Jared


How You Got Your Superpowers


I have such news, folks! SUCH NEWS! News that I CANNOT TELL YOU ABOUT. But know now that it is wonderful news, involving STARDUST.

If you will recall, STARDUST,  is the queer-in-every-sense project that I last spoke about in…January it turns out (being a Professional Creative Person is such a Long Game, innit?). I can’t talk about it because that’s how it goes when you’re working with a major publishing company. But! Know that it is wonderful news that brings the project ever closer to being a Real Thing That You Can Read, which is honestly the best thing a writer can hope for.

It’s still not a sure thing yet–there are so many possible bumps in the road that might derail this queer little buggy, you have no idea–but we did pop some champagne. You gotta take your celebrations where you can.

There’s been two Frankenstein’s Support Group For Misunderstood Monsters comics since the last newsletter. The first is an examination of modern monster-dating conventions and some personal history of FSG’s resident mummy, Imhotep. The second involves Emi helping Ginger spruce up her image.


I decided to do some microfictions on my Twitter yesterday, telling anyone who asked how they got their superpowers. I may do more of this in future, as it was very fun and people seemed to dig it. Here’s all of them, ’cause I wanted ’em all in one place:

They said it was a rock. A cold, dead rock from outer space.

But it couldn’t be. Not to you. Rocks don’t sing. And you had never heard a more inviting song in your entire life.

The sword had been your mother’s, your grandmother’s, all the way down the line to the one who stood by the lake & took it back after King Arthur showed how he was the one man in human history worthy enough to wield it, by returning it.

Now Excalibur is yours.

The aliens were sorry. They didn’t mean to hurt you, but human bodies are so fragile. They didn’t know.

They made it up to you, though. They remade you better. Though “better” to an alien doesn’t quite line up here on Earth…

The jacket was woven with silver thread, like strands of frost. It was cold to touch to everyone. Everyone but you. To you, it was warm as the breath of a old friend.

It was, naturally, a perfect fit.

A version of yourself from an alternate reality gave them to you, just as another had given them to him.

“It’s just the way it’s always done,” he said. “When you don’t need these anymore, you’ll pass them along to the next one.”

Everyone else said the experiment was disaster. A failure. Science ran amok.

But not you. Not when such an “accident” opened up such new and exciting possibilities.

It was shaped like a ring. It’s wasn’t–rings are jewelry, cold gems and gleaming metal. This was something else. Something that pulsed on your finger with an energy you couldn’t begin to comprehend.

It does so much. You can’t imagine taking it off.

A manifestation of the Infinite collapsed in your arms, dying. You held it close as it’s countless eyes darkened, one by one, singing it songs of endless love and boundless hope. It died reassured that some things still go on forever.

And now so do you.

Your long-forgotten imaginary friend returned, panicked and stricken, with key that unlocked the untold power in your heart.

They had hoped this day would never come.

It was, the scientists admitted later, a procedure they never expected you to survive. No one else had.

You were stronger than they gave you credit for. And now you’re stronger than they ever considered.

They said it was a lightning strike, but it couldn’t have been. After all, there was no storm. And it didn’t hurt when it hit you. Quite the opposite.

It was as if you finally felt alive for the first time.

The tattoo just appeared there one morning, after a night of drunken revelry. It was an odd, rune-esque design, but you always felt you could have ended up with worse…

…until the tattoo spoke.

A glowing ball of energy appeared one night when you were 5, hanging in the middle of your bedroom. It spoke to you in a voice full of static, something about how time travel was inexact…better to overshoot…too early…

Overwhelmed with curiosity, you reached out to touch it.

The gloves were metal, but moved like fabric when you put them on, their unyielding surface rippling like liquid over your fingers.

Sometimes you forget you have them on. Sometimes, when you don’t have them on, it feels like something is missing.

Technically, your dog has superpowers, but he lends them to you when danger arises, and you take him with you on adventures.

He’s a good dog.

Each universe chooses a particular place that suits its needs to be born. Some choose the churning, burning middle of a star, others, the freezing emptiness of a black hole.

This one found everything it needed in the middle of your heart.

Some discomfort is to be expected.

It was a book. Left on your doorstep, wrapped in paper that managed somehow be plain and brown while also being shiny and shimmery. Your name was written on the wrapper–misspelled, but definitely your name–and there was no return address.

Of course you read it. Of course.

Once, when you closed you eyes and focused, you could feel yourself reaching out, down, down, through the Earth, grabbing the molten center of the planet in a loving, powerful embrace.

You’ve not let go since.

The weapon was never supposed to be yours. A champion had been chosen, after all.

But when he cast it aside and ran in terror at the coming danger, well, it was just lying there.

SOMEONE had to pick it up and fight.

They say the dead tell no tales, but one did. When you leaned down to kiss your grandmother goodbye one last time in her coffin, she whispered to you secrets about the walls between this life and the next.

She told you how to bend those walls. And how to break them.

Demonic possession gone wrong. At least, that’s according to the cultists.

From your point of view, it turned out very right, indeed.

