes, the signifiers of what makes the work ours. (The linguistic fingerprints; the thematic DNA.) That wasn't what bothered me. This far into the game, I've accepted that there are certain quirks and images that will appear again and again in what I write, because I'm writing it. There's a difference between a signature style—a brand if you want to use the marketing lingo—and the same story with different characters in it. And I didn't want to write the same story again and again and yet again. Because that was getting me nowhere.

I always write stories where the conflict—the faulty aspect of the universe—is directly connected to a main character. It might be inherited, as their parents did the wrong, but it's always personal to the protagonist. Even when I wrote a manuscript about getting tangled up in other people's shit those other people were still directly connected to the larger world problems.

That's connected to my philosophies—to subjective reality and self-autonomy. Accountability is important; we ought to be the ones who resolve the conflicts we create. But sometimes we don't create them.

When I sat down to write this thing, it wasn't about the why. It was about that sometimes you walk into a forest and it wants to eat your face. You didn't do anything wrong; the trees are just hungry and you're there. (It's non-Western approach to horror.) Sometimes the world drops problems on your doorstep that you didn't invite or have any part in their conception.

It's important to clean up the messes we create, but it's just as important to get involved in cleaning up the important ones that aren't directly impacting us. Why wear purple on Spirit Day? Why wear red on World AIDS Day? Why run for the cure or donate to the food bank? Because you want to. Because you feel motivated to do so. Because you have a little bit of empathy for people who need help.

That's the story I want to write. The story where how things got the way they are and who's to blame doesn't matter as much as how they'll get resolve by a group of people who choose to become involved. People who could walk away, but don't. People who don't let life make them hard and hateful.

That's a story I haven't written yet, so I'm going to write it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Performance Art

On Tuesday, there was an event in Brampton. I was asked to do the author's introduction and a brief Q & A. Honestly, I was so tried and I'd crashed so hard after running on adrenaline for the past three weeks trying to do all the things and see all the people. But I said yes. Because when someone asks you if you want to interview an author you admire about a book you love, you say yes without hesitation or any thought to what shape that interview might take or maybe what you should ask. You say yes. You show up and you give as much as you can, because the author and the audience deserve it.

When you're part of the show—and even from the stage, I could tell it was a show—you have different experience than when you're watching it. What's it like to interview someone in front 200 people?

Terrifying; it's like hurtling towards imminent doom without certainty that you're going to find the brakes in time while people watch. And wondrous, because in the midst of the terror it all becomes impossibly real. It is the most present, the most fully there a person can be. Maybe you won't remember what you said or you'll only remember the gaffes you made and wonder what your face was doing—because there cameras and such—but at that moment, it's all happening and it doesn't matter.

But if you should ever be asked to interview anyone in front of...any number of people, these are things I would've done differently if given the option:

1) Said yes when I was asked if I needed to eat something, and y'know...ate something.
2) Attempted to be at least half as caffeinated as the person I was interviewing. I still might not have been able to keep up, but I'd have at least felt like I was.

Basically, take care of yourself if you are in a situation like this—and let other people who offer take care of you, too. It is always worth it, but it is always work. That is not to imply that I don't enjoy doing it—I really do. It reminds what this is all about, the communication, the interaction. But the performance requires energy and preparation. It is not easy for me to be that extroverted.

Talking to someone, I realized there's this thing many of us do in these situations. We go into what I've always called it panel mode.) It's this outward calm, cool state of being incredibly present wrapped around a nervous oh god oh god oh god don't screw this up for all these nice people that you hope isn't shining in your eyes. It's living in a hyper-real dream, and it fades upon waking. But it doesn't diminish that it happened or what it meant.

I'm very grateful for the run of opportunities that writing The Tarot Cafe Novel brought to my life, and I'm grateful for the ones that my job has given me access to. But what I'm most grateful for is how these experiences have taught me what I'm comfortable doing, and also how far and how often I can push beyond that comfort zone when it matters.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Autumn

There's a place down by Lake Ontario called the Sunnyside Pavilion, which they fill with tents of art on a September weekend. Paintings mostly. The masterwork is the building itself, wrought iron fences and acloves and winds whispering through its white-washed halls. If you listen, the building says I am old and I have seen things.



On the second floor, there's balcony where one can look out across Lake Ontario and pretend it's the ocean. Some other skyline, some future place or half-imagined city.

 



As I walk back with my own found art, captured within a phone dying for a charge, I stop to brave the waves lapping the rounded rocks. Water cold, and the lake can't be mistaken for the ocean this close—it's got the wrong smell.

A red maple leaf reaches for a lost season from between boardwalk planks, and I think fall is here, and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it. But sand between my toes feels the same in September as it did in July.

Also, there are dinosaurs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater


Today is the release of Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys. You need to read this book. Trust me. I tell you with the conviction I felt for Beautiful Creatures and The Night Circus. You need to read this.


The Raven Boys is a book about my (fictional) friends Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. They are not always good to each other, but they are so good for each other. They are that group of people who create their own ecosystem; who are each other's equilibrium. It makes them the kind of friends one wants in one's life, but it also means they're the people who can hurt each other the most. They are going to do so before this four book series is finished; I can feel it in my bones.

Blue is from a family of psychics; the only one who has no apparent abilities. She simply amplifies others. Her family would tell you the future is a hazy, indistinct thing—but one inevitability has been told to Blue all her life: She will kiss her true love, and it will be the death of him.

Gansey is from old money. He's grown up with wealth and privilege, but desperately does not want to be That Rich Guy. Unfortunately, he can't see himself from outside his own skin. He can't observe the unconscious way that he treats money and people.

Adam can. Adam grew up poor. He's a scholarship kid determined to be his own man. As a result, he both adores Gansey and resents him.

Ronan is angry. His father died, and it (metaphorically) killed Ronan, too. He hates with a double-edged loathing that wants to wound everyone, including himself.

