Right Here Right Now

So I have this website/blog thingy. I’ve had it for four years now. You can travel back to the very beginning and my very first post in August 2010.

The whole point of this website was to give me a web presence. So whenever someone (like a prospective employer or person I met at some industry thing) punches my name into a search engine, this website popes up, they click through, read about me, read my works and go “damn this dude is good –  let’s throw money at him.” As you can imagine this hasn’t happened yet, but having a web presence in this day and age is essential for a successful yet somehow still struggling creative type. People read or view your work or just want to get some insight into you as a person, they can find out.

But sweet Jeebus I hate blogging. Hate. It.

If I’m lucky I can knock out one, maybe two posts a month. Contrast that with people who do it every day and I’m failing at it. Often I write and post just to make it look like the website is still active. Sometimes I’m inspired, other times amusing, and occasionally I say things relevant to the writing process. Once I even had a post go viral, though the subject matter – my discovery of David Bowie and Duran Duran – may have had something to do with it.  But my need to keep this website current means too often I fall into the trap of this little nostalgia bubble. I’ll write about stuff that happened years if not decades ago, and try to make some tenuous connection to present day, but more often than more often it comes across – IMO – as being too maudlin. Yes, I did shit when I was younger. Some was fun, some wasn’t, but increasingly it looks and feels like the sad reminiscence of someone past their prime.

That’s bullshit. I’m better now than I ever have been, creatively, personally, you name it. Cool stuff – a lot of cool stuff – is happening right now, and I hope to be able to divulge details on all of it very soon.

But what about the here and now? What is exciting me or entertaining me or making this a very cool time in my life and one that I’ll look back on years from now? What keeps me moving forward by not looking to the past?

Well, I’ll tell you.

jack-white-lazaretto-628x541Yes, I dig Jack White. Yes, I dig his music, his business model, his attitude. Yes, his attitude. Sure he’s a cocky asshole – and one of those types I can’t stand to be anywhere around – but if you were in one of the few genuinely *great* bands to debut at the turn of this millennium, formed your own record label specializing in vinyl albums of all things, while forming two other bands and producing a bunch of other albums before launching one, then another solo album of your own, you earned the right. Plus his new album Lazaretto is really good and you should pick it up now.

(And you should listen to the 7th track at least once a day like I do because it’s my fave)

gregory-s-coffee

Gregory’s Coffee. Picture a less douchey and less corporate Starbucks. They’re a NYC based chain and they do coffee right. Seriously, I need to grab an Americano there once a week, and they have a location conveniently close to Midtown Comics, so you can go grab your purchases and then read them at Gregory’s. Plus they bake their own croissants, biscotti, cookies, muffins, and donuts. Plus the WiFi is free and speedy. And unlike Starbucks their coffee doesn’t taste like ass. Actually screw the rest of this update, I’m going there now.

house_of_cards_poster_2

House of Cards. Apparently it doesn’t hold a candle to the original (nothing ever does), and it gets awfully silly at times but damn if it isn’t totally addictive. I’ve been soaking TV up like a sponge lately as I’m in development on two different TV series of my own so naturally I like to see what’s out there so I don’t fall into the trap of “oh there’s totally a show like that right now, sorry you wasted all that time on your thing”. I’d also add Masters of Sex, Justified, Hell on Wheels, Turn, The Americans, Sherlock, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Da Vinci’s Demons, Downton Abbey and Spartacus to the mix. That said I’m not a fan of the whole “binge watch” - I need time to absorb what I’ve seen before speeding through the story. Like reading a really good book you have to apply the brakes to avoid racing to the end and wanting more.  But another thing I’ve found is the most TV I can handle at a time is 2 hour-long episodes. Any more and my eyes glaze over. Probably because I spend most of my day staring at a screen there’s only so much more of that I can take when I want to unwind. I am in awe and a little bit frightened by people who can tear through a season in a weekend, the “binge watch” that has become ubiquitous. Me, I’d rather read a book.  And speaking of reading:

ALL-AMERICAN ADS BOOKS (3)Taschen. In particular their All American Ads series. Partly for research as one of the aforementioned TV projects is set in the 1950s, but also because I find them utterly absorbing. Like:

GAYAnd:

frigid-woman-cold-war-pushbutton-ease

And let’s not forget:

(The "T Zone" is cancer)

(The “T Zone” is cancer)