A lot of kids tied towels around their neck attempting to fly.

Yours just happened to work.

An older you appeared, having traveled back in time, and gave you the powers that they had received when they were your age.

When you ask them where the powers came from originally, they just smiled wryly and said “I didn’t get a satisfying answer to that, either.”

You’ve always had them. You just forgot.

Because sometimes forgetting is easier than remembering.

The strange woman who everyone said was your aunt gave you a wooden box carved to look like a sleeping bat when you were 6, as a thank you for drawing the whole family & making her the tallest.

You couldn’t get it open then. You just found it again yesterday & it opened right up

It was strange bug in the cornfield–something like a caterpillar but neon pink and yellow and covered in spines.

You didn’t want to touch it, but somehow, for some reason, you knew that IT wanted you to.

And when it crawled onto your hand, you understood.

It wasn’t really government property, no matter what your lousy supervisor said. You built it, it’s yours.

And damn if you aren’t going to be the first person to try it out.

It was always going to be you. There were countless prophecies, many foretoldings, and quite a few precognition. It was you. It was always going to be you.

Thing was, nobody bothered to tell you until the last minute.

They told you could do anything if you set your mind to it.

They just never realized how far a mind like yours could go.

Some of these are going have to be real stories at some point. But some of them I quite like just as they are.

Good luck with the dragon.


Brother To A Dragon

This summer, right? This summer.

(My desk is right next to the AC unit, so sometimes I get to put on my flannel and pretend that its fall)

Wednesday is walking and moving from two naps to one, which means that I am exhausted and have even less time. And yet, I am taking on two more projects. Because that is what I do.

The first is, naturally, an overly elaborate Halloween costume. Yes, I’m starting in August. I meant to start in July. You don’t get awesome results by waiting until October 1, people. Next year, Wednesday is probably going to want to choose her own costume, so I intend on enjoying dressing her up according to my own design as much as possible. Having achieved Addams Family, this year we’re making Wednesday our own little Frankenstein’s Monster, with the two of us as mad scientists. That way, if next year she wants to be a strawberry or whatever (and let me tell you, I would make the best possible strawberry costume for my baby girl), JR and I will have gotten our Must-Do costumes out of our system.

She really enjoys playing with Batgirl, Harley and Poison Ivy dolls, so I’m crossing my fingers for Halloween 2019.

The second project…shall remain under wraps for now. There’s a lot of moving parts, and I have to rely on other people’s corporation for some of it. It’s rapidly coming together, though, with a speed that’s surprising even eternally impatient me. I’ve clearly found a hole that needed to be filled. Like the Halloween costumes, I’m pushing for an October release, but this also may be something that doesn’t see light until next year. More on that as it comes together.

The Voice of Free Planet X live show at Amalgam comics went off without a hitch. Give it a listen if, you haven’t already. The cast–Russell Collins, CJ Higgins of My Gay Agenda, Phil Thomas and Andy Hunter of West Phillians, Jennifer Rodgers, J.R. Blackwell–really gave their all. Especially Russell, who delivers just an utterly heartbreaking monologue about the nature of evil near the end.

II was a little worried about this episodes, because centering the whole show around Lucifer, Who Is The Morningstar means he can’t be the one who just steps in, says a few delightfully cryptic things, and then leaves when he likes. It works for this episode, though, because Lucifer isn’t too comfortable being an interview subject, either. And CJ’s chipper Agent Seven is there to remind us how much everything has changed now that the Deiator is in charge.

The first time the whole cast came together to rehearse was the morning of the show. We ran it through three times, I think? That was all the time we had, what with the demon makeup Sara Gates did, and all. Did I mention the demon makeup? There was demon makeup.

It was great show, folks. A really great show. Seriously, y’all should listen.


Speaking of podcasting, I had the honor of inducting Dr. Pamela Gay of the Astronomy Cast into the Podcast Hall of Fame. I gave a very good speech (I know this because several people came up to me afterwards and told me it was a very good speech, so, you know, they’re probably right). It was an absolutely wonderful experience. Seriously, if you’re ever asked to induct someone into a hall of fame, do it. Five stars, would induct again.
I wrote a piece for Quirk Books about Paddington Bear meeting Winnie the Pooh and having a very Paddington Bear and Winnie the Pooh sort of conversation. Waiting for Godot, if you will, but furry.

WINNIE THE POOH: I am certain, if I thought about it, I could figure out where are. Think. Think. Think.

PADDINGTON: Does tapping your head like that help?

WINNIE THE POOH: Not really. It is hard to think over the rumblings of my tummy.

PADDINGTON: Oh! I might be able to help, then. I have some marmalade.

WINNIE THE POOH: Is that like honey?

PADDINGTON: Yes. But also no.

WINNIE THE POOH: I see.

PADDINGTON: You do?

WINNIE THE POOH: No.

Also for Quirk, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Too Many Adaptations, where Holmes and Watson imagine what future adaptations of their lives would be like.

WATSON: Well, I imagine that a motion picture version would not be out of the question, given sufficient advances in technology. Say, 100 years from now.