Noah is a bit of a mystery. Shy. Quiet. Sad. Kind. But he's as key to the group dynamic as any other member.

The beauty of this book is watching this family of friendship envelop Blue, and how she amplifies its bonds and weaknesses.

Also, there is a pet raven, a quest for a lost Welsh king, ley line magic, a whispering forest, and jokes. It is damn near everything I love—robots would've been out of place—in a single book, with prose so lovingly crafted it steals my breath and makes my heart ache.

There are smart books, and there are fine books, and there are books that make one cry and laugh. But there are few books who ask if they can stay, long-term, be friends for life. The Raven Boys is one of them.

You need to read it.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

So I'm sitting here typing up a scene I wrote on Friday during what felt like an unsuccessful workdate, and I've got the Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicle OST playing because it felt like the right background music for this book. Typing, typing, and it's really not that amazing of a scene plotwise—it's more about the little details that show the character dynamics, but it strikes me that the last time I listened to this music was while I was working simultaneously on The Wild Hunt and the first draft of what would become FRAGMENTS.

I had no idea how the industry worked, but I was so assured that certain things would be mine within a certain time frame. All I had to do was keeping letting the want of them drive me forward. That was five years past, but it feels like two lifetimes ago.  Possibly three.

It is said that we keep walking, we trust the path to take us where we need to go. But it gets a little tough to believe that I didn't miss a turn somewhere. It's not regret, because I don't necessarily think I would be better off if I had made decisions differently. It's more looking at where I am now and how far it is from where I want to be then regrouping and deciding how I'm going to get there.

Metrics
A Forest That Eats Your Face
Words: 1814
Total: 5611
Doubt: All the discontentment lives in my head this week, and follows me around like a shadow.
But I wrote this anyway: Sorrow didn’t like the kite—something about the way it twisted in the air, bound to do his sister’s bidding by the taunt string between them, made his hands twitch.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I've not written a whole lot this week, as my cold returned and I've been mostly tired and trying to sleep without a whole lot of luck. But I made a playlist for that book about A Forest That Eats Your Face. That's an accomplishment.

Tuesday at lunch I had a conversation with a friend about the truth in passes. When an editor says no, there's no use in wishing that they had said yes. If they were the right editor, they would've. Sometimes we think we know who the right editor is or we have an idea of who we want to work with, but that doesn't mean we're correct. It does not make it any easier when it happens.

I got a pass on Tuesday on a manuscript that had gone all the way to acquisitions. Honestly, it wasn't a surprise. It had been promising back in the beginning of April, but after months of nothing more, I didn't think it was going to amount to anything. And it's over, so I'm talking about it. There was a lot of hope wrapped up around this, and I was upset. But it wasn't the right home, it's still frustrating to have had to wait to be told no, but it doesn't negate the accomplishment.

An acquaintance told me while we were having coffee a week ago this story about going to a job interview and being sure that she had the job, it was hers—she could just tell. She ended up not getting the job, and it was devastating, but months later she got what was the perfect job for her. These sound like opiates we feed ourselves, feedback loops of when one door closes another one opens and everything happens for a reason, but the truth is that the wrong answer is the wrong answer. Sometimes we can't see it, so we get a lucky break and someone else sees it for us.


Once the disappointment fades, and the sting has been soothed, it's a relief more than anything. You can't survive on the edge of almost making it—dangling by a fraying maybe—forever. It's not action; it's idling. Forward or death. One step and then another.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Lodger/The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

You know what's back on Saturday? Doctor Who! You know who never actually finished her recaps for the fifth season and completely didn't bother to do ones for the sixth? Me! Why didn't I? Well, I was watching them dutifully along with the airing on Space and then Space was, like, late to air them and someone had them from CyperSpace so we just watched them early... and didn't recap so that it wouldn't spoil for people who were still watching them on BBC America or something.

So here, years later, are recaps and thoughts on the last three episodes of Doctor Who, Series 5. You're welcome.


The Lodger

The Lodger was the hysterical companion-lite episode that featured the Doctor showing up a random dude named Craig's flat, giving him a sack full of money, and declaring that the Doctor was Craig's new flatmate.

It was The Odd Couple, but with an English bloke and an alien who looks like another English bloke.

But it was very funny and there was a joke about a toothbrush, I believe and some soccer football time and then a headbutt of passing information. Because that's how English dudes share wisdom: Headbutts.

 But it was basically about how Craig never wanted anything or to go anywhere or be anyone special so the evil aliens that lived in the fake flat above him couldn't get him and his contentment with his normal life saved the day. Mostly, the reason it was so damn funny was because it juxtaposed this mad man in a box who has the ability to go anywhere in all of time and space just playing soccer football and having showers and talking to cats like the Chrestomanci. Totally normal stuff. Lesson for writings: normalcy is funny.

 

The Pandorica Opens

This episode was fan-frigging-tastic, and not just because it featured Rory. Well, ok, mostly because it featured Rory. But it also set-up the two-part season finale that proved Steven Moffat did have a plan and the inconsistencies were intentional.

The Pandorica was this crazy impenetrable prison thing that contained the worst monster and scariest criminal in the history of FOREVER. It is like the kind of science you do not go poke. So, of course, the Doctor wanted to go and poke it.

Did I mention Rory? As a Centurion. Then it was about how everything was being put together by Amy from bits and pieces of her thoughts. And basically all the enemies of the Doctor showed up and were like "BOO" and he spun in a circle on a rock and was badass. And the Pandorica opened and nothing terrible was inside, because it was meant as a prison for... THE DOCTOR. OH SNAP. And he totally walked right into that trap. (Causality, Peter Parker, that's what happens when you touch the science.)

