Myth & Language

If you are writing a brand new fantasy world, should you ever use the world herculean?

Should you use the word chronology?

How about chaos?

To reference this very blog, what about fury?

Oh, or nemesis?

Is anyone an adonis?

Should voices echo without the tale of Echo and Narcissus?

Can a siren wail a warning, if a siren has never lured someone into the sea?

A bard can’t have a muse in a world without the muses.

My world doesn’t have the god of war.  However, certainly some things could be described as martial.

A trip can’t be an odyssey if Odysseus has never traveled the long, long way.

Could something be an ambrosia, if the gods never ate it?

Can someone truly harp on a subject, if harpies never screeched?

I am not sure someone can have a mentor if Telemachus never needed a teacher.

Should anyone get lost in a labyrinth, if there is no Minotaur?

Can you point out someone’s Achilles’ heel if he was never held in the river?

Let’s just mention asking what someone’s fate is here for a moment.

Language is a tricky thing. Where do you draw the line between fully using the language, but also realizing that some words don’t make any sense in the world you’ve created?

We, for the most part, write our books in our first or a familiar language. For me that is English– a language influenced by languages and cultures across the globe. We borrow from the French and the Greek, from the Spanish and the Indian, from the Arabic and the German. English is a ravenous language, hungering for more words to throw down its gullet. Although we might now want to stop and research the etymology of every word we place on the page (we would write our books even slower), we should be aware of where words come from.

Language has history.

Language builds worlds.

There isn’t a simple answer to word usage in novels. However, it’s something to be aware of when you are writing fantasy.

What do you do when you are writing a world in which Hercules never performed his labors, the god of time was never spoken of, or the tales of the Furies never passed from generation to generation?

Language affects myth.

Myth affects language.

I avoid using words and phrases where the legend is still present. I know that sounds a bit wacky- let the legend speak to you.  Is it present?  However, what I mean by that is that words like herculean and muses and Achilles’ heel all are still based in the listener and user’s knowledge of the myth and metaphor. Words like echo or chaos or fury, while still mythological in etymology, are not linked to the knowledge of the myth as others. I know that is shades of meaning, and layers of understanding, and some people might heartily disagree with me.

Another way I could say this is: I will use words where the definition has surpassed the myth, rather than the myth surpassing the definition.

Language choices really can put a writer between a rock and a hard place. Or wait, is that between the devil and the deep blue sea. Or is that a Scylla and Charybdis?

Those are just some musings for the day.



Worldbuilding: Discordanant Elements

Let’s talk about moogles. Kupo.

Let’s talk about moogles. Kupo.

… Spoiler Alert: Final Fantasy.

I recently finished Final Fantasy XV, instead of raging about my myriad of problems, concerns, general angst, and annoyed love with it I’m going to talk about moogles. No, I have to say something about XV. I’ll inevitably have a cat named Prompto. What a dork. I promise this has something to do with worldbuilding. I’ll get there.

On that note, back to moogles. I’m not going to give you the full History of the Moogle. If I ever went back to school that is the name of my dissertation. The History of the Moogle: Foundations of Fluffiness and Folklore. An entire chapter would be dedicated to the “-mog-” naming system. Note: Worldbuilding discussion about names… coming to a computer screen near you soon(ish). Instead, here are some brief highlights from the games:

First playable character: Final Fantasy VI. This cast is huge and includes a Yeti. It would make sense this is when we first get to play a moogle ourselves. There is an entire moogle army/invasion section.

Final Fantasy VII: Cait Sith. Ummm… Cait Sith. I don’t know what to add. Who is looking forward to that in the remake. Raise your hands! Most importantly, there are no living moogles here!

They are practically nonexistent in Final Fantasy VIII, only appearing as a pseudo Guardian Force available through the Pocket Station and a few dialogue mentions across the game.

Mog as a summon in Final Fantasy IX. Eiko’s little buddy turns out is not so little and is a Eidolon disguised as an orange pom pomed moogle named Mog. Additionally, moogles function as your save point and you in turn run their mail around for them. I love you so much, IX.

In Final Fantasy X we see them pass into legend again. Rather than a living being, they are an equippable doll for Lulu to use as a casting weapon. They reappear in X-2 as Yuna’s mascot dress sphere.

XII brings us full circle to see them once again as a race incorporated into the world, not as a legendary creature.

They return to creatures of legend in XIII. An exception might be made for XIII-2’s moogle who is also a weapon and can speak. Much like the rest of XIII-2, that was unclear and a little bizarro.

That was not as brief as I planned.

In the list of things Final Fantasy fans expect in their games, moogles rate up there along with chocobos, summoning, and crystals. Chocobos are an easy thing to incorporate, they often operate as the Final Fantasy equivalent of a horse. Side note: In XV there is a line of background dialogue of “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” Are there horses in this world? I don’t think we ever see horses. Have horses fallen into legend as chocobos took over their role? Is this a hint that the world is much larger than we see, are there horses on the other side of it? Or, would it simply be more appropriate to say “I’m so hungry I could eat a chocobo.”  It is a translation/idiom error? Why does this line exist?

Anyway, chocobos are not a problem to work into a game of varying levels of technology and magic. Moogles, however, have a particular aesthetic. How do you work in a fluffy white creature with a pom pom delicately attached to their head and sharp bat wings protruding from their back into a game like XV?

Moogles are painted in two different ways: real and legendary. Looking across the games, those with the most advanced tech and greatest focus on humans have passed their moogles on into legend. Mainly: VII, VIII, XIII, and XV. I cannot imagine what hyperrealistic moogles would have looked like in XV. Perhaps they could have gone with the demon route and made them into enemies that only came out at night? That could have been frightening.

In games that include moogles as living beings such as IX, there is less of a focus on humans as the dominate race and realism. In XII, where technology is often seen in browns and bronzes and given a more naturalistic look, moogles are real. While humans seem to be the majority, the world also is home to viera, bangaa, seeq, and others.  Keeping moogles as living creatures with their own culture makes sense here, in worlds where magic and technology operate together.

The game that plays with this divide is IV. While IV has an almost steampunk aesthetic, the technology is in general not comparable to what you see in VII, VIII, XIII, or XV.  However, technology plays a major role in the game, and humans are dominate. This is a case where magic is a legend, while moogles are not.

