Thursday, May 6, 2021

Who Do We Write For?


By Cheryl Oreglia


I’ve wrestled with this question so many times as a writer, I usually end up penning (intentional) someone, or something before the towel's thrown in.

Is it for my friends, an enemy, some ex-lover whom I pen my words? A family member, a neighbor, or some unimagined person that stumbled on my work and became enamored with the words? Maybe I write for myself? Or my deceased parents? But this much I know to be true, when I have too many agendas to shuffle nothing of value lands on the page.

Regardless of who I’m writing for, if I want to invite readers onto my page then I think Glennon Doyle Melton makes a good point, “fancy language tends to make "in" people feel more in and "out" people feel more out, and I don't think that's how words are best used. Words are best used to describe specific feelings, ideas, and hearts as clearly as possible - to make the speaker and the listener, or the writer and the reader, feel less alone and more hopeful.”

When I encounter an author whose voice speaks to my own, I keep their cadence in my head, along with the seeds I want to sow, the itch I need to scratch, the wound in need of healing. These voices become so congested at times it’s as if I’m stuck in traffic, I make no progress, and that obnoxious red light flashes before me. A siren if you will as if you need to take cover because a catastrophe is brewing.

I’m trying to stop the metaphors but they just keep coming.

Seth Godin says we should write for the smallest viable audience and Kurt Vonnegut says he writes for an audience of one. “Many writers write because they’ve been there, seen that, did it and burnt their fingers,” says Bangambiki Habyarimana.

The audience you choose, whether it be yourself, or your dead sister like Kurt, maybe it’s a specific community you’ve conjured up in your mind, as Amanda Gorman says it’s about the bridge, not the blade. When you read what I write there is a single connection, this page might reach out to many as if a telephone wire, but if the conversation is to have any meaning it must be one to one.

For me, the world does not make sense until I have some version of it tackled on the page. Oddly enough, as Betsy Lerner says, the act of writing is strangely more lifelike than life.

It’s is a sacred act because both reading and writing are done in solitude to be fully efficacious. I can read and write with the television on but it’s distracting and disrupts the experience, the same with sex, prayer, and morning absolutions.

It becomes an intimate relationship between the reader and the writer, third parties are not welcome, and if the writing is good the love affair will endure.

Do you check out the back cover of a book to see what the author looks like? Do you read the bio and try to imagine the person you are now connected to through their writing? What is she like? Do you inspect her life as if a detective looking for clues to solve a mystery? Or do you treat this new relationship as if a lover you’re stalking on Facebook? I’ve done it all.

Marie Howe remembers a very lonely man, coming up to her at the end of a reading and looking into her face and saying, “I feel as if I have looked down a corridor and seen into your soul.” And she looked at him and said, “You haven't. Here's the good news and the bad news: you haven't! I made something, and you and I could look at it together, but it's not me; you don’t live with me; you're not intimate with me. You're not the man I live with or my friend. You will never know me in that way. I'm making something, like Joseph Cornell makes his boxes and everyone looks into them, but it's the box you look into; it's not the man or the woman. It's alchemy of language and memory and imagination and time and music and sounds that gets made, and that's different.”

Maybe that happens when we reach a place of absolute truth, no bullshit, no glossy adages, just pure authentic words nailed one by one onto the page as if a crucifixion. A part of the author must bleed, maybe die, in order for the reader to discover new life.

On occasion, I write for my Dad who harbored such hope for my life, I want him to know I haven’t forgotten him, that I’m surviving, maybe even thriving. Oh, how I wanted him to be proud of me and I know how that wiggles its way into my writing. When I write for my Mom it’s more about finding a place for my anger, for the destructiveness of cancer, for a life taken too soon. I want her to forgive me for the ways in which I think I failed her, that I didn’t give enough, even though she praised my every effort unto her death. I’ve written for my enemies, but that always ends up being a self-serving tyrant, and I tend to gloss over the truth for the version I have recreated in my head because If I were honest I am as much to blame as my nemesis. I write for my friends when I want them to understand their value, how they draw me away from the computer and into life.

Stephen King says, “one of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, working for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed, and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.”

As a writer, I think we have to refuse to be domesticated, and in doing so we bring the untamed parts of ourselves to the landscape, the savage, feral, unbroken, human pieces, keeping our fire contained by a thin layer of parchment and the reader is seared by proximity.

