Happy Blogiversary!

11 Jan

So, it’s been a year since I started this blog. I’m proud of myself, you guys. I’m proud that I can say that I’m proud of myself. In celebration of my Blogiversary, I’m putting up links to all the posts that you WordPress readers have missed over at the other website. It’s like title-clicking roulette. And maybe you’ll hop on that superfun email alert bandwagon that I’ve been talking about. Enjoy! 

Hell hath no fury like a woman shorn

 Is it always going to be weird?

“Not all martyrs see divinity…”

It’s all about perspective.

If you’re going to have an epic showdown, try to do it in Texas

Yes, I am aware that “unfilmable” is not a word. 

Gobble, gobble, gobble, little consumer…

Writery Thoughts

And liberty and Soma for all

No, actually, I DON’T want to talk about it…

The Fantasy List, Part Two

The Fantasy List, Part One

The Scifi List, Part Two

In Which I Make Lists

Dance your cares away

We ARE the media

A hundred-pound sturgeon on twenty-pound test…

The cult of Cult

Sometimes life gets in the way

Why do fantasy writers always have awesome beards?

To Boldly Go…

Writery Nerdbait

The Dreaded Birthday (or: Self-indulgent Bitchstravaganza with Accompanying

Random Thought Spillage

Aurora.

In which I am confounded by literature once again…

Wherefore art thou, Comic-Con?

The whole universe was in a hot, dense state…

Always carry a towel.

Ever get slapped in the face with a metaphorical glove by a librarian?

Logic! Science! Atheism! Pianos?

“We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.”

“You’re not poor, you’re just broke.”

A perfectly valid reason to overuse the word “awesome.”

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff

We all love Star Wars, right?

Hipster Bacon

Ladies ladies ladies!

Take my love, take my land…

The Beardy One

It’s not your fault. It’s totally my fault.

26 Jul

I figured it out: You guys didn’t follow me over on the new website because I never added a way for you to follow me! I’m an idiot! Hooray!

Now that we’ve all rejoiced in the fact that I’m a moron, head on over to geekinacardigan.com. You can email subscribe to the blog now. There’s a widget in the sidebar.

Sorry that took me three months to figure out.

Shame. Such shame.

Thanks! Much love!

Sad-faced blogger…

15 Jun

Seriously, you guys. It’s been two months. Go follow the blog at the new site. For reals. There will be no new awesomeness here. But there’s plenty of awesomeness there. Really, I promise. http://geekinacardigan.com/ Go now. Shoo.

Holy big news!

19 Apr

Ok, not really big news. Not in a bigger-picture scheme of things. I did get my own website, though. And you guys should go there because that’s where I am now. And you like me, right?

Right?

I’m at geekinacardigan.com. So clickityclick on over there. Thanks! Enjoy! Exclamation points!

PS – Sorry if you have to refollow me. We couldn’t figure out how to make that work. Also, none of the comments got to move. But there are plenty more comments where those came from, I suppose.

Retail minions unite!

5 Apr

This weekend was my one year anniversary of quitting my job at the Giant Evil Bookstore. That’s weird, man. I don’t think I’ve ever been this stress-free for this long. I live in California now, where things are blissful and it’s gorgeous anywhere you look. Unexpectedly, I enjoy digging in the dirt. Being tired at the end of the day, but saying “Hey, look at this thing I accomplished.” That’s pretty great on a lot of levels. And the husband is the happiest monkey in the world out here. The other day he yells at me from across the living room, using his excited voice, “You know what we should do? We should make a wood stove that looks like R2-D2!” I sigh. He continues. “No, wait, no, we should make one that looks like Darth Vader’s helmet mask. And you put the wood in through his mouth? Nothing says ‘nerds off the grid’ like a Darth Vader wood stove.”

I’m not sure anything actually says “nerds off the grid.” But if anything could, it would, in fact, be a Darth Vader wood stove.

That’s like a Twilight Zone sentence, right? I’m not imagining the weirdness?