I also enjoy the series because it reminds me of how the mundane and everyday can gain extra meaning once time passes. It makes me think of my parents growing up under the shadow of these same ads. It makes me think of the comic books in my collection from the 80s and 90s, and how the ads and letter columns are what keep me from selling them and converting the series into trade editions; it’s that “in situ” act of reading them knowing how things changed but at the time nobody knew the ending.  In fact I’d say vintage advertising is the best way to get a sense of how people lived decades ago and – aww, there I go again down the nostalgia hole. Moving on. …

coldinjulyposterMovies. I still watch them, I write them for a living. And increasingly the bloom has been off the rose. I enjoyed The Winter Soldier and The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Raid 2 and Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow but I didn’t love them the way I would have once (and I really disliked the Godzilla reboot after anticipating it for so long). And while I could blame The Movies for sucking, it’s not so much them as it is me. Tastes change and the stuff that used to get me excited before just doesn’t anymore. I want stories about people, not explosions, not comic book video game rebooted remakes.  And that’s why I keep watching and looking and occasionally find something unexpected that reaffirms my faith in the medium.

CIJMe and Joe Lansdale go way back as far as “author and fan” are concerned. I interviewed him for Rue Morgue a couple times. And Don Coscarelli’s adaptation of Bubba Ho-Tep was directly responsible for me meeting my wife.

So in 2009 when I was on a set visit to director Jim Mickle’s Stake Land that he mentioned he and co-writer/co-star Nic Damici had optioned a novel called Cold In July, I perked up. “Oh, the Joe Lansdale one?” The fact that I knew this “obscure” novel and “cult” writer grabbed Mickle’s and Damici’s attention too. And as I mentioned already I’m something of a fan:

securedownload

As the “Lansdale” shelf in my office would attest. And that’s only half of them.

Flash forward to 2014. That adaptation of Cold in July is in theaters and On Demand as I type this, and if you’re a fan of vintage John Carpenter or just plain good storytelling and propulsive filmmaking, you owe it to yourself and to cinema to see it. It’s also kind of restored my love in the movies. It’s the type of movie I got into the movie business to make. It’s the kind of movie that keeps my faith in the medium.  It does all of those things despite the fact that having read the book several times I was in suspense throughout it (even though I knew how it was going to end). That, my friends, is the hallmark of great storytelling.

And if you don’t support stuff like Cold in July you’re just going to get Tran5former$.

CSCCarmine Street Comics because they’re one of the few brick and mortar stores who stocks Mixtape, and because they’re a great conduit for indie comic creators to find an audience for their niche books. They have artists in residence, they hold regular events and signings and podcasts, and are everything a good comic book should be; carrying the Marvel DC books on one hand, but giving over substantial amounts of precious little shelf space to indie books. Plus, unlike a lot of comic shops they’re not dudebro dickish to female fans and creators so visit them and glimpse the future of comics retail.

TravelI should probably announce right now that I won’t be at this year’s NYCC. My request for an artists alley table was declined, and while I am on the wait list, there’s a thousand people gunning for the same slot so it looks like I’ll be out in the cold. It’s not all bad news; I’ve applied to some other shows and hope to appear at them instead, and while I could apply for a NYCC pro pass and would probably get one, that leaves me to just wander around aimlessly without benefit of a place where people can meet me, pick up some books and so on, which is why I go to conventions anyway.

Besides, if I’m going to wander aimlessly I’d rather do it here:

Stockholm

And here:

Norway

And here:

icelandscenery

My wife and I last got away – really got away, in late 2011 to Paris. And we’ve wanted to go back to Europe since then. We’ve been diligently kicking money into our vacation fund. All we’ve been lacking is time. Stuff keeps intruding. So when the rejection from NYCC came in I told her we were going back in October. Not back to Paris but a tour of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and probably Iceland because why not? And because we only have so many opportunities to have adventures and the worst thing you can do, whether you’re a writer or not, is to pass up that chance to look at the world with different eyes.

So there you have it. Stuff I like in the here and now. And in 20 years time, assuming the Internet is still a thing, this blog somehow still exists and I’m amazingly still alive, you can read my ravings about how awesome things were 20 years ago and hear me wonder where I left my car keys damn it.

 

Supersymmetry

Ever notice how certain days or dates in your life stand out above others? Like, how you can have really specific memories about a certain moment or day, but if you were asked to recall anything about the day before or after you’d draw a total blank?

The evening of August 29, 1992 was a moment like that because it was the last time my High School friends and I were together.