In a recent post on my blog, Living in the Gap, I wrote for my children and grandchildren. I wrote about legacy and what we hope to leave the next generation. I hope they find me enmeshed in the words I laid to rest on the page but also in the experience of brushing up against me, and in the brushing their life is forever better. I suppose that’s what I want for all my readers.

Who do you write for?






When I’m not writing for Across the Board, I’m Living in the Gap, drop in anytime.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Why Isn't...

 


Hey all you cool cats and kittens. Katrina here to answer all the Google queries you didn’t know you had.

 

Why isn’t Kelly on the voice?

Don’t ask me why, but I thought this question was in regard to the Pickler variety of Kelly when in fact, the world is more worried about Kelly Clarkson who is MIA on The Voice’s “Battle Rounds.” Is she being a diva? Did she binge one too many episodes of Hoarders and is now in her own battle against that corner of clutter in her basement, lest one of her relatives send TLC into her home alongside a therapist with questionable credentials?

Sadly, no. Kelly revealed she is merely “under the weather.” She didn’t test positive for COVID, but, you know, better safe than sorry. (Wear your masks and get vaccinated, folks).

 

Why isn’t Pluto a planet?

I, personally, would argue that Pluto is IN FACT a planet, only because I’m still a little bit salty about that replica of the solar system I spent a month putting together in fifth grade, only to have it lose points because of Pluto’s questionable planetary status.

According to the Library of Congress, though, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgraded the status of Pluto to that of a dwarf planet because it did not meet the three criteria the IAU uses to define a full-sized planet. Essentially Pluto meets all the criteria except one—it “has not cleared its neighboring region of other objects.”

I have no clue what that means. As it is not on our list, we’ll pretend it doesn’t matter. MOVING ON.

 

Why isn’t my phone charging?

Is it an iphone?

Well, there’s your answer, eh?

 

Why isn’t my dog eating?

What’s that? A MEDICAL QUESTION? To WebMD (pet version) we go!

First possible cause: Doggo is sicko. If he’s got some pukage or there’s poop-chute fuckery afoot, time to visit the vet.

Second possible cause: Dental disease. Given dog’s mouths are meant to be cleaner than ours, I’m not going to continue to read this part of the article. If you think Doggo’s mouth hurts, feel free to Google on your own.

Third: Recent vaccination. If this is the cause, no worries! Doggo will be back to eating your shoes in no time.

 

Why isn’t Puerto Rico a state?

Look, you can read a million different articles that debate the pros and cons of statehood, the viewpoints of the 5% of Puerto Rican citizens who would die on a hill if it meant independence from the United States forever, but the answer is simple: Racism.

Next.

 

Why isn’t CC McGraw playing?

The only McGraw I know is Tim and, look, if he’s found some new path in life that requires a name change to CC, I am HERE FOR—

Oh.

So, NOT Tim?

Something something college volleyball. Digs. Aces. Assists. Etc.

I played volleyball in middle school. I grew up in Florida so there was sand a-plenty, yet SOMEHOW we still ended up playing on grass or—worse—the hard gym floor. My knee hasn’t been right since.

Wherever CC McGraw is, let’s hope it’s not the knee. Please, please, not the knee.

 

Now that I have imparted you with knowledge, go forth and pay it forward. Huzzah!




Thursday, April 29, 2021

'Exotic Birds': Not a Bird Book

 



For an ornithological textbook, 'Exotic Birds' really misses the mark. It made me look like a huge idiot in front of my birding club, and for that, it lost a whole star on Amazon.

The book opens with a short introductory on each species and it's foraging and mating habits. The species known as 'Jack Whittmeyer' seems to have an affinity for fermented nectar, which often gets it into trouble with it's mate. The Jack has a colorful plumage, and it's vulgar vocalizations are gritty, but oddly poetic. It's sister species, the 'Megan Whittmeyer', shares a similar vocal range, through it's focus is mainly nest building through long work days and concentration on self-reliance. The two birds seem to tolerate, though not necessarily enjoy each other's company, though the Jack is especially good at causing the Megan to screech in annoyance at it's brother species' antics.