HOLMES: I dare say there will be much quicker advances in motion pictures far quicker than that. But as I do not have a case at the moment, I will indulge your intellectual exercise. I posit that in 50 years, there will be a series of motion pictures that will cement our identities in the public imagination. They will begin as historical pieces, but will eventually change to take place in the time they were photographed, with villains of the current era.

WATSON: Oh, I like that. Re-invention to keep the stories fresh.

HOLMES: You won’t like these, I’m afraid. You’ll be interpreted as a dunderhead.

Let’s see…classic children’s literature, classic mystery fiction…obviously, the only other places to go is ABBA-based musicals and zombie stories. So I did both at once.

DONNA: (sings to the tune of “Mamma Mia”)
I’ve been dead for while, since I don’t know when
So I thought we were through, but death is not the end
Look at me now, a walking corpse.
I don’t know how, but I since I crawled
From that hole
I’m a body without a soul…

I’m undead, just some shambling remains
I’m undead and I’m craving your brains, woah-oh oh-oh

Mamma mia, here I live again
My my, how can you resist me?
Mamma mia, the dead walk again
My my, your bullets all have missed me
Mamma mia, now I really know
My my, I will never let you go

 


On the slightly more serious front, I recently wrote for Bustle about how great Amy Poehler’s Making It is.

While judges Dayna Isom Johnson and Simon Doonan greet the denim-aproned contestants like alien ambassadors from a delightfully glam planet, they are crafters in their own right. They understand the difference between unpolished and purposeful. The crafters are rewarded not for being perfect, but for expressing who they are. One contestant is routinely criticized for making things that are “too chic” without any personality. Another’s cartoony aesthetic is only given poor marks when his pieces don’t come together to support a larger vision.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that I still have a Patreon and that backers get all sorts of fun stuff. For example, just yesterday, I posted a video of my Importance of Queer Characters In Comics presentation at Balticon 52. So, if you are interested in that, think about becoming a backer.

Summer’s heat still surrounds us, but I can see the glint of Autumn just around the corner. We’ll make it there yet.

Good luck with the dragon.


What We Talk About When We Talk About

Been a busy summer, already. A little exhausting. How are you?

Before I talk about what has happened, let me go into some detail about what WILL happen. Namely, . I will be a guest at Science Fiction Association of Bergen County’s meeting on July 14th  at 7:30pm. It will be at the Barnes & Noble in Paramus, New Jersey, there will be copies of my book, The Battle of Blood & Ink, for sale and I’ll have some freebies to give away, too. I’ll be reading some stuff, talking about myself, basically having a great time. So if you’re in the area, you should come.

I will also have the great honor of inducting Dr. Pamela Gay of the Astronomy Cast into the Podcast Hall of Fame on July 24th. Pamela is an old friend from back in the early days of podcasting when most of us were still trying to figure this whole thing out. Not Pamela, of course. She knew what she was doing from the get-go. I’ve always been a huge admirer of Pamela’s intelligence and compassion, and the way she makes often-opaque ideas beautifully clear. She absolutely deserves this, and I am thrilled to pieces that I get to be a part of it.

But that’s enough of the future. Let’s talk about the past.

What We Talk About When We Talk About was a live episode recorded at Balticon, the first since Rap Battle Beyond The Stars. It was an attempt to distill the meta-narrative of the past 26 episodes of VFPX, to put everything important in one place, for easy reference, and set the stage for Season 3. Which was a crazy idea, honestly. Just look at all these plot touchstones in the fiction of the show:

  • I’m a reporter for Galactic Public Radio
  • An alternate-reality conquering alien called the Pan-Reality Deiator has taken over Earth
  • This has happened hundreds of years before it was “supposed” to, thanks to an agent of the Deiator a point in time and space that allows you to reach any other point in time in space, creating an alternate timeline
  • One side-effect of the altered timeline is that I am now a woman (I know, right?)
  • On all the alternate Earths, there’s not another version of me.
  • J.R., my wife, is not human, but part of an ancient race of world-devourers.
  • She also works in Hell.
  • We had a son, Hartley, who was murdered in a still unexplained ritual.
  • Hart continues to appear on the show as a ghostly, silent kid wearing a baseball helmet with antlers.
  • In addition to helping Kicks the Kung-fu Clown stop the first Deitator incursion into Earth, Hart has also saved my life at the end of the universe, and given me a mask so I could compete in a rap battle that once again stymied the Deiator.
  • Despite manipulations to the timeline, Hart still exists, implying a greater cosmic significance to his existence.
  • I looked into an almanac of the future, and saw that I would be “remembered for my violence.”
  • I still don’t know what that means.
I added a few new wrinkles as well, because this list clearly wasn’t apeshit enough. The book I wrote about a murder similar to Hart’s, Shattered Mirror, is now being used as a guide book for similar crimes by a group called “The Gibbering Demiurge.” Oh, and the reason it’s been so long between episodes is that I’ve been in prison.I think that’s everything.