Anyway, I digress. I always had mixed feelings about the bookstore. It was books, and I love books. It’s like a little kid getting to wallow around in a pit full of kittens all day. Sort of. I do miss my peeps, good booknerdy folks who knew their shit and with whom I could comfortably commiserate about the horrors of minimum-wage shilldom. I liked knowing what books were coming out before anybody else. And seeing the ridiculous furor over best sellers or weird fads (thanks for that, Oprah). But the zombifying, soulsucking, spirit-crushing nature of a retail job definitely outweighs all of that.

But the best thing about working in a bookstore was definitely the customers. Also the worst thing. We had some fantastic regulars whom I adored. But most everyone else…hmm, there aren’t really words. But there are examples! (I’m the one in italics. I look great in italics.)

“You guys had a book on a table up front about six months ago? It had a blue cover.” It’s always the book with the blue cover! “Do you know where it is now? Why isn’t it still on the table?” Do you understand how marketing works? No? Ok.

“Where’s your nonfiction section?” Well, I can show you were my fiction section is, and then there’s the rest of the store, which is nonfiction. “What’s the difference?” Sigh.

“It’s a novel, but it really happened.” Novels are not nonfiction!

“I want something with wizards, but not like Harry Potter.” Urm. Good luck with that.

“Where’s your Harry Potter section?” Seriously?

“Where’s your Twilight section?” Fucking seriously?

“My kid really likes Twilight. Do you have anything that’s like that?” Everything’s like that. Can you be more specific? “Well, she’s ten.” Holy shit, lady, why did your kid read Twilight at ten? Or at all, for that matter?

“My kid’s a really good reader so it’s hard for him to find books that are challenging. He loves science fiction and fantasy.” Ok, great, let’s go over to the Science Fiction and Fantasy section. “Oh, no, I don’t want him to read adult books. He’s only a teenager.” This is why America is crumbling.

Kid with a giant stack of books she’s pulled out of the shelf and practically destroyed. Her mother: “Oh, no, honey, don’t put those away. That’s what she’s here for.” Point that finger at me again, bitch, and I will eat it.

“Why aren’t there any new Hemingway books?” Well, because disembodied dead spirits have a really hard time getting publishing contracts these days.

“I need these eighteen books as quickly as possible.” They’re out of print. “What do you mean?” I mean they don’t make them anymore. You’ll probably have to look at a used bookstore or order them online. “What do you mean?” When books stop selling they stop printing them. “What do you mean?” Are you stuck in a logic loop, Borg person?

“You can’t find it? Obviously your computer is wrong.” Obviously. Can we maybe think of more than one vague word out of the title with which to search? “Well, it should pop right up. It was ‘The’ something.” Can you think of any part of the author’s name? “Bob or Dave or John. Maybe.”

“I really like this author, but I’ve read all his books. Can you suggest something similar?” Sure, try this guy. “Oh, no, I don’t think so. I’ve never heard of him.” That was kind of the point, wasn’t it?

“I can’t find it. Can you just show me where it is?” Yes, ma’am. It’s right there on that shelf next to your eyeball.

“This place is so big. How do you find your way around?” A nauseating degree of repetition. And a basic understanding of maps and the alphabet.

“I ain’t never been in here before.” You don’t say.

Ok, ok. I’ll stop. I do tend to go on and on sometimes, don’t I? I don’t mean to sound so negative. It wasn’t all bad. Sometimes I even liked my job at the Giant Evil Bookstore. It taught me a lot about how not to run a business. Like not treating your employees like useless idiots. And refraining from most kinds of corporate scumfuck douchebaggery. What blew my mind the most about working there was how ignorant people were about books in general. I was endlessly fascinated by it, honestly. It’s like there’s a blind spot in their cultural awareness, you know? So often people would come in and say things like “I need that book that was on the news last night.” At which point I’d tell them that I don’t have a television and they’d look at me like I had three heads. And of course they didn’t remember the title or the author because they assumed that everyone at the bookstore would know exactly what they were talking about. Because it was on tv. Why wouldn’t everyone know exactly what they were talking about? It’s tv. Why have we gotten to a point where this is the norm? I’m upset and icky-feeling over it.

