dear ,Continue reading “real life”
Nostalgia-induced story time ahoy!
This isn’t going to be one of those “oh this band saved my life” stories; that’d be stupid. Credit for that feat goes to my therapist in high school and my own hard work for literal years. Just the same, I have MCR to thank in no small part for me being exactly where I am today — and to a degree, who I am, because the people I’ve met as a consequence of their music have shaped me in uncountable ways.
See, when I was a 13-year-old edgelord I would buy any bargain bin CD with a cover that looked like it’d upset my mom, which is how I first came by I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. I don’t think I even listened to it for the first six months I had it in my collection. But eventually I put it into my terrible portable CD player– the one that skipped from being dropped out of my sweatshirt pocket so damn often with a regular rotation of cheap headphones because I kept blowing out the speakers, much to my ENT’s chagrin over my hearing. (I’m already half-deaf, I won’t miss the rest of it, was my rationale– my stance on my hearing has changed since.) Every single afternoon spent in the hospital or in hospice with my great-grandma or my grandma I’d have it playing and that went on for the long years those two pseudo-parents of mine took to die.
I remember being heartbroken that my mom wouldn’t spend the money to get me a copy of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge when I finally found it in Walmart. I wouldn’t own that one until high school, when I’d illegally download it from Limewire. I’ve never had a physical copy of it, come to think of it…
When Welcome to the Black Parade came out (I eventually bought it with my allowance, because that year mom could afford to give me an allowance) I spent mornings glued to MTV to stare at the music videos… I listened to that CD so much I ruined it and had to get a second copy.
High school happened, as it does. It comes for most of us, much like death or taxes, and I enjoyed it less than either death or taxes. But then I got access to the internet. I went from figuring out songs on my guitar via obsessive listening and transcription to having the vast hive mind of Ultimate Guitar’s tablature library to draw from… I spent long afternoons avoiding my mother’s husband, plucking out what I could on my cheap Pepto-Bismol-pink electric guitar with my headphones plugged into an amp, another set of headphones over them plugged into the refurbished laptop with a sparky power cable that crackled whenever I turned the damn thing on. I joined a band sophomore year, an awful and loud band full of dysfunctional queer kids with more enthusiasm than sense… it didn’t last long but it made for a magnificent summer that probably kept me a live long enough that I could get into therapy.
Concurrently, I discovered bandom, the terrible and wonderful magic of RPF and OC roleplay and writing elaborate scifi spin off universes and high fantasy– the year I turned 17 was a wild time for me. I had to rebuild my mom’s old Gateway desktop so that I could stay online even longer. I wrote 3 original novels and an incalculable amount of fanfiction on LiveJournal. I made some of my first friends– genuine friends, not just people I sat beside in choir or gym– on LiveJournal. I learned how to critique others’ writing in useful ways and just how utterly transporting a story could be. I learned that literary canon was, in fact, pretty goddamn useless.
I tuned into the livestream for Danger Days November of 2010 and wound up reconnecting with the boy who had been the drummer in that garage band. Sam. He would be my best friend for years– as long as it stayed convenient and entertaining for him, anyway– and through him I learned a lot about what love meant. We would spend a lot of late nights texting. It was enough to irritate the hell out of my mother’s husband when the phone bill came in every month until he got me unlimited texting. I would tell Sam fantastical stories every day on the city bus to and from school: a little melancholy or romantic (in the aesthetic sense) or we would bemoan our luck with father figures or we’d debate what passed for teenaged philosophy, trying to parse out our places in the world. We saw MCR live together on their last tour before I left Reno for my tiny college in Missouri– after the show he reassured me, adamantly, that my mother did not in fact hate me despite all the evidence I had to the contrary at the time. (He would wind up being right– my mother loves me, but when I was younger and less articulate she never knew how to relate to me. I’ve always been just past strange.)
Sam would turn out to be too wedded to the ditch his family dug him from birth. It resembled a grave, the last time I spoke to him, more than a rut, to my great grief and his utter apathy… but through him I met Moira. I think I was 19 that spring. Moira is the closest thing I can think of to defining a “platonic life partner” in my conceptualization of the term. We live together, work together, write, eat, fight, talk, and laugh together. She’s changed my life in countless small ways and helped me find a calling of sorts through writing and study.
All I can think, right now, is that if I hadn’t picked up that one CD when I was in middle school… or any one thread shifted a little to the left at all… all of this might have gone so differently. But I like my life as it stands today, for all the complaints I might lodge with the Universe at Large. I can’t imagine enjoying any different life half as much.