The joy of Balticon shows is being in the same room with old friends that I normally have to record remotely. I went a little nutgalls giving people roles this time, which is why the episode has the largest cast yet. Christiana Ellis does most of the heavy lifting, but she’s amazing, so she handled it with aplomb. And if you’re going to stack a crowd, how can you not include Jason Gregory Banks, Dave RobisonA. F. Grappin, Erin Kazmark, John Walker, Tee Morris, J.R. Blackwell, and Allie Press? We had literally no time to rehearse, and everyone still knocked it out of the park.

There’s a rather nice Q&A session at the end of the recording, too, where I talk a little about my process writing the show and the future of VFPX. There’s people at Balticon who have been following VFPX since the beging–in 2005! Podcasting often feels like tossing out messages in bottles, so it’s nice to be in place were so many people uncorked them for nice read.


Speaking of nice reads, I’ve got a few of them for you. First off, there’s “The ‘Sense8′ Finale Movie Is A Desperately Needed Trans Fairy Tale & A Fitting Ending For The Show”which I wrote for Bustle. It’s a very personal essay about how powerful representation in media truly is.

While Sense8 is not without its flaws, even those flaws help create the glorious, wildly entertaining, utterly human celebration that is the show. It’s a superhero show where the main power on display is pure empathy, where problems are solved not by destruction, but connection. It is not for everyone. But for those it is for, it is for them very much indeed. It’s a fairy tale disguised as a television show.

We, collectively, do not deserve Sense8

Bustle asked for a take on the Queer Eye show, so I wrote ‘Queer Eye’ Season 2 Exposes The Fab Five’s Flaws — But That’s The Point, about, well, Queer Eye‘s flaws. And how that’s a good thing.

The original Fab Five were nearly identical Ken dolls who left their identities at the door of whatever pigsty apartment they were tasked with fixing. Only the tamest of sexual innuendos were allowed; no talk of boyfriends, of politics, of how the men they are helping sometimes represented the very people that kept queer people unmarried, unemployed, and fearing for their lives was included.For context, 2003 was the year the body of Richie Phillips was found in a suitcase in Rough River Lake. It was the year Glen Kopitske was stabbed to death by an Eagle Scout. It was the year Gwen Araujo was brutally beaten and strangled by three men because she was transgender. It was the year 15-year-old Sakia Gunn was murdered at a bus stop when she said she was a lesbian. Given that, it can almost be forgiven how intent the original

Queer Eye was on showing how harmless its gay men are.

I also wanted to point your attention to the Anthony Bourdain obituary I wrote for Legacy. He was one of the good ‘uns, and there’s a tremendous void left by his passing.

There’s a scene in the 2015 Miami episode of Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown where, having tucked into barbecued shrimp and roast pork with Iggy Pop, these two older men who first epitomized and then somehow survived the rock-and-roll lifestyle size each other up on the beach. It’s an oddly moving moment, and very strange to watch now. Bourdain drops his ever-present smirk to try to understand how man who wrestled with so many similar demons has found a strange sort of peace.“You seem like a curious person,” Iggy Pop tells Bourdain, with a weight that reveals how much a compliment this is.

“It’s my only virtue,” Bourdain snaps back, suddenly uncomfortable, a self-depreciating smile on his face.

On a far less serious note, over at Quirk you can read What’s Inside The Handbook for the Recently Deceased from ‘BeetleJuice,’ which I had far too much fun writing.
Honing In On Your Haunt-Style

It is incumbent on every dead person to choose the style of haunting they are most comfortable with. While the more imaginative practitioners of the poltergeist arts may look down their rotting noses upon those prefer to emulate how they looked in life, it should be noted that there is no “best” way to be a ghost. There are merely those who find comfort in mediocrity, and those who wish to push themselves. All you have to do is find out who you are, and be that.

Continuing this humorously morbid streak, feast your eyes on Kill Your Darlings, 101 Pieces of Advice for Writers and Serial Killers. It’s the only guide to writing/murdering you’ll ever need!

54. Get to the juicy parts quickly.

55. It’s good to struggle.

56. Eliminate all interruptions.

57. Detach yourself from the outcome. It’s about the doing, not the result.

58. Let your imagination go wild.

59. Flaws are sexy.

60. Remember, everyone has a reason to live.


For some reason, I did a Frankenstein’s Support Group For Misunderstood Monsters that was mainly crowd scenes. I thought it came out quite well.

There’s a lot of cool stuff coming down the pike: at least one more VFPX episode, more articles, more comics. Busy summer. But then, I suppose that’s better than the alternative.


Please, I Want Some More

I wrote this as part of an application to a pop-culture website to be their television writer. The brief was to write” a reaction, not a recap” of a recent TV show episode.

I, naturally, chose to talk about RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.

With BenDelaChrist’s Sacrifice, The All Stars Are Left Wanting More


What does it mean to be a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race? The hit reality show has had an undeniable effect on drag culture, becoming less a fun stage to strut one’s stuff than a necessary career move. To be on Drag Race is now a right of passage for queens who do drag professionally, a promise of, if not fortune, almost certainly fame.