How do you make your worlds make sense?  How do all of your little bits and pieces come together to make something that makes sense as a whole? When we are working on our own stories, we usually don’t have 30 years worth of narrative history and expectations to work with.  However, we can learn from the multiplicity of ways similar elements are morphed and altered to create a world.

Ask yourself: Would a moogle from IX, book in hand muttering about kupo nuts, traipsing through the background of a gritty, electric Midgar break a bit of carefully built world?

100 Books, 100 Quotations

As of April 7, 2016 I decided to read 100 books by the end of the year to get me out of a reading slump. I needed to keep track of them. So, to help me remember each book, I wrote down a single quote. This list is my literary year (or 9 months) in review— from graphic novels to cookbooks, from picture books to epics, from poetry to prose, from new to old, here they are…

1. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley — “Cookies are all about comfort. Sometimes something simple can comfort the most.”

2. Jin Jin the Dragon by Grace Chang, illustrated by Chong Chang —“‘Oh, I’m all mixed up,’ cried the little creature. ‘Doesn’t anyone know what I am?’”

3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik — “Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside out valley.”

4. Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson — “Why had this Guardian chosen her? She could protect no one. She had never done a very good job of protecting herself.”

5. Through the Woods by Emily Carrol — “It killed livestock, wrecked fences, came from the woods (most strange things do).”

6. The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker — “What artists choose to make art about has absolutely no bearing on what they’re attracted to or what they might want to experience themselves.”

7. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente — “September could see it. She did not know what is was she saw. That is the disadvantage of being a heroine, rather than a narrator.”

8. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann — “This poem is much more attractive. / With the Healing Brush Tool”

9. George by Alex Gino — “Scott snuck glances her way too, but where Mom’s eyes were filled with concern and confusion, Scott looked at George as if his sibling made sense to him for the first time. George had never been gladder to have an older brother.”

10. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay — “I have never considered compassion a finite resource. I would not want to live in a world where such was the case.”

11. The Aspects of a Novel by E. M. Forester — “History develops, Art stands still, Is a crude motto, indeed it is almost a slogan, and though forced to adopt it we must not do so without admitting it vulgarily. It contains only a partial truth.”

12. How They Met and Other Stories by David Leviathan — “Sallie’s doubts were only reinforced by her textbook. It defined a ‘couple’ as ‘two forces on a body of equal magnitude and opposite direction, having lines of action that are parallel but do not coincide.’”

13. Fairy Tale Comics edited by Chris Duffy — “Oh, I’ll marry him! He seems brave and kind and I much prefer adventuring to dancing anyway!”

14. One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva — “Alek put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. ‘Nik, there’s a difference between need and want. Remember that, okay?’”

15. Emperor of the Eight Islands: The Tale of Shikanoko by Lian Hearn — “Sesshin smiled and nodded. ‘I am what I am and what I have always been, a poor soul on a journey.’”

16. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce — “Alanna stared at herself in the mirror. Her twin stared back, violet eyes wide in his pale face.”

17. Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler — “‘Never forget that even the grandest of trees once had to grow up from the smallest of seeds.’”

18. Enchanted by Alethea Kontis — “Wednesday would put together an eloquent string of seemingly unconnected adjectives that one day, months later, would make perfect sense.”

19. Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers & Eaters tales retold by Jane Yolen, recipes by Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrations by Philippe Beha — “A storyteller never tells the same story twice, because every audience needs a slightly different story, depending upon the season or the time of day, the restlessness of the youngest listened or how appropriate a tale is to what has just happened in the storyteller’s world. And every cook knows that a recipe changes according to the time of day, the weather, the altitude, the number of grains in the level teaspoon, the ingredients found (or not found) in the cupboard or refrigerator, the tastes or allergies of the dinner guests, even the cook’s own feelings about the look of the batter.”

20. Are We There Yet? by Nina Laden — “No.”

21. Anything Could Happen by Will Walton — “There’s a pounding in my chest. That’s your heart, I think, all broken up but beating anyways. It’s trying to save you. Feel it go, Tretch. Feel your heart, working harder than ever. It is working to save me, and everything else is working to save it.”

22. Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci — “Being pretty here involves so much more than just being pretty, and frankly I don’t have time for it.”

23. Fairy Tales for Angry Little Girls by Lela Lee — “The new queen was attractive, but she was very insecure.”

24. Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale — “I didn’t really know what I was doing… but that didn’t seem like a good reason not to try.”

25. Fangirl: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell — “In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.)”

26. Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery by David Gordon — “Being… extremely cute… doesn’t mean…you can’t get… EXTREMELY MAD!”

27. I Want a Monster! by Elise Gravel — “Papa takes me to the Monsterium. This is the best day of my life!”

28. The Sword in the Stove by Frank W. Dormer — “Vikings! Who will steal our cookies and make us say… Gribnif.”

29. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson — “The more I considered it, the more I realized how much I have in common with these koalas. We’re both immunocompromised, lightly diseased, exhausted, and full of toxins. I’m totally a koala.”

30. Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst — “My magic was small and quiet, like the rest of me, and easy to keep hidden.”

31. Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt — “There is no experimental model of the transgender person; there is no lab protocol; no double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trials. There are just human beings, each of us understanding, often without thinking about it, who we are, male, female, or something in between.”

32. I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World by Eve Ensler — “This book is a call to question rather than to please. To provoke, to challenge, to dare, to satisfy your own imagination and appetite.”

33. Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede — “‘I am widely considered to be unduly suspicious of everyone and everything,” Kazul said in a dry tone. ‘Particularly wizards.’”

34. Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede — “This young woman didn’t look like a princess (except for the crown), and she didn’t act like a princess, and she didn’t talk like a princess.”

35. Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede — “She refused even to put on the tall, pointed hats most witches wore, and she dressed in loose black robes because they were comfortable and practical, not because they were traditional. All of this occasionally annoyed people who cared more about the propriety of her dress than the quality of her spells.”

36. Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede — “Mother had taught me a lot more about dragons than she had about princesses.”

37. A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass — “Reading always makes me tired because sometimes I get so caught up in the rainbowlike colors of the words that I have to read passages over and over.”

38. Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil — “I am slightly curious, however, as to what level my self-loathing will sink to today.”

39. Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale — “The current plan happened to consist solely of pretending I had a plan.”

40. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth — “But all those times, no matter what the occasion, it had eventually ended up feeling sort of phony, like I was playing at a relationship with God, just like any little kid playing house or grocery store or anything else, but not like it was real.”

