Category Archives: Horrible jokes

We Might Not Come Back. Drink Anyway.

I’m moving away, and I’d like to talk about The Tavern.

Scene: Adventurer’s tavern. Night. The bar is full, and the old friends, gather at the same table. Again.

*FELIMIR
Well twas long, long ago, back when the trees were talkin’

KNIGHT FERGUS
T’was only yesterday.

FELIMIR
Yes, yes, I’m getting to it, there’s a formula you know.
Where was I?
A long time ago, long ago, so long ago that no one can remember and no tree can remember and no rock can remember, a place so far away beyon’t that –

KNIGHT FERGUS
It was last night across the river. Now tell the fighty bits.

FELIMIR
Alright, if you’ll have all the heart taken out if it.

Moving is the most stressful thing a human can experience. It’s loss, change, and the elimination of all points of reference. It can also be incredibly rewarding. I’m moving from Oakland, CA to a red state, and true to form, I’m all set to inject drama into this situation where perhaps there was none.

When I left New York, there were parties, yes, but there was also crying, gnashing of teeth, and “don’t go!” conversations.

When I moved from Seattle to San Francisco, only two friends came over to help me load the U-haul. There was no pomp or circumstance. We chatted and taped boxes as though it were any other Saturday afternoon, and parted with a “see ya.”

The lack of drama surprised me a bit.

I don’t typically keep friends for longer than five years. A friend once told me that your friends aren’t people you share values with; they’re the people you do stuff with. That made me think that friendships end because interests change. Another told me that when we move, we create a self-shaped void in the lives of those we left behind — but our life becomes a giant mass of voids (where do I hang out? Where’s the grocery store, place to watch the sun rise? Dojo? Job? Hospital? Coffee shop? Diner?). We get stressed, while everyone else is fine. The world rolls on without us, and the place we left disappears.

The last time I visited familiar places in New York, it felt like wearing a sweater that was too small. License plates were a different color. People had grown physically and emotionally. Items from my childhood that should have been dear sparked nothing in me. I was so unmoored from the things that were supposed to be meaningful that I felt the foundation of my identity crumble.

Because of those experiences, I anticipate losing people as soon as I meet them. The impermanence of relationships looms large in my brain. This fear became self-fulfilling. I freaked out with my New York friends, and tried to keep everything the same with an obsessive fervor. You can guess how badly that ended.

Since that time, I’ve tried to accept that paths diverge. My interests change, so do others’. People drift apart, so that’s ok.

The problem is that I’ve applied the same obsessive fervor to ACCEPTING THAT PATHS DIVERGE so I pull out the scissors as quickly as I once pulled out needle and thread.

It’s not the drifting or the grasping that’s destructive; it’s the fervor. 

Leaving my core group in California will be hard, just like it was hard to leave my core group in New York. These relationships have been special and illuminating — supportive and challenging. They’re all very different people, with different specialties and perspectives I would never have had access to. I felt sad, not that I was going to leave them; but that I was going to lose them.

When I mentioned this to one of them, they responded with an eye-roll.

“I’ve always taken some issue with your idea about paths diverging and not diverging and all that.”

“In what way?”

“In every way. You’ve been asking if we’re about to diverge since the second time we met.”

Even in my writing, the opening paragraph is usually this is the story of how it all went wrong. I’m so scared of the ending that it colors the beginning.

My friend said, “I see us on different adventures, constantly meeting in the tavern between quests, and then setting off on new ones in the morning. You’re my brother forever and I’ve been fucking loving you across the current of you asking me if our paths were diverging for, like, seven years. Calm down.”

Which brings us back to the tavern. It’s got a million names. It’s The Winchester, The Bronze, Ten-Forward, The Hanged Man, Cafe Solstice, Cafe La Boheme. Facebook. Twitter.

“This may be the last time we drink together in this tavern,” Felimir gloomed into his tankard.

“Dude,” said Fergus, “you get like this every time. Drink your fucking mead, we’ll be back in two days. Chill.”

Tomorrow morning we all have to get up and fight dragons, my friend said. I get that we’re all nervous about it, and we all have our own way of coping. Maybe you’re right, and it won’t be the same. That doesn’t mean it’s over. For fuck’s sake, just drink.

Where do you gather with your friends? A living room? A cafe? A chat box, or a number on speed-dial?

Where’s your tavern?

*Excerpt from: The Sorrows, or Deirdre From The Legend Kills Herself In Every Version But That Doesn’t Mean You Always Have To, currently under development through Custom Made Theater’s Undiscovered Works Series.

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Free Hugs!

If you’re not familiar with the Escape Artists family of print & podcasts, you should check them out immediately.

Podcastle
Pseudopod
Escape Pod
Cast of Wonders
Mothership Zeta

This fantastic group of human beings bring nothing but love to their work, their authors and narrators, and to listeners and readers. When I found out they also have t-shirts, I had to, um… decorate one. It was too good, and quite frankly, not that far off from what they’re all about. I would have made the letters much messier, but I didn’t want to obscure the logo.

How Editing is Like Hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner

I’m in the midst of preparing menus for two parties. First, an orphan thanksgiving for local friends, and then traveling to a family dinner.