Several other species are mentioned in the book, one of which being the 'Erin Rankin', a small, timid creature which enjoys mimicry of other species. The 'Elliot Greenfield' is also mentioned, and is a bold member of the peacock family, bent on finding as many females to mate with as possible. The drab 'Dave Peterson' is a quiet, unassuming with an affinity toward nest building. 

All of these birds flock together for an annual migration to Atlantic City, but in the course of this study, there is an unexpected event. The 'Megan' disappears from their flock, and the remaining birds actually set out to find it, deterring their migration from Atlantic City all the way to Ecuador to follow the path of an unknown species simply known as 'X', which is responsible for the disappearance.

During their adventures, the five birds find themselves being stalked by predators, baring the elements, and fighting amongst themselves as they search for the 'X' and a way back to their own terratory.

As an unconventional bird book, there is something for everyone here, although I would not recommend bringing it to your birding club. You've got comedy, romance, and adventure wrapped up into one package called 'Exotic Birds.' 

Find it on Amazon as a paperback, Kindle, or audiobook. You can also visit the author's page at www.jessicaeppley.com. 

Yeah, you got me. This is my book. And no, it isn't actually about birds. This is a novel that took me over 15 years to perfect, and it's my personal favorite. Might I also add that there is a sequel by the name of 'Solve for X.' 

Check it out, if you so desire, and stay weird.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Attempting to Divorce a Book's Worth from Capitalism

A Post by Mary Fan
Happy Fool's Spring, everyone! Well, it's Fool's Spring up here in New Jersey, at least. Who knows, you might get Actual Spring where you are, instead of having to dig out your winter sweater again because it suddenly dropped to 37 degrees...

Anyway, as y'all may know, capitalism is increasingly seen as the villain behind many societal ills, and with good reason. It reduces people and the things they do to dollar signs and bottom lines. It's no different when it comes to books. They are, after all, just "widgets" in economy-speak. Items to be sold for a profit; their value determined by how much green they put in the bank.

After all, how do you decide which books should be considered worthy? What makes one author more prestigious than another? The answer: capitalism. This author was published by a huge corporation and sold millions of books after an enormous marketing push! They're a great author! Let's invite them to speak at conferences, to participate in special events, to be upheld as a prime example to emulate. That's capitalism at work: The author is considered worthier because of the amount of money generated. Meanwhile, that author over there, who was published by a basement press and made maybe a few hundred bucks? They're not legit. That's also capitalism at work: The author is considered unworthy because of the lack of money generated.

There's a good reason why people use capitalism as a stand-in for worth: It's easy. No one has the time or willpower to read every book ever published, let alone compare and contrast and rank based on content. The number of decisions that would take would burn out anyone's brain. Popularity and bestselling status are convenient stand-ins. If tons of people liked a book, it must be good, right? 

And hey, why not. Most books are good enough, and if you're like most people, you'll enjoy what everyone else enjoyed. 

By the way, did you know that award submissions are often run out of the marketing department? Because awards, too, are capitalism. They're not the objective marker of merit that we like to think of them as. They're an advertising tool (trust me, I work in marketing). 

Faced with an ever-growing deluge of content, I can't blame readers for using capitalism as a stand-in for worth. Heck, I do it myself. I know the unique agony of standing in front of an enormous, stuffed shelf at a bookstore with no idea what I want, then grabbing the first title that feels familiar - because I've heard of the title, or the author, or have seen the cover somewhere. In behavioral finance, we call this a "familiarity bias".

Another useful concept from behavior finance? "Anchoring," which is used to describe an irrational bias toward a arbitrary benchmark figure. If you've been around author circles, you've probably seen this apply to Amazon reviews - the idea that 50 reviews is the magic number, or 100, or 250 (okay, that one might be Goodreads). Heck the very idea of a "six-figure deal" is kind of an example of anchoring.

Ultimately, this capitalistic way of viewing books revolves around institutional approval. The bigger and richer the institution, the more their opinion is worth. But here's the dirty little secret: these institutions are run by human beings, who are every bit as flawed and biased as everyone else. Their opinions may be held in high regard, but they should not be the only arbiters of worth.

Anyway, why am I going on about capitalism and behavioral finance? It's because these ideas and fallacies around worth revolving around numbers can be toxic to creators. Everyone loves to list their capitalistic accomplishments as proof of their worthiness - achieved bestselling status, got a Netflix deal, sold foreign rights, got a four-book contract, hit six figures... money, money, money, money. And again, awards aren't exempt from this. They're just a more palatable manifestation. Awards cost money to enter, after all, and the size of monetary prizes are sometimes used as a marker of how prestigious an award is.