41. Shrill by Lindy West — “Mother or monster. Okay, little girl— choose.”

42. 45 Pounds (More or Less) by Kelly Barson — “Air-conditioning is my friend; sweating is not.”

43. Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli — “But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.”

44. Texts From Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg — “IM FULL OF RIGHTEOUS FURY”

45. Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom — “How can I be this person who likes the way she is, has self confidence— or at least some semblance of what appears to be self-confidence— if I still have to spend so much time trying to change?”

46. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman — “My own survival required me to counterbalance interesting with invisible.”

47. Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki — “There’s nothing wrong with being unsolved. Unsolved just means not everyone gets it.”

48. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga — “I got Little Miss Indy-Alternative-Goth-Gaiman Fan to like my graphic novel. They call that ‘crossover appeal.’”

49. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell — “Eleanor had never thought about killing herself—ever— but she thought a lot about stopping. Just running until she couldn’t run anymore. Jumping from something so high that she’d never hit the bottom.”

50. Faux Paw: Magical Cats Mystery by Sofie Kelly — “Marcus liked to tease that I thought pretty much any problem could be solved with a plate of brownies. That wasn’t true. I thought a blueberry muffin or a nice coffee cake would also work.”

51. Landline by Rainbow Rowell — “For a hallucination, this conversation was progressing very rationally. (Which made sense; Gerorgie had always been good at writing dialogue.)”

52. Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman — “On the third day, I slept at last and dreamed that I was alphabetizing an infinite library that turned out to be myself.”

53. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo — “It seemed to me that in this confluence of cultures we had acquired one another’s superstitions without necessarily any of their comforts.”

54. The Goblin’s Puzzle: The Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew Chilton — “There was no point in saving the people from an oppressive tyrant if he had to tyrannize them oppressively to do it.”

55. The Bees: A Novel by Laline Paull — “Flora bowed to her hive, set her engine to hard ascent, and leaped from the board.”

56. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic: A Novel by Emily Croy Barker — “Anything that threatened her control of her own body seemed anathema.”

57. A Victorian Flower Dictionary: The Language of Flowers Companion by Mandy Kirkby and Vanessa Diffenbaugh — “The Order of the Thistle, a chivalric order founded by King James VII, has a famous motto: Nemo me impune lacessit, ‘No one harms me without punishment’, evoking the prickly aggressiveness of the plant.”

58. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline — “I don’t know, maybe your experience differed from mine. For me, growing up as a human being on the planet Earth in the twenty-first century was a real kick in the teeth. Existentially speaking.”

59. Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss — “If he had been a book, I would have hurled him across the room.”

60. If I Had a Gryphon by Vikki Vansickle and Cale Atkinson — “If only I could have a pet with strange, exotic powers, I know that I’d find lots to do to while away the hours.”

61. Talking Writing: 50 Contemporary Writers on Novels Short Stories, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Playwriting, Digital, Fantasy, Sci-Fi Blogging, Criticism, Comedy, Erotica, Crime, Young Adult, Screenwriting, Picture Books, Memoir and Much Much More by Kirsten Krauth — from the piece “The Importance of Being Rejected: An Incentive to Improve” by Adrian Deans— “This was a key moment in my development as a writer— realizing that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. (At least, not yet.)”

62. The Sandman Volume 1 Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones III — “I sprinkle sand into the waters of night. The grains burn as they fall, reminding me of another in times long passed away.”

63. The Serpent’s Shadow by Mercedes Lackey — “Air, though, they tend to be the scholars, the artists, or the entertainers. Lots of creative types in Air.”

64. Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide by Charles Foster — “Going after badgers is the best way to scorch your sentiment. They are great tutors. In the darkening woods they look you shrewdly in the eye, finger their corduroy braces thoughtfully, and then slash open your face.”

65. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch — “To the right, a stone walkway meanders into a forest of maple trees, a hidden path for midnight trysts or assassination attempts.”

66. In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce — “In the three years she had been disguised as a boy, she had learned that boys know girls as little as girls know boys. It didn’t make sense— people are people, after all, she thought— but that was how things were.”

67. Everything I Never Told You: A Novel by Celeste Ng — “These are the new rules, which no one has outlines but which she already knows: Don’t talk about Lydia. Don’t talk about the lake. Don’t ask questions.”

68. Grim by Christine Johnson, Ellen Hopkins, Julie Kagawa, Amanda Hocking, Claudia Gray, and Rachel Hawkins — “‘You are a kind and generous person, and I like you a lot,’ said the giant. ‘But we could fill this castle ten times over with the things you do not know.’”

69. The Woman Who Rides Like A Man by Tamora Pierce — “‘I think as a human being,’ she retorted hotly. ‘Men don’t think any differently from women— they just make more noise about being able to.’”

70. Saga: Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “My reluctance to use force isn’t ideological, it’s practical. Violence is stupid. Even as a last resort, it only ever begets more of the same.”

71. Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce — “‘The trouble with arguing with a cat is that cats don’t hesitate to say anything about you, no matter how crazy it is,’ she complained. ‘You can’t win an argument that way.’”

72. Saga: Volume Two by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “In romantic comedies this is called the ‘meet-cute.’ I’ve always hated romantic comedies.”

73. Saga: Volume Three by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “Over the years we met every kind of person imaginable. But no one makes worse first impressions than writers.”

74. The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley — “I remember being asked at a baby shower once if I wrote children’s books. I found it difficult to even respond to that, because I’d just published a science-fantasy noir book about a bisexual bounty hunter who lops off people’s heads for a living. There is of course nothing wrong with writing children’s books, but I couldn’t help wondering what that person would assume I wrote if I presented as a dude.”

75. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire — “Her parents loved her, there was no question of that, but their love was the sort that filled her suitcase with colors and kept trying to set her up on dates with local boys. Their love wanted to fix her, and refused to see that she wasn’t broken.”

76. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig — “She thinks, I want an orange soda. And I want vodka to mix into the orange soda. And, while we’re at it, I’d also like to stop being able to see how people are going to bite it. Oh, and a pony. I definitely want a goddamn pony.

77. Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig — “Grade school— elementary and up— is like being dropped in a dunk tank filled with starving piranha.”

78. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale — “Her pulse clicked in her jaw, and she held on to that noise, tried to take comfort from it, as if the quarry and home were as near as her heart.”

79. Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale — “I am trying to choose words carefully, you see. Master Filippus lectured on the importance of word choice in our Rhetoric lesson. Words can fall hard like a boulder loosened from a cliff. Words can drift unnoticed like a weed seed on a breeze. Words can sing.

80. Saga: Volume Four by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “Admit it, you’re probably a very different person at work than you are at home. Everyone needs to be someone else sometimes.”

81. Saga: Volume Five by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “Cheer up, Beard of Sorrow.”

82. Saga: Volume Six by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — “We’re all aliens to someone. Even among our own people, most of us feel like complete foreigners from time to time. Usually associated with invasions, abductions, or other hostile acts, the term ‘alien’ gets a bad rap. But over the years, the word has come to mean something very different to me… future friend material.”

83. The Black Book of Colors by Merena Cottin and Rosana Faria — “Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.”

84. The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale — “‘Are you so afraid of a baby girl?’ Miri said, leaning toward him across the table. ‘How about me? Do I terrify you too? Watch out, I wear a dress and don’t grow a beard, and if you don’t keep me in check, I’ll steal all your power!’”

85. How to Be Brave: A Novel by E. Katherine Kottaras — “Liss teases me, ‘You can take the dork out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the dork.’”

86. Sprout by Dale Peck — “In Long Island, all the roads were, first of all, streets, and they were also, you know, paved. Dirt roads belonged to movies set in other countries, other centuries. Yet here they were, their washboard ridges shaking our suburban car to pieces, as if to punish us for disturbing a quiet pastoral afternoon.”

87. A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction by Terry Pratchett — “So let’s not get frightened when the children read fantasy. It is the compost for a healthy mind. It stimulates the inquisitive nodes. It may not appear as ‘relevant’ as books set more firmly in the child’s environment, or whatever hell the writer believes to be the child’s environment, but there is some evidence that a rich internal fantasy life is as good and necessary for a child as healthy soil is for a plant, for much the same reasons.”

88. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins — “Americans called this time of the year ‘October’ or sometimes, ‘Autumn,’ but the librarians reckoned time by the heavens. Tonight was the seventh moon, which is the moon of the black lament.”
* I read this one on Halloween. Would recommend that.

89. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell — “‘It’s just that getting paid to do nothing is a constant reminder that I’m doing nothing,’ Lincoln said. ‘And doing nothing takes more energy than you’d think. I’m tired all the time.’”

90. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg — “No one had ever told me that my writing was all over the place. I could feel heat spread across my face and into my ears. Take away my labels, fine. Just leave me the things I know I am, like being a good writer.”

91. Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture by Stephen H. Segal, N. K. Jemisin, Genevieve Valentine, Eric San Juan, Zaki Hasan — “I wish I could remember who asked me the question. Because I know for sure that my answer is what set me on the path that has brought me here, to you, on this page. The question was: ‘What was our religion when you were growing up?’ And my answer was: ‘Uh, science fiction, pretty much.’”

92. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin — “Fortunately, where reason failed, blind panic served well enough.”

93. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell — “(Which is my rough luck, pretty much always. As soon as you start carrying a sword, all your enemies turn out mist and gossamer.)”

94. The Story Book Knight by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty — “Leo was a gentle knight in thought and word and deed. While other knights liked fighting, Leo liked to sit and read.”

95. Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World by Deborah Blake — “By creating daily practices, a practitioner can feel more grounded and centered in reality, allowing for more mindful choices to be made on a daily basis. By consciously consuming and by choosing love-based human interactions, our empathy increases and so does our engagement in this strange thing called life. By bettering ourselves, we better the world, creating a solid path of living magick.”

96. Timekeeper by Tara Sim — “Here, he felt needed. Valued. The tower was a sanctuary, all gold lines and hand curves, glint and glass, standing old and steady under the thrum of time.”

97. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman — “‘I think,’ said the bear, ‘as a responsible adult, I should point a few things out.’”

98. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel: A Novel by Sara Farizan — “The class is silent again. I hate when this happens. I’ve never done will with awkward silences or pauses. I can always hear people breathing. I can hear myself breathe. It’s the most uncomfortable feeling ever.”

99. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz — “The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.”

100. Invasive: A Novel by Chuck Wendig — “The future, it occurs to Hannah, does not frighten him the way it frightens her. That worries her. Someone with his power and experience shouldn’t have such raging optimism— and deception by powerful men is a danger as persistent as global warming, famine, or disease.”

I’m officially over my reading slump.

November 2016, Go Home.

In the middle of Nanowrimo 2016 I stabbed myself in the hand. I am not talking metaphorically here. I literally lost a fight with an avocado and stabbed myself in the hand. There was blood. There was an ER visit. Luckily no stitches were required, just fancy flesh glue, before sending me on my merry way. I might add that this also happened right before Thanksgiving, so I heard every iteration of “you won’t have to peel potatoes this year!” from everyone in my life. Which, honestly, is the real travesty here. Come up with some new material, y’all. (And what I really got myself out of was taking brussels sprouts apart leaf by leaf.)

I’m going to take a moment here to say that this post is taking me forever to type as my hand still aches and my typing speed is laughable. USE APPROPRIATE KNIVES. Ahem. Anyway.

I’ve never done Nano before, but I decided that this was the year I would do it. I had an intense chapter by chapter outline of a book I’ve been wanting to start, but have been a bit leery about. Characters charts made and filled out. A general good feeling about writing. Not to mention wanting to distract myself from a certain event happening on a November Tuesday. So you know, I thought it would go well, I really did. Ahhh, to have hope.

Then I stabbed myself in the hand.

I am not clumsy. I don’t slip on ice. I don’t fall. I’m adequately athletic. I can count on one hand actual injury-inducing accidents I’ve had which is surprising given how absent-minded I am. Do you know what I spent part of my last few weeks doing? Using various knives to carve hair sticks. Did I injure myself? No. Instead, in the kitchen task I’ve done a million times… that’s when I decide to get stabby.

You know, leave it to 2016.

There is a saying about sharp knives and dull knives. It’s something along the lines of a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife. It was a dull knife I let slip– a dull knife that left a jagged cut that will not heal with the speed and cleanliness of a sharp knife. It wasn’t, isn’t, fit for the job and now I’ll pay the price.