Also: Rory. But it turned out he was Rory made of Living Plastic and he had a hand gun and he shot Amy after the Doctor got trapped inside the Pandorica and the episode ends with all the stars and galaxies going out one by one, because of a reason that totally made sense when I watched this two years ago.

Also... SPOILER, when you end the entire universe in your first season as a show-runner, you kind of can't top that. So don't try to be more clever or bigger and bolder... you ended the universe. Ok? Ok. Thanks. That's a note from the future.


The Big Bang

So after everyone and everything you know and love dies... it doesn't. Because the Doctor had a clever plan. As another Note From The Future: The Doctor Has A Clever Plan really only fools us once. After that, we're pretty sure you're going to pull something.

But in this instance of it being the first time and emotions are running high and Rory has sat outside the Pandorica for nearly 2000 years and waited for Amy... shut up. I'm totally not crying. It's allergies.

But yeah, then the Doctor reboots the universe and tries to close all the cracks in time and space and wears a fez and it's just brilliant. River disagrees about the fez.


As the Doctor is closing all the cracks in time and space, he realizes he will have to be closed on the other side. But he gets Amy to use her brain-powers of having lived by that crack in her wall for all her life to remember him back into existence and it's every thematic thing ever that makes me happy. Mostly because she remembers him back into existence at her wedding reception to no longer plastic-but-still-awesome Rory.

And the Doctor comes back and he's dressed fancy and there's cake and dancing and the Ponds go off to have adventures with him. ADVENTURES!

I tip my hat to Steven Moffat for this one. Really, this episode made it so that I could look back on this series and see that construction-wise, it's perfect. Individual pieces may not work super great or may not have been my favorites... but as a whole? Wow, what got pulled off here is amazing.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hollandaise

Sunday Metrics
A Forest That Eats Your Face
Words: 1185
Total: 3543
The doubt: What is quickly summarized in an outline is not always so easily written in the draft.

Also, apparently the main protagonist doesn't like to speak—which means the challenge of this book will be learning not to rely on dialogue to carry scenes. Third person narration that doesn't read like exposition for everyone? Well, I always say I want to learn something new with each manuscript I write. (The one previous to this was taught me that an emotionally honest story resonates far deeper than a clever one. Also, that my agent doesn't like it when fictional kids are put in car trunks.)

But I wrote this anyway: Sorrow had hazy, half-formed memories of mountains; his dreams were haunted by feathers and songs no instrument in the palace could accurately replicate, so it was likely the king spoke true. No other explanation had been offered, and Sorrow found questions in general to be bothersome things.


I went out for brunch with a friend and her boyfriend, and we spent a few hours having intelligent but very irrelevant conversations. (At one point, we were considering the ramifications of a parallel world where the moon was really made of cheese.) When you spend a couple hours at ease, with that quiet welcoming happiness that envelops a table and hushes attempts to be discontent, it's as restorative as a full eight hours of sleep.

My friend would probably argue this feeling of contentment was more a result of the Hollandaise sauce.

I also built a pinboard that has the Best Books of 2012 I've read. That is all the ones I've given 4 or 5 star ratings to on Goodreads.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I have a solid three chapters. I wish I had more, but I spent most of this week sick. Honestly, the kind of ill I haven't been since last Christmas. We had a killer cold go around our office, which I probably had the week previous to this but didn't succumb to until this week.

I am go, go, go and I will keep at it even when ill. It's something that happens when you freelance or work part time/contract positions—you learn to function without the luxury of sick days. Years later, it doesn't occur to me to go I am sick and I must stay home until I am unable to function. My level of unable to function is a considerably higher threshold than most.

This week has been a lot of not doing anything and taking care of myself first. I watched the last four episodes of season two of The Vampire Diaries, and will be ready for season three when it comes out on DVD. I read a few books, one that was good but ultimately couldn't hold my fuzzy-around-the-edges attention, one that was just more of the same, and one that kept me up much later than I intended to because I accidentally read it all in a single sitting.

Drafting, as a result, didn't really happen. I was able to reread the three chapters I wrote, and they're solid. They may not survive to a second draft, they can probably be better, but for what they and what they needed to do... they're good. Far less padded than I thought they were as I wrote them.

The draft has over 12,000 words and I'm debating if I continue or if I switch to drafting something else up to three solid chapters. There's a potential, as it has a solid outline, that it could be a proposal... but the idea of selling on proposal is both exciting and uncomfortable. With the right editor and collaborative atmosphere, a proposal book could evolve into something amazing. But the suspicion of selling a book to be one thing and realizing later that it's actually something else hovers at the edge of my mind.

Honestly, the outline is the most extensive I've done since The Tarot Cafe novel. But there's a character connection that bubbled-up during the first scene not in the outline. Do not let anyone convince you that outlining robs all writers of the thrill of discovery. As someone who used to say outline was a terrible thing, my experience is I didn't outline because I believed I had the luxury of eternity to finish writing the draft. I didn't have to know the plot; it could be discovered months later, because I believed I had months to find it. (Also, I wasn't trying to sell it to anyone.)

And there's nothing wrong with that belief. Writing is what works for you and gets the words on the page/screen/tablet. I have a friend whose process is to think out most of her draft before she commits to sentences. I throw words on a page, fast and move on, because I'm writing through the story as I go. Consequently, I do the majority of my work in subsequent drafts. Doing an outline create an opportunity to reduce the number of drafts.

Metrics
Total: 12,807
Sample: The air is wrong when I come to; it smells of a party that ended too late for anyone to want to clean up. It feels like old money being wasted. 

 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Wide Awake

Friday
A Forest That Eats Your Face
Words: 630
Total:2358
The doubt: Most of this is finessing what was already there—just adding flesh to bones so the story still hasn't really gotten going.
But I wrote this anyway: To the Stars within the Capital, magpies were pretty pets; the villagers and farmers and travelers who had seen them in the wild knew the complacency was only feather-deep. Magpies had not forgotten what they had been before the Stars tamed them, and memories were closer in the borderlands between the Heavenly Kingdom and the realms beyond.

