Thursday, March 31, 2022

Keep Your Imagination Strong

 1,041,034 Imagination Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

     

    As adults, we often find that our imaginative sides will grow weak over time. We have real world things to deal with after all. Bills, housekeeping, kids, spouses, jobs, and more bills all contribute to the loss of imagination. It's seen as a second class brain function. After all, reality is more important to the sustainability of our lives. It's seen as being more important for children to use, and it's expected to fade as we age up.

    But is it really? I happen to think that having a strong imagination contributes heavily to our overall health and happiness. You use your imagination to play with your children. You use it to write, whether its a dissertation for college, a work assignment, or a fictional story. You use it in little ways all day without really realizing it. Whether you work in a creative field or not, keeping your imagination going can be essential to your happiness and productivity.

    Daydream, read, doodle, watch cartoons, go to museums, go to stage plays and musicals. These are all great ways to work out your imaginative muscles even if you aren't an artist or writer yourself. Wake up the kid in yourself every now and then and see where it takes you. Being an adult does not mean you have to squash down your inner child. Have fun with your brain sometimes. Give yourself a break and let your mind wander. Even if it doesn't help you accomplish anything "productive", it is good for your state of mind, and just plain fun.


Imagine on. Stay Weird.


Monday, March 28, 2022

How I'd Write It vs. How It Actually Happened

Sometimes, you have to step back and appreciate the absurdity of what you do. 

There's a certain "writer voice" you adopt when you start composing fiction -- you know, that dramatic, flow-y narrator voice that no one actually talks in but that we all expect from the pages. As both readers and writers, we're so used to it that we don't realize how silly it would be if someone actually described what was going on around us in such a manner.

There's a scene in the TV show Community in which Abed narrates Pierce's life in real time, using "writer voice," that perfectly captures how wackadoo it sounds in life:


I was thinking about this scene recently because, as some of y'all might know, I practice circus arts as a hobby, and I've also written circus stories / scenes in my fiction. The interesting thing about actually doing something that you later write about is that you realize how different a tone you adopt for the sake of "writer voice," versus what was actually happening in the moment.

Last week, I performed an aerial silks routine at my studio's student showcase. I then promptly went home and wrote down what was going through my head as it was happening. Just for fun, as a case study, I present to you two versions of what happened during the performance: first, how I'd write about it in a novel, and second, a video that shows what actually happened (including captions of the actual thoughts going through my head). Enjoy!

How I'd Write It

As I clung to the two long red fabrics, waiting for the music that would accompany my routine to begin, a rush of excitement and anxiety hit me. This was it: the moment I'd been working toward since I first started taking classes three and a half years ago. I drew a deep breath as the opening drone wafted from the studio's speakers, warning myself not to let my racing heart take over.

I began my ascent up the silks, twisting and reaching as I'd practiced so many times. It seemed to go well at first, but then, as I moved to untwist, the fabric failed to come off as expected. A combination of rosin and perhaps humidity had made them stickier than when I'd practiced on them before. A quick kick freed me, and the entire moment probably lasted less than half a second, but I made a mental note to beware in future moves.

Perhaps because of that slight hiccup, or perhaps because adrenaline was causing my pulse to speed uncontrollably, I hit my first pose sooner than expected. I paused, waiting for the cue in my music, and released one hand to perform the first drop of the routine. I landed in a sideways position with one knee hooked on the fabrics and the other dangling free. Wrapping the fabrics for my next pose, which could best be described as a kneeling shape but sideways, always took longer than I would have liked during practice. But this time, somehow, I hit my pose early -- again.

Slow down, I warned myself. As I unwrapped and maneuvered over the silks for the next part, I swept each arm with deliberate viscosity to match the slow, mournful song, whose pace felt positively lethargic compared to my still-racing heart.

Despite my best efforts, I ended up completing my next wrap ahead of the music again -- a feat I'd never accomplished in practice. Posing upside down, I waiting for the song to catch up and hoped it looked deliberate. Finally, I heard my cue and released, whirling down the fabrics like thread unspooling.

The latter half of my routine would involve a high pose, another drop, and a final spin. Still aware of how much faster I was moving than in practice, I considered adding an extra move or two to my climb, but quickly decided against it when I recalled how sticky the fabrics had been previously. After reaching the top, I twisted and wrapped to set up for my next pose. Too late I realized I was lower than expected, but I had no choice but to continue on. Knowing where my next music cue would hit, I mentally forbade myself from moving ahead until I heard it. What felt like several minutes but in truth was probably about three seconds passed. 

My last high pose was one called a "coffin," where I lay across my wrapped fabrics, which I'd effectively twisted into a hammock, and released both hands. The audience applauded enthusiastically. I suppressed a grin. If they liked that pose, they would certainly enjoy what came next...

I dove out of the hammock, falling face-first toward the ground before catching on my wrapped fabrics. The audience cheered as I'd hoped. 

Only the spin remained. Oddly, it was the part I most often messed up during practice, probably because it came at the end when I was tired. I managed to move into the tucked position I'd need for the spin without any problems, but being so low meant I had to work harder to generate enough speed.

The effort paid off though - I hit the pace I wanted... and then some. Though I worried that my dizziness would cause me to slide off the fabrics, I managed to hang on through the end of the song.

The final note faded, and applause filled the studio. Relieved and weary, I climbed down and took a bow.

How It Actually Happened


Thursday, March 24, 2022

How to Fix the Oscars

It’s Oscar season! The drama! The glamor! The fashions! The Academy trying to desperately reclaim audience share with idiot stunts!



The only thing more popular on Film Twitter than arguing about the nominees is complaining about how badly the Academy is botching the Oscars telecast. And there is a lot of complaining about the telecast. Ratings for the live awards show have been declining for years, ever since the all-time high for Titanic’s big year in 1998 and bottoming out at a record low for last year’s awards that were severely impacted by the pandemic. There have been a lot of attempts to chase those ratings, and this year the Academy has doubled down on the wacky factor. They shuttled eight of the “minor” awards off the air, where they’ll be pre-recorded and the winners announced at various points in the evening. This caused outrage among editors, musicians, makers of short films, and makeup artists. They didn’t invite the star of a picture nominated for seven academy awards (at least not until Twitter raised holy hell about it) but they found room to bring Tony Hawk, Shaun White and DJ KHALED! in to present awards and chase that young. male viewer!


DJ MOVIES!!