Growing up I was always one of those people content to just do my own thing, preferably alone. Read, listen to music, even go to the movies by myself. I wasn’t a “loner” – I had friends and did things with them but I generally was fine with being by myself, even to the point where I’d pass up an invite to a party or other social gathering just to stay in. This is a personality quirk that’s been with me my entire life (and much to my more social wife’s chagrin). Largely because we moved around so much I was all too used to starting a new school, making friends, and having to say goodbye to them when we moved again, I started a new school and the process repeated itself. I generally did make friends, but there was always that first couple of months when I was more often than not forced to come up with my own fun. And even after making friends there was those occasions where I was more content to be by myself.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Yet it was during my senior year of HS that I discovered I actually had a sizeable group of friends - a core group of guys and girls who I hung around with. Sometimes as a group, sometimes one on one. It fluctuated in size and number – from 3 or 4 of us to upwards of 20 — but when you boiled it down there were 10 of us and on this particular evening that 10 were were doing our best to make that night feel like it was any other Saturday night – like we were trying to brush off the importance of the moment. But it wasn’t like any other night; at best there would be no other night like it for some time. At worst it would be the last hurrah, the “American Graffitti” moment that becomes legend and the basis for countless coming of age movies.

And comic books

And comic books

It was a party, and like any party it had its arc. It began slow at first as people began to arrive, then it hit that sweet spot where everyone’s there, there’s drinking, talking, laughter. Then it creats, you glance at the clock and realize you have maybe an hour before you have to motor. Then people start to leave,m and evenrtually theres just a few stragglers left, heroically seeing how long they can stretch things before they realize the party is in facto over.

So that was one of those parties with one notable exception; after this one ended it really was going to be over. It was fun but a little sad too. We knew this would be the last time (for a while at least) we’d all be together, but probably didn’t know it was in fact the last time we’d all be in the same room.

I was actually the first to leave the party, not by choice mind you – I had to be up early the next day to drive to Toronto to get settled into my dorm. My friend Nathalie was going to the same school and the same rez as I was so there’d be at least one friendly-ish face at my school (“friendly-ish” being a private joke between Nat and me). Moira and Elliott would be at a different school in the same city, and Chuck would be at one of the colleges nearby. Janet was also going to be in the same city though her campus was much further away from the rest of ours, and we drifted apart pretty quickly. Same with Jill, who went to school in a different city, as did Anthony; I think I saw them all that Thanksgiving weekend and maybe once the following summer, but after that I never saw them again.

But that core group – Elliott, Moira, Nathalie, and myself — we convinced ourselves college would be like High School only bigger. We’d still see each other regularly, and to be true the first year, more or less, we did see each other relatively frequently. We’d gather at a bar, or a restaurant, at one or the other’s residence and strike out from there for adventures. We’d hit our favorite spots, the Dance Cave at Lee’s Palace being something of a regular hangout.

Still there after all these years

Still there after all these years

But what we didn’t realize was we were already in the midst of growing apart. Other people started joining us – friends of our friends who were perfectly nice people but felt a bit like interlopers ot the rest of us. School also took a big chunk out of or time and the fact we were making friends with people in our programs studying the same things we were also drove a wedge.

I think for me the big wedge moment came in November of that year when I skipped going back to my town for my High School commencement (cap and gown, get your diploma and yearbook) because I had tickets to Mudhoney and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. So while everybody I went to school with –friends and acquaintances – were returning, I was in a mosh pit with some people from university I barely knew, and some I met just that night. I had already moved on by that point, and by the same time the following year had settled into my new life, the old one a memory.

I’ve been thinking about August 29, 1992  a lot lately but not for the usual nostalgic “God was it really so long ago” reasons, but because I’ve finally begun scripting the next Mixtape arc which in many ways is about that last night when the gang was all together. If the first volume in the Mixtape saga has been about bringing Jim, Terry, Siobhan, Lorelei, and Noel together, this next one is about pulling them apart, preparing them to say goodbye to their town, school, each other – their world.  There’s a teaser for this story in Mixtape #5 if you know where to look

Or if I just show you

Or if I just show you

It’s easier to stay in touch with people now, with Facebook and the ubiquity of social media. An 18 year-old can go off to college and still “see” their hometown friends every day if they’re so inclined.  We’ve lost the means really to completely lose touch with people. That’s supposedly a good thing though I think much of what makes friendships special is that so many of them are fleeting, lasting mere months or years, and then one day you wake up and realize it’s been even longer since you last saw them. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but in this digital age the familiarity of seeing someone’s picture every day and reading their daily update is a poor substitute for actual friendship. You’re getting the highlights package as opposed to the real deal.