Saturday
Requiem's Tale of Woe and Jokes Pt 2
Words: 523 
Total: 11,527
The doubt: I'm just trying to get through this muddling chapter of all the feelings everyone has so the plot could move forward. Also I spent the day out and about, but still didn't accomplish all my errands.
But I wrote this anyway: The air is wrong when I come to; it smells of a party that ended too late for anyone to want to clean up. It feels like old money being wasted.

I have a confession, the only reason I hope someone publishes Requiem's Tale of Woe and Jokes is so that the internet will be inspired and make me a "Call Me Maybe" parody. Yep. Those are my ambitions. Not suitcases of money or film adaptations. I just want someone to realize that pop song parodies and Requiem go together like high school and musicals.

I told this to a friend today, and she made up a parody chorus on the spot. Because she is awesome.

Hey we just met
And this is crazy
Do you eat dreams?
They're very tasty

In my mind, this is all filmed and edited well by passionate fans—or more likely just people I know who decide it sounds like it'd be awesome—and we find attractive people to be in character and run around Toronto for a couple days while we all have an insane amount of fun. The publishing comes in so that there are more than 3 people who find the final video as amazingly awesome and funny as we do.

Here's a Katy Perry video! It's like you get to experience my playlist one video at a time. I like this one because it's a misleadingly catchy song about being disillusioned. Pop songs and Requiem.

Friday, August 17, 2012

We are never ever ever getting back together

My wifi network at home and I have been having a passionate on and off again relationship. We finally broke up this week and I have started a new relationship with a new network.

I've also been listening to that Taylor Swift song a lot. It's good that I listen to it via youtube at work or I'd be terrified to look at the play count.



But is this not a brilliant lyric video? I like the part where the spoken bridge comes out and goes back in the phone. Also where the words do a little dance on the stage. Words should dance. Dancing words are the best. I'd like a stage with velvet curtains where my words could dance for me.

I even switched it up and because I couldn't sync my files on Mr iPad, I have some words on one draft and some words on another. But they never dance on a stage. LIKE. EVER.

Anyway. Metrics.

Tuesday
Requiem's Tale of Woe and Jokes Pt 2 
Words: 593
Total: 11,004
The doubt: I don't remember Tuesday, but I don't think I was feeling really well. Yeah, I basically sat there and poked at the keyboard until something happened and the number count was high enough that I could drag my butt to bed and sleep for not long enough.


Wednesday
A Forest That Eats Your Face
Words: 1,222
Total: 1,222
The doubt: I have the loveliest opening line for this, and then I had to write myself into the actual story. Actually, I think my doubt is more that people have to stop referring to this as a story about a forest that eats your face when that's sort of a feature and not the focus. By people, I mean me.
But I wrote this anyway: The only things of value Barrington had were the magpie, a scarf given him to by the woman who had loved him until magpies had come for her heart, and his wits. It looked that he was going to lose at least two of the three before the day was out.

Thursday
A Forest That Eats Your Face
Words: 506
Total: 1,728
The doubt: Tired again and suspecting that most of this scene will end up junked.
But I wrote this anyway: Dressed in a robe the color of a summer sky over the mountains, the sash the grey of a storm cloud, Barrington had to admit it was an improvement—the magpie looked strange, but at least it looked like a strange child and no longer a creature.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ok, so instead of writing tonight I finished reading that book I had to read and then spent way too much time making bad jokes on Twitter. Possibly because my brain had nothing more to give after yesterday.

Also, I am questioning if there is a line in what I wrote yesterday that someone remarked to me in conversation. I am capable of writing lines without conscious intent that just work, but this one sounds familiar. And I don't like borrowing from conversations unless it was something I said. It's a trust thing.

I only wonder if it's happened because very good things have happened recently to people in my life and made them happy and it's wonderful. It is so good to see the happy. Spread that contagion around. Light some more candles from the single flame or whatever it was Buddha said.

Anyway, I could just be over-analyzing because I'm tired and my brain's spinning circles in lieu of productive thought.

There are already things in the 10,000 words I have that won't be in the next draft. (I'm pretty sure something else from yesterday later in that chapter was something I said, but it's filler/lead up dialogue that is going to change.) But I liked this line. It worked. And if it doesn't belong to someone else, then I'd like to keep it. And if it's not mine, well, then I'll find a different way for the character to say it.

I may have to ask Leah Bobet for a threat for the Tuesday wordcount.

Monday
Total: 10,411
Words: 275
The doubt: Send plot, because this needs forward motion.



Sunday, August 12, 2012

And then there was 10 (K)

Before I share metrics, as the post title really reveals the important details, I have to comment on something that I really don't enjoy seeing in a book I read.

Girl: Hey, you're kind of a stalker.
Guy: I'm just trying to make you love me.
Girl: Oh, well then it's ok. Let's kiss lots because we are obviously soul mates.

This is a little bit of harsh reality, but you can't make someone love you. You can show you love them; you can display your affections through actions or speak them in words. But you do not have power over how someone else feels. You can say and do things in an attempt to change their feelings, but that's still about you and your feelings. It's not about theirs. They will decide they love you; maybe it will be partially because you love them, but there are hopefully going to be other reasons, too.

It's comforting to believe you have control over the world and other people, and we all need to feel comforted. But go get a hug from someone who thinks you're neat instead of pining after someone who doesn't.

I'm going to climb off my soapbox now.

Sunday
Words:  3038
Total: 10,136
The doubt: I should get a plot for this, as at this rate I'll soon be in need of one. Also, much of the redraft is going to be spent crafting these sentences better.
But I wrote this anyway:  
         No, it’s a secret that wants to remain mine for a while longer, until I can think of the way to express it to her without it being too much, too fast.
            It’s not that I can’t imagine my life without her; I just don’t like the way it looks.