I should say right off the top that I am an Oscars junkie. I’ve been a film buff since I was 13, and I used the list of Best Pictures as a guide for me at the video store to learn about movies. And as soon as I started watching Best Pictures, I learned just how middlebrow Academy tastes were and how wrong they get it a lot of the time. But credit where it’s due, the Academy has made a major push to get its membership less white than that town in The Harder They Fall. And they do manage to get it right every so often, sometimes a few decades late.  Heck, I used to live blog the Oscars back on my old blog, ages ago! But even while the nominated films as a whole have gotten stronger and more varied, the broadcast continues to get worse.


So in the spirit of the season, I am offering my suggestions to improve the broadcast. Understand that I come here to trash the Academy out of love. You are ruining something I enjoy and I would very much like you to stop. 


NO MORE “COMEDY”


Please end the endless comedy bits. Please. I’m begging you. I don’t need to see Jimmy Kimmel drag a busload of unsuspecting tourists into the theatre. I don’t need Ellen to take a big selfie. The last comedy segment that I remember laughing at was when the Waiting for Guffman cast did a focus testing group for The Wizard of Oz and that was over a decade ago. 





There was so much consternation the last couple years when they couldn’t find a host. You know what? It’s fine! We don’t need Bruce Vilanch to cough up some bad jokes for a dumb monologue. Start the show with a musical montage of the Best Song or Score nominees. 


So, please, just limit it to a couple bad dad jokes here and there. Throw it to the pretty people in fancy gowns and give out the awards. And speaking of fancy gowns…


DRESS FOR SUCCESS!


It’s a cliche that non sports fans watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. Likewise, a good portion of the audience is tuning in to the Oscars to see pretty people in high fashion gowns. The problem is, things have gotten so boring lately.


Quick, off the top of your head, what’s the most memorable gown you can think of? Is it Cher, in her black, sparkly, Bob Mackie bikini and headress when she won for Moonstruck? Is it Bjork, in her swan dress, laying an egg purse on the Red Carpet? Or Matt Stone aping J-Lo when the South Park guys got a nomination for Best Song? 


They understood the assignment. Is that what the hip people say now?


Those are all at least 20 years old. In recent years, it’s been a succession of mermaid dresses. Maybe someone gets wild and wears a long train. Whee. People are too afraid of getting mocked by the Fashion Police on E! or on Twitter that they play it safe and conservative (i.e. booooooring


C’mon people, take a few chances. So what if the ghost of Joan Rivers makes fun of you? I can’t tell you what one person wore last year, but I absolutely remember the swan dress 21 years later. Give them something to talk about! As for talking…


LET THEM SPEAK!


When I was a kid, it was a hack joke that the acceptance speeches were too long. (I think Irene Cara brought up a phone book when she won Best Song for Flashdance. At least it felt like it.) Now it’s swung back in the other direction, with winners getting played off by the orchestra to (literally) the theme from Jaws.  


And sure, you can get very trite speeches by people thanking their director and their agent. But you also get some wonderful, tender moments, like Jamie Foxx thanking his late grandmother. Also some cray-cray ones, like the warring producers of the Best Documentary Short Music for Prudence almost coming to blows. 





Hey, Documentary Short… That’s one of the awards producers want to send off to the kiddie table! This goes without saying, but...


SHOW ALL THE AWARDS!


For the documentaries and short films, this is their shining moment! Let them have it. And put the Honorary Oscars back as part of the ceremony. Samuel Jackson is getting one, but you won’t see that live! Wouldn’t that be cool to see? Wouldn’t you have enjoyed seeing James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury get their awards in recent years live and on stage? Of course you would! Because you love movies! That’s why you’re watching this! And to that point:


KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!


The kind of people who love the Oscars  - who love to argue about movies, debate who should be nominated, get angry about who got snubbed - are the kind of people who want to see every award. These are the people (and I include myself among them) that REALLY CARE about categories like Best Score and Best Makeup. We have Oscar parties and run Oscar pools. WE ARE YOUR CORE AUDIENCE! And yet, here are the Oscars basically giving us a giant middle finger while sweatily pursuing a mythical audience of cool kids. 


We are also the people who fucking loathe the idea of a “Hashtag Oscars” moment or a People’s Choice award. They put that nonsense in to appease the people who thought Spider-Man should have gotten a nomination. You know what was leading the poll at one point? The crappy Cinderella movie with James Corden. Dear God. 


Oscar!


Look, people who think the Oscars are “cringe” (or whatever the cool kids use to call something  “lame” these days) are not going to tune in to the Oscars no matter how hip you try and make it. And they aren’t going to tune in to see them mention Army of the Dead on the air either. (Another bad movie that was up there in the voting.)


And speaking of “cringe…”


EMBRACE THE CRINGE!


Mark Harris, film historian and entertainment journalist, has written that the Oscars should be run by people who aren’t embarrassed by them. I couldn’t agree more. The Oscars are big, self-important to the point of self parody, tacky, gaudy…


AND THAT’S WHY WE LIKE THEM!


The Oscars are never going to be cool. And there is nothing less cool than someone desperately trying to be cool. Chase the youth demo all you want, you aren’t going to get the young males aged 18-35 to tune in in large numbers. You ARE always going to get the film nerds like me who will complain about Robert Mitchum getting snubbed for Night of the Hunter and fill out Oscar predictions like March Madness brackets. You are always going to get people tuning in to watch the fashion parade. You are always going to get a core audience who loves films and cares about them. PLEASE do not chase us away because you want to sit at the Mean Girls table. 


In conclusion, how to fix the Oscars? STOP TRYING TO FIX THEM. 


This isn’t hard! Just copy what the Tonys do!  While I certainly have my issues with them as well - like not showing excerpts of the Play nominees - they wholeheartedly embrace their theatre kid energy. They understand that the Tonys are a big commercial for Broadway and a celebration of live performance. They aren’t stressing about trying to get 50 million viewers, because they know their audience. They aren’t embarrassed to have the Pointer Sisters come out on stage and sing “It’s Raining Men.” They revel in it!


Look, do you think I take JOY in spending 1700 words writing about how the Academy is screwing up their marquee event? I’d rather spend the energy writing about how the Academy is full of morons who think Don’t Look Up is a better movie than The French Dispatch, In The Heights, and tick tick BOOM. (You know, normal things.) I’d rather be discussing whether or not Spielberg is more deserving of a third Oscar or Jane Campion should get her first, or if CODA or Belfast could sneak in and get a Best Picture win. I’d rather talk about the merits of Denzel vs Will Smith, or Olivia Colman vs Jessica Chastain. I would rather be talking about MOVIES, not about what zany thing Tony Hawk and Shaun White are going to do. 


Really, I’m not asking for much,


Well, maybe that and a write-in Oscar for The French Dispatch. 