Have you noticed that despite the fact you you celebrate Thanksgiving every year, it’s never the same as last time? Sometimes there’s a little change, like adding a new side dish to the turkey feast; but sometimes there are massive changes.  Maybe you can’t stand turkey anymore and went for Chinese.  The core ideas were the same — family, feasting, gratitude — but you went about it a totally different way.  It’s a lot like re-writing and revising. 

You know the basics of what’s going to happen.  Thanksgiving has traditions and a theme, and your story has traditions and a theme.  The more experience you have planning the party [or re-working the manuscript], the more your skills and confidence will improve.  Change is necessary, and it’s up to you to say what stays and what goes.

Start small.  Tweaking your dialogue is like tweaking a recipe.  Adding a scene is like inviting a new group of people over.  Then move on to the big stuff.  If your manuscript is too long, think of it like cutting your guest list.  You love your writing, like you love your friends and family—but if your friends and family don’t mesh, one of them can’t come to the party.  Don’t be afraid to hurt feelings, or cut things you’re really proud of.  They can always get their own party later.

You owe it to your guests [readers] to make it the most fun, the most touching, and the most memorable party [story] you can.  Now buckle down and do it.

The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity…
— Amelia Earhart

TG

Notes from ConDor – How Cthulu Became Cuddly

All beauty comes from harmony and contrast, goes the line from the film Vatel (2000). So, too, horror and humor have a similar relationship. By contrasting opposing moods – opposing tones – each hits harder. The laughs are more heartfelt, and the fear twists deeper into your guts. The same goes for reverence and satire, ostracism and belonging, and finally, the Cthulu mythos and plushy toys.

There was a discussion at ConDor this year about how Cthulu became cuddly. H.P. Lovecraft’s story, “The Call of Cthulu” was originally published in Weird Tales in 1928. The monstrous creature was one figure in over a hundred works by Lovecraft, whose stories (an absolute simplest terms) delve into mysterious and terrifying forces that shape civilization – and humanity’s reaction to either flee or worship those forces. Lovecraft is a brightly-burning star in horror’s lineage, and his popularity has spread, attaching to the goths of the 80s and remaining popular in both geek and steampunk culture of today. Lovecraft’s stories, and Cthulu in particular, have become iconic for reclaiming power as an outsider, celebrating one’s own strangeness, and laughing in the face of evil.

For some, it’s a way to both experience religious community and make fun of those communities. Cthulu is a charged repository for “unknown” fears.  As geeks, we want to justify our sense of being an outsider. But this, in and of itself, is an inherited chip on our shoulders. Geek culture was strange and misunderstood before it became the massive, accessible, sexy (profitable) subculture it is today. Nascent religions experience similar punishment – when beliefs and community membership were grounds for everything from ostracism to violence. Humans respond to If you’re an Other, you’re guaranteed to trigger a fight or flight response. Geek culture, like the religion it teases, It is a safe means of rebellion now. It has been stripped of its ‘outsider’ status in all but name.  The horrors of the deep, with their twisting pseudopods, now adorn H&M necklaces and home décor.

The octopus’s popularity followed the same path into trendiness carved by punk’s spikes and studded-leather look. Rebellion sells. Counterculture sells. Malificent and Wicked were hardly the first tales to re-frame evil. The city of Dunwitch, associated with Mordred of the Arthurian legend, had an alternate myth that cast Mordred as the hero. Whether it was by accident or design, Cthulu has experienced a rebranding. Arkham Horror the board game and santa-hat Cthulu are about fun and silliness, not horror. Godzilla experienced a similar transformation, going from a terrifying force of nature, to a friend of children everywhere, and then to a giant monster again. This is how we tame our fear: transforming the face of evil into an inside joke.

santathulu

Santa Cthulu, from ToyVault.com

What really makes horror horrible is the wall that stands between us and the abused. In a slasher movie, for example, the violence is being perpetrated for your benefit — your amusement. This is happening because you need to be entertained. For horror fans, we either feel obligated to be horrified by others’ blasé attitude toward violence, or we can relax and laugh from irony and cynicism. Making Cthulu cute is part of this catharsis. By making fun of the terrifying it’s easier to cope with, and through Cthulu you can have Hitler-grade level of irony without having to explain why you made a Hitler doll. The Mayan saying, the sun in the sky is not the sun, means that the sun we see isn’t the sun god. We’re not actually dealing with Cthulu, (or Hitler, if you have a Hitler doll), but rather the fear, darkness, and absence of humanity that these images represent.

Just as we see the beauty in objects by setting them in harmony or contrast with their environment, we’re better able to cope with evil by setting it against comedy. The different beats — fear, horror, fear, horror – allow both experiences to come to the fore in all their glory. Cthulu represents both evil and community – a fascination with darkness, and a way to poke fun at it. In the end, Cthulu is as warm and cuddly as we are to ourselves – and that perception could change at any moment.

From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.
― H.P. Lovecraft

Blood is really warm,
it’s like drinking hot chocolate
but with more screaming
.”
― Ryan Mecum

Moses saves, Jesus forgives, and Cthulu thinks you’d make a nice sandwich.” ― Tracy Nolan