Here is a song that is kind of appropriate for the 3000 words I wrote.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Amazing what you can accomplish when you aren't on Twitter


Both today and yesterday consisted of writing dates, so the wordcounts look amazing. But remember it means I sat in a cafe for a minimum of 3 hours to get these wordcounts. It was terrible. I had to eat crepes and drink iced hot chocolate or milk tea. Really. You should hear my wallet's cries of pain.

Also, every line I love in this draft is cruel. The beautiful thing about this as opposed to Requiem's Tale of Woe and Jokes is that I don't feel like the story is stabbing me in the face when I try to write it. The cruelty isn't personal anymore, but the emotions are just as honest.

Probably because I shouldn't be writing this book for bullshit logical business reasons, so the indulgence isn't so much all-my-ennui-let-me-stab-it-in-your-face as much as it is "OMG THIS FACE-STABBING IS SO MUCH FUN." It could be, as I tweeted, that I've just become a terrible person; I hope I've become a not-terrible person who doesn't flinch when it comes to writing terrible things happening to fictional people.

Metrics, oh my metrics

Friday
Words: Approximately 1200
Total: 5281 (ish)
The doubt: I wrote these words by hand, expected them to be awful and wasn't sure that I'd actually get 500. What I learned is that when I can't go on Twitter or anything because I only have a notebook but the person I'm with is committed to staying until she gets her 500... well, I get words written. A hell of a lot of words.
But I wrote this anyway: I know it doesn't work because it hurts too deep, the kind of hurt only a still-beating heart can experience.

Saturday
Words:  1772 or thereabouts
Total: 7053
The doubt: It was the first day of writing on the iPad (I've had for more than a year.) I wasn't sure I liked it and I had to type up the pages and pages of longhand from yesterday. But the beauty of the iPad, even though it's a little awkward and doesn't have my nice formatting options and doesn't autosave, is again—I can't easily navigate between Twitter and the writing app.
But I wrote this anyway: The chiming of imprisoned dreams isn't a distinct sound; sometimes I think I hear it when people clink glasses in celebration.


The glamour: This draft is going to clear 8000 words in its first week. That is more than double the agreed upon goal. I am in full fuck you, everything, I'm just going to write mode and it's glorious. I haven't been this consistently happy in months. Those kinds of numbers say I could have a draft by the end of the year.



Harsh reality:  Rarely does a story talk to me consistently for 8000 plot-advancing words a week during its zero draft. It's not a sustainable momentum, because I like having a life, too.


And fuck you, everything, I'm just going to write mode gets in the way of my 9-5. (It means I have no interest in reading books because I'm busy with my own.) I have two more ARCs to read for September and then all the October–December titles. About four of them don't have ARCs, so I can't read ahead which is going to mess with my momentum.


Oh noes, so many books to read when I just want to write. I'm grateful that these are my first world problems.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

I can't think of anything clever to call this post because I had about four hours of sleep last night due to insomnia. When I go to BC within a day, it's I'm home and everything is the time that it's supposed to be and there's no questioning it internally. I return to T.O. and I spent a week not knowing what time it is and my internal clock refusing to reset.

I had insomnia for a week after I visited home in April, too. It's apparently a thing. It's also a tiny whispering thing that likes to pontificate that one day I may go and just not come back.

A friend proposed that I join her in a pledge to write 500 words a day, and since she's the same friend who knows exactly how many words I've been writing a day for the past year, I've decided that she can probably hold me accountable.

Monday
New Words: 2281
Total: 2281
The doubt: I shouldn't be writing the thing that just vomited a chapter onto my screen. There are at least three other things I should be writing before it. One of them is even fully outlined.
But I wrote this anyway:

“No. Other people don’t make your dreams happen. You might be the focus, but it’s all intrinsic motivation.” I might’ve given him a dirty look. He grinned. “Come on, Hipster, you’re too smart to think your shiny feelings made this happen.”

Tuesday
New Words: 1204
Total: 3487
The doubt: I forgot how to write this character's voice.
But I wrote this anyway:  If I were someone he’d created, I couldn’t be shapeless and unknown. He’d have made me specific, purposeful.


Wednesday
New Words: 0
Total: 3487
What happened: It didn't occur to me as I lay staring at the ceiling until nearly 3 AM that I could've been doing something other than staring at the ceiling.

And none of this counts towards my 500 words tonight, so I leave you with two songs that are on heavy repeat for this thing.





EDIT 10:14 pm

Thursday
New words: 592
Total: 4081
The doubt: I am so, so tired. This is not the character's voice at all. I will probably end up throwing all these words out.
But I wrote this anyway: The figure moves a row closer. Shuffling the clumsy creep of something with bones and blood and weight.
It is late and I should be sleeping, but there is something I am desperate to tell you. We talk, we creative types, about the importance of using our art as coping as processing as language and communication. We talk a lot about the output, about putting our art into the world. We talk a lot about putting inspiration back in to ourselves so we can continue to put art out.

But what we sometimes don't talk about, and it's vitally important to our well-being and the good of the world, is the importance of enjoying other people's art. Not for inspiration, not to give us ideas or reactions but for the simplicity of giving us feelings.

Whether they are good feelings or bad feelings or all the feelings. There is a world full of people doing what they love, so surround yourself with them. Find them, appreciate what they do, and don't worry about what that means for you and your path and where you are in your life.

Just for a song or a book or a movie, for a smile or the time it takes to click on an instagram link. Appreciate. Let it fill you up. Hold it inside. You can do something with it later, but for those heartbeats just let yourself feel it.


Good night, city full of talented people. Thanks for the past twelve months, whether they were good or bad. I probably won't able to tell until it's all just stories told about that first year in Toronto.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Examine your life decisions, Victor Frankenstein

Probably the best thing that happened to me last week was that I read an ARC of Kenneth Oppel's Such Wicked Intent.