Victor Catano lives in New York City with his wonderful wife, Kim, and his adorable pughuaua, Danerys. When not writing, he works in live theater as a stage manager, production manager, and chaos coordinator. His hobbies include coffee, Broadway musicals, and complaining about the NY Mets and Philadelphia Eagles. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @vgcatano and find his books on Amazon

Monday, March 21, 2022

Spider-Man and the Importance of Long-Term Consequences



P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
I just watched Spider-Man: No Way Home, and it got me thinking about the importance of long-term consequences in storytelling—and also about the chupacabra, mythical goat sucker.

I'll avoid major spoilers for the latest Spider-Man movie aside from what's now plastered on every poster and description, but if you're sensitive to that sort of thing, then it'll be best to stop reading now.

 

What the movie does shockingly well is form a cohesive narrative out of an unwieldly number of characters and events from various related stories. I think its success highlights how much people love it when one story affects another story, which affects future stories, and so on. In other words, long-term consequences make for better storytelling. 


The longer the investment, the more satisfying it can be. Spider-Man slings in threads from the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is now 14 years old. Then it weaves in elements from other stories that are up to 20 years old. The little spark of recognition from the continuation of movies we saw in a theatre (remember them?) as literal children is a bit of cinematic magic, but there's also the sense that what we're seeing on screen now could affect other stories 20 years from now. That continuity gives weight to everything that happens, as long as what's happening stands on its own as a good story.

 

It's less satisfying if the bits of old stories are just passing references, with no consequences of their own. Take Ready Player One as an example. We get the same hit of recognition from all the childhood 80s references, but it's like empty calories—the things we recognize flow right through us. Seeing a Delorean doesn't mean there are wider consequences for the Back to the Future Cinematic Universe. Maybe recognition alone is still enough for some, but I had to use Google to recall any references in Ready Player One, and never bothered with the novel's sequel.


The chupacabra: myth or reality?


This applies to writing a book, too. Not every writer can have their own cinematic universe, Dark Tower multiverse, or even a sequel, but if something comes up in the first paragraph, you better make people happy by giving that thing consequences later on. The latest Spider-Man shows that it doesn't even have to be planned to be effective. I'm sure every writer can relate with the strange magic of finding the perfect place in the plot for some character or detail that they cannot recall the purpose of writing in earlier, sloppy as it may feel at the time. If soulless Sony executives can throw characters from 20 years ago into a modern movie for critical acclaim and 2 billion dollars, you can make it work too.

 

So what does this all have to do with the chupacabra? Absolutely nothing! I put that in the first paragraph with no idea where I was going with it, and now you can see how deeply unsatisfying it for something early in a story to have no consequences. Learn from my mistake. Do better.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Talking about The New Batman Movie with Victor Catano

www.KarissaLaurel.com

  I had considered a few other topics for this week's post, but then fellow  ATB Contributor, Victor Catano, and I ended up seeing (separately--we live several states apart, alas) the latest installation of Batman in the DC franchise.

 In our subsequent online chats, we both had quite a bit to say to each other about the movie, so we thought we'd delve a little further into it here on ATB.

 I must warn you... The following discussion/interview contains LOTS of spoilers about The Batman, which boasts an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the cast: Pattinson, Kravitz, Tuturro, Wright, Serkis, Ferrel, and Skarsgard, just to name a few.

With stars like that, The Batman had every opportunity to be successful, despite the DCU's questionable track record. But did it actually succeed? That's what Victor and I are here to talk about.

If you want to avoid spoilers, please read no further. If you do, then don't blame us if you find out more than you wanted.


Karissa: Thanks for taking the time to talk Batman with me today, Victor. It seems like, from previous discussions, this storied character is one we both have OPINIONS about. So let's jump right into it: Break down your personal Batman history for us. How did you get to be a fan of the Caped Crusader?

Victor: Basically my mom. I was always a spider-fan, first and foremost. I was a chubby kid who liked to read, so of course I fell hard for Spidey, the bespectacled nerd who gained web-slinging powers. (Also I watched him every day on the Electric Company on PBS) But my mom got me into Batman. She always said “anyone can be Batman.” You just needed the will and discipline to train and focus. (She left out the part about the billions of dollars. Get to work on that Mom!)

That led me to a big, hardcover collection in our local library that collected a ton of golden age Batman comics. I must’ve read that a dozen times, reading the classic stories of Batman matching wits with the Riddler, Two-Face, and Catwoman. And the local kid’s show would play the classic Adam West episodes on Sunday morning TV.

When I was 14, Frank Miller wrote The Dark Knight Returns, and my young mind was blown. The colorful cast of Batman took on a decidedly darker hue, and Batman truly became a Darker knight. And I’ve been a fan ever since, with many opinions about the various live action movies.

Karissa: If I were a Batman fandom gatekeeper, then I would think it's fair to say you've earned your entry. I, however, can't claim to be much of an expert. I haven't read any of his comics, and I never watched the original show with Adam West. But I was in the theater when the Michael Keaton/Tim Burton Batman came out in 1989. That may have had to do with my affection for all things Tim Burton related at that time, more than my feelings for Batman, but I came away loving the movie and the character. 



I think I've seen every Batman movie in the theater since then. I'm really glad this one came out after I had been vaccinated multiple times and when our local COVID numbers were on the decline. I can't imagine having waited to see it at home. This was really a big screen event, in my opinion.

Victor: True, you need a big movie screen to ensure you get enough light to actually SEE The Batman

Karissa: Is that a joke about how dark these movies always seem to be?

Victor: *sends a bullseye emoji in response* Darker in character and darker in cinematography.


Karissa: One of my favorite things about this movie was the cinematography. I felt a lot of the really beautiful still shots would have lost something on the smaller screen. Maybe one of my most favorite examples of this was after the car chase with Oz/The Penguin. After Oz's car flips over, and he's hanging upside down, he looks out his window to see Batman standing there, reflected in a pool of oil, cape billowing while flames explode in the background. I could have had that shot framed to hang on my wall.

As far as atmosphere, though, would you say this latest iteration is more or less dark than it's predecessors? How would you rank it among the other Batman movies in terms of "darkness" or "grittiness"?

Victor: It’s very dark and “gritty.” The Riddler has been reinvented from a prankster in a question mark covered suit to a zodiac-style serial killer, sending taunting notes to Batman. Director Matt Reeves is very much creating a “real world” Batman, that is, a Batman that could plausibly exist in our reality.