Friendships rarely end because of an argument or a fight (though some of mine have). They more often end because we spend our lives moving in different directions and intersect with the lives of others for only a brief time when our paths cross. We may take the same road for a little while but eventually one of us takes our exit leaving the other to continue on their path.

So for Jim and Terry, Siobhan and Noel and Lorelei Vol. 2 “Daydream Nation” will be the end of that safe environment of being around each other. They’re going off into the worlds to meet new people and experience different things, feeling the pull of their old life and those old friendships lose its strength. Staying in touch and staying together will be the challenge in Volume 3, which right now has the working title of “Come As You Are” coinciding with the rise of Nirvana and Grunge nation.

There’s a lyric in the final track on Arcade Fire’s Reflektor album. Titled “Supersymmetry”, the song opens with the following lyric;

I know you’re living in my mind; it’s not the same as being alive.

The context in “Supersymmetry” is death but it might as well be memory. Those people and those moments are alive in my mind but only in my mind. And no, it’s not the same. It never will be the same. That’s what makes those moments and memories magic and special; because they never come around again. And as I delve back into Mixtape scripting it’s shocking to me to see how many of those memories only needed words on paper to come back to life.

NOTE: Mixtape #5 is available on iBooks and Indy Planet, as are the other issues in the first Mixtape arc. I also have copies available through this website and I’ll even sign them for you if you like. Just let me know through the normal channels.

1994

Time. When you’re younger it passes so slow. Summers seem to last forever until you’re back at school come September wondering if summer actually happened at all.  Your life is organized into school, then weekends, then holidays.  And post college it’s work, weekends, holidays and — if you’re lucky to have them – paid sick days.

Then a decade passes. Then another. And despite vowing never to be nostalgic for “the good old days”, you can’t help but let your mind drift back. Your brain filters out the not-so-good and paints everything else in a golden glow where all is well. Time seems to move faster and memories get jumbled, merged or disappear altogether.

You never appreciate the good moments, and those rare bits of transcendence  when they’re actually happening.  Except once twenty years ago when I *did* realize things were changing, and I was living through one of those final rare moments of true freedom I would ever have.

This is a story of the last carefree summer I ever had. It was 20 years ago. And it changed everything.

***

Summer 1994 began for me on Friday April 29, after completing my last exam and facing four months in Toronto. I had opted to remain in the city and work there thru the summer rather than go back home. Home had become awkward with my parents’ divorce and I just couldn’t handle being back in a place called home that didn’t felt more like Santa Mira after the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. It looked the same but wasn’t the same. Plus, year 2 of university had been a long hard climb to recover my GPA after my grades nosedived in the back half of my first year when my parents announced they were getting said divorce.

Pictured: my soundtrack

Pictured: my soundtrack

So to me this summer meant freedom. Of course I had to work, but a confluence of events meant I had the freedom to be free (to do what I want any old time). I had money left over from the school year that was – enough to pay my share of rent and bills on the house I was living in with five others. So, I worked, crewing music videos, paid under the table, five days of intensive work followed by a couple weeks off. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I worked but only enough to feed myself and fulfil my obligations. There was not much room for fun, with the exception of the money I’d saved to buy my ticket for the 1994 installment of Lollapalooza. That happened in early July and while I didn’t know it at the time, it ended up being the last big outdoor festival I ever attended.

Plus, it rained.

Yours truly (L) seeks shelter under a Pizza box

Yours truly (L) seeks shelter under a Pizza box

The show ended and I went back to Toronto, staying a couple additional days at my friend Mark’s place, making plans to return to my place downtown and … do nothing basically. And at one point Mark asked “why go back?”  Rent was paid, bills were taken care of, and I had nothing to do down there.  My next paying job wouldn’t be good to go for a few more weeks, and with Mark’s family away on a cruise for the next few weeks the house was basically empty.

Plus it was summer and they had a swimming pool.

Why yes that is Daily Show Correspondent (and my then roommate) Jason Jones talking to my friend Pete (in army helmet -- don't ask)

Why yes that is Daily Show Correspondent (and my then roommate) Jason Jones talking to my friend Pete (in army helmet — don’t ask)

So I stayed there for almost three weeks. The day began the crack of noon with coffee and donuts, we’d rent movies, hang by the pool, barbecue for dinner, pile into the car and cruise the city streets all night, return for a swim and turn in as the first rays of dawn streaked the sky. Parites were thrown, parties were attended.