It's lovely to get these things, and I'm not saying that writers shouldn't want them. We all do; I definitely do. But in my head, I'm trying to divorce these things from worth. As in - having them doesn't make a book inherently worthy... and on the flip side, the side that will apply to many more of us, not having them doesn't make a book unworthy.

I've seen writers lament that their work must not be any good because it didn't make the New York Times bestseller list, or consider themselves failures because they didn't earn out their advances. I've seen them talk about giving up because they didn't sell enough. That's the kind of mentality I'm trying to divorce myself from. I started writing because I love telling stories, and not because I want to measure myself the way a door-to-door salesman does, treating these stories as only objects to be converted into dollars. It's not easy in a world that's conditioned me to think that money alone can bring the elusive idea of "success."

The book is the book; just by existing, the book by itself has worth. The book could sit alone in a box in a closet, having never been exchanged for currency, having only been read by the author, and still be worthy for its ideas, for its craft, for the love and dedication that went into it, alone.  

And, of course, the same should apply to the person who wrote it. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Cure for the Modern Era: Conducting Preliminary Research for the Historical Novel

Greetings readers and Happy Earth Day! I don't know about you, but I'm finding Present Day Earth to be incredibly stressful. Daily mass shootings (only in America, kids!), environmental disasters (goodbye Iceberg A68), people's reticence in getting vaccinated (we're never going back to normal), and this general fear that the Great American Democracy Experiment is on its way out (who needs voting rights) has ratcheted my anxiety to a thousand. 

For me, escapism has taken on many forms this past year--from binge-watching New Girl on Netflix to listening to old-timey crime podcasts on Spotify to planning a lavender garden in a Poconos backyard, but nothing gets me lost in my own world more than doing historical research for a book idea.

There are plenty of writers who won't touch historical fiction with a ten-foot maypole. And I get it. The research is daunting, and no one wants to mess it up or get called out for messing it up (I once had an editor tell me I was using a 2000-era slang word in a 90s setting--I wasn't, but people make assumptions about what they know). Although I have degrees in both history and library science, I haven't tackled a project of this magnitude since I wrote my undergrad thesis on Jewish colonization schemes in 1920s Mexico (actual title of my paper). And despite my young adult novels all having historical components--I've written two novels set in the 1990s (easy to research because I was there), one novella set in 1955, and two mystery novels with flashbacks to the Swinging Sixties and Roaring Twenties--I am overwhelmed at the amount of research ahead of me. It's not just fashion and food and the cost of milk in 1951 that I need to know, but the landscape of my Manhattan setting. What landmarks existed then? How did the city look and smell? And then there is the geo-political climate--Cold War, post-WW II trauma, birth of suburbs. And the newspaper business. And major league baseball. And Jewish history. And everything. I feel like I need to know everything.


What if I can't find what I need? What if an important plot point hinges on an idea that is not historically sound? What if I can't accurately convey the period because I wasn't there? What if it takes me three hours to write a sentence? What if I can't do this?

The truth is I can do this; it just might take me a long time to draft. And while I am daunted by the process, I am also excited. Last week, I requested through interlibrary loan a dissertation about female journalists in the fifties and sixties. I sat at my laptop, read the book, and took notes, just like I did in college. And it was fun. I got lost in the work, and forgot about checking email or Twitter. And the more I learned about this particularly facet of history, the more my novel began to take shape. I had discovered my protagonist's objective and story arc. I realized that this idea could be amazing. That, perhaps, I was onto something truly special.

Of course everything is fun when it's research and not writing. And it's very easy for writers to use research as a means to procrastinate. Truthfully, I'm teetering on that edge since my historical novel is a secondary project right now (calling it my side hustle). But because of our current socio-political climate, a step back in time is exactly what I need to function today.

What era do you love to get lost in most? Medieval Europe? The Jazz Age? Sound off in the comments below.


Monday, April 19, 2021

Fiction and the Allure of Conspiracy

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
Things are not good here in Ontario. While COVID-19 vaccines are starting to reach a sizeable percentage of the population, they are racing against exploding numbers of cases, alongside (and because of) exploding anti-lockdown, anti-mask, and even anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.
 