And I think he succeeds for the most part. This is a Year Two Batman story. He’s been around for a little while, the cops are mostly wary of him, and criminals are aware of him but not that scared of him. He’s still learning to fight effectively. I was a little surprised how many punches he took and how often he got shot.

Karissa: I hadn't been expecting this movie to be basically in medias res.  I was actually really glad Reeves dispensed with the whole backstory thing. He started this movie with the assumption that the audience knew Batman's story, and I was really glad of that. It was already a three hour long movie, but at least those three hours were dedicated almost entirely to the main plot. 

My son, who is a tremendous Batman fan and who is much more well versed in the lore and history of the character, also commented on how much he appreciated that Batman seemed more human. That punches and gunshots clearly hurt him. I was impressed, I guess that's the word, with the bat suit. He still had the cowl and cape--he couldn't be Batman without those icons, of course, no matter how implausible they'd be in the real world--but the rest of his attire was highly functional. Take away the mask and cape and he was basically wearing a stylized form of police or military tactical gear. He could have been a member of the SWAT team or something.

I also noted how, when you did see Pattinson with his shirt off, he wasn't a roided-out super-human. He was clearly fit, a guy who spent a lot of time fighting and whatnot, but he didn't look wedded to his weight machine. He had scars, too! Insinuating, again, that this Batman is far from invincible

Victor: Indeed. I remember fans being upset about Michael Keaton’s Batman wearing body armor back in the 80s, but honestly Batman without armor is going to last about 10 seconds against a gang member with an uzi. But seriously, Bats should learn how to duck πŸ˜‚. Maybe dodging is Year 3.

Karissa: Along with that whole theme of "real guy" batman, now is as good of any time to talk about the sexiest thing in the whole movie. No, Victor, not Batman and Catwoman's kiss. I want to talk about the Batmobile. *insert .gif of Blanche misting herself with water to cool herself off*.


Victor: I see what gets your motor running. Personally my favorite Batmobile is the Burton one, long and sleek. I liked this one, though. Far superior to the tumbler tank from the Nolan movies. And I did like the gag in the film, where after revving the engine up, the Batmobile stalls out for a minute.

Karissa: I am partial to a muscle car. Always have been always will be. I got it from my Dad who fantasized about a '69 Camaro for years, though he never bought one. Now I'm married to a gear head who is a hobby mechanic. Though his interests tend to lean more towards old trucks and building off-road vehicles (OMG don't get me started on the Suzuki Samurai he's rebuilding right now) he totally lusts over a classic '70 Chevelle and my son is dying for a '67 Impala. So, when that Batmobile screamed like raptor then shot out of the mists, my knees went weak! 

Victor: Yeah, the tumbler is probably the most practical of the Batmobiles, but it wasn’t at all cinematic or cool. And there has to be some kind of cool factor here. It’s Batman!

Karissa: Absolutely! And my son and I agree with you. We did not like the tumbler tank Batmobile much at all. It was too... militaristic? It didn't seem like the right thing for an urban application.

Victor: The Batcycle in Dark Knight was SO MUCH cooler.

Karissa: It was cool. Still very conceptual, but very cool. I like how it could switch directions without really losing momentum.

Victor: And that’s a thing for all the bat movies. I appreciate the desire to ground Batman in realism, but I also want some cool bat gadgets and fun cars. 

Karissa: I liked the hints in this one that Bruce was a gear head. He clearly built the Batmobile himself.

Victor: I think that’s the riddle all the Batman movies struggle with. This is, at its heart, a character rooted in pulp fiction. A guy who dresses up like a bat and fights killer clowns. It’s a fundamentally ridiculous concept. So the question becomes how much weight do you give each half of that equation? How much darkness? How much grit? How many bat-puns?


Karissa: You know, even the latest iteration of James Bond struggled with that. Who is Bond without his puns and his absurd nemeses?  However, I did find myself chuckling more with this Batman movie than I ever did with the Christopher Nolan ones. This one was dark, but there were attempts at humor, even if it was mostly dry and ironic.

Victor: I was just going to mention Bond! There’s a subset of Bond fans who want a realistic Jason Bourne spy thriller. Then there are those like me, who want cool cars and sexy spy ladies named Plenty O’Toole and sharks with frickin’ laser beams.

Karissa: I think I posted in the past that Bond is basically Batman without the cowl and cape and a lot of people agreed. 

Before we get too distracted and fall down other rabbit holes, I want to talk about the detective/crime procedural foundations of this movie. And also about how interesting it was that in this one, Alfred was the one who taught Batman to fight. According to my son this is accurate based on the iteration of Alfred in the comics who has some background as a soldier and affiliation with MI5 and MI7. Clearly that's the case with this Alfred. This is a big difference from the Ra's Al Gul and League of Assassins history in the Nolan movies.

Victor: Yeah, Alfred has undergone a lot of origin retcons. I remember reading his first appearance when he was a chubby dude who basically showed up one day and found the door to the Batcave while dusting. 

But I do like his background as British special forces. I do prefer the origin where Bruce travels the world to learn different fighting styles and illusions, but it makes sense that Alfred would channel an angry and scared young boy into a way where he could work through those emotions.

I will say I was not a fan of how Bruce treats Alfred here. He literally snaps “you’re not my DAD!” at him. The man raised you! Show some respect!

Karissa: Bruce was entirely too emo in that moment. My son didn't care for that reaction either.  I have to admit there were a few times I expected Bruce to wander out in black nail paint and eyeliner (he was halfway there with the kohl he wore under the cowl) listening to Death Cab for Cutie or My Chemical Romance.

"They said, "All teenagers scare the livin' shit out of me"
They could care less as long as someone'll bleed
So darken your clothes, or strike a violent pose
Maybe they'll leave you alone, but not me"


Anyway...

You know I loathe, loathe, loathe CGI monsters, so you know I was super pleased that this story stuck to the police procedural/detective storyline and skipped the supernatural BS that, I think, was one of the biggest downfalls of the Justice League/Snyder iterations of Batman.

Victor: Agree with you on the CGI. There’s probably a lot more that we realize, but it was only noticeable in one scene where Batman lands after gliding away from the police station. 

And going back futher, THANK YOU for not once again showing the murder of Tom and Martha. No slow mo pearls falling!

Karissa: I'm okay with CGI special effects like bombs or space ships or to make a crowd look bigger than it really is. I'm a bit less okay with it when it comes to trying to convince me an animated human is a real person *cough*StarWarsUniverse*cough*, and I actually have plans to write a post about that some day. But not today. Today, I'd like to make sure we don't leave without talking about the other star of this movie: Catwoman!

Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman in The Batman

Victor: Where did Zoe Kravitz rank for you? I put her second behind Michelle Pfeiffer.

Karissa: I'm going to confess something. When I saw Batman Returns in 1992, I didn't like it very much. I realize now that I didn't understand what it was trying to do. I wasn't sure how I felt about Pfeiffer at the time.  All these many years later, though, I've come to appreciate the movie a lot more and understand what a knockout performance Pfeiffer gave. Have you seen the "behind the scenes" stuff about how Pfeifer trained with her whip. And how good she got at it? Mad respect!




So, yeah, I'm still going to give Pfeiffer top ranking, but I did like Kravtis's Catwoman a lot, and she and RPatz had good chemistry. They were believable together.

Victor: Well I saw Batman Returns as a 19 year old teen, and I was extremely receptive to her performance.

Karissa: Heh, heh, heh, I bet you were. If you don't think Pfeiffer was sexy as hell in that role, you might be dead.

I liked the little details in Kravitz's costume. She wore a somewhat typical cat burglar balaclava, but the seams were arranged in such a way as to give her "ears" that was a cute nod to the character while also keeping it real. I also liked how she said "I can take care of myself". And for the most part she did. She contributed in meaningful ways to solving the mystery at the heart of the plot, too. It was a very male-centric movie, but she held her own.

Karissa: Before we wrap this up, I also wanted to talk to you about the ending regarding the sea walls, how the status quo was not maintained, and how the next movie will be working from virtually a post-apocalyptic setting. And I was going to get your thoughts on Riddler as a character.

Victor: I think the Riddler character was heavily drawn from the recent joker movie. The misfit who fights the established order and gains a devoted online following by attacking Gotham’s elite - that’s the plot of Joaquin Phoenix’s film. Once he took off his mask and revealed Paul Dano, it was so significantly less frightening.

Paul Dano as The Riddler

Karissa: I haven't seen Joaquin's Joker and I probably never will. The concept doesn't appeal to me at all. I wasn't certain I liked Dano's performance after he took his mask off. It felt like a caricature of "crazy". Up to that point, Riddler was violent but he never came across as out of control, especially with himself. Unfortunately, Batman's villains will always probably have the problem of being compared to Heath Ledger's Joker. Dano, particularly at the end, was a bit too over the top for my tastes.

Victor: Ledger got the balance right, being insane but still showing you the cunning behind his plans

Karissa: Exactly. 

Victor: And it will be interesting to see if Gotham stays razed for the next movie. That’s a well known story arc in the comics - No man’s land.

Karissa: Oh? See I didn't know about that.

Victor: But I suspect they’ll have the streets squeegeed off in time for the sequel. Although I would like to see Mad Max Batman prowling the wreckage.

Karissa: Not being familiar with the comics means I don't have any guesses about what comes next. I mentioned to you before that I found the  apocalyptic nature of this ending so interesting because most Super Hero stories are about battling to maintain the status quo and this one absolutely isn't. This somewhat reminds me of the Thanos Snap. But it took Marvel 20 movies to get to the Snap, and you knew there was another movie left and the whole point of it would be to undo the Snap. But Batman doesn't have a time machine. He can't undo this damage. He has to deal with the aftermath. I hope there is some aftermath and that they didn't clean things up too much before the next movie, but who knows.

Victor: I would like them to take Batman in a new direction! That’d be great

Karissa: What do you think about the ending? Clearly that was Joker cackling in Arkham, wasn't it? Online, I saw someone grumbling that they were tired of Joker. What about you? Are you looking forward to it or do you hope they focus on another Batman nemesis. And if so, who? 

Victor: Yeah, I think we’ve had enough Joker for a while. Between Ledger, Phoenix, and Leto we could have a break. And that’s not even counting the animated versions and the Gotham series.

I'd honestly like to see them do a deeper dive in to the Rogue's Gallery. A Batman movie will almost certainly do big business, so why not move past yet another Joker showdown? How about Clayface, the washed up actor who gets turned into a shape shifter? Or Scarface, the ruthless gangster, who is actually a ventriloquist dummy? Or the Mad Hatter? Or Poison Ivy? Bring her back to have a romantic triangle with Bats and Cat!

I think this is a promising start for a new cycle of Batman movies. Batman Begins was a good film that led to a great one in Dark Knight. I think The Batman is also a good start, but I'm looking forward to what can happen next.

Personally, as I get older, I appreciate the first two Burton movies more and more. It's funny, when I was a lad, those were the darkest Batman movies we could imagine! Now they seem a bit campy, and I like them more for that. I like the balance of the absurd and the realistic. And I wouldn't mind The Batman getting a little more fantastical.

Overall, where do you rank this in your Bat-Pantheon?

Karissa: Ever since watching it, I've been trying to figure out where it places compared to the other movies.

Victor: I think it's right in the middle for me.

Karissa: The long runtime is a major strike against it. 

Victor: It's better than The Dark Knight Returns, and the two Schumacher disasters, but not quite at the level of Dark Knight, Batman or Batman Returns for me. I agree on the runtime. I had to sprint to the bathroom after Batman saw the Riddler in prison. Curse those free refills at AMC theatres! 

Karissa: It worked fine for a first-time viewing but I'm wondering when I'll feel like devoting three-hours to a rewatch. I told my son I will probably watch it with my remote in hand to fast forward to the scenes I really want to see again, such as the car chase.

Victor: Ooh yeah, that was a great car chase. Because it actually happened on a crowded city highway! Living in NYC I always think about that. A car chase on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway? It's quicker on foot.

Karissa: I also don't care for the Schumacher movies, though I loved and still love the soundtrack from Batman Forever. Maybe that was the only good thing that came out of the movie. And I don't think much of the Batman in the Snyderverse. I don't even really rank those. So, I'm with you on the original Keaton/Burton Batman still being the best. I loved The Dark Knight, and maybe Ledger's Joker has a lot to do with that. The other Nolan/Bale movies were good but not up to that caliber. This one is probably third or fourth in line at the moment. We'll see if I change my mind later, after some distance and after I watch it again.

Victor: Oh I totally forgot about SnyderVerse Bats. I liked Affleck, but did not like those movies at all.

Karissa:  I wouldn't mind a Batman movie about what happens when Batman gets old and his knees are shot and his back hurts. Does he get a Bat Chiropractor? Bat PT?

Victor: Patterson keeps getting shot in the chest, you’ll get that real soon.

Karissa: We both agreed that we could keep talking Batman stuff forever, but I guess for the sake of this blog it has gone on long enough. Thanks for joining me today, Victor, and for basically helping me write an ATB post when it wasn't your turn. I owe you one.

