Geeky Gratitude

captain-marvel-cat-goose.jpgEvery year I make a list of things that bring joy to my heart, specifically, my geeky heart. This year is a challenge, not because it wasn’t full of wonderful things but because my brain has turned into Swiss cheese and I have a hard time remembering what happened this year. Avengers: Endgame was THIS YEAR, people. It’s confusing.

Anyway, here are some things that made me happy – I hope you too found happiness in your own nerdy way. To qualify for my list, a nerdy item must be something I enjoyed in 2019, but not necessarily for the first time. Daughter wanted to watch a lot of Halloween fair in October so you’ll notice a certain predominance of those kinds of movies which are fresh in my mind. I don’t know what happened this summer or spring. Stuff, I guess.

Here’s the list:

  1. Thomasin tells off her father (The Witch).
  2. “We ARE the weirdos!” the first half of The Craft, which is still sublime. Let’s just all pretend the second half never happened.
  3. The fashion sense of Practical Magic.
  4. Midnight margaritas! (Practical Magic).
  5. Every single thing about The Good Place.
  6. Nicholas Hoult’s eyes in Warm Bodies.
  7. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.
  8. The Good Place panel at San Diego Comic Con, at which everyone cried and all the cosplayers took group selfies in the aisles.
  9. The “nerd” conversation in Stranger Things.
  10. Emily’s angry face in Corpse Bride.
  11. The Back to the Future conversation in Stranger Things.
  12. The Back to the Future conversation in Avengers: Endgame.
  13. Goose and Lt. Trouble in Captain Marvel.
  14. Captain Marvel!
  15. Chuck Tingle’s facebook account.
  16. My Life as a Background Slytherin and Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern
  17. Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson.
  18. Re-reading the Sandman comics. FOR WORK!
  19. The Cephalopod Tarot.
  20. The Next World Tarot.
  21. Into the Spiderverse! Spider-Ham!

I wish you and yours a nerdy and wonderful Thanksgiving. Eat all the pie! Watch all the things! Read all the stuff! Higher, further, faster, Baby!

So many days, so little posts.

white mug

Photo by Ana M. on Pexels.com

It is November ELEVENTH and I’m finally publishing something for the month! I was so fortunate to have a busy September and October: writing for Clarkesworld Magazine, leading Tarot workshops for teens, leading Arden Dimick Book Club and a writing workshop, writing for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and driving my daughter places. And driving. and driving. And driving. And, of course, falling behind here.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll talk about tarot and make my Geeky Gratitude list. For today I’ll leave you with germ-free thoughts (I have a cold) and a poem by Joseph Seamon Cotter, courtesy of PoemHunter.com. Cotter was an African-American poet from Kentucky who lived from 1861 – 1916. In addition to being a well-regarded poet, he was also an advocate of Civil Rights and of education.

Old November, sere and brown,
Clothes the country, haunts the town,
Sheds its cloak of withered leaves,
Brings its sighing, soughing breeze.
Prophet of the dying year,
Builder of its funeral bier,
Bring your message here to men;
Sound it forth that they may ken
What of Life and what of Death
Linger on your frosty breath.
Let men know to you are given
Days of thanks to God in heaven;
Thanks for things which we deem best,
Thanks, O God, for all the rest
That have taught us–(trouble, strife,
Bring thru Death a larger life)–
Death of our base self and fear–
(Even as the dying year,
Though through cold and frost, shall bring
Forth a new and glorious spring)–
Shall shed over us the sway
Of a new and brighter day,
With Hope, Faith and Love alway.

Happy Halloween, Y’all

black cat cat cat eyes couch

Black Cat

Rainer Maria Rilke – 1875-1926

A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.

She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Ghost Bride Goes to Netflix

between the lines book club logoOur next book club meeting is on October 26th from 10:30 – 12 at Arden Dimick Library. We are reading The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. Comment in person or on the blog!

Good news – The Ghost Bride is coming to Netflix! It is not to be confused with the movie Ghost Bride from 2017, which involves the same tradition but is a very different kind of story with a lot of gore, or a completely different movie with the same name from 2013. Our Ghost Bride will be out in January 2020. Here’s a teaser trailer!

 

 

Women in Stephen King

23a0e7fdf5a39d18207728024628c1d4Reading The Institute made me want to revisit some King stories that I preferred to The Institute. Stephen King is not a writer I think of as feminist overall – some of his stuff is pretty regressive, but he is feminist in the sense that his work abounds with “strong” female characters. By “strong” I don’t mean that they can light your head on fire (although one of them can). I mean that they are of various ages and classes (but not, alas, races, being almost all White) and they are layered and complex. They are not shamed for surviving. They are allowed to grow. Sometimes they are villians, sometimes heroes, and sometimes some of both. Way back before people were talking much about representation, King was giving us moms in Pintos with marital problems, and middle-aged domestic violence survivors, and crazed elderly fans. 

 

For a list of my favorite female King characters, read on. This refers only to written works, not adaptations. Since I haven’t written everything by King, a lot of iconic female characters are left out of this list – I count on you, readers, to help me out. Also, I read some of these a long time ago and I can only hope that they hold up – they’ve walked with me through many dark passages.