How can people still be lured in by COVID conspiracy theories even after an entire year of this, in which many of us have seen the devastating effects of the disease first-hand? I'll put forward the idea that some people are drawn to conspiracy theories for the same reason most of us are drawn to fiction. There is an allure to believing in stories, even if they are false.
 
A constructed story is emotionally reassuring. A good novel can let you escape into a world where there is mystery and evil, but each mystery is a few steps away from being solved by our heroes, and the bad guys get what they deserve. A good conspiracy theory is the same: a mysterious illness has spread across the world, but a guy in scrubs on YouTube has heroically arrived to reveal that it was fake all along. Little viral particles don't make good moustache-twirling bad guys, so blame the government instead. It's all so easy—such an emotionally satisfying escape from a real world full of ever-changing answers and a threat without a face.


The problem is that trying to escape reality doesn't make it go away. The virus doesn't check if you believe in it before putting you in the ICU, drowning in your own fluids while even people who have followed reality-based rules and advice all along are turned away from the collapsing healthcare system.
 
Can you tell I'm a bit angry? I see these conspiracy theories on social media, even among people I thought were friends. And what do I do about it? Because I understand why it's comforting to believe it's all fake, to want a free pass to cough all over a gathering of friends because it's all just a plot by the government, Bill Gates, and whoever else you never liked anyway. These people are clutching to fictional stories like babies clutching their comfort blankies. On one hand, fuck you! Grow up! But on the other hand, they're just going to whine harder if you try to take away their comforting lies, and afterward they'll probably clutch to them even tighter.


Ok fine, have fun you delusional owl, but get back to reality when it's time to "book" a vaccine appointment. 
 
The BBC has an article on how to talk to the victims of conspiracy theories, which recommends approaching them with empathy and having long conversations with them to gradually introduce them to the facts. Maybe it works sometimes. But I'm just tired. It's been over a year, and who has time to spend hours trying to deprogram delusional cultists on top of everything else? I think there's still room for empathy though, because we all like a good fictional story, so we can all understand how some people take it too far and escape into a dangerous reality-denying narrative.
 
I wish I could end this post with easy answers, but this isn't a story, and there aren't any. At least those of us who subscribe to reality do have some concrete steps to follow and normalize, though: stay home whenever you can, wear a mask when you can't, get vaccinated when possible. Stay healthy, everyone.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Talking about the Snyder Cut with Guest Author, Victor Catano


www.karissalaurel.com
  I am a superhero junkie. Says so right in my Twitter bio. And while, I think the MCU is consistently putting out more reliable movie material, you'll never take away my love of DC classics like Superman and Batman. I grew up on Wonder Woman. Wanted to BE her when I was little (I had the Underoos to prove it.) 

 I am, however, among the many who have been repeatedly disappointed by the new round of Super Man movies. I love Henry Cavill's portrayal of the Man of Steel, but I'm not to crazy about the scripts he's been given. Despite that, I've still hung in there, watching Batman V Superman, and waiting impatiently for The Justice League so I could meet Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash.

And I'm going to confess something. I barely remembered any of the 2017 movie by the time the Snyder Cut was released on HBO Max. Which probably explains why I was willing to subject myself to it again. Ha! I (almost) always want to see superhero movies. And if the movie wasn't great, I love the idea that they get a chance at redemption. Isn't that often what being a superhero is all about?

So, that sort of explains why I decided to give the Snyder Cut a try--to find out if the Justice League movie got some kind of redemption in its re-edit. I've invited my buddy, author, and semi-regular ATB guest contributor, Victor Catano, to discuss his thoughts on the Snyder Cut with me, now that we've both watched it. So, tell me Victor, why did you subject yourself to that FOUR HOUR super hero marathon? 

Victor: It’s a good question! I was not a fan of the theatrical Justice League. At all. Snyder had to leave the project due to a family tragedy, and the studio brought in Joss Whedon to finish it. The resulting mess was a real Frankenstein creation that whipsawed from jokey to dour and was almost incomprehensible. So I was curious to see if the film could be salvaged.