Thanks for reading. See you again real soon!







Monday, March 14, 2022

Google Search: CLICKERS NEVER DIE

 amazon.com/author/kozeniewski

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!


Hey, everybody!  Today's my chance to do a Google Search and find out what comes up.  So I thought I might pick some random words and see what happens.  For instance, what happens if you Google, let's say...


Well, now!  This is interesting.  I was not expecting anything to come up.  But it appears as thought there is, indeed, a book called CLICKERS NEVER DIE.  And it's out now from the inimitable Crossroad Press!


Well, now, let's see if anything else of interest comes up.  Ah ha!  A back jacket description.  Well, let's see what that says.

The seminal horror series created by J.F. Gonzalez, Mark Williams, and Brian Keene reemerges from the depths with the weirdest, most brutal installment yet!

Washed-up oceanographer Cameron Custer is hoping a mysterious living fossil discovered in the South Pacific could breathe new life into his career. Instead, Custer’s new specimen points him toward a heavily guarded secret—the truth behind the Guadalcanal Campaign. During World War II the U.S. Marine Corps had more than just the Imperial Japanese Army to contend with. They also had to wage a vicious battle against the amphibious Dark Ones and an onslaught of their deadliest servants.

Now, an ocean heaving with blood and guts, a battlefield teeming with rage and terror, a man’s demented love affair with a fish monster, and a boy’s heartwarming friendship with a prehistoric crab monster will all combine to prove that… CLICKERS NEVER DIE!

Splatterpunk Award nominated author Stephen Kozeniewski (THE HEMATOPHAGES, BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS) and Splatterpunk Award winning author Wile E. Young (THE MAGPIE COFFIN, CATFISH IN THE CRADLE) join forces for one of modern horror’s most anticipated reboots!

***

Well, I'll be damned.  I guess you really never know what will come up on the internet.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Impact of Fiction: Thank You Neil Gaiman



Everything that made me want to be a writer was in thanks to reading The SandmanIt changed the course of my life. This is my long overdue thank you to Neil Gaiman as well as a message of hope to fellow writers: on why your fiction matters. 


Originally, I was going to write a post about the importance of rest. But while tweeting and following search trends, promoting some journalism colleagues, and friends; a very special person–arguably the biggest influence in my life without them knowing–reshared a comment I’d made regarding one of his works of fiction. It was thanks to this shoutout that I promised to write a featured piece. With ATB Writers being a likely better fit given that it’s a writing blog.



For context, I have listened to Neil Gaiman tell this story about Coraline’s origins in countless talks, workshops, and conventions. Every iteration is the same: in an early draft, Neil misspells the name Caroline (which, coincidentally, is also my sister’s name) as Coraline and then finds this mistaken idea of the ‘other’ as an interesting concept. Forming the basis of The Other World and the ‘Other Mother’, while sticking with his misspelled version of the character. 


I tweeted about it. Then Neil surprisingly shared it. Which, I don't know if he realizes, was a very big deal to me, coming from the person whose works have inspired almost 1/3rd of my life. For the first time, I was in Neil’s ear reach. I wanted to do something special.

They say it’s disappointing to meet your heroes. Which is why, despite so many moments that I could’ve spoken to Neil this past decade, I actively choose to avoid the encounter. At least, until this moment. Why now? Because I’m considering quitting writing. But after everything that’s happened lately, with the pandemic, and all of these people that I’ve personally lost these past few years… I figured why not.  Let me just reach out. Let me show folks how writers and powerful works of fiction can influence the paths taken in a lifetime. And maybe, I can remember why I'd wanted to be a writer. And maybe, I can convince someone else, as to why their writing matters. Whether the actual Neil Gaiman reads this or not.  


Neil Gaiman Was My Distant, Obi-Wan Kenobi

In 2010 I wanted to be a psychotherapist. My major was psychology and sociology, partially because I was great at the human sciences, but mostly, because at the brilliant age of 19, I had come to the conclusion, “I think, therefore I must major in it!” Naturally, I knew that I was going to be the next RenΓ© Descartes in a way that only ambitious youths that don’t know any better dare to dream before they’d actually accomplished anything.

My mentor, George Atwood, was a descendent of a field of psychological thought taught by Silvan Tompkins, who was a major figure who brought to society the facial affect theory of Paul Ekman (Lie To Me and the science of human lie-detecting). Tomkins, in turn, had studied under the humanist psychologist Henry Murray and Murray’s school of thought descended from Carl Gustav Jung–whose psychoanalysis popularized the use of archetypes and symbolism in dreams. Jung was also, of course, a descendent of Sigmund Freud, so if fields of psychoanalysis were a family tree, in a bastardized way, I was the great great great grandson of that entire school of thought. 

This sort of background laid the groundwork for what became my sort of obsession with the works of Neil Gaiman. A writer, whose interpretations on religious deities and knowledge of their philosophies, was so naturally encoded into the fiber of dreams. What I loved about Neil was how natural this all was in his work. He wasn’t preaching or studying these concepts like my academic forebearers, he was, as an existentialist would call it: simply, being. Neil was a storyteller who wrote about things that interested him. Tolkien and Harlan Ellison, C.S. Lewis and Alan Moore. Coming from the background that I had at the time, I could see Neil’s narrative patterns and their traces back to the Campbellian monomyth. But Neil… he had mastered it without ever really giving it a name. That was the brilliance I saw in his writing as a 22-year-old. It completely redefined everything I thought I knew about living…

My last summer before graduating college, I had spent in the Philippines. Which, for those unfamiliar, is devoutly Roman Catholic. The most out of any territory in Asia. Surprisingly, Neil’s work was very popular amongst free-thinking college students at the time given how much it tackled questions of faith. Which was something that inspired my cousin Bruce, who was likewise, also studied philosophy (we really knew how to disappoint our Asian parents). 

Bruce was an older brother figure throughout my childhood. I'd visit him every couple of years. Bruce loved Batman, believing himself to have been named after the Dark Knight. He was the first person to introduce me to a world of anime and video games, way before their popularization in the USA. Most people don't realize how often Pacific Islands trends--and really, Japanese culture--had hit the zeitgeist in the pacific years before becoming popular over here.