The other interesting thing is the way that customer service folks are looked at as subhuman. Like those types of jobs make you less, somehow, than other people. But you’ve got to pay the bills. Stupid capitalist society. For the record, we’re not in these sorts of service industry jobs because we’re too stupid or lazy to get a “real” job. Every single person I worked with either had a college degree or was in college to get one. Bookstore employees are pretty knowledgeable, if just by virtue of being forced to hang out there all the time. Don’t assume that they won’t know the answer to your question because of where they work. It’s their job to know the answers, and it’s a thankless job most of the time. Your shopping crisis may seem like the end of the world to you, but it’s only a few minutes out of their long-ass day, a day filled with all kinds of interesting shopping crises. So be nice. And be patient.

Where’d I put my brick wall?

29 Mar

I go through these weird periods of obsession. Just various and sundry odd things that I think about constantly for about six months at a time and then move on to the next. It’s one of my less charming quirks. Lately I’ve been kind of preoccupied with comedy. Which felt new and exciting and different until I realized that this has happened before. It’s not amnesia or anything. I mean, I hope not. If I’ve got selective cultural amnesia, you’d think I would at least do myself the courtesy of forgetting about the Bush administration. Or Chumbawamba.

When I was a kid, it was the 1980’s. Which, in America, was the heart of the standup comedy boom, back before all those folks got their own sitcoms. My family’s somewhat musically inclined, so when we got cable we watched a lot of VH1 (which, if you’ll recall your prehistory, actually stands for Video Hits One, from those dinosaur days of honest-to-God music videos, or short films set to music for those of you who really don’t know). VH1 had a lot of standup stuff in their lineup back in the day, and aired a lot of weird comedy shows. This is before reality television, you understand. Also, HBO had a shit ton of comedy going on back then. Whole marathons of one-hour standup specials on the weekends. So, there was comedy in my house, whether I was paying it much attention or not.

Around about high school I started listening to comedy albums pretty heavily. I had Steve Martin and George Carlin on vinyl. Although, to my discredit, that was probably just because I really love vinyl. And then came Bill Hicks. Oh, how I fell ass-over-teakettle in love with Bill Hicks. I can recite his Philosophy album word for word. When you’re that age, you tend to glom on to people who express ideas that are similar to your own, especially when your ideas are what make you feel really out of place in your community. You know, like how it feels being smart and skeptical in a small, Christian, southern town. I also had a pretty intense love for Janeane Garofalo. Smart, snarky, pretty brunette with glasses and a successful career telling people exactly what she thought? That is definitely role model material. Also Daria. I think I may actually be Daria. But I’m not sure. There was some other weird comedy shit going on in the 90’s, too, though I don’t think I was quite old enough to have a lot of it on my radar. The State, Kids in the Hall, Mad TV, Mr. Show. That transition from traditional standup to alternative comedy was a strange time. (If I were just a couple of years older, I’d be a much cooler person. I got the ass end of the 90’s, honestly.)

Fast forward to this winter, when I was trapped indoors and decided to start this blog just to get the writery demons out of my head. Through a weird chain of events and link-clicking on the interwebs, I found myself listening to a lot of comedy again. Obviously my tastes have changed since my high school comedy obsession period. But why? That’s what’s been tickling the old brain buttons lately. And now I’m trapped in this hideous tangle of existential comedy questions. What is funny? Why is it funny? And why are things that I found funny fifteen years ago not funny anymore (putting aside the obvious fact that teenagers are sociopaths)?

It’s so subjective and weird, the idea of comedy. The things that I find funny are exactly the kinds of things that shouldn’t be funny. Religion, politics, human behavior. These are heavy, heady issues, right? I’m not making that up, am I? To be able to take those things and our psychological or cultural reactions to them, turn them over, show us how they work and why they’re fucked up, and then laugh about it – I’m not sure that normal humans do that. But through some mutation in the awesome gland we’ve evolved to a point as a species where we have comics to show us how. And thank the giggle gods, because if you can’t laugh at yourself you’re fucking useless, frankly. I do this whole tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecation thing because I have low self-esteem due to years of systematic bullying and social isolation. And as fun as that is, it’s not turned itself into a marketable skill. Comedians are ninjas at exactly that, at analyzing their own behavior and the foibles of others. Really neurotic mirrors for society, these people. The good ones, at least.