What does it mean to be a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, then? In the wake of BenDelaCreme’s self-sacrificial exit last episode (which has already earned her the nickname “BenDelaChrist”), that question hung heavy in the workroom. The remaining queens are shook. What does mean when the front-runner decides the race isn’t worth it? BenDelaCreme left saying that she had proven everything she needed to prove, and was leaving happy. If not winning was good enough for the presumptive winner, why is everyone else still here?

At first, no one seems to have any good answers. BeBe Zahara Benet and Morgan McMichaels just don’t want to be made fools of (y’all picked the wrong show for that). Shangela and Trixie Mattel have no problem making fools of themselves, but then, that’s always been their brand.

In the middle of all of this, no one was expecting to Kennedy Davenport to throw down the most honest moment this reality show literally built around artifice has ever had.

 

Perhaps we should have. Kennedy has made a name for herself as a speaker of wisdom and truth—no matter how bad it may make her look on camera. Her make-up half-applied, Kennedy admits that she’s there because she wants more fans. She doesn’t have the following of some of the other queens, and was hoping a victory lap of Drag Race would give her the audience she feels she deserves.

The narrative of Drag Race All Stars has always been one of a coronation, whether that’s the reality or not. Chad Michaels and Alaska were talented performers who happened to have the bad luck to be in seasons with Sharon Needles and Jinx Monsoon, queens with singular senses of style that overwhelmed the competition. It was clear many of the contestants in this current season of Drag Race All Stars came with this in mind, expecting to finally be recognized for their genius that previous seasons have denied them.

This was possibly the most true with Kennedy, who made it to 4th place in Season 7. Looking at a workroom filled with contestants who had been told to sashay away in the middle of their seasons, can we blame Kennedy for believing that her time had come? Any more than we can blame Morgan, praying to that Biscuit Jesus in the sky that maybe—MAYBE—this would be the one time that she didn’t look like a jerk on camera?

Morgan’s dreams are for naught, and possibly Kennedy’s too, as she seems to be languishing in the end of the competition. Like it or not, BenDelaCreme set the bar for this season of All Stars, and then promptly took it with her when she left. The remaining queens have little to measure up against beyond their own desperation. Perhaps no contestant exemplified that as much as Shangela at the end of the episode, sweating and heaving in her fat suit after lip-syncing for her legacy (was there ever a truer expression in all of Drag Race herstory?), hoping against hope that the third time is indeed the charm.

If Drag Raceoriginal flavor has mutated into a job interview for future drag gigs, then All Starshas become the last bastion of a strange, poisoned dream. A dream of just desserts. And its not just this season—who could forget Alaska’s petulant meltdown that she might once again lose to a “lovable weirdo” last season? Uneasy lies the head that almost wears the crown.

But, let’s give props to Kennedy and the girls of Season 3 for finally death-dropping into the truth. Drag has always subscribed to the credo that too much is never enough, but now we see how much—and how little—more everyone wants.

Please, RuPaul. They want some more. More fans, more fame, more crowns, more screentime. Please.

They ultimately decided my style of television commentary was not what they were looking for, but at least I can say they did not make this decision without understanding what I would do.


A Kinder, Gentler End Of The World

I’ve been thinking a lot about the genre “soft apocalypse.” Society, as we know it, has ended. Infrastructure that we have come to rely on is no more, electricity and running water are quirks rather than givens. How do you rebuild? And not even how do you rebuild society, because that’s at least three or four or five hierarchies above where you are. How do you rebuild your life? How do you live among the ruins of everything you took for granted?

Soft apocalypse takes the tact that instead of the very 80’s notion of cannibal biker gangs raiding innocents (quick tangent: remember when Frank Miller got mugged and changed who superheroes fought throughout the comics industry? Tegan O’Neil does. Worth a read), we would, in fact, get by with a little help from our friends. Isolated pockets of community, where everyone works together because do otherwise is to sign up for extinction. You can see this in action in Hitoshi Ashinano’s manga Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, but there’s seeds of this kind of idea in the hyper-rural anime Non Non Biyori and in the urban laboratory Arcosanti. If everything collapses, we’ll get by. It will just be at much slower pace than we’re used to.

I suppose, when the news is full of towns unpaving roads and closing schools on Mondays so that teachers can work other jobs, I need some reassurance that the end of the world is something that can be survived. That may be unrealistic, but honestly, so are cannibal biker gangs.


Queer In Every Sense


So there’s this thing. Let’s call it STARDUST (not its real title).STARDUST is a project I’ve been working on, of and on, since November. It’s queer in every sense of the word, and I love it very much. It is also that YA story I was referring to not so long ago. And it’s looking like something that Is Going To Happen. As in, it is shaping up to be something that in the not too distant future you will be able to hold in your hot little hands and enjoy and tell your friends that that Axelrod chick who’s newsletter you follow can really put one word after another, can’t she?

It is, on the whole, a really good thing. It’s a really good thing for me creatively, a really good thing for me professionally and a really good thing for me financially. It’s not going Change Everything, or nothing. But its really good. Its a really good opportunity, and I’m glad that everyone involved was in the right place at the right time for me to take advantage of it.