My roomates wondered what the hell happened to me. In typical fashion I left for Lollapalooza and said I’d be back early the following week.  But once I realized “hey, nobody knows what the hell happened to me,” that necessitated a trip to my place to grab some fresh clothes and let the world know I was in fact still alive.

This was life for those three weeks that felt like an eternity even back then.

Pictured: Me, sort of. Kinda drunk.

Pictured: Me, sort of. Kinda drunk. Also 1991.

And I knew – we both did – that things would never be this relaxed, this carefree ever again. And they weren’t. I think that’s why we recall this period with such fondness. Because we knew it wasn’t going to last. We knew we’d have to get our shit together sooner than later. It really felt like our last hurrah while it was happening. In fact we’d talk about that fact while this was all happening, like we were narrating events as they happened, like in a movie.

And we both decided then and there that we had to start getting serious about the future. Mark had dropped out of college but was already making moves to return early the following year. I was at the rough midpoint of my college life and in hindsight I should have scrounged up more work. I should have been more responsible, but I also knew this was the last chance I’d have IN MY ENTIRE LIFE to be so carefree.

And 20 years later I’m glad I was irresponsible because I never did experience that freedom again. The following year was a tough one for school. My education, which had been paid for by my parents thus far was now my sole responsibility (hello student loans). My parents’ divorce turned nasty as all divorces do.  Summer 1995 I worked 5 days a week at a home electronics store. I worked, I had weekends and the occasional day off. I saw friends and hung out on occasion but much of that summer was work. But it was after that summer of 94 that I really got a sense of the person I wanted to be.

Because it was over that summer that I realized what I really wanted to be was a writer.

Pictured: Writer, not as drunk

Pictured: Writer, not as drunk

Routinely I’d wake up early while the rest of the house slumbered – the place being a flop-house for our friends over those weeks – dig out my notepad and pen, and write. Journal entries, short stories, the scribblings of what would be my first screenplay.  I still have the notebook too and looking through it I glimpse the person I was twenty years ago.  A person who was still young and still naïve, but also a person who was on his way to becoming the person he is now. Some people took a year off to see the world, travel, find themselves. But for me it was those three weeks in 1994 that made me picture the future I wanted for myself, and made me see what I needed to do to make that future happen.

In 1996 I graduated and scraped out a living saddled with student loan debt and barely kept my head above water. But I stayed focused on writing and being a writer. All because of that aimless, listless summer of freedom where I had time to ask myself where I wanted to be. On graduating I I gave myself five years to make my career happen.  It happened in 2 and a half years.  Exactly five years after Sumer 1994 I was working on my first big job as a screenwriter. Twenty years later, I’m still here and still doing what I decided my career would be.

***

That’s the story of my last carefree summer. And on reflection it wasn’t carefree; I was becoming the person I am now.

But that’s not my *best* summer. No, my best summer was 2008 when I moved to NYC to marry my beloved wife.

But that’s a story for another day.

 

Indie Cindy

Pixies_indie_cindy

So The Pixies (a.k.a. “Brad’s favorite band”) have released their first studio album in roughly 23 years, give or take a few months. Their previous album, Trompe le Monde, arrived in September 1991. I know this because I bought it in September 1991 at a now vanished store called The Vinyl Vendor.

Gone, but immortalized in Mixtape #3

Gone, but immortalized in Mixtape #3

The Pixies were the impetus for Mixtape. The first issue, which you can buy here and here, is a love-letter to the band and its music. because even though they stopped recording/releasing new music after 1991 I never stopped listening to them. they, more than any other band, have been the soundtrack to my life for 25 years.

So here we are 23 years later. Nirvana was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (minus Kurt Cobain, who’s been dead since 1994) and there’s a new Pixies album called Indie Cindy, which depending on who you read is either the Best Thing or the Worst Thing Ever because, like a Sith, the internet deals only in absolutes.

As for me, I have to admit I kind of dig it.

It’s not Doolittle or Surfer Rosa, it’s not Bossanova (my favorite Pixies album, possibly my favorite album ever as I detailed here), it’s not even Trompe le Monde. And despite the lack of a bass-player named Kim, 2/3rds Pixies is still Pixies. Right?

