Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Tradition of Reading

In the years B.C. (before child), my partner and I had this wonderful habit of reading to each other during the performance of arduous chores, particularly she would read to me while I was doing the dishes. We recently resurrected this tradition. Now, not only is the kitchen cleaner on a more regular basis, but I also get the pleasure of hearing various horror short stories in collection (the book we chose for this time.)

A couple of days ago, she read me “Sredni Vashtar” by Saki (H. H. Munro.) If you are a fan of horror, you may know the author from her/his more famous “The Open Window” (not to be confused with the movie classic “Rear Window.”)

“Sredni Vashtar” is the name of a weasel that a young, sickly British boy discovers caged in the back corner of a mostly-forgotten garden shed. There is also a hen living there, upon which the boy lavishes attention (because, in the way of British boys in novels and short stories, he doesn’t get much love from his nanny or completely absent parents.) But, it’s the ferret/weasel that he *worships.* Literally. On “holy” days or days to celebrate certain personal victories, the boy brings Sredni Vashtar delicacies which he places lovingly and with much ceremony in front of the weasel.

Creepy right?

What’s kind of interesting about this story? It kind of plays with your horror story assumptions. You know something bad is going to happen involving the weasel, but I, at least, was totally routing for the boy to get his way over the awful nanny, especially when she decides he spends too much time in the shed and is determined to sell off the beloved hen and… kill? (it’s implied, but not really stated) Sredni Vashtar.

I don’t want to give away the ending, in case you decide to look it up for yourself, but let’s just say I was deeply satisfied by the ending even though part of me knew it was morally wrong to feel that way.

A very worth while short. And it sort of makes you ask yourself: do people make their own gods? Did this boy invest Shredni Vashtar with magic powers simply because he BELIEVED, or… is everything that happened just coincidence???

Cool premise, don’t you think?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

More Comic Book Talk

Over the CONvergence weekend, I house sat the kitties of a fellow Wyrdsmith, Bill Henry. He's also a comic book fan, and on his living room table was a set of steampunk graphic novels: Freak Angels by Warren Ellis.

I have to say, I haven't read much steampunk but I rather enjoyed this, though I only got through the first volume and a half before Bill returned from his trip, and I had to leave them behind. The world isn't your typical (from what I understand, anyway,) steampunk, in that it's a fantasy future in which London -- much of the rest of the world as well? -- has been flooded and some other incident (which our heroes may be at least partly responsible for) ended civilization as we know it. There are eleven odd young adults, the Freak Angels, who are psychic and who are running White Chapel or one of those other neighborhoods in London. There's a mystery involving a rogue member who is misusing his powers and some people from over yonder who come in by boat and get their a$$es handed to them by the Freak Angels.

I'm actually uncertain where it's going or what it's about, but it's very compelling writing despite all that, and I'm going to have to lean on Bill to fork over the next issues. Or heaven forbid, go out an buy my own dang copies.

Is that a recommendation? I don't know. I haven't had enough coffee yet to be be more coherent.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

666th Post

I feel like I should probably say something vaguely EVIL since this is my 666th post, but really I just wanted to say: "Whoot!" because I wrote 2,000 words today. Yay! Go me! Hip, hip-horray!

I'm particularly pleased since I decided to skip working out today to try to get a jump on my writing, since I'm going out tonight. There's a reading group that's going to be discussing one of my alter ego's books tonight at 7:00 pm at Turtle Bread, 4762 Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis, and I'm going to listen in. Hopefully they'll have some nice things to say.

Also, I just wanted to share an image from this morning: A bunch of kids all decided to walk down the hall holding hands with one of Mason's best girl friends, Ava. Most of them were all kindergarten girls, and I noticed one young lady had a Hannah Montana backpack and in one corner? A NASA sticker! How awesome is that?! Talk about girly girl-power!

Speaking of school, I'm off to go pick up the little darling!

Yesterday the mail carrier delivered Mason's Marvel Adventures All-Ages SPIDER-MAN #52, "No Substitutes" (Mark Sumerak).