I grew up with Superman and Batman and want to see them in good movies. However, that would mean the unified tone would be more like Batman v Superman, and I also did not like BvS. But, early reviews (from real critics!) were encouraging! So I decided to give it a try, with this caveat: I would only watch 10 minutes a day. That way, the slow motion bombast wouldn’t numb me.

Karissa: LOL! Slow motion bombast is so true I almost want to cry. For much of the time, I felt like I was stuck in a very long White Snake music video (So much hair blowing dramatically to retro musical numbers!). So, yeah, I didn’t much like Man of Steel or Superman V Batman for a lot of reasons. I think most of the biggest complaints were that, coming off the heels of Christian Bale’s gritty prestige Batman, people were ready for something else from DC. Especially when it comes to Superman. Nobody wants a grimdark Superman! Unless he’s briefly high on red kryptonite. But what these new series of movies gave us was a Superman we didn’t really recognize. 

I had hoped the new Justice League was going to remedy my Superman complaints, but I was a bit disappointed, especially when he came out in that black suit in the Snyder Cut. How about you?

Victor: I really like Henry Cavill as Superman. I really did not like how the Snyder films portrayed him. Especially Pa “fuck them kids” Kent!

There’s a reason Kal-El becomes the embodiment of Truth, Justice and the American Way. It’s because the Kents raise him full of love and respect and ideals. Without that, he’s a General Zod clone who views earthlings as “lesser.” So it drove me crazy that Pa keeps telling him to let people die so he can stay a secret. (Including Pa senselessly sacrificing himself in a tornado!! Why???).

But there are moments in the Snyder Cut that actually lean into Superman’s humanity. His reunion with Lois is touching and sweet! The best Superman stories lean into his human aspects.

But they don’t last. Snyder is more into laser eyed Superman laying waste to everything

Karissa: The best part of all of the Snyder Superman movies was the casting. There was a lot of believable chemistry between Clark and his immediate inner circle. Maybe that was Cavill's particular charm, but it was, for me, about the only thing that redeemed the movies. And I agree with you that it doesn't last. It all gets buried under the SUPER DESTRUCTIVE Superman.

Victor: Yes, Snyder films are always impeccably cast, going back to Watchmen. That movie looked like they pulled the cast right out of the comics. And Gadot is a perfect Wonder Woman.

Not really a fan of Ezra Miller as Flash, though. He was even more annoying here than in the theatrical cut. Turns out all those quips I blamed on Joss Whedon were all in Snyder’s version.

Karissa: Ha. I don't mind Ezra. I'm kind of looking forward to his Flash movie, to be honest. I was glad for the comic relief he brought that was so desperately missing from other Snyder-verse movies.

But more than the Flash, I was really glad we got to see more of Cyborg's story. There's been a lot of controversy lately over Ray Fisher's treatment during filming. That could be a blog post in and of itself. So aside from that, I'm glad that his character got to have his day, so to speak.

Victor: The thing is, we got maybe 10 more minutes of Cyborg, and most of that is Victor playing slow motion football and a baffling “enter the matrix” sequence where a CGI bull fights a CGI bear to symbolize “economy.”

Karissa: Okay, maybe you're right. Because, to be honest, I remember so little of the 2017 Justice League that I can't give a fair comparison to the 2021 Cyborg versus the 2017 version. And I was also watching this version with Cyborg specifically in mind because of all the talk about him on social media.

Victor: So I really don’t get the whole “Cyborg is now the heart of the movie” talk. They just developed a supporting character a little better, and they still really didn’t define his powers all that well, beyond “cyber.” At the end, he magically repaired a tape recorder he crushed. Sorry, but “talking to machines” doesn’t mean you can do that.

Which is kind of a problem I have with a lot of Zach Snyder’s work. He can create a stunning image. There are shots here that look like the best splash pages ever in comics - Batman, perched on a rooftop, backlit by lightning. The whole team leaping forth to fight the villain. Going back to Watchmen, the opening sequence telling the condensed history of superheroes is amazing, bravura filmmaking.

But the everything around these great images is nonsense! Like he started with the image he wanted and then worked backwards from that.

Karissa: Not to get off topic, but this reminds me a little of Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s Madripoor episode. So much comic book eye candy. So little substance. But I digress…Perhaps one of my biggest complaints about the Snyder Cut (other than it felt like a very self-indulgent editor ego trip) was the pacing. Anything four hours long is going to be a challenge when it’s not written episodically. I think Snyder’s affixation on cinematic imagery ended up being like a series of very pretty speed bumps. And then, like you said, those images had to be justified with a story line, and so many of those stories just weren’t well thought out.