Right?!

Right?!

They didn’t have to do this — and some wish they hadn’t — but the important thing is that it’s something they had to do. Even if they knew it would be regarded as a commercial and artistic failure.

I know some would rather they stay that band who split in 93 and reunited in 2004, forever trapped in amber, playing “Where Is My Mind” and “Monkey Gone To Heaven” over and over again.  To keep playing the hits that were never hits in their day, to go through the motions and “give the audience what they want”. And they could have done just that; it had proven very lucrative to them over the last decade. They were making money to a degree they never did when they were originally together. Because that’s become the measure of success in the creative biz; the money.

But when you are a musician, you have to create music. Just like a writer has to write, just like a sculptor sculpts, like an illustrator illustrates. It’s why successful actors rarely, if ever, retire. The more successful/famous/rich ones keep working despite having more money than they will ever be able to spend. Because if they’re not creating, who the hell are they?

So the Pixies — Black Francis, Joey Santiago, and Dave Lovering — recorded and released a dozen new songs and while it took several listens to get into the album’s groove, it’s grown on me. Still haven’t been able to get into “Bagboy” or “Blue Eyed Hexe” or “Magdelina”, but the tracks I like outweigh the ones I don’t, and there’s not a track on it I actively dislike.

Now like I said once before Indie Cindy is not Doolittle or Surfer Rosa but it is the Pixies. The catchy songs, the howling lyrics, the weirdness is still intact.  The catchy songs are catchy, the ones that aren’t, are not. And there’s some songs I skip over, same as on every Pixies album.

The Pixies are not the same band they were in the 80s and 90s and that’s okay because we’re not the same people we were back in the 80s and 90s. Back then we were teenagers. Now we’re adults, some of whom with teenagers of our own, and some of which whose teenagers are just discovering their parents’ music on the way to discovering music of their own.

And as a creator of art myself, I can’t help but applaud the Pixies for deciding it was time to record and release new material because they had to know they’d be slammed for it and they did it anyway. And the reviews have been far from kind, though you will find a few raves amidst the pile.

So what’s my advice? Go and give Indie Cindy a spin. Download it on iTunes, or buy a copy from the band direct. You may like it, you may loath it, but if you consider yourself a fan in any way you owe it to the Pixies.  Even if you only listen to it once, you’re sending them a message no matter how “good” you think Indie Cindy is;

“Welcome back”.

pixies-2014-tour-dates

 

 

Girls To The Front

PROLOGUE: I almost didn’t bother posting this because I figured everything I was saying had already been said by more well known people than me. I didn’t think I was offering anything new, and worried that it would look like I was just jumping on a bandwagon. But then I realized this is an ongoing conversation, and at the urging of a fellow writer decided to post it anyway. Because remaining silent is worse.

***

Okay, I’m back. Back from Tribeca 2014. Back from parties and screenings, and networking and meetings and seminars and more screenings. I’m exhausted and am staring at the pile of work sitting on my desk — a script that needs rewriting, a series pitch that also needs rewriting, a chapter and outline that need to be drafted, and a TV pilot in need of some light polishing.  So naturally I’m updating my blog to look and feel busy without actually tackling that scary work pile.

Pictured: my desk

Pictured: my desk

But a thing happened at Tribeca 2014 that got me thinking about a lot of things. This is something that I found after three days, and six screenings.  I thought about it on my way home Saturday, when on returning I hit up twitter and tweeted the following:

“I’d really like to see the end of “pregnancy as character motivation/plot point” in movies. Female ≠ “baby maker”.

To clarify; of the first six movies I saw, five featured a female character who was pregnant, or expecting, or discovered during the course of the movie that they were, in fact, pregnant.  The sixth movie did not feature any pregnant females — save for the one who tells her lazy slob boyfriend she wants to have babies, prompting a break up.

So here comes the part where I “go off.” Because the “your female must be facing a dilemma and the best way to illustrate that is by making her pregnant” is the surest sign a sign of lazy and just plain bad writing (IMO), because clearly no woman character can be interesting or passionate or believable without having the requisite bun in the oven. It’s a trope I’ve been told to put into my work to make my female characters more “sympathetic” because it’s more important for a character to be sympathetic than “interesting”.

