Hamilton, Necessity, and hidden truths

It’s National Parks Week, and this summer will mark the 100th anniversary of the congressional act that created them. Admission to most parks is free through this weekend! Maybe there’s one near you? Short trips and mini-breaks are a priority for me this year, and for the first time in a long time there’s a tangible list of places I feel compelled to see and could actually afford.

We took a road trip to western Pennsylvania last weekend to visit Fallingwater (more than you probably want on that in a bit). It’s about a five hour drive from home with gas and food stops, which is an excellent road trip distance. You may already know this: that’s a perfect length of time to make your unwilling passenger listen to all of Hamilton. (Twice, if you’re lucky.) Not only that, but they can listen to you get real nerdy about the sublimity of a show that loves hip hop and history as much as it hates the original Cranky Old Fingerwagging Fusspot John Adams. Everybody wins! If everybody is into showtunes, Leslie Odom, Jr, and lyrical jokes at the expense of Thomas Jefferson’s staggering hypocrisy, that is.

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Kicking 2015 out the door

It’s a little awkward to return to your blog just to wrap up the year in terms of all the things you could have written here but did elsewhere instead. But here we are! I keep wanting to say that 2015 was the year of starting to get serious about my writing, but that’s not true. This was the year I stopped letting fears of rejection and vulnerability stop me from submitting it to places where people would judge it.

The big news is that I earned my BA in English Literature and New Media this summer from Marylhurst University! Now I am qualified to complain about the job market in an entirely new way :) The experience was wonderful. It’s a very low residency online degree program — two weekends in Portland over the course of a two-year program. I had enough credits coming in to complete the program in a little over a year. It was tough to do with a full-time job and writing on the side, but totally worth every bit of stress along the way. If you’re looking to complete or start an online degree, you should definitely look at Marylhurst (which does not kick me back in any way)!

Speaking of new media, Bossy Britches is still going, though we’re on a hiatus right now. Our first anniversary was in September! We had our first contest — winner will be announced in our next episode — and started the Harry Potter Book Club, which will continue in 2016 and probably beyond given our pace to date.

This weekend I’m putting the final touches on the next Apex Magazine podcast, which marks my first full year as its producer! Not only do I get to experience a great new story each month, I get to try to interpret it as a spoken piece. Still smack in the learning curve on it, but it gives me great insights into both writing and reading as well as performing.

I had my first reprint this year on Bitch Flicks! It was a post I published here about the first season of True Detective and the scourge of sexualized violence and women in television: Reflecting on True Detective’s First Season, a thread that’s tied together so much of my critical thinking and writing this year that it’s become a major theme in my fiction as well. It even got two dudes commenting to tell me “then don’t watch” and “you’re reading it wrong,” so I consider this one a win all the way around.

Earlier this year I started reviewing short fiction for Luna Station Quarterly with a focus on cis/trans women and genderqueer authors of science fiction and fantasy: Beyond the Binary System. I found some wonderful new-to-me writers through that, and am always looking for more (HINT HINT POINT ME AT YOUR FAVES).

The Televixen brought me on this year as a recapper for Fear the Walking Dead and Into the Badlands! In the new year I’ll be covering the triumphant return of Galavant, starting with a recap of the first season that I should probably finish writing.

As part of my coursework for the ELNM degree, I wrote a piece of interactive fiction, which you can play here on my site: Another Day in Seething Bay. It was so much fun to do that I’m working on another using a different game engine for my first game jam on itch.io in January.

I’m still chasing the publication dream for my fiction writing, still racking up those rejections. No physical spike to jab them on, just a Duotrope account and a color-coded spreadsheet. A few of the stories were short-listed but ultimately turned down (with one still pending!), which is the nicest kind of disappointment. One of the stories I’ve had out the longest has gotten some wonderful personal rejections with feedback and encouragement. The non-publication goal for this year was to turn a story back out as soon as it got a rejection, and the biggest lapse I recorded on that front was a story I decided to rework entirely which is still in edits. Everything else was submitted to a new market within a day or two of getting a rejection.

Most of my writing and energy in the last ten years has been devoted to fandom, which I’ve drifted away from in the past few years. I made a concerted effort to engage more this year, which petered out a couple of times, but then Star Wars. That’s probably all that needs said, right? I’m excited about the whole universe of that story in a way I haven’t been in a while. But as rewarding as fandom has been for me, I’m hoping to channel some of that excitement into more critical writing — and a short story or two.

On the whole, 2015 was a better year for writing and creative output than I thought when first sitting down to summarize the highlights! I’m not a big resolutions kind of person, but I’ll be trying some new things in the new year. Who knows, maybe remembering to post here will be one of them!