When you experience a trauma, you need time to heal. You can’t leap back into something, your mind reeling with pain and frustration and exhaustion and expect to be up to par.

You need time.

You need time to process

You need time to heal.

You need time to get angry.

I’ve been angry for weeks. Seeing my own blood seep through a towel as I held pressure on it broke me. It snapped me from anger at the world to anger at myself. My hand slipped. I had made a mistake. I had stopped writing. Just downright stopped. I couldn’t find the worth in it, not for weeks. I couldn’t find it. I spent my time doing anything other than writing.

Rallying cries fill the world right now. Art matters. Your stories are important.  Keep writing. Write. Write. Write. Keep creating Create. Create. Create.

So here I am, sitting in front of my computer, resting my left hand on my keyboard because it is still swollen wondering about Nanowrimo. Wondering why I think I should spend time typing away at that book rather than giving my hand time to rest. Wondering why I think I should fling myself into writing more than ever. Wondering why I think I need to write right now. (Also, wondering if I can take more ibuprofen, since it’s worn off…. I can’t. Not for another hour. Maybe I’ll eat some pie instead.)

Narrative is a way to reach people when so many other ways fail. I live somewhere very, very red. (I don’t mean because I bled on it.) I’m very, very blue. (I don’t mean my depressive spirals.) I’ve spent too much time not knowing what to do, feeling helpless and exhausted and angry, because I’ve forgotten what I can do. I can write. You can write. We can write.

So here I am, sitting in front of my computer, writing away because it is what I can do. I can write through this ache. Writing because this cut will heal. Writing because this is my answer. Writing because art does matter. Our stories matter. (Also writing because I’ve run out of pie.)

…anyway, what was I saying about metaphor?

Worldbuilding: Festivals, Holidays, and More

As we go into October, America begins to shift. Halloween decorations pop up here and there. Scarecrows and witches appear in equal measures. Turkeys fat, round, and made of crepe paper rule over their dominion of seasoned breadcrumbs at grocery stores. In a sudden shift, almost overnight, after the blackest of Fridays, Christmas trees sprout from unwitting places weighed down with sparkling ornaments. Santas, their beards white and curled laugh merrily at passersby, ringing bells. If you look very closely sometimes you can see blue and silver– a menorah half-hidden behind a display of red and green stockings.

I find holidays fascinating. For a little while every year I step away from myself, deeply entrenched in Midwestern Americana, to look at it all as an impassive observer. To see that butter turkey with eyes that have never seen one before. To see that tree dragged in from the cold and shaken of any wayward needles only to be dressed in finery. To see the skeleton who sits in a rocking chair beside me, a pointed hat sitting atop her head at a jaunty angle. It’s odd. It really is.

Our years are punctuated with celebrations. Holidays. Memorials. Anniversaries. Some looking to the future. Some looking to the past. Some in celebration. Some in solace. It’s a global phenomenon.

People celebrate. We mark time in some way. Sometimes it’s by disemboweling a squash and carving wicked faces into its flesh. Sometimes it’s by chanting in verse around a flaming cake. Sometimes it’s imbibing in a potion of spices and coffee and capitalism. #PSL

A bit ago I went to The Feast of the Hunter’s Moon at Fort Ouiatenon. It’s an annual recreation of a gathering of the French and Indigenous Americans during the mid 1700s. While there, as per usual, I did a lot of thinking about how this will inevitably find its way into a story somewhere: the smell of gunpowder, the multitude of uniforms, the intricacies of lace making. (In related news, I learned that my aptitude for guessing military uniforms is mostly based on Age of Empires and Assassin’s Creed.) All that, though, is what they were performing. What about the performance itself? This year marked the 49th anniversary of this event. It’s gone on for years. People getting together and marking time with this celebration.

It feels like sometimes fantasy novels are stagnant in a bizarre lack of history. Nothing has changed and nothing will, until maybe our chosen protagonists have something to say about it.  If there are monarchies, then the same families have been in control since the very dawn of the kingdom. If there is a monotheistic religion, then that singular deity has never been worshiped in any other way. Perhaps there was once a great upheaval, but the ripples of it have long been forgotten. There is a lot forgotten in fantasy.

History and holidays are linked. It’s memory. A cultural memory of how celebrations occur and why they do. There are ceremonies for birth and death. Holidays for abundance and good will. For the turning of seasons. The cyclical cycle of the planet that no one can ignore really.

One of my books starts with a festival. I did this for two reasons. Reason number one: to enact that old fantasy novel standby of beginning at a fair, or a harvest festival, or a autumnal thing that is never really said what it is for but there are squashes and merriment. Reason number two: to see the same event celebrated two ways. To see the celebration of those who won a battle and the memorial of those who lost. Not heroes or villains. Just opposing forces. The same event was the catalyst for both holidays, but the way both nations celebrate it draws a decisive line between them, for good or ill.

When we build our new worlds, when we write them into existence, we aren’t beginning at year one. We don’t, for the most part, begin with the big bang. We are stepping into the middle of something. Something that comes with its traditions and holidays and history all linked together in a messy, tangled web. They celebrate their gods and goddesses. They mark death and life. They know what their traditions are, even if we don’t yet. It might not be the first anniversary of something, but the 12th or 87th or 119th.

There is a richness to holidays and the everyday intersection they have with life. As you build your world, consider what they would think is worth remembering. What swirls around them, vivid and full of life and memory? A world doesn’t happen in a void.

What Happens When You Read

When you read you end up drinking a mixture of black tea, coffee, and condensed milk.

Allow me to explain.

When you read you end up drinking a mixture of black tea, coffee, and condensed milk.

Allow me to explain.

It all started with my library’s summer reading challenge. Part of the challenge this year was reading books across genres. A sample of the genre lists: Travel Memoirs; Mystery & Thriller; Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Paranormal; and Appalachian Fiction. Each list had about 10 books to choose from. Unsurprisingly, I had read the majority from the SFF list. Out of the Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Paranormal list I had not yet read: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo.

Now, I normally don’t do book reviews because they go something like this:






The Ghost Bride falls solidly into the first category. Lovely prose. Engaging characters. Intricate storytelling. Well-paced plot. That is the extent of any real review here. The end. What I am saying is: Go read this book right now. Stop reading my words and go read hers.

So, of course I wanted to know if Yangsze Choo had written anything else. Off to the internet we go!