It also not quite official yet, which is why I’m calling it STARDUST and why I have to catch myself because these kind of things fall apart all the time.

But.

One thing I can share about this experience in a remarkably vague way is that I did not hold back at any moment, and that didn’t matter. I mean it when I say this pitch was queer in every sense of that word and the editor involved did not bat an eye. There’s a sarcastic robotic dog and genuine emotions about being trans and neither one was thought to be too out there or inappropriate.

Which might mean that my weirdness is not as weird as I think, and that may be true. But the flip side of that means that YOUR weirdness is not as weird as you think, either. I hear so many people say “They’d never let me do this,” and beyond the fact that we live in a world where publishing is no longer a profession but a button and gatekeepers are dying breed, the projects that need the stumbling goliaths that are media companies still might be accepted and supported. I certainly was not expecting my queer in every sense of the word ideas to get a pass from a major publishing company, much less to told it was one of the best pitches the editor had every seen since she started at said major publishing company.

‘Course, part of that is that I know how to craft a goddamn yarn, and I can follow directions, so when I was told “we are looking for a story like this,” you best believe that’s what I gave them.

Just, you know, queer. In every sense of that word.


Because of What You Are

The prettiest star.

I’m working on a YA book right now, and YA books carry with them YA baggage. Writing a project about teenagers means that I am, in no small part, writing about myself as a teenager. It is…not easy. To write this story, I have to forgive my teenage self for everything they did and did not do. Which I was not expecting.

I didn’t realize how much of a grudge I held against my younger self for not having the courage at 16 I accumulated at 36. I know the battle that was before me every single day, and every single day I backed down from it. But I was a good kid. I was a good kid who wanted so much to be liked for who I was, because I didn’t like who I was. I wish I was braver, but who doesn’t, when looking back? Especially at our teen years.

All of this resentment is funny, because, all things considered, I was pretty brave. I went to pride marches and queer film festivals. I came out to a small select group of friends. And this was in ‘90s, which felt incredibly progressive at the time, but was also a period when FRIENDS, the most popular show on television, well, you can watch.

So, give Teen Jared so slack, Adult Jared. He’d be really proud of the woman you are now, the least you can do is not look down the boy you were then.

…trans nomenclature is so weird.


New project means new playlist. I’ve been surprised how many “performance” artists I’ve unconsciously selected: David Bowie, tUnE-yArDs, Kembra Pfahler’s indelible The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black (I should add some  FKA Twigs to the mix). Something about the intensity of music that is not just meant to be played but performed fits with over-active teenage emotions. Where the practiced artifice is a catalyst, not a barrier, to what’s being expressed. The makeup artfully smudged and costumes purposefully torn. Performance as means to authenticity. What could be more teenagery?

‘Course, I was an art-kid–voted “most artistic” even, out-arting the rest of my senior class–so I would think that. Fortunately, I’m writing about arty kids, so while my experience may not be universal, it will be relevant. Plus, one of them is trans. They’re a little braver then I was. But they have much poorer impulse control, which is where all the fun in writing them is.


And Then, Aliens Attack

Recovering from a stomach bug of some kind, so this may be a bit more rambly than usual.

(photo taken in happier times, pre-stomach bug)
I’m working on something that I can’t really talk about yet, because it far and away from a done deal, but I am very, very excited about it. The editor has been very encouraging and helpful with the project as a whole, with only one real note.

Y’see, there’s a point in every story where, right after your lead Does Brave Things, that you get to choose what kind of story you’re writing. A genre fiction story, be it about wise-cracking gumshoes or space wizards wielding laserswords, functionally ends after the Brave Thing is done. Sure, there may be a medal ceremony or a dance party, but the story is over. I’ve been reading a bunch of Spenser books while rocking Wednesday to sleep, and while there is often lip service given to the fallout that Spenser will have deal with following the various illegal things he did in his dogged search for the truth, we never see it. The story ends when the problem is solved.

Literary fiction, for lack of a better term, is all about what comes after Doing Brave Things (well, that and also money). Doing Brave Things may lead to an emotional peak, but we have to deal the consequences of those actions. Not only that, we want to deal with those consequences. That’s why we showed up. If we wanted everything tied up in a bow, we would have picked up a detective story.

This might be why so many people seemed upset with Luke’s characterization in THE LAST JEDI. There is a sincere argument to be had that despite it’s clear devotion to the visuals of the previous films, THE LAST JEDI’s meditations on failure and communal effort over swashbuckling heroism has little to with the pulp fantastic that was STAR WARS stock in trade. Luke’s story ended after he forgave Darth Vader and they killed the Emperor. To have him continue to grow and change after that feels like a different style of fiction. Because that’s what defines a peice of genre fiction: it knows when to stop.

But, back to my point, the editor had one note. I really like these characters, I really like this story, I wanted good things to happen. I subconsciously decided not to write about what would happen after they Did Brave Things. So, I thought “Great, they do the Brave Thing, and then aliens attack. Story over!”