Let me cut to the chase: The Penumbra Podcast is a phenomenal show and I can’t recommend enough that you, yes you reading this, listen to it right away. If that endorsement alone isn’t good enough, then please allow me to give you some of my top reasons for loving this show:
- Both series on The Penumbra Podcast feature relatable queer characters who are actual adults.
- Yes, that’s right. Stories about queer adults written by queer adults and, more or less, for queer adults. Don’t let the loudest, tumblr-based sections of the fandom fool you. This show is family-friendly in that there is not a great wealth of profanity or explicit sexual content but the themes that arise in both the scifi-noir drama of Juno Steel and the entwined ensemble high fantasy narratives of The Second Citadel are definitely for adults. Whether it’s addiction recovery, the rough road to accepting one’s own queerness, speed-running trauma therapy, or tackling the ninja-level communication skills required for a healthy polyamorous relationship– these are stories focused on the lives of queer people who have more or less already grown up.
- I can’t begin to tell you how nice it is to see media reflect lives of queer people. Stories where queerness is neither the sole focus of the plot nor is it simply tacked on as a sloppy afterthought; rather it is a thread present throughout every episode, present and acknowledged. Until I listened to The Penumbra, I genuinely didn’t know it was possible for a show to do that!
- The settings are vivid, living worlds!
- The Juno Steel series is a sci-fi noir drama set on Mars approximately 8,000 years in our future, if some throwaway lines from side characters are to be taken seriously! The resultant world is both familiar and refreshingly new, filled with long-dead alien species, shady, deep-pocketed politicians, raucous reality shows, sentient cars, and no small amount of teleportation-based shenanigans.
- You might expect The Second Citadel, a high fantasy ensemble drama, to be yet another pseudo-medieval rehashing of Tolkien. You would be sorely mistaken. The Second Citadel successfully circumvents the hallmarks of its genre while still building a rich history and religious system– and challenging both of those narratives in-universe!– and developing a wholly unique “monster” society which cannot be underestimated!
- Phenomenal. Voice. Acting.
- I can’t say too much here without giving away more vital plot details but suffice it to say that ever member of The Penumbra’s cast is stacked with the most-talented voices I’ve had the pleasure of hearing.
- Never once does this show leave me thinking, “Wait is this X or Y or C?” after zoning out for a few minutes. Every actor has incredible range and character voices and syntax are clear and unique and vibrant. I could go on for days– but, really, you have to hear it for yourself.
The show’s creators, Sophie Takagi Kaner and Kevin Vibert, both maintain that we, the audience, deserve to see ourselves represented in the stories we hear. Suffice it to say, I think they successfully do that with The Penumbra. You can start your listening journey right here.
I must admit, rather than trawling lists of novels on GoodReads or Romance.io, I actually came upon Emily Tesh’s Greenhallow Duology on purpose. I’d interacted with her prose before on other forums and found her storytelling masterful and use of language deft and incisive and these books did not at all disappoint.
The Duology is comprised of Silver in the Wood and The Drowned Country, which follow the lives of Henry Silver and Tobias Finch. Their romance is not central to the plot but a delightful and compelling background onto which Tesh paints an ever-widening sphere of fae influence. And, really, this book has everything I might ask for in a fantasy: liches, dryads, sentient forests, faerie queens, vampires, intrepid (or maybe foolhardy) adventuresses. I would hate to spoil anything, as these books are short and sweet and could be read in an evening by a determined bibliophile, but suffice it to say that these magical elements in conjunction with Tesh’s sparkling prose leaves me wanting to delve deeper into the history of the universe she’s writing in. The Greenhallow Duology is a tantalizing taste of, I hope, more things to come from her in the future.
Typically I hate-read romance novels because I have a strong natural inclination toward arguing that needs to be channeled somewhere.
I came to Susan Trombley’s Iriduan Test Subjects series with the expectation of being able to vent my typical spleen: weak worldbuilding, boring character arcs, uninspiring humanoids that everyone pretended were somehow horrible monstrosities.
What I’ve found instead has been a shock and an utter delight.
TL;DR 4/5 would recommend to anyone looking for romance novels with a bit more substance and realism.Continue reading “A Breath of Fresh Air”
I return to Laura Thalassa’s Four Horsemen series with a sense of dread and trepidation because I know now what I’m in for and it isn’t some fantastical erotic horror compendium. But, dear readers, I am loyal to my mission and so we’re going to dive into Thalassa’s War and see how the Apocalypse continues to unfold.
CW: discussions of textual islamophobia, threats of sexual assaultContinue reading “Here We Go Again”
I’ve been trying to write this for a year and am not likely to succeed in saying what I want to say with this attempt, either, but you know me: I’ve never been able to leave well enough alone. I’ve never known when to stop talking. I have never rebuilt a bridge burnt, no matter who struck the first match. I have a tendency to dump kerosene on fires because it’s less risky to stand on the opposite shore alone.