Alright, alright, that’s not true. Let’s not be one-sided here. I guess this is still America. You’ve got to pander to the masses. Which is how that collection of redneck-exploiting idiots made a bajillion dollars off of “Git ‘er done” and other cerebral quips, and that racist jackass with the puppets is still going strong. Representing the majority is important, too. How else are most of these people supposed to make any money? Comedy is hard. It’s a stupid hard life that they choose for themselves, living out of a suitcase for the sake of inviting rejection from strangers night after night. I salute the balls it takes to do that, for real. I just think that a lot of it is not funny. That’s kind of my point. I don’t think fart jokes are funny, either. Or slapstick. But somebody does, which is why that shit still gets made. Contrarily, when comedians from the other end of the spectrum get close to some touchy subject like God or abortion or (every few years) an election they get told by the vast majority that they’re going to burn in some special hell for commie pinko atheist scum (what does “pinko” even mean, you guys, seriously?). The American masses are so easily offended when you try to pet their sacred cows. It’s like (in comedy as well as every other arena) there are two Americas: a smaller one living in the huge, overarching shadow of the other, struggling to get by with just our logic and secular humanism. And down here in the Neverwhere gloom we few still think Bill Hicks is a goddamned genius. Bring on the hatemail, I’m totally ready.

All hail the Stephen!

22 Mar

A while ago I mentioned in passing that I planned to write a post about my rabid Stephen King fandom. He’s got a new book coming out in April (the 24th, a Tuesday), so I figured now would be a good time for that post, while my booknerd dander’s all up in anticipation (dander? hackles? I think hackles). Furthermore, this new one is in the Dark Tower storysphere, so I’m extra squishy excited about it. If you never read another Stephen King book, at the very very least, read the Dark Tower series. In. Cred. Ible. (I love that breaking-up-words-for-emphasis convention. I love being able to say “Ible” in a sentence. Go to hell, spell check.)

So when I was in sixth grade somebody (probably my sister, she’s a bad/good influence) gave me a copy of The Stand. For which I got sent home from school and my parents got called in to a meeting about my “emotional development.” Keeping in mind that my parents are very bright people, it should come as no surprise that they told the school administrators to get fucked and that an eleven year old who could read and comprehend and enjoy pretty complex adult fiction was the least of their redneck, backwoods, puritanical little concerns. When you’ve got kids in middle school with kids of their own, it blows my mind that these people took the time to gripe about my reading habits. My father, ever the confrontational atheist, made a point to ask them whether my reading level was the problem or the material. Specifically: “If she had a copy of the Bible, would you be throwing this shit fit?” And then we walked out. And went to the bookstore. I honestly don’t know that the principal understood the question. No one down there thinks of the Bible as a book. But that’s a conversation for another time.

I guess that experience meant a lot. Not because the book was hyped up and made taboo, but because it wasn’t. Tell a kid that they can’t do something and they’ll want to do it even more. But tell them that they can keep doing something that they really enjoy and you won’t judge them for it, and they’ll go apeshit crazy. I spent the next couple of years reading mostly Stephen King. I read them all and then suddenly there weren’t any more. Which is torture, isn’t it? You try to find something to fill that hole where your favorite writer goes and nothing quite fits. It’s a square peg situation, and I was too young to have really discerning taste so I went through a wicked horror novel phase during which I would read pretty much anything with ghosts, demons, death, destruction, serial killers, fucking ancient space alien monster gods. Whatever. Did not contribute to my middle school/early high school goth weirdness period at all. Nah. Not even a little. I swear. “Emotional development.” Pfft.