In my return home to the states before finishing my last year of college, Bruce bequeathed upon me, for my flight, what he considered to be: the greatest work of fiction of all time. What was strange, was that he was talking about several volumes of graphic novels. Even stranger was that this was not the first person to tell me that about this series…

I’d read Sandman for the first time on my trip back to America. I didn’t realize how reading those stories would forever change me. What started as a horror series became something much more, fragmenting my entire view of psychology. Sandman introduced to the dogmas of Daoism, in that, with destruction comes creation, and from death, life anew. Simple, yet powerfully meaningful, the Sandman taught me priceless lessons regarding the need to change. It was the sort of thought academia was never great at nurturing. That Truth could often only sprout from a kernel of verisimilitude, and though I became a master at academic writing… the seeds being planted in my head were meant for something entirely different. 


I wanted to become a fiction writer. I wanted to share experiences that could only be expressed through stories.


My mentors were oddly encouraging. The academic department I was working for? Not so much. In fact, one of the last critiques of an honors research essay I had been working on for my program, literally had had in red, agitated, irksome permanent marker: “Stop. This does not have to be The Great Gatsby. It’s an academic research paper.”

After graduation, I attended my first Neil Gaiman speaking event in 2011. The 92Y where he’d done an interview with the brilliant journalist and novelist, Lev Grossman. Having just finished reading American Gods, I found everything about Neil’s talk captivatingly exhilarating, especially in regards to that revelation about Shadow Moon *spoilers, it has to do with his bloodline and his real identity*. 

I didn’t realize it at the time but seeing Neil was the highlight of my summer. Because I’d spent the rest doing what most students would in their final Summer with college friends. I went to Disney world. Then later, flip-flopped and began studying for the GREs. Because honestly, who in their right mind abandons academia for writing full-time. So, I said goodbye to friends who were moving and prepared for the next step of the journey. Then in early September, like some sort of Greek tragedy, I completely tore in half my Achilles tendon in what was the greatest game of football played in my entire life. 

That tear was a heartbreaking reminder of how time never lasts forever. Because I ended up completely bedridden for 7 months. Living on my parent's couch. Having to relearn how to walk. All while my friends and cohorts moved away. Life hit a standstill and I was arguably in my darkest place that academia, really did nothing to prepare for me in how to handle. As deadlines kept creeping and I, existentially anyway, was dead to the world. I had no idea what I was meant to do next and no one to guide me.  

There was one salvation I had at this time. My issues of Sandman… which served as sort of my replacement graduate school. This time around, I was studying Neil’s voice and technique, in what soon became, the greatest outlet I had the pleasure of re-reading in a dark period of my life. I decided to actually try and be a writer while stuck on that couch. I decided to start with the form that I believed at the time was the easiest: writing a screenplay.

It was aptly titled: A Date With Death. I was trying to do something along the lines of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Instead of attempting to delay the reaper, this was the story about a young man who had fallen in love with her. A metaphor for how I was feeling at the time, questioning the meaning of life and death, and wanting, more than anything else, to get laid.

Like most writers’ first work at anything, it was an incredibly bad screenplay. The plot points were basically a fan fiction version of Sandman #4. The second act was a  very bizarre sort of Rom-Com between love and death, in what could only be described as set in the backdrop to Death in Venice.

Looking back, I just wanted to do what Neil Gaiman did but I wasn’t good enough of a writer. I just took the things I liked from him and in fiction and threw them messily together expecting that people would like them too… even if it made no sense. Acknowledging this, once I had fully healed, I took screenwriting classes at my community college. Read all the beginning writers' books such as Bird-by-bird, Save The Cat, Aristotle’s Poetics, and Steven King’s: On Writing. 

In 2012, I shot a web series that year aptly titled: ‘Generation Me’ which was a millennial's version of Friends, though it never finished production. When I realized I wasn’t as funny as I’d like to be as a writer, I took writing classes the next year in NYC both at the Upright Citizens Brigade with instructor Melinda Taub to try and be funnier (whom, by the way, is a very brilliant teacher and far funnier than I could ever be), and later, at Gotham Writer’s Workshop, where I learned about short story and novel writing with author Shari Goldhagen (whose book In Some Other World Maybe convinced me there was some merit to telling your story, as she had). I made my first writing friends here and learned my first lessons in networking. I’d even taken another screenwriting course later that year as a refresher: an online Skillshare class with James Franco and Vince Jolivette.

I was a few years into this journey at this point and knew that I was fully committed to being a writer. Strangely, despite ‘leaving psychology behind’, I ended up working as a caseworker for 7 years, with every bit of free time and money, dedicated to writing and consuming every single work created by Neil Gaiman at that time.

In 2015, I wanted to thank Neil for starting me on this journey. I had the opportunity to finally meet him in person, at of all things, inside of a temple for the release of Sandman: Overture. A live event where Junot Diaz, author of This is Where I leave you, was hosting. The event also had Marjorie Liu in attendance. So there were some big names here. If that weren’t intimidating enough… there was a surprise that evening: Amanda Palmer. She was there, along with Neil and her newborn baby, Ash.

Moments before this whole shindig started, Amanda secretly asked us while walking up and down the aisles, to sing Neil Happy Birthday, as apparently, it was the following day. 

The event was even filmed for a DC audience. You can see the whole thing here.


As a Neil Gaiman fan that was incredibly awesome. Here he was, this hero of mine, with me being a little bit better of a writer now, seeking to maybe gain some sort of right of passage by introducing myself and buying his book and sharing with him how grateful I was that he existed. 

But I didn’t.

I was scared and honestly, sort of felt like I wasn't enough yet. Because for some reason, in my head, I always thought that if I ever got the chance to speak to Neil, it would be because I’d written something of meaning. In this strange head narrative of mine, if Neil’s life was the story of Hamlet, I’d like to think that mine may be more akin to something like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Funny takes from the outside. Probably never taking part in the actual story, unless I was talented enough to consider becoming a major player. 

After that experience, I had ended up taking classes with the woman who’d become my writing mentor for a time: Serena Valentino. The Disney YA author, who had once also shared with me, nothing but kind words about Neil Gaiman and how she’d once asked for a blurb for one of her novels. Something which Neil seems to have done for a lot for people out of kindness. Serena had taught me so much about character and even more about comic books. I grew a lot from her lessons, and was adamant, that the next time I’d see Neil, I would share something that I’d made. Something of worth. 

In 2016, before the election that had changed everything, I traveled around the entire country for about a month and a half, wanting to gain experience about the world while going out on my own American Gods-styled road trip. About a year later, I officially quit my job finally where I’d accidentally had been a mental health specialist for almost 7 years. To finally shut up about it, pursue the dream, and finally, take that leap.

I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. I became a freelancing journalist, partially because of the opportunities it brought, but also, because one day I figured that maybe I’d be able to meet my own Alan Moore. Sort of like what Neil had in his early career. 