 

Sue Snell, Carrie: I’m fond of Carrie for obvious reasons. It’s kind of a hot mess but it’s empathetic as hell thanks to a warm narrative voice and the character of Sue. According to legend he wrote a draft and tossed it out. His wife, Tabitha, of whom we shall read further, dug it out of the trash and made him write a full-length novel, which became his first hit. He told her, “I don’t know anything about high school girls,” and she replied, “Well, I do” and went on to be instrumental in the writing process.

 

Charlie McGee, Firestarter: You little badass. The final chapter of Firestarter (not the violent climactic scene but the actual end of the book) is so satisfying that sometimes I read just that chapter for a little power boost. This is the first King I read and I’ve read it a billion times. I love that kid. She’s smart alright, and has a high level of intuition (possibly a low level of prognostic power), but she still thinks and acts like a little kid. A smart, resourceful little kid. She’s my girl.

 

Donna Trenton, Cujo: Fucking kickass mom. Regarding the ending, we never criticize authors here (the work, yes, the author no) but just once, allow me to say, “YOU BASTARD.” It’s the only ending King publically regrets, and he let the screenwriters change it for the movie.

 

Dayna Jurgens, The Stand: The Stand has given us some of the worst female characters of all time (Julie Lawry), but it also gave us Dayna. This book abounds in problematic stuff, and there are some problematic tropes specifically at play with Dayna, but Dayna is an early, positive portrayal of an open bisexual who is accepted by the community. She’s smart, she’s funny, she kicks ass, she makes good plans and improvises like a champ, and she risks everything, more than once, to save her friends. Also, she outwits Satan, so that’s pretty awesome. In high school I based a character in Vampyre: The Masquerade after her. I can offer no higher tribute.

 

Emily, “The Gingerbread Girl,” Just After Sunset: The protagonist of a short story that reduced me to screaming (while reading) “HIT HIM AGAIN! HIT HIM AGAIN!” Unlike the final girls of many slasher stories, her fight for survival does not make her become evil herself, or cause her to develop PTSD, or set her up for death in a sequel. She is liberated and healed by fighting for and winning her life. Go, team. 

 

Lisey, Lisey’s Story: I have to admit that the only thing I remember about this book is that it gave me a deep and abiding fear of can openers. I dimly recall, however, that Lisey was a great character who went through some interesting arcs and wielded a mean shovel. Anyone want to back me up here?

 

What do you think readers? Who are your favorites?

The Institute, by Stephen King

cover of The Institute
All dread the “meh” review, and alas, yet again, it is upon us. As a long time Stephen King fan, I acknowledge that he has hits and he has misses (your mileage will vary on which is which).
The Institute has gotten more buzz than other recent King novels because of all the TV and film adaptations of his other work popping up like Carrie from the grave, but it’s not his best. 

 

We begin with a long interlude about Tim Jamieson, an ex-cop turned drifter who takes on a night job with the sheriff’s department in a small town in Georgia. Then we switch to the Ellis family which consists of a mom and a dad and a very gifted twelve year old named Luke. In short order mom and dead are killed and Luke is kidnapped. He wakes up in a room that is almost, but not quite, a perfect replica of his room at home, but which is located in a dorm inhabited by other children. While they are not all geniuses (Luke is universally acknowledged as the smartest among them) they all have low levels of either telepathy or telekinesis.  

 

Will the kids, led by smart kid Luke, rise up against their oppressors? They sure will. Will Tim and Luke ever cross paths? You betcha. Will I find all kinds of problems with the book and still manage to read the entire thing over a remarkably short period of time? Yessiree. These are not spoilers. They are self-evident.

 

I’ve been a Stephen King fan since I read Firestarter in middle school but this book feels like a retread of older themes that is trying too hard. King is usually great with pinning down how people talk and think, but the level of folksy in this book, especially at the beginning with Tim and the small town, is almost a parody. 

 

Meanwhile, the kids don’t seem like kids. Even genius kids would not sound like forty-year-olds and their pop culture references would not come mostly from the 1990s. They make so many 1990s references that I thought this book was set in the 1990s until someone made a reference to Hamilton. King has written so many great child characters that it’s especially jarring that these kids read not as gifted kids but as artificial constructs. As the book progresses, either the writing improves or I just fell into the flow of it, but it never completely loses the feeling that these are chess pieces as opposed to characters, with a couple of exceptions.

 

As is usually the case with King, there is a certain amount of liberal love (Donald Trump is disparaged, by name, twice, and Hillary Clinton’s slogan “Stronger Together” helps the kids make their plan). There are an equal number of problematic elements, such as the fact that the small town only has one female deputy, and she’s a ditz who exists purely to become Tim’s girlfriend.

 

I liked the images of small town nights, and the plot just zips along. I’ve read King books that I loved and some that I hated but not once have I said, “Well this is boring.” I like his slow character building moments, and this book has plenty. I also liked it that the message of the book is firmly on the side of idealism. The kids, and the good adults, are, in fact, “stronger together” in multiple ways, and the book highlights the importance of the individual and the importance of community, and how vital it is to balance the needs of both. There’s a lot of found family in this book which I just love.

 

Overall, however, this book just makes me want to re-watch Stranger Things and re-read Firestarter. It feels artificial instead of organic. But maybe that’s ok, maybe it’s just about freaking time we had a bunch of psychic kids storming the barricades while quote Hillary Clinton. Just because it’s artificial doesn’t mean I can’t get behind it.