And then Kerouac came along and I went through a Grateful Dead phase and started wearing tie-dye and taking a lot of hallucinogens and Stephen King kind of took a backseat for a minute.

I kept up. I wasn’t a total slacker fan. But let’s face it. He had some weird shit come out in the 90’s. There are three distinct periods to King’s work. The early stuff when he was poor and raising kids and drinking too much. That is the Golden Age (to use a comics analogy that doesn’t quite fit) of Stephen King. Very punk rock. And then he had the middle years when he was sober and his kids were grown and he was kind of bored and it showed. Not that it’s not good writing. Some decent stuff came out of that period, but it all felt like he was ripping off a Stephen King book. Between Insomnia and Hearts in Atlantis, pretty much. And then some drunk asshole hit him with a van and he almost died and his career was invigorated again! Thank the gods for drunk assholes in panel vans. No, not really. I wept when I heard it on the radio because they got a bad report and said that he had died. (It’s called due diligence, people. Give it a try.) My sister had to sit on the floor with me and listen to me babble and cry. Oh, it was awful. But then when they said they fucked up we all did a happy dance. He was risen! Like, um, who was that guy who came back from the dead in the Bible? No, no, the other guy. Shit, I’ll remember it in a minute…

Anyway, everything since then has been awesome. King said after the accident that he wasn’t going to write anymore, that he had three books in a safe deposit box that were finished and he would publish those and complete the Dark Tower series and that would be that. But the books kept coming. The dude’s got an addiction, frankly. Drank too much, did too much coke (that might just be a rumor, I honestly don’t know if it’s true), plays the guitar. These are all things writers do to distract themselves from the fact that writing is their real fix. You don’t have hobbies or habits when you’re a writer, you have procrastination tools. Bonus. Score.

Lazarus! It was Lazarus.

But I guess I should get to the point, hmm? (Sorry, too many procrastination tools. But wine’s so cheap in California.) Why do I love Stephen King? It’s a conversation I’ve had quite a few times, actually. Not foamy fangirl “you’ve gotta gotta read this” kinds of conversations, which is what you’d expect. No, most of my Stephen King discussions are in his defense, oddly. Fucking literature people are snobs, man, for real. In college I had so many folks scoff when I said he’s my favorite. Apparently being a #1 bestselling author forty-something times makes your talent questionable? Who knew? “But it’s so pop,” “But it’s just fluff,” “But he only writes horror,” and so on. Which is exactly the sort of thing that people repeat because it’s what they’ve heard. It’s petty name dropping in reverse, basically. King got too popular and his reputation suffered for it, I guess.

I don’t give a good goddamn how many books you sell. A fine storyteller is a fine storyteller is a fine storyteller in my book (icky pun, sorry). Stephen King’s work falls into what I have dubbed the “weird shit happening to normal people” category. Which is a style that sucks you in with a quickness. Usually I’m hooked by the first chapter or so. In fact, I tend to chop two days out of my schedule when a new one comes out and do nothing else until it’s finished. (Now you all know why I always called out sick on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.) And here’s where the clichés kick in. It’s intricately woven storytelling. He tends to start with a big cast of characters and either whittle it down to a nub of important players, or just make all their stories eventually collide. Excellent worldbuilding. Most of it is horror set in our world, but there’s a big whack of his work that’s fantasy, a few I would call scifi, the occasional supernatural love story. With two distinct personalities and writing styles (he used to write as another author who died of cancer of the pseudonym; occasionally one of his lost manuscripts will “surface”). And that’s just the novels. He’s also a master of the short story, which I think is an even harder form to wrangle with, but he does it well. Another point in his favor, that he can do both. Not a lot of writers like that. And nonfiction! Danse Macabre is one of the best books on the history of horror.

Anyway, I’m just gushing now. I’ll stop. But seriously. Don’t believe all those stuck-up book people who say Stephen King’s no good. Or don’t knock until you’ve tried. Even if you do see his work as just shallow pop fiction (which it’s not), we all occasionally need some junk food for our brains, don’t we? There’s some cheap therapy opportunities there.