Needless to say, the editor was not as excited about the aliens attacking as I was (in my defense, it was appropriately foreshadowed). But this because she is looking for something more literary, but I, because I love those characters so, so much, wanted to do something more genre. So that I could get a—possibly unearned—happy ending.

And even I will admit that while “…and then aliens attack” is good ending, it’s not the best ending. And do these characters who I love so much that I wanted to keep them from harm, do they not deserve the best ending I can give them? Of course they do.

I have adjusted my mindset, and am now prepared to write the scenes that will make me sad, because, honestly, torturing characters is what makes them great. Even in genre stories. After all, even Robert B. Parker puts Spenser through a crisis of the soul once per novel.


Baby, We’ll Be Fine

All we gotta do is be brave, and be kind.
The original idea for this particular posting was going to be some housecleaning, as we sweep the old year into the trashcan and lay out nice clean sheets for the new one (speaking of, have you seen this comic by Kanesha Bryant? Devastating and hopeful, in equal measure). And I’m still going to do that–spoilers!–further on down, but I was Googling my own name just to check if I made anything this year that I forgot about, and I came across this:

Parallel Lives podcast reviews A Great Machine

A Great Machine is a weird little thing I created for the LARP competition Golden Cobra. There had been a hoodoo in the American Freeform LARP community some months before about zero-player games, what that would look like, or if that would even be a game at all. I wanted to explore that space, so I came up with A Great Machine, which you don’t so much play as be a part of. Play is defined by having a say in the outcome. If that’s removed, if you are merely part of a process, you are, by definition not playing. A game with no players. I’d describe it here, but Wednesday Sophia does such an elegant job with the review, I’m just going to recommend you listen to her.

I throw a lot of things out into the wilds of the internet, and while I fancy that all of it will find an audience eventually, I did not actually expect that this game that literally no people could play would ever find anyone who would understand what I was doing. That Wednesday Sophia not only found it but enjoyed it, well, that’s as good an omen for the coming year as I can hope for

Right. So. An accounting of the year that was. Obviously, this collaboration with J.R. Blackwell was the most momentous of the year:
…but I did some other things, too.

This year has been light for me as far as podcast production, with just the live episode of VFPX, Episode 26 – Bringing The Universe To You, which was part of the Philadelphia Podcast Festival. But, if you’re just going to have one, you could do a lot worse. I got some really cool press from being a part of the PhillyPodFest, being one of these Five Philly-Based Podcasts You Should Check Out. I’ll take “Assessment: Awesome” any day of the week.

I also did a great interview on Chris Lester’s The Raven & the Writing Desk, which is a must-listen for anyone who enjoys VFPX. And I did a guest-spot on Jeff Stormer’s Party of One’s 100th episode, which is a must-listen for anyone who enjoys Superman. Both are fun for entirely disparate reasons.

2017 saw me writing quite a bit of things for Quirk Books. What things, you ask? These things:

25 More Laws of Robotics
The Hobbit Inspired by Cormac McCarthy
Frankenstein’s Support Group For Misunderstood Monsters, Friday the 13th Edition
Quoth The Tweety Bird
Presenting “Mirrer,” The Wonderland Dating App
The Latest Headlines From OzFeed
“2 Great 2 Expectations” and Other Charles Dickens Sequels That Never Were
Time Machines, Ranked By Accuracy
Forgotten Fairy Tales
Ode to a Venusian Flurn
What If Les Miserables Was A DnD Game?
The Future of Celebrity Gossip
Dr. Seuss-Inspired Books About Modern Technology
St. Patrick Contemplates Driving Out The Snakes
Noteworthy Women In Sci-Fi History
What If Robert Frost Wrote About Food?

Speaking In Terms At Frankenstein’s Support Group For Misunderstood Monsters
Apes of Wrath
The Cosplay Habits of Fictional Characters
Other Gallifreyans
The Most Regrettable Mythological Figures
Gothic Tales of the Returns Desk
Letters of Condolences from the Empire’s HR Desk
Classic Literature As Limericks

Aliens Left Out of Guardians of the Galaxy
What Literary Video Game Should You Play?
Comics Edgar Wright Should Adapt
Literary Family Feud

Interview with an Asteroid
The Princess Bride: The 5 Other Kisses
Fear and Loathing on My Lunch Break

More Hemingway-esque Six-Word Stories
What if JAWS was a Rom-Com?
Close Encounters of Multiple Kinds

Books That Shouldn’t Be Video Games
So, You’re Inhuman Now

How to Modify Your Bike to Accommodate an Alien
What If Your Favorite Movie Characters Crossed Paths?
Something Wicked, Something Holy: Halloween Deities
Understanding Misunderstood Monsters

How To Survive NaNoWriMo
Murder in the ’67 Hatchback and Other Poriot Knock-Offs
S.H.I.E.L.D., S.W.O.R.D. and H.A.T.E.: Marvel’s Acronymistic Organizations

“Because I could not stop to shop” and other Christmas shopping poems
Hot Chocolate Recipes Based on Fictional Characters
What If Hannibal Lecter Judged A Baking Show?
What If Other Authors Had Written A Christmas Carol?
Pop Culture Based Conversation Starters For The Holidays

And that’s not even counting the Frankenstein’s Support Group For Misunderstood Monsters comics, all of which I am very proud of:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Chapter 7


…And that should tie up the old year. I’ve got plans for the new one. Big plans. Part of those plans is using the ol’ website more, so I spruced it up a bit. New coat of paint, added some sconces, finally fixed that dangling “Puppet” section. 2018 is going to be the year of more substantial projects for me, and I’m gonna need a sturdy support for more than a few of them. Social media can barely hold a damn thing.