If curiosity leads, it never takes you on a straight path. You twist and turn and wander your way through words and links and ideas you never really had any plans on encountering. You find new things pressed between old things. Unknown pressed between known. Things you never knew you wanted to know.

In my wanderings I found her blog. Which lead me to this paragraph“In Malaysia, a favourite breakfast item is a soft-boiled egg served in a bowl with soy sauce and white pepper. Thick Hainanese toast, grilled over charcoal and lavishly smeared with butter and kaya, a caramelized custard spread, is the traditional coffee shop accompaniment together with piping hot coffee (or more scandalously, the subversive drink called chum, which is coffee and tea mixed together with condensed milk).”

Can we look at that last bit a bit closer: COFFEE AND TEA MIXED TOGETHER WITH CONDENSED MILK.


Second thought: I need a recipe.

Once again with help from my old friend Google, I found this recipe over at Saveur that seemed impossibly easy. Which lead to the third thought: I need to go to the grocery store.

*cackles over cans of sweetened condensed milk*

Fourth thought: I now have everything I need.

A classic drink for us during the holidays is swiping the used sweetened condensed milk cans after cookie baking and pouring in the last of the coffee. The coffee is usually the last dregs in the french press, so it’s the dark black sludge of caffeine infused darkness. We swirl it around until it lightens several shades and takes us into the nethersphere with its sugariness. It keeps us awake until the wee hours of the night so we can finish the unreasonable number of cookies we think a family of seven needs.

It felt like some kitchen witchery as warm, familiar smells of coffee and black tea swirled around the apartment. I poured cups of the milky concoction into small cups and served it with something I suppose you could call quiche. Quiche without the crust? Crustless quiche? Oven omelet? Egg loaf?


I told you. I review in extremes.

It might be a touch dangerous that I now have a recipe for a liquid sugar and caffeine bomb which packs the punch of both tea and coffee. Somehow, you can taste both the tea and the coffee. I am not sure how, but by the magic of this drink they merge together into something new and yet also familiar. Additionally, after it kicked in, my brain was on fire. Delicious, delicious fire. While at work that afternoon I am pretty sure I was vibrating in my chair, twirling pencils around my fingers, and just generally bouncing around. (As much as a practically clinically stoic person is wont to do.) To quote Sister Number One, “If I had this while writing my dissertation, I would have finished six months earlier.”

I now know what to fuel myself with when all sleep is lost.

Wherein I Ramble About The Shannara Chronicles

I come at this with a lot of love. I grew up on 70s and 80s fantasy. Our bookshelves weighed heavy with Jordan and Feist and Eddings and, of course more apropos to today’s post, Brooks. I went from picture books to epic fantasy in not very many steps. From the Pokey Little Puppy to the Flaming Sword of Justice and Fate. As you do.  So when it was announced they were making a Shannara series I was filled with equal parts hope and apprehension. (And maybe a tiny part of me wants to fill the hole in my heart that formed after Merlin stopped airing.)

Let’s get this out of the way early on. I am glad that the pronunciation of Shannara is not like how I have been pronouncing it in my head for years. There is Book!Shannara that lives in my head untouched by TV!Shannara. TV!Shannara can do a retelling and a reimagining without touching the characters that live in my head.  Really it’s for the best. That doesn’t mean I am not going to compare them. Not in the least.

I took twenty two pages of notes while watching this show. I will admit they are small pages. But still… twenty two pages.  Here they are in all their glory. Note: I watched this with Sister Number Three, so there are  some interjections by her.

Episode 1


Ander is a baby!

Wait, there was no trial… Amberle was just… chosen. And gender wasn’t this big of a deal, right?

I am into this music.

Why was that credit scene red, white, and black? Why is that a thing right now? The elfstones are blue. I guess the tree is red?

Hi Gimli, nice tree.

Why is Ander the most dashing person in the room? Yes, we see his eyes are blue. You can stop flashing light on them.


Ahhh yesss, Mount Doom.


We already know far too much about Allanon.

Why does he have Fandral’s sword?

*Enter the Farm Boy*

Always kill the parents. Just murder a bunch of people and call it good narrative.




Well, clearly don’t accept drinks from sexy women.

Wil, look up the definition of “honey trap.”

Why is evil always ugly?  It’s not that easy to determine.

Episode 2

Wil, no.

You did not actually say “Your destiny awaits.”

I need Colin Morgan to give lessons to anyone who has to act magical abilities.

Note: I’ve started leveling characters up in Hyrule Warriors while getting Three’s description of this scene: “HE IS LITERALLY CRUSHING HIS FACE. FACE SMOSH.”

You are not witches.


Real line: “The dagda–what?”

This is now the plot to Thor. Which is a classic, I suppose. Brother vs Brother.

I do not remember this much brother-angst.

Woman can leave home without being pregnant.

Well, aren’t all problems related to women’s love life choices?

SHEA WAS NOT A DRUNKARD. I can get over you making him Wil’s dad. Weird timeline wise, but ok. BUT NOT MAKING HIM A DRUNKARD. NO.

I am offended for Shea.

Allanon, you’ve met Arrow, you know how to put YOUR HOOD UP.


Allanon, you’ve talked more in five minutes than in two books.

Of course she was made up for the show, she calls Allanon out.

Note: We’ve referred to any character who randomly shows up, dispenses relevant plot knowledge, and disappears into the ether as having an “Allanon Complex” for years.

And now… she’s dead. Obviously.

Episode 3

I still miss Merlin.

How many shirtless scenes are we going to see?

Are the women really cowering at Wil’s feet right now? They are both fighters. No.

The music is once again the best part of this.

I am bored.

Still bored.


Episode 4

I’ve worn Wil’s outfit in real life.

I’m EVIL= Dressed in black.

This dialogue is cringy.

Three: “We can’t compare things to Merlin and Sanctuary, it’s not fair. But Christopher Heyerdahl would make an excellent cloaked, hooded, and very tall Allanon.”

This is a fine Allanon for this show. However, I don’t get the creepy factor of Book!Allanon.

And we are back to the plot of Thor.

There is no recognition of time passing. I don’t understand their great, meaningful relationship. Especially when it feels like they are always arguing and have barely been together.

You should never wear an outfit that Scorpius would be proud of.  However, Tilton is cool. Even if this outfit is… ridiculous.  She will also probably end up dead.

Yes, you definitely killed this evil monster by snapping it’s neck.