Victor: Take Batman v Superman (please!) The main event fight between Batman and Superman is great! It’s inspired by the Dark Knight Returns comic. It’s everything you want! It’s got the iconic moment where Superman punches Batman AND BATMAN CATCHES HIS FIST and Superman is visibly shaken.


But everything leading up to the fight is the laziest screenwriting imaginable! Luthor will kill Martha Kent unless Superman kills Batman. “Ok.” And the way the fight ends has just become a notorious joke. (WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?!?!?)

It’s the same here. I want to see the team working in tandem, stopping the interplanetary invaders! I do not want to see Steppenwolf zoom calling Darkseid’s assistant to further a master plan that makes no sense. Oh, Darkseid has been looking for these mother boxes for thousands of years? And they were on the one planet that defeated him? You’d think he’d remember a thing like that!

 Karissa: Okay now that we're talking about Darkseid and Steppenwolf, I have to go off on one of my personal issues. I've talked repeatedly to anyone listening about how much I prefer practical effects and "real" people as villains instead of relying too heavily on CGI. Even though the motivation behind their animosity was less than convincing, I at least appreciated the chemistry between Batman and Superman as antagonists because of their realness. One of the places where Snyder's movies (and many other Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Paranormal) stop working for me is when the villain becomes too unreal. I had a hard time with Steppenwolf and Darkseid for this reason.

 I could not be bothered to care about them at all or find them believable as characters. I didn't like it when he created Doomsday in Batman v Superman. I didn't like it when he turned Ares into a CGI beast in Wonder Woman (don't tell me that Ares was not 100% a Snyder element). I don't like natural disaster movies, and I usually don't like Kaiju movies like Godzilla and King Kong for the same reasons. Big dumb destructive forces as villains rarely works for me (because a villain with nothing meaningful to lose ((other than world/universe domination)) is just so generic and boring), and I feel like Snyder relies on that too much to his detriment.

I know you like Godzilla and King Kong, Victor. What are your thoughts in general, of Snyder’s villains?

Victor: Yes, I hated the CGI character designs as well. Darkseid, Desaad, and Steppenwolf all looked Terrible. They looked like some one mushed up some plasticine. They didn’t look finished. Also didn’t like the character designs of a lot of the heroes. Flash looked like a bunch of red Tupperware lids taped together. Cyborg looked like a cut scene from Tron. Martian Manhunter looked dreadful as well.

Karissa: They all looked so similar! Ha ha, "red Tupperware lids" Ha ha ha you're not wrong.

Victor: Right, Darkseid & Manhunter looked exactly the same, but different costumes!

Now, as you note, I have nothing against CGI in general! But, like anything else, it’s a tool. It is one tool in a filmmaker’s arsenal. Look at Grogu, aka Baby Yoda, everyone’s favorite special effect. It’s a practical puppet enhanced with CGI as needed! It feels like something real being interacted with, not something weightless that’s bouncing around. 

Karissa: So, I feel like the CGI was gratuitous, the cinematography was gratuitous, the FOUR HOUR run-time was gratuitous. Snyder was having his own personal editorial orgy with this movie. What director wouldn’t be thrilled to have this kind of opportunity and privilege (whether he deserved it or not ((I’m leaning hard towards *not*))?  How, and more importantly WHY, does a movie like this even happen?

Victor: What, you didn’t appreciate the super slo mo sesame seed drop and flying hot dogs?

Karissa: I did NOT. I hated those slo mo hot dogs. So gross.

Victor: Also, my phone keeps autocorrecting super slo mo to “super slo no,” which I feel is Siri making an editorial comment.

So, putting aside Snyder's inability to create a sustained, coherent narrative, I wanted to talk about fans and fan service as well.

The Snyder Cut would not exist were it not for the vocal online presence of Snyder's hard-core fan base. You know, the ones who would spam #ReleaseTheSnyderCut into any conversation and generally act like a bunch of obnoxious assholes. They were encouraged by Snyder because of course he wanted to get his full vision out there, even though the most die-hard fans were abusive jerks.