You should read this book, too, and I will tell you why. Some backstory first, as there was a book before this called This Dark Endeavour. Meet young Victor Frankenstein and Elizabeth.



This is how people in old-timey times dress. I know this, because I have watched The Vampire Diaries and there is no way the CW would lie to me about factual things like clothing and vampires. Anyway, in Victor is totally thinking it is so annoying that my beautiful cousin who is in love with my brother doesn't want to get with me. I am an awesome dude. Check out my expressive eyebrows! My brother Konrad doesn't have expressive eyebrows.


For reasons I won't go into—SPOILERS—Such Wicked Intent opens with Victor evaluating his life decisions, and reaching the obvious-if-you-read-the-book conclusion that many of them didn't go well for him.

  
Victor: I am possibly about to make another terrible life decision. I should ask Elizabeth and my friend Henry what they think of my decision before I make it.



Elizabeth: THAT IS A TERRIBLE LIFE DECISION. WE'RE ALL GOING TO GO TO HELL. THAT IS HOW AWFUL YOUR LIFE DECISIONS ARE.

Henry: I agree that your life decisions are usually not the best, but I'm less convinced about the going to hell thing.
 



Victor: Doing it anyway! And you guys are totally going along for the ride. Get in this metaphorical car so we can begin our roadtrip of awesomeness fueled by my terrible life decisions, occult shenanigans, and substance abuse allegory.

Yeah. There's an obvious substance abuse allegory in this, which is quite well-handled. It's not drinking, but to avoid spoilers I will use this picture of Damon drinking in lieu of a picture with the things Victor gets hooked on photoshopped into this picture of Damon drinking. You're welcome.


I also enjoyed the part where Victor begins to question said terrible life decisions of the earlier part of the book and is like why won't anyone listen to me now when I'm pointing out that I think I made a horrible mistake? Here is a picture of Bonnie looking disbelieving to indicate that no one is listening to Victor when it really matters.




Seriously, Such Wicked Intent filled me with glee. It's one of the most fun books I've read yet this year. It's also one of those instances of second book being arguably better than the first plus a middle book in a trilogy that doesn't read like a placeholder between the first and third books. I mean, I question why Kenneth Oppel needs so many exclamation marks in his dialogue, but he can construct and execute a plot brilliantly.

I don't usually spend books cheering for the protagonist to make terrible life decisions. But much like Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries TV show, Victor is so delighted in his wickedness throughout this book that you can't help but love him and hope he continues to do wicked things. (And his wickedness is pretty tame compared to some of the stuff Damon does.)

Which is crucial, because most of us have a general idea of what happens in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. We know where Dr. Frankenstein ends up, which people have told me made them shy away from reading Oppel's trilogy. That is a terrible life decision, because watching young Victor grow into that person is fascinating. But there are people who don't like Macbeth or Hamlet, so each reader to her own.

Such Wicked Intent is both Victor being terrible and Victor being redeemable. I'm a little worried the glee of this book is cushioning the blow of pain, heartbreak, and less amusing terrible life decisions in the next book. Not that it matters, because I'm going to read the hell out of it, because Oppel's Victor Frankenstein is one of the most fascinating anti-heroes in Teen fiction. Right up there with Cassel Sharp.

This Dark Endeavour is currently available in a paperback with a gorgeous cover, and Such Wicked Intent comes out in August.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Meet Gerald, he is a hungry stick demon


This is Gerald. He likes to eat people, as evidenced by his speech balloon that reads "People, they are so tasty! Om nom nom nom!" And he means it because he ends his sentences with exclamation marks.

Gerald, however, can't eat people because there is popcorn in his way. (Obviously he is some kind of winged, tailed, tiny-footed demon who can be warded off with popcorn. That popcorn is saving our lives.)

Gerald was born at the I Didn't Read The Book Club for Rachel Hartman's Seraphina, hosted by the Toronto Public Library and Mabel's Fables. Yeah, Work, I totally cheated on you with the library. I'm sorry. A friend made me do it. It was peer pressure. Can we hug it out? (They had Kelley Armstrong, whom I haven't seen—through my own fault—since RT Teen Day 2011.) I will give you my drawing of Gerald, Work, if you want. (But not the popcorn. I ate it.)

This post should be about how wonderful Kelley and Rachel were, but I'm hoping other bloggers will take care of that. Really this is a post about how I'm a cheater. Not just on work by going to an event at the library, but how it's not really fair to read something you write out loud to a room full of people when you're probably the only other person in the room who's been published and your head's been in rewriting an outline for the past three days. I'm a jerk and I probably shouldn't have read, because I think it discouraged anyone else from reading.

It's not really fair to do that. I may have killed an entire room full of dreams tonight. I am such a jerk. For that reason and because I peer pressured someone else into reading her really great paragraph.

Rachel gave us an exercise to write from the perspective of something non-human and describe humanity. I'm a cheater because I've done that in every manuscript I've written. Unfair advantage: Practice. Lots of it.

This is what I read:

Someone had told him people burned brighter, because they had less time to glow. But they didn't. Instead their emotions flickered like glowbugs—too fast to take upon the tongue and roll around the taste buds. Sorrow colliding with joy so quickly it soured and muddied, left him empty, unsatisfied.

Humans, he thought, were always in the middle of going somewhere, of coming back, of forming an opinion, of deciding what to feel. Indecision was the word for them—or was that too unkind, too limited. But things with only one form, one way to see where limited—stuck. He had never been stuck.




This is not about Gerald. Gerald's paragraph would've been "MOVE THIS DAMNABLE POPCORN SO THAT I MIGHT FEAST UPON THE TASTY INNARDS OF PEOPLE." Which isn't a paragraph, but you can't tell Gerald anything. He won't listen; he's not very receptive to constructive criticism. His character arc is to learn empathy, which might decrease his desire to eat people.