Chop of it’s head at the very least, this is a magical being.


Yep, you didn’t cut of it’s head. This is what you get. Murdered.

Episode 5

Flashback. I only care if it is about Shea.

It’s not about Shea.

Already shirtless. Ahem, I mean: Plot.

I am so tired of ugly bad guys.

This would be more interesting if we didn’t assume he was about to die.

I am into this battle theme. I LIKE THIS MUSIC.

Yep, dead.

They have significantly Shakespeared up the brothers’ relationship.

“Boy!” said with disdain– the mark of The Farm Boy.

Villains: Ugly men + gorgeous scantily clad women.


Was anyone this racist in the books? I do not remember this.

Oh right, I haven’t actually talked about Bandon yet.

He is so going evil.

Starting to practice your seer powers on an ancient druid seems like a bad idea.

That tourniquet was on the wrong side.

Why is there an attempted rape? Why does it always go there?

I wish I would have been counting gratuitous bathing scenes.

Why does it look like a pig?

Writers room scene:

Writer 1: Hey guys, how do we make this dude not look like the balrog?

Writer 2: Dual axes…

Writer 3: …and slow mo.

Writes chorus: Nailed it.

It looks like the lego Balrog. I can’t help giggling at it and I am not sure why.

“Prince,” said with disdain.

Confirmed: Plot of Thor. Shapeshifter on the throne.

Episode 6

I now have ice cream.

Your sword is very far away.

A playground? No.

I am in physical pain, but I have mint ice cream.

Amberle, you will actually be happier as a tree. I can almost guarantee you.


Seriously, just turn into a tree already.

Has any episode not had a shirtless scene in the first five minutes?

I just snorted at the phrase “There’s a storm coming.”


Three: “Mal might have been Captain Tightpants, but Ander is Prince Tightpants.”



Wil, you occasionally have moments of genre savvy, then you turn into a complete fool. Own it. Learn something from listening to Shea’s stories. OH WAIT, HE WAS A DRUNKARD.

Is he really being framed by one streak of light?


Speaking of ears, I do like that one of Arion’s is slightly crooked. It’s a nice touch.  Clearly, Mr. Dashing can’t have crooked ears, but it’s nice.

The changeling is even doing the Loki-lean on the throne.

Now… there is a creepy laboratory?

Creepy child. Check.

*creepy giggling*

Three: “Don’t put me down for mummification.”

How touching. Turn into a tree.

Now Ander is a drunk? No.

Why is it dead parents and/or alcohol. Always.


Episode 7

Don’t worry, I am sure that palm injury will heal into a silvery circle. As they do.

No one was shirtless before the credits. Good job.

Soaking wet, yes. Shirtless, no.

Three: “That hairdo is right out of Red Sonja.”

Now Allanon is shirtless. We were doing so good.


Me out loud: I’ve worn that outfit. Why do I dress like a post apocalyptic elven man?

Three: Meaningfully raises her eyebrows.

Me: Nevermind, don’t answer that.

They fall into a high school. I can’t do this. The banner actually reads “We can all be Heroes.”

Either own the absurd or play it serious.



I care more about finding out about these composers than Allanon’s resurrection.

Also, I do not remember Allanon having this much trouble staying alive.




Actually, nevermind. Now I want the elfstones to be dice. We are all saved by the power of tabletop gaming.

Did Eretria just shoot someone through the eye while rolling around on the ground? That seems improbable.

Three: “I think Allanon just did his overdrive.”

Poor Arion. NOBLE DEATH.


KING ANDER. Still tho, you are like 12. It is a good thing the camera just keeps lighting your eyes up blue. We wouldn’t want to forget who the dashing one is.

Three: “Now he is King Tightpants.”

Episode 8

I now have tea instead of ice cream.  

Note: Earl gray, although I didn’t know much I was foreshadowing then.


Shut it, Allanon, there is always a choice.

I’m bored again.

A creepy cultist?

Where are you getting gunpowder?

Also, this is totally about human sacrifice.

Why does the creepy cult leader want to be Johnny Depp?





Episode 9


They really have trolls under the bridge?

Embrace the weird.

Bandon is going evil.

Oh look, he attacked the king.


A map on her skin? Does that happen in the books? I apparently have no memory.

I need to read Elfstones again.


Do you feel like a pawn? Maybe a pawn of prophecy?

Bandon, your eyes are getting squintier. If I learned anything from watching all the Merlin commentary, it means you are getting more possessed.

I think I’ve fought these witches in Zelda before.

This is bizarro.

I still don’t understand Kael’s plan?  Why is Ander such a bad king? Why is she going against him? I don’t understand. He is markedly less racist as far as I can tell.



Episode 10

WHY ME? Because everyone asks that. Literally everyone.

Yep. Evil Bandon. Called it.

I am being sincere when I say this: Ander, thank you for allying with the “uglies.”

It really is terrible to be Arion.

Red magic doesn’t have to be evil? Why is it evil but also coded to the tree? Which I guess makes sense that it is holding back evil. But then blue is good. The color imagery going on in here is odd.

I repeat: Everyone who has to use magic has to go talk to Colin Morgan.


Save the world or let everyone die.

That isn’t a choice Allanon. That is being backed up into a corner. You really need to brush up on your definition of choice.

Three: “I want her to turn into something that looks like the Deku Sprout.”


King Ander: A study in blue eyes and tight clothing.


Tilton: Also called it.

Allanon… just keep saying words, wise druid words.

Eretria has to be rescued. Because of course.


As I finished watching the first season I asked myself one question: Will I watch season two?  Yes. Yes I will. 100% will.

However first, I am going to get out my battered copy of Elfstones and start reading.


Every Thought I’ve Had While Reading Young Adult Novels

I’ll preface this all by saying that I have never gotten into YA. I am not sure why, but I just struggle with it. Which is ridiculous. There are great writers doing fascinating things across YA but I am just easily bored by it all.  However, in my “100 Books by the End of the Year Challenge” I have given myself, I’m trying to read outside my comfort zone. My comfort zone does not include contemporary young adult fiction. So please leave me YA book recommendations in the comments. Please. I don’t know what to read.

Now, on to the snark.

First person, wonderful, I think, my mind reeking of sarcasm and italics.

Was this anyone’s high school experience? Alternatively: Was this anyone’s college experience?

Ah, they must be the love interest. They’ve got so much quirk. The quirkiest even.