The year is wide open in front of us. Baby, we’ll be fine.


A Little Rough

2017, am I right? Been a little rough, hasn’t it?

I’m trying to be less precious with things. Trying to push ideas out, baby bird-style, not because I hope they might fly but because I don’t know if they will. These may not be the best words in the best order but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth reading and that, my friends and enemies, is an idea I can get behind.

I’ve recently discovered the YouTube series Movies With Mikey, which is delightful and challenging and insightful—watch The Batman Question, it’s important—and one of the things that keeps you watching is Mikey Neumann’s voice, by which I mean his writing, by which I mean a slow torrent of verbiage that feels like a joke-filled rambling stream-of-consciousness narrative but is actually meticulously constructed essay that will probably get you all misty-eyed by the end if you’re not careful.

Seriously. I was not expecting all the feels at the end of the LOGAN episode.

But–and here’s why I’m bringing up this particular YouTube show at this particular time–MWM is imperfect. Sometimes he forgets to include important parts of his arguments, sometimes he misspells title cards, and while some of that plays into his scratched-film, out of focus aesthetic, some of it may also be that he is a human being, much like the rest of us, and not everything one does is going to be perfect and polished. Some things will be, the things we put the time and effort and have the help of others to create, but some things just…won’t. Even if we put the time and effort and have the help of others. As distracting as it is that he used the wrong “shown” in his GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL video it doesn’t detract from how good that video is. Which is a lesson we could all learn from.

(If it was indeed the wrong “shown.” We have to assume Artist’s Intent, after all. Maybe he put a “shone” in there for a reason. You be the judge, the author is dead, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera)

I think there’s a worry, especially in the current climate of the internet that we’re going to be called out for something we did wrong. This is not an imagined fear. As I write this, I am doing JUST THAT to someone who has the INDECENCY to have DEMONSTRABLY WRONG opinion on Twitter OF ALL PLACES.

I am part of the problem. I realize that.

But I’m trying to be better, and also I’m trying to not worry about something I say being attacked by someone like me, that is to say, someone smart enough to know when someone is wrong but not smart enough not to care. Which is definitely easier said than done.

To steer things back to MWM for a moment, MWM makes me think about voice, and how I’ve lost the voice I’ve been comfortable with in the past year. I used to write this newsletter–and anything else that required the affect of coming from “me”–in this sort of friendly know-it-all tone, which I see now was a sort of armor (the know-it-all part; the friendliness was genuine), designed to to keep folks at a distance. It was intrinsically tied to the armor I presented to the world in my everyday life, because I was deathly afraid someone might get too close and see I was, in fact, trans.

Clearly, no need to worry about that now.

Which brings me, in a very roundabout way, to the point I wanted to make originally which is, I’ve been through a lot of changes this year. 2017 has been difficult for everyone in more ways than one, but for me at least, it  should be mentioned that in 2016 I was a childless dude who had a job and was known for wearing neckties and having a podcast and now I’m the stay-at-home mother of the most wonderful baby in the world who doesn’t really do any of those things any more. I mean, yes, I’ve done long periods of not-podcasting and unemployment before and there was time before I wore ties where I did not. But Things Have Changed. Things have been a little rough. As corny as its going to sound, 2017 has been a very transitional year, a necessary time of uncertainty as I move from one identity that had gotten too uncomfortable to wear into one that is not yet completed.

And in that way, it’s been a pretty good year.

Plus, this really awesome person came into my life right around the end of March, so…

All of this has, as one might expect, led me to contemplating the Three Kings.

The Three Kings, are present in every Nativity but occupy barely half a dozen sentences in the Bible. There’s something marvelous in their story, a trio of wealthy astronomers from somewhere east of Bethlehem, traveling for months–if not years–because the stars told them a religious leader was about to be born and they WERE NOT GOING TO MISS IT.

‪FOMO we can all relate to, I’m sure.

But that journey, a journey of an uncertain distance and an unclear timeline, with the goal of not gaining anything other than the opportunity to witness, that’s been speaking to me right now. To follow a star, a hope, a dream, because you could. Because you should.

The Three Kings are a metaphor for Parenting. They are a metaphor for Being Trans. They are a metaphor for Making A Living With Art. They are, appropriately, a trio of metaphors for the three journeys of my life right now.

I know not how long the journey will take, or what obstacles will be in my path. I only know the direction, lit by a Star of Wonder.

Things are going to be different in 2018. There’s no escaping that. Best we can do is shape the year the best we can. Even if ends up a little rough.