This would be an amazing picture book, not just because it's a pen on lined paper stick demon who wants to eat people, but he could talk about his first underworld problems of how pants don't come with holes in them for his tail and how he has to stuff tissue in the toes of his shoes to accommodate his cloven hooves. He would teach people to appreciate what they have, which is a good lesson.

Tomorrow, I'm totally giving him Andrew Garfield hair.

Finally: Please read Seraphina, it's very good.

(And I'm kidding about being a jerk.)

Friday, July 06, 2012

It's called causality, Peter Parker

EDIT 7/8/2012: Having seen this movie a second time, I've tweak a lot of this. If you're looking for the WTF gender dynamics stuff, it's after the picture where Peter doesn't have a shirt on.

It's called causality, Peter Parker

So I went and saw The Amazing Spider-Man, which I have been looking forward to since they announced that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone would be in a reboot to help ease the pain and memory repression of that last Toby McGuire and Kirsten Dunst movie.

First of all, the casting is phenomenal. I adore everyone who is in this movie, and they all deliver top notch performances. The script demands a lot of Andrew Garfield, and he does his best to keep Peter Parker a sympathetic character despite that he is an obvious introvert whose internal monologue we're cut off from. What carries a lot of the comic—at least Ultimate Spider-Man—is internal narration. If you remove that, Peter rarely speaks and he's not real good with the words.

But he's lanky and awkward and adorable. He's also quippy and sarcastic and oblivious to the wake of his destruction as Spider-Man. The key word here is oblivious.

As a courtesy: I am also about the spoil the hell out of this movie, because what I have to say requires me to reveal plot points. (But I put pictures in it to make up for it.)

The pivotal moment of the Spider-Man story I'm familiar with is Uncle Ben's death—it's what teaches Peter, and us, that actions have consequences. In The Amazing Spider-Man, I'd argue that Peter spends most of the movie unaware that these powers and what he does comes with consequences. His entire character arc appears to be "LEARN ABOUT CAUSALITY."

My biggest problem with this movie is that it is full of illogical decision making. As a writer who occasionally suffers from making characters do something without a logical motivation because I need to get to future plot points, I can see the symptoms of Dumb For Plot everywhere in this movie.

Let's start with a very minor, but very easy one. How are you reading this? On a blog. Possibly coming to it via a tweet. Is there social media in The Amazing Spider-Man? Yes, but only when it is convenient to PLOT for it to exist. Primarily in how a video of Spider-Man in action is put on youtube and referenced a couple times in the movie.


However, Peter does some very obviously superhuman things without lasting consequence. Accidentally beat up people on a subway car? Um... ok, it happens. But no one tweets, Facebooks, or camera phones it?

Granted, he gets the crap kicked out of him and we see him bruised. Physical consequences, yes. But no lasting emotional or societal consequences. Oh, wait he breaks a basketball backboard at school and gets community service. I guess I forgot because we never see him do the community service.

I do love how he remains Peter Parker in a spider-suit until he does something unselfish. There's a long sequence of interaction with criminals where he's in the suit, but it's not until someone recognizes him for a heroic action that he names himself Spider-Man.

But he's not the Spider-Man we know from previous movies. Not yet. This movie spends the majority of its focus on his high school life. (Or lack there of.) It drops him wrestling to earn money or working at the Daily Bugle. I'm assuming the Daily Bugle job comes later.

Without it, Peter has a really boring empty life. He doesn't appear to have friends. He has Aunt May and Dr Connors and Gwen, but the movie really loves showing how isolated Peter is.

Which I guess leads into my other argument for how he has no grasp of consequence. Ready?



Say it with me now: Peter Parker, put your goddamn mask on.

In the comics, Peter has this obsessive need to keep his face covered to protect his friends and family. He has an understanding that should he be captured/observed/arrested, there will be consequences for the people he loves. In The Amazing Spider-Man, our Peter is so desperate to be seen and acknowledged by his world that spends copious amounts of time showing us his adorable face.

So adorable is his face that causality is too shy to approach him.

This fundamental motivation to be acknowledged and recognized was created by his parents leaving him behind. So maybe the underlying psychology here is the paradox of if you form bonds with people, they can leave you behind. And it would've re-triggered by Uncle Ben's death.

I'm guessing the thing that someone is eventually going to tell Peter about his father is that "Dude, your Dad really messed you up." Also, your parents were scientist-spies who worked for S.H.I.E.L.D., which everyone knows. (The song lyrics playing when we first meet teen Peter are son of a government man.)

My favourite part of the movie is where Captain Stacy gives Peter his mask and is like "you're gonna needs this." Subtext: Because half of NYC has seen your pretty face, you f--king moron. (It's Dennis Leary, he totally swears in all his subtext.) For me that was the moment when the movie goes "by the way, all of this was for a reason. Not a good one and mostly PLOT, but still we did this for reasons."

My other favourite part is that getting bit by a bio-engineered spider will give you Time Lord hair, because Andrew Garfield spends half the movie looking like David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor during the fourth series' most amazing hair-fountain episodes. AMAZING HAIR makes up like 30% of the amazing in the title. (Fun fact: Andrew Garfield worked with David Tennant during his run as the Doctor. For realz! Watch Daleks in Manhattan/The Evolution of the Daleks; Garfield plays Frank, the dude with the good hat and bad pig-snout. You may start writing your fanfics now.)


I love his hair so much. I have no idea how it fits under his mask. But I'm sticking with said practicality not being the real reason he can't keep his mask on.

Also, I love that the webshooters have returned. (I did not enjoy the lack of webshooters in the previous movies, because they created a built-in limitation to the webslinging.) However, I wonder how someone smart enough to build webshooters is not smart enough to realize he shouldn't go in a room full of bio-engineered spiders? Even if the security-lock on the inner door isn't functioning due to PLOT—and seriously, you have a room full of bio-engineered spiders and you're doing top secret DOD work, Oscorp, get better security. (Start by putting photos on your interns' badges.)