As usual, I brought it to school and Mason devoured it in the back seat. The nice thing about this routine? On the days I bring comics, Shawn and I can have a mostly-interruption free conversation about her day. Mostly because Mason will still sometimes blurt out with, "Shhhh, I'm trying to read!"

I ended up reading the issue myself, and I want to make one comment about it. First of all, I love the all-ages titles, and I'm only bummed that they stopped producing Fantastic Four All-Ages, because those were Mason's favorites. My theory? FF is too science fiction, even for comic books. I mean, they go into space on a regular basis. I'm not sure a lot of kids these days find that plausible... I mean, unlike, say radioactive spiders giving you super powers.

Anyway, in Spider-Man All Ages, Peter is still a high school teen at Mid-town High or wherever. In this issue, he's leaving the public library and, thanks to his Spidey-senses, stumbles across a secret cabal of villains (psuedo-"Hydra" types). Anyway, he accidentally leaves his biology report on at the scene of the crime after beating up the baddies, and picks up their top secret plans (conveniently in a similar manila file folder) instead. The next day, Peter is mortified to discover he doesn't have his homework. But thinks it's going to be okay when there's a substitute teacher, Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman to those in the know.) No, she comes down hard on him and puts him in detention, which Spidey is kind of grateful for because he's realized that maybe the bad guys might now know his secret identity thanks to his mix-up.

Little does he know that Spider-Woman has his biology report which she found at the scene, and she thinks he's an agent of not-Hydra. At any rate, adventures ensue and, of course, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman end up defeating the evil not-Hydra's plans to blow up Times Square.

The best part of this issue, however, is that the author, Sumerak, finally punches through one of those superhero tropes I hate. The trope (or maybe it's better defined as a crutch) is that people can spend all day with the alter ego of the superhero, talking to him/her, and somehow not recognize their mannerisms and/or voice behind the mask ten minutes later when the hero comes to their rescue. I roll with that because it's so common that I tell myself that the Marvel Universe is populated with people who either chose to ignore the obvious (in the case of Aunt May and MJ "denial isn't just a river in Egypt") or are merely, in the words of my favorite Lois & Clark episode, "galatically stupid."

In this issue, however, at the end when Spidey says he has to leave before the not-S.H.I.E.L.D agents arrive to debrief the heroes to protect his secret identity, Spider-Woman lets him ago with a "you've helped tremendously--" (then, after he's swung a good distance away she says in smaller letters, thus quieter,) "Mr. Parker."

And he never notices. I think it would have been even more awesome if she had just said "Thanks, Mr. Parker," and for him to go, "You're welcome" and zip away, and never notice that he'd answered to his real name, because don't you always figure that might happen some day? (And actually Bendis plays with that in the New Avengers when Daredevil accidentally calls Spider-Man "Peter" in front of Captain America and then stops and says, "Uh, you know Spider-Man is Peter Parker, right?")

I love stuff like that.

It's very Joss Whedon-esque. By that I mean, for a moment, it steps out of your "comfort zone" if you will and says, "why do we roll with that crutch/trope, anyway?" It makes you realize how much wider the world can be if you play with the established "rules."

It's a good lesson in writing, actually.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Con and Stuff

I had a great time at CONvergence. If you didn't see me, it was because I was in disguise as my alter ego. If you're so inclined, I wrote a bit about my experiences (and other stuff) over at her LJ.

I forgot to mention that on Sunday, Lynne Thomas and her husband Michael came over to our place to finally pick up a box of my papers for her manuscript collection at the Northern Illinois University. I sent a long a box of unpublished writing, including some dorky stuff I wrote in high school that I'd saved... well, probably just for this moment. And after she and Michael left, of course, I found a whole other box of stuff up in the attic, which includes a bunch of really awesomely dorky children's stories I wrote while board at my job at Pillsbury.

But the thing I realized going through that "extra" box last night is that I have really quite consciously lived my life as though I hoped to be famous one day. I saved every bit of writing, no matter how bad. I organized it (loosely) and put it somewhere for THE FUTURE.

I can't decide if that makes me forward-thinking or totally narcissistic.