Then, in 2018, Good Omens became one of the first events I’d covered at NYCC. I remember the surge of the crowd rocking out to Queen before the opening. Seeing David Tenant on stage (my favorite Doctor) and of course–seeing Neil speak yet again. Though this time, a little less magical, having weirdly been a fan and seeing him several times now throughout the years at conventions and events.

I knew then, that this was the sign that I’d grown. Because later that year, I’d written, what was going to be Warner Brother’s second-ever Korean Drama for a friend and a website called Dramafever. Which, unfortunately, never came to pass, having collapsed about a month before my series could officially really do anything. Despite all of this I kept trying to be a writer. 

And then my father died…

He’d had a cardiac arrest in his bedroom. I’d found him, though not in any condition a child should ever find their parent. He was struggling to breathe. Pools of drool spilling out of his mouth. He wasn’t responsive, and I, exhausted as it was late in the evening, was trying to wake my father from what I’d thought was a sleepwalking nightmare. But he wouldn’t wake. I’d even slapped him a few times and nothing seemed to change.

It was then I felt the air escape the room in a cruel realization that every second mattered as time slowed to a halt thanks to the adrenaline. Watching someone you love take their last gasp before the final exhale… where he keeled over… and just ceased being. Will do that to a person.

Having seen the most horrible things imaginable working for seven years as a caseworker helping co-morbid individuals with a plethora of substance abuse problems: all diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and personality disorders... sort of prepared me for the worst in terms of on the spot critical thinking, life/death situations, and emergency training.

My father, the stubborn bastard he was (much like myself), wasn't going to go out like this. This is what I kept telling myself in my head. If it weren't for the fact that I'd been an EMT in my late teens and had worked in several health services positions that required CPR training, I'm not sure he'd be alive.

Having been dead for a couple of seconds and knowing every second now mattered, I sort of kicked into my training. Dad’s mouth tasted like sour bile. When it comes to the most disgusting and traumatizing moments of my life, that one probably rings truest. I remember making the 911 call, dropping him onto the floor with a THUNK, and starting exhaustive chest compression rhythms for what felt like the longest 12 minutes of my life. 

It made me wonder about all of my life choices up to that day. If writing was really what I was supposed to do or if I had wasted my life away pursuing this dream… and if my father, if he made it out of this alive (he did)... would be proud of me (he was).

When the paramedics arrived and shocked him with the defibrillator, he had a faint pulse. It was enough of a win for me to celebrate and when recounting these events to him years later, made him realize as well, just how fragile life can be. These moments made the man who was easily my greatest guilt antagonist throughout most of my life, believe in me. With him finally seeing the world my way: that the pursuit of meaning is really all that matters in this world.

I am telling you all of this because, while yes, he did make it (miraculously, without any permanent damage) I, along with my family, spent the following month and a half living at the hospital. Living in waiting rooms and meeting doctors. Uncertain if this person, who was such an asshole, but also, such a big part of my life, was going to live or die.

And in those moments of escape, the distractions I got to take away between appointments and my duties as now, strangely, the alpha parent of my family despite being the baby of the family, I had found things to do in the breaks in-between. Little reminders that I wanted to live and pursue my dreams because time is short and we only have a limited window to pursue that which makes us happy.

My respites were in fact Master Classes on my phone while waiting in hospital lobbies. Coincidentally, I had just started taking them before this chaos began. And just who do you think I was listening to at the time? But none other than lessons, taught by, Neil… Fucking… Gaiman.



Maybe it was unhealthy to be this obsessed with a celebrity. It was never in a toxic stalkery way, but more of a, I really love the kind of things this person did on this planet while we were both here, and I would have loved, to actually tell him: that his work absolutely mattered in my life.

Of course, this was not my last Neil moment. No, that gem would be at Rutgers University, my alma mater, where I’d worked since I’d graduated in 2011. Neil was there in 2019, doing a speech for the Rutgers Writers Workshop; hilariously hungover though trying his best not to be. The date was poorly planned as Neil had, the night before, been celebrating the debut of Good Omens on Amazon Prime. Still, he kept it somehow professional and it was an informative event. There were lots of answers to a lot of questions, mostly randomly submitted in a hat. I wasn’t expecting to have mine called but yet again, fate happened and Neil actually picked my only question out of the hundreds. 

I had written in the question of how do you balance between work and family responsibilities? His answer was… that, well, he didn’t really know. I would have left it at that as there was no real context as to why I’d asked. But then, moments later, oddly enough, a woman in front of me, yelled a comment aloud about ghosts in the audience. 

Now, the acoustics in the auditorium were terrible, which, feeling bad as that this person was suddenly shy since Neil sincerely asked her about that question, I thought it my responsibility to tell Neil. Why? I don’t know. It’s just my nature to try and be fair for everyone, and so, I did it over Twitter.

And, in a moment of feeling strangely helpless, I also, elaborated on why I wanted to know about the work and family balance… If it’s not clear why? It’s because that year, I was helping take care of my very stubborn father. Cardiac arrests kind of take a long period of time to recover from and he was, very much still in recovery and just as stubborn as ever (he’s fully better now though if you’re concerned).


Embarrassingly, I’ll admit, I never really used Twitter until the past few years. Which is why I spelled this out rather horribly, not knowing, that I could’ve just added a comment to lengthen the character limit. Neil knew nothing about my story. Why I’d sought to ask him, or what was possibly his assistant, this question, is because I’d just assumed that he’d had all the answers to everything. This was my own fault of sorts, having modeled so much of my writing, and really just big parts of my life, in the pursuit of trying to be as good of a writer as Neil Gaiman. 

But I think for the first time, after seeing him talk about Good Omens that day, I saw Neil as a person. Not as some God with words and all the right writing answers, but as someone whom I’d spent almost a decade of my life studying and trying to be; the answer being, oddly learned from his own masterclass lessons: that the best writer I could ever be was, in fact, just me.

Over the years, I’d retweet some more Neil Gaiman things though I didn’t really get nor expected any responses. I’d eventually given most of my books away to friends and even my mother, who really loved the graveyard book. 

Honestly, I don’t know if I will ever truly make it as a writer. I just know that these stories and this bizarre journey with having Neil Gaiman be a large part of that tutelage, albeit from a distance, had an impact on where I am today. 

I don’t know if Neil will read this. But if he does, I just wanted to say thank you. This was sort of my letter of love because your work did quite literally change the direction of my life, entirely. 

Finally, I hope that whoever’s reading this sees just how much fiction matters. That a story and a lifetime of work can change the direction of somebody’s life along the way. 

Thanks for reading.

 
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