But back to Peter's hair. It's so amazingly Time Lord like. I am guessing the reason was that in a previous draft of the script, Peter traveled into the future to meet his future self played by Ryan Gosling. It went like this:

Future Spider-Man: Hey Younger Self, causality means that your actions have consequences, so remember that your powers have to be used responsibly. In an alternate universe Uncle Ben told you that with "great power comes great responsibility," but PLOT told our Uncle Ben to use bigger words so we'd be confused. Because we're doing three origin movies and not one.

Younger Spider-Man: (Says nothing because he isn't good with words. He sticks to brooding.)

Future Spider-Man: Also, Gwen totally gets thrown off the Brooklyn Bridge and it's our fault. But we meet Mary Jane Watson, who is a smoking hot redhead, and then we get married. Later someone will retcon this and then retcon that they retconned it. Retcon is like PLOT's evil alter ego.

Younger Spider-Man: Do you have point? Because I have some brooding on rooftops to do.

Future Spider-Man: You'll try to prevent Gwen from getting thrown off the bridge, Younger Self, and PLOT will totally ensure that you fail.

Younger Spider-Man: PLOT is such a bastard. 

Future Spider-Man: (up nod of understanding causality) Respect Gwen and her boundaries, Younger Self. And don't ride your skateboard in the school hallways or on the sidewalk. You're a grown man.


I'm guessing the director or the producers pointed out that Ryan Gosling was busy and that Peter meeting his future self would be more of a paradox than desperately seeking attention while refusing to be social. Does he do this because he believes himself unworthy of love? Do the spider-powers make him more worthy of Gwen's love because he's suddenly special?

While we're on the matter of Gwen, or the 15% of this movie that I seriously don't like, you and PLOT can meet me at camera three to talk about gender dynamics.


It's called respect, Peter Parker


This picture is totally hot, right? It's also totally "Oh, Gwen, were you expressing a reluctance to be emotionally involved with me for logical reasons? Because I was totally delirious from pain and thinking how great it would be to make out while I bleed all over you."

Punch drunk and teenage hormones aside, Peter does have an important realization in this scene about causality. But he doesn't realize anything about gender dynamics.

When you're presenting a story as YA—which this does by the numbers in places—keep in mind there are many people who work very hard to ensure the stories aimed at this demographic don't present destructive relationships as more desirable than healthy ones.

And women are not presented as being equals in this movie for about 80% of its screentime. Saundra Mitchell wrote a much more succinct blog post about the issue of consent, but the equality issues in this movie go much deeper than just Peter and Gwen.

Let's start with the girls at school: One is used to show that pretty girls have no interest in Peter, only in him as a means to an end. Gwen, our love interest, then shows up after to establish she is the fantasy object to obtain because a plot device just told us it wouldn't happen. Our third girl, with the glasses, never even gets named and she's only there to show Flash is an asshole and Peter is somehow not an asshole because he's defending her even though he's acting like an asshole.

Also, some cheerleaders—possibly the girls who established Peter as a "loser"—then fall down because he does something amazing? Thanks for being set decorations and plot devices, ladies.

The only lady treated with respect is the teacher in the very end of the movie. So maybe Peter developed a better understanding of healthy gender dynamics through his character arc, even if everyone else in his world didn't.

Gwen is referred to as "pretty" by both Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Gwen also tutors Flash and her after-school job is assisting a geneticist, thanks very much. She's on the debate team, y'all, but don't mention that's she is smart because what is important—and constantly reinforced by the narrative—is that she's pretty.

Girls are pretty things to be protected, as pointed out by the fact that subway car fight only happens due to a completely embarrassing thing happening to a woman. Who has little to no reaction to this happening, because that would get in the way of her boyfriend demanding Peter get his hands off of her. All of the men on the car—who are established as being bullies like Flash—fight to protect this woman. Who didn't need protecting, because Peter was apologizing to her.

Also, did you notice that when Peter is late and gets in trouble from his uncle, Aunt May is referred to as YOUR Aunt and MY Wife—never by her name. She is reduced to an object to be protected. And when she attempts to assert that she can defend herself, Uncle Ben shuts her down. Just because it's presented as "don't defend Peter" doesn't make it ok, because the subtext is "no, you can't defend yourself and you can't have an opinion about defending yourself."

This completely contradicts Uncle Ben previously stating that he pities the teenage boy who had to deal with Aunt May's wrath. Her wrath, by the way, we never get to see. She mostly weeps and worries and caretakes because she's another plot device. Oh sure, she figures out that Peter is Spider-Man... but her final use is to reinforce Gwen pretty and Peter good.

Right back to the narrative's importance of our hero getting the Pretty Gwen.

I also have a huge issue in that scene where Peter is trying to reveal his powers to Gwen. She attempts to tell him something and he tells her to shut up and lots of of kissing happens. Hey, that's just like when Aunt May tried to have an opinion. We learned it from you, Uncle Ben.

The kissing thing wouldn't bother me if Peter ever apologized for not respecting Gwen's agency, but he doesn't. The role models in his life and his world have told him that he doesn't have to.

You may argue Peter doesn't have to ask Gwen because she tells him what she wants... but my point is that when it matters, when she is trying to express an opinion or tell him—or her father—something important, she isn't allowed. She may be a strong character, but the narrative's respect of her strength is nothing but glamour. It crumbles during critical moments.

Amazing. In the worst possible way.

If you enjoyed this post, there are about five people who I had conversations with that helped me assemble what I was trying to say here. J, L, P, who saw the movie with me. S who argued its good points, and Saundra Mitchell who first pointed out the reading of the issue with the relationship dynamics.