Karissa: Why does this sound familiar? *cough cough* starwarsfans *cough cough*

Victor: This happened to coincide with WB launching HBO Max and needing new content to lure in subscribers. So, seeing a way to mollify a vocal fanbase and get some buzz, they relented and gave Snyder $70 million to do reshoots and finish effects. Considering the realities of pandemic life, this was a cost effective way to get a brand new movie and not have to do lots of location shooting.

Now... I am no stranger to fan campaigns. I remember being so appalled as a snotty 14 year old that comedic actor Michael Keaton would star as Batman in a film from the director of Pee Wee's Big Adventure that I furiously signed petitions at several comic book stores. (This is pre-internet, kids.)

Karissa: *gasps* Did you really???

Victor: Yes, but I was 14! I was tremendously concerned that people take comics SERIOUSLY. However, I grew out of that and I don’t think a lot of the Snyder Fans ever did.

Fans helped save Star Trek, Veronica Mars, and other shows. But, hear me out, sometimes fans are dumb and mean. 

Like me! That first Tim Burton Batman, that every fan was sure was going to be a campy follow up to the Adam West series, that turned out pretty good! Nicholson's iconic turn as the Joker, with Oscar winning production design and Burton's surreal sensibility, made for a great movie. I freely admit that I was wrong!

And fans amplified by the echo chambers of Twitter and Reddit seem to have just gotten more and more toxic in recent years. Starting around the time of The Last Jedi, it seems that there's just been a constant march of nastiness. Hounding Kelly Marie Tran off of Twitter, doing "fan" edits of TLJ that took out all the women, people lobbing threats at Brie Larson because she wanted more women and POC to review movies, it's just been a constant river of sewage.

And now, while trying to get more content for their streaming service, HBO Max has rewarded the worst behaviors. Did this satisfy the mob? Nope! One day after they hailed the Snyder Cut as better than Citizen Kane, they were back at it on Twitter, with the new hashtag #RestoreTheSnyderVerse, trying to get the rest of Snyder's series of dour movies made.

Now, if you like the grimdark, dour heroes, great! I am happy for you. It is decidedly not my jam. My favorite DCEU movie is the first Wonder Woman, because that movie understands what heroism is. Also, it has colors. (Karissa: AMEN!)

But! You do not have the right to be abusive to people who disagree with you.

Karissa: Absolutely right! You, Mary Fan, and I have disagreed in the past over the latest Star Wars movies, but thank we've managed to remain civil. Strangely, it's not that hard to come at it with a feeling of empathy and respect for your fellow human being. For me, it's ridiculous that we live in a world of real life and death issues and people want to put so much energy and hate into something that is supposed to be fun and entertaining. As authors we also are so grateful that not everyone likes or dislikes the same things. Our careers depend on it! So, I'll walk away from the Snyder Cut feeling mostly dissatisfied and kind of eye-rolly and lip-curly about all the shortcomings of this director and this franchise, and the fact that another mediocre white dude got way more credit and opportunity than he deserved, but at the end of the day...it's just a movie. There will be lots more. And lots more that are lots better.

So, as fun as this chat has been, I think it has gone on long enough. Wrap it up for us, Victor. Out of five stars, what would you give the Snyder Cut?

Victor: Well, I’d give the Theatrical Cut one star. This gets 1.5.  It’s better, because it’s clearly the product of one creator and not the result of a note session by committee. But it’s still not very good. It is still my least favorite DCEU movie. At least BvS had some cool scenes that are fun to revisit - like Wonder Woman leaping in to save Batman. There is nothing in Justice League I want to revisit.

Karissa: I give it a DNF (Did not Finish) because I made it to about the 3.5 hour mark and just. couldn't. take. it. anymore.

But, I would kill for more Cavill as Superman. I just hope whoever takes him on next does him justice and gives him the script he deserves. In the meantime...Season 2 of  The Witcher is on its way! Yay!

Thanks for chatting with me today, Victor. I'm sure you'll be back soon to critique another movie or show with us, and we look forward to having you.

Check out Victor's Gabriel and Orson urban fantasy series, featuring Gabriel, his witch girlfriend, Sheila, and their magical Bulldog familiar, Orson: https://www.amazon.com/Tail-Trouble-Victor-Catano-ebook/dp/B01EU99YK8

 

 

 
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