Look, I get the urge; not the child-making urge as it pertains to real life. I’m talking about fictional characters. I’m talking about needing to get the audience on-side with your hero and heroine. When you have 100 minutes to tell a story you have to economize, set up your characters quickly and efficiently, and give them some sort of central dilemma to complicate matters for them and to give them an extra motive to survive whatever challenges are thrown in their way. And frankly you do this with all characters; male female, old, young, major, minor. But five movies, all in a row, where the female characters main defining trait was “having baby”?

I wondered why I was reacting to this. And it reminded me of the debate that’s been raging through other media, particularly comics.

Shameless plug alert

Shameless plug alert

If you’re at all into comics you’ll know we’ve seen an uptick in both female writers, artists, letterers, editors, and especially fans. The fastest growing demographic in comics is female. Heck, the fastest growing demo for Mixtape is female. It’s a sign of how vital and wide-ranging a medium comics are, to see so many female fans and creators involved. Way more, it seems, then when I was in my formative comics fandom years (aka the 90s). Back then the only guys you saw in a comic book store were guys.

Naturally the comic bro douche contingent is trying to derail that. Because women are supposed to be submissive, to be rescued by strong heroic men, to want to be mothers, to breed, to perpetuate the line, to nurture et cetera. And if they’re none of these things then they must have big boobs. And heaven forbid you’re a female fan at a convention where there’s always the threat you’ll be grabbed and groped, and then threatened with rape if you go public and complain about it.

[Oh, and you want to talk about angry stereotyping? Describe your typical male comic book fan as being fat, greasy, covered in zits, living in mom's basement and hammering angry screeds on the internet with Cheeto-stained fingers. Do that and wait for the angry retorts that is a "stereotype"]

Send your complaints here

Send your complaints here

The contingent who seems hell-bent in telling this large and growing group they’re not welcome do this because they’re afraid, and they’re weak, and they know it, but that doesn’t make their words and actions any less poisonous. Every comic shop proprietor who looks down his nose at a girl perusing the shelves, every comic bro who demands a girl know the intricate history of Wonder Woman or Green Lantern before she can say she’s a comic book “fan” and the creators who fail to stand up and call bullshit on that behavior are all part of a larger problem.

Despite the fact that female comic book readers are the largest growing audience in a field that has seen diminishing sales for years, it’s not about sales. Let me repeat that; It’s Not About Sales.

It’s about a thing that happened to me more than 25 years ago.

I lived for a time in North Carolina. I was the “new kid” in a school of new faces. I felt out of place, partially for being a young teen, also for being a Canadian relocated to the South. So I didn’t have a lot of friends. But I had my comic books and in a way they became my friends.  During lunch I’d often sit in the corner of the cafeteria, eat my lunch and flip through whatever comic book I was reading at the time. Nobody ever commented on this at school, but one day returning home, I got off the bus and walked up my street and as it passed me a kid in one of my classes leaned out the window and shouted “Go home and read more comic books you fucking spaz.”

I just … stood there as the bus sped away. This kid had never spoken to me at school, once. I didn’t cry or didn’t really do anything but flip him the bird and hoped he saw my act of defiance. And beyond that I can’t remember much of the rest of my day, any other run-ins I had with him or anyone else at school. I still read comics — I probably read them after I got home and finished homework. But the point her is I lived in NC for a year, and that part is one of the few specific memories I have of the time.  Being called a “fucking spaz”.

That’s what this is all about.

It’s about all those other “fucking spazzes”, now in a position of power and authority, turning around and calling women “fake geek girls” and other terms I won’t sully this page by repeating. Acting like the jocks and the preps and the popular kids who insulted them for being comic book fans.  Like they need to get “back” at people who hurt them by hurting people who never did them any wrong. “Fucking spazzes” who have become the same people who bullied you when you were younger, smaller, weaker, all because you liked things they didn’t. It wasn’t cool when you were on the receiving end, and it’s not cool when you’re the one dishing it out now.

You have become that kid on that bus.

That’s what this is all about. It’s about setting aside all that petty bullshit that prevents comics fandom (or indeed any fandom) from being anything less than 100% fun for everyone. Because if you can’t do that; if you can’t treat other fans the way you want to be treated, you don’t deserve to call yourself anything other than the villain.

HT: Ty "The Guy" Templeton for this bit of brilliance

HT: Ty “The Guy” Templeton for this bit of brilliance

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EPILOGUE: As I mentioned I wasn’t going to post the above but was convinced, ultimately by fellow writer JC Piech.  You can follow JC on Twitter @JCPiech, or on FB.

Also, buy her book