I suppose I might like to know when you made the decision that you would have nothing more to do with me. Between that winter when you told me I was one of the best things in your life to that summer when you stopped talking to me completely there wasn’t so much time. I can’t remember fighting. I can’t remember being cruel. I remember trying to get my feet under me. I remember inviting you over often; too often, in retrospect, because I remember your answering silence. I remember asking you what was wrong and I remember that you would not talk to me.
What happened that spring?
I suppose I failed you in some monumental way. That much is clear. Whatever I did, surely it was inhumane because you’ve said something to our mutual friends that’s encouraged them to shut me out, too. (A good parting shot you made with that one. Bravo, sir. I hope my loneliness makes you feel proud.) But, in this pretend conversation, I’m compelled to ask: what did I do?
I wish you had told me what I’d done wrong. Without knowing how I failed you I have no way to improve for others.
I don’t know why I’m so torn up about this; I know you aren’t.
I don’t know why I miss you.
You are content in my absence.
I wanted to be a friend to you. That has been true from my first impression of you: kind, quiet, smart, skilled, killer fashion sense. Those perceptions never changed, although they grew nuance and depth. You made it clear, over the decade that we knew each other, that your first impressions never relented, either: you thought I was arrogant, rude, not particularly pleasant to know. Of course, this was interspersed with compliments and fond affection and late-night conversations about the nature of love and literary analysis … so I let it slide. I thought you changed your mind about me.
This is, maybe, a prolonged period of mourning which I am experiencing. I have never lost a friend I loved so profoundly for no apparent reason before, even if that friend did not love me back. In theory, I know to expect myself to grieve, to give myself space to do so. In practice, I feel like you pulled something out of me and kept it and now I will never get it back and I am reminded every single day of this new void in my body where something vital once sat. I am distraught for that lack.
Are you satisfied?
We may only look back to be sure we have not come this way before.
(This is the Groundhog Day of years.)
If you keep telling stories you can survive anything.
(You’re not special. Work harder.)
The closest you may ever get to another human being is sitting on a plane and that’s probably for the best.
(Carry Clorox wipes whenever you travel.)
You’ve done this alone before and this is no different; repeat that statement until it becomes true.
(You will need more boxes in more sizes than you think.)
Healing begins by scrubbing the floorboards of a house that doesn’t belong to you until your knuckles are raw and your lungs ache and every inch of laminate sparkles.
(You can survive anything— you’ll prove it when your best friend dies.)
The only cure for fear is anger.
I’ve been pretty scarce lately, even for this sporadically-updated and quiet blog, so I thought I’d clue you in as to why.
Remember that one ex I wrote a lot of poetry about a couple years ago? Well, this blog is public and they found it at the end of the summer and decided to use it to contact me. They made this decision and chose to inform me that they’d been watching my house and had thought about me every single day since they broke up with me– but that this blog was clearly my safe space and they didn’t want to threaten it.
I did the thing you’re supposed to do when you find out you have a stalker and told them point-blank to never contact me again– from a burner email on a public computer that wasn’t where I worked. They know where I work but I haven’t seen them– although there have been a few scares as there are some people on campus who resemble them strongly. As far as I’m aware they haven’t tried to reach me again which is just as well. I’ve changed my phone number in the intervening months. I’m reasonably confident they don’t know where I live now and certainly won’t know once I move again. I refuse to change any of my usernames on principle and, fortunately, I haven’t been forced to.
But their oh-so-gracious reaching out had the intended effect: it scared me and got me to feel avoidant of the spaces I knew they’d see. I think I’m going to back up and remove the poetry that’s more-obviously about them since I don’t want to retroactively reinforce any bad ideas they’ve gotten, as much as it pains me for my feeble blog statistics.
Anyway, that’s what’s been going on.
every year i approach fall with this feeling of a gathering damp. i can feel myself getting sadder by the day, first around the edges then closer. even when i do the things i enjoy most, even when i have stretches of weeks at a time where all is well, and it becomes apparent, usually by the end of october, that there’s nothing i can do to waylay what’s coming for me. then i spend a week, sometimes two, furious. snapping at everything i can get my jaws around because i’m just so goddamn angry that i have no control over the winter. then i pass the tipping point. and everything becomes very still. and all i can think of day in and day out, until spring comes, is how better off this earth would be with me cold underneath it. and some years not even the sun coming back does the trick. not even august out on the hardpan salt gets hot enough to burn off the fog. and then before i know it, it’s fall again.