How does anyone see through their perfectly disheveled hair?

Every Certified Young Adult™  lives in New York or wants to live in New York.

How can anyone be this disaffected at thirteen years old?

Never mind, I remember myself at thirteen.

The new person at school also known as: Plot Device.

Do you only go to school when Plot Device shows up?

You can tell she is cool. Her name is gender neutral.

No, he isn’t literally the next door neighbor. He can’t be. Yep, he is.

Aww, Plot Device is sad.

Mental illness isn’t a quirk. Stop it.

Neither is stalking.

Where are your parents?

Listen to your parents.

Oh, they’re dead. Or divorced. Or conspicuously absent.

Go see a counselor. Don’t lie to them.

I was so close to being a YA protagonist growing up: brown hair, hazel eyes, one dead parent, slightly taller than average, general level of awkward, extensive interior monologues. I just needed to work on my level of quirk.

This world has no introverts.

Why do lines like “I’m not like all those other girls with their makeup and boyfriends” exist?

Stop vilifying people for their fashion choices. What’s wrong with you? Let them wear their makeup. Let them wear their fandom shirts. And, gasp, let them wear both.

It’s ok to be single.

Did that character just quote an absurdly esoteric and unknown poet, philosopher, etc.? Answer: Yes.


Where are you getting your money? Right, everyone is upper middle class. What was I thinking?

It’s ok not to know what to do with your life. You are fifteen.

Why don’t you have homework?

Mom, you are welcome for apparently being the most boring teenager in the world.

Why does no one make healthy life choices? Ever. I know it’s for Conflict and The Plot, but every once in a while won’t break the narrative.


I am not satisfied by that ending.

… Why is this so compelling?

Word Quota

The last couple of weeks have been a tornado filled with sentence shrapnel. (Not to mention actual tornado warnings.) Words whipped up around me as I stood in the center, or perhaps I have been flung around with them. Have you ever seen those pictures of the aftermath of a tornado? Where a stake of wood has been driven through cement? That has been me lately. Just replace the stake of wood with a word and the cement with me. It makes sense. I promise you.

I’m having word whiplash. So many words. Too many words. Reading a few hours a day, writing a few hours a day, and working at a library means I am literally surrounded by words all of the time– both in the literal and figurative meaning of that particular word. Since the new definition accounts for both these days, I’ll go ahead and double dip.

I accidentally missed posting last week and the week before that and the week before that and ok, so it’s been a month. A new novel has taken over my life in a drastic way and blogging takes more words. Too many words.

I ran out of words.

No more words.

Goodbye words.

I need a break.

I’ll see you when I see you.

Hello again.

I’m back.

Silence didn’t last long.

I’ll be back with my irregularly scheduled rambles once a week starting with this.

What Does Lawful Good Even Mean Anymore?


Does anyone remember last week’s post? Anyone? No? For a refresher: Why is realistic synonymous with dark, gritty, and violent? Why is so much of our narrative going there right now? Ok. We are all caught up.

Now for today’s. Oh, it’s about the same thing. The same thing that permeates our culture on repeat. A bad record of narrative. Take a hero, make them dark. Take a hero, make them gritty. Take a hero, make them violent. Take a hero, make them evil. Please stop Dark Knighting everyone. Please stop turning everyone evil. Please. Stop.

If you can’t tell yet, this is about Captain America.

I’ll warn you now that this post is disjointed and rambling and perhaps a tiny bit emotional.

This afternoon I got a text from my sister: *whispers apprehensively* have you heard today’s marvel comics news…..?

Why yes, I had and I am tired. I am so tired. Everything about this reads so terribly. Captain America was initially created as a Blond, Blue-Eyed White Engineered Supersoldier™ to fight against the Nazi regime. Are we getting that? Are we understanding what we are doing by turning Captain into an agent of Hydra? Are we understanding what we are saying? Are we understanding the rippling damage of Nazi Captain America?

I am weary. So, so weary. Where are the people helping people?

As our conversation continued, a text asked: Why can’t we have good heroes?

Let’s talk about the cinematic universe for a moment. I’ve fought depression and anxiety for… looks at a clock, then a calendar, then my life as a general entity… forever. Most of my life has been gray. Emotions clouded. Emotions without color dulled by depression. But I remember actually tearing up at the first Captain America movie. I felt ridiculous. I don’t cry at movies. Except for The Lion King, which doesn’t count. You don’t have a soul if Mufasa’s death doesn’t affect you. That’s just a rule of media.

However, here I was staring at the screen in the theater trying not to cry because a kid from Brooklyn doesn’t like bullies no matter where they’re from. It was a glimmer of a hero who wasn’t covered in loathing sardonicism. A hero who wasn’t disillusioned with the world. A person who wanted to help people. When I watched Winter Soldier, the introduction of Falcon as a hero who helped veterans, a hero who acknowledged mental health in a mainstream comic book movie, added to the team. I didn’t cry that time. Instead, I cheered. People helping people. A whole movie full of them.

As our conversation turned to all caps my sister, who is also our familial Dungeon Master, chimed in with: WHAT DOES LAWFUL GOOD EVEN MEAN ANYMORE?

For a bit of background, she just threw our characters into a dungeon and handed us new character sheets. Our old characters were darker, grittier… I was playing a former assassin turned good. Actually now that I think about it, I was basically playing the creepy druidic, tiefling version of the Winter Soldier. Most of our final decision making was made by the half-drow rogue. Our last game deteriorated into a 30 minutes discussion of the morality of killing an goblin. Darker. Edgier. We fell dice first into the trap of dark, gritty narrative.

I’m now playing as a high elf bard who is the ridiculous child of Awful Fantasy and Guy In Your MFA. We have a trash talking barbarian from the bunny clan. We have Pun Isher, the pun slinging gnome. Each of them are lawful good. They are lawful good, but still have differing personalities and opinions. We can still create interesting stories even if we all are for all purposes “good.” We are playing as people helping people divorced from needing a dark past and a gritty future.  

Finally, a text quipped: I don’t like bullies, that includes Marvel writers!

So much of our life is sculpted by media, by storytelling. We learn through narrative. We learn through history. We learn through the stories of others and our own. We need stories. Diverse stories. Stories that question the norm. Stories that show the good and the bad. Stories that find glimmers of hope for everyone.

We don’t need Nazi Captain America.