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How to make a summer pun without referencing GREASE

The new fall TV season is bearing down, so it’s well past time to get caught up on all the summer things I meant to do.

First, I’ll be traveling to San Francisco the week of 9/13, and am lucky enough to have some free time to do research for a few in-progress writing projects. If you or anyone you know meets any of the following and would be open to a conversation by phone, email, or in person, please let me know! Comment below or you can leave a message on the contact form here.

  • working on/studying seawall repair
  • familiar with/studying indigenous Pacific cultures’ textiles
  • a clerk, manager, or driver for an MMJ dispensary or delivery service
  • an MMJ patient prior to 2003 OR someone who used cannabis therapeutically before SB 420 in 1996

The Apex Magazine Podcast is now on Patreon! Chuck a buck or two their way and keep these awesome stories coming to you every month.

Fear the Walking Dead getting underway and I’m recapping the collapse (literal and figurative?) over at The Televixen! The first and second episodes are up now, and the show returns to AMC on the 13th. Will it realize its true potential as a vehicle for the kid who plays Tobias, the best character in the whole thing? I’m guessing not, but we’ll see.

After a brief summer hiatus, my speculative fiction short story column, Beyond the Binary System, will be back later this month on Luna Station Quarterly. There was a ton of great new fiction over the summer, and I can’t wait to share some of it with you there.

Thanks to a weird confluence of a summer illness and remembering that Amazon Video is a thing that exists, I fell face-first into a Veronica Mars rewatch, which will be a new semi-regular column eventually. Lots and lots of thoughts about how successful it was as a mystery, as noir, as a high school drama, as an antihero narrative, &c. More to come with that, or possibly just me standing outside Rob Thomas’s office in a downpour with a poster pleading for more VMars novels? Stay tuned!

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Another Day in Seething Bay

Officially opening up a new section on the site today: Games! Games written by me!

Title card for 'Another Day in Seething Bay'First (and only) link over there so far is a short interactive fiction game I wrote earlier this year: Another Day in Seething Bay

You’re an office worker named Adanna, who’s going about a totally normal workday on the moon in which nothing at all catastrophic could possibly happen and whose future is 100% completely rosy. Really, nothing to worry about. All your decisions are the right ones!

Except: nope. There’s only one not-unhappy ending in this story. Can you get the good one? Play now »

Writing and programming the game was a fantastic experience. (Choosing where to set your future lunar colony suburbs, transportation, and “old town” is even better, btw.) If you have any interest in creating your own narrative games, I highly recommend Twine. Coding knowledge isn’t necessary; the framework outputs a complete file for you and the interface is mostly WYSIWYG. But if you know HTML, CSS, and/or Javascript, you can do a lot more.

Special thanks to Trevor Dodge, who let me get my sci-fi nerd on for class, and my beta testers: John Vekar, Matt Maynard, Julie Shininger, Bri, and Jess.

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Introducing @thoreauscope

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months with Henry David Thoreau and Walden. After years of carrying around a tiny copy of the book in a succession of backpacks and purses, I feel like I’m finally really getting what Thoreau was trying to say. From the wonders of a vegan lifestyle to the joys of frugality, even to a radical argument for rejecting rigid gender roles*, ol’ Henry really was on to something.

The "So listen up, capitalist sheep, because I know what's best for you!" is implied.
The “So listen up, capitalist sheep, because I know what’s best for you!” is implied.

It was something kind of irritating, though? For all its cultural cachet and literary importance, Walden is a pretty run of the mill self-help volume. “I went to the woods to learn how to live simply and you can too!” is a gross oversimplification, but what better use is the internet than to let me oversimplify complex things?

So, as I’m finishing up my thesis on Walden, and growing more fond of yet irritated by Thoreau, I started idly wondering what he might do with the power of, say, Twitter. Would he harass the powerful? Proselytize to the meat- and dairy-eaters? Whine about having to get a job? Post an endless stream of #nofilter shots of wildlife and woodlands?

No, say I! He’d do what he does best and become some sort of pearl-dropping guru, doling out advice to people who probably don’t always actually want it. And so: @thoreauscope.

(It’s a Twitter API bot that waits for people to post something with one of a few key phrases, then replies to them with a randomly selected quote from Walden. I wrote it myself with Node.js! And someday when there isn’t a deadline looming, I’ll fix up my code write up exactly how.)

*Seriously, though, he did! My thesis is all about how moving to the woods was in part to reject the expectations Thoreau felt constrained by as a man: that he must earn his living by participating in capitalist structures, that he was expected to marry and have children, that he should act as all the other men in town did. By getting the hell out and building a home barely big enough for himself (…and the occasional strapping young Quebecois, cough cough), Thoreau was all but standing in the middle of Concord and shouting, “You’ll never take me alive, traditional masculinity!!”

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