Seven years ago today, my son Corvin was born. A few hours later, he died.
I think about him a lot.
Seven years ago today, my son Corvin was born. A few hours later, he died.
I think about him a lot.
My therapist asked me to do something creative about the ‘little hurt” we all keep inside. So, in the grand tradition of so many queer and trans cartoonists, I decided to have a talk with my younger self.
PROJECT: STARDUST has moved another glacial step toward completion. I mentioned how I couldn’t talk about it last time, and spoke briefly about it in August, and before that, last January, because being a Professional Creative Person probably contains about as much waiting as it does creating. And now, after a brief moment of contract-related excitement, the waiting begins again. So time spent waiting. There will be come a point very soon where STARDUST will be in my hands instead of someone else’s, and then it will feel like there is will be no time at all. Which will be followed by even more waiting. But eventually, after all that waiting, STARDUST will be something you can hold in your hands, which is all that I want.
Until then, here’s some other things for you to read. There’s a new FRANKENSTEIN’S SUPPORT GROUP I’m quite pleased with, as well as articles about Gordon Ramsay swearing at books, the horror of brushing your teeth, and Disney properties that wouldn’t make good Kingdom Hearts levels, over at Quirk Books.
My wife has started reading Timothy Zahn’s THRAWN book, and there’s a bit in there that is so brilliant I’m going to have to steal it. Being alien even by STAR WARS standards, Zahn has Thrawn accompanied through his travels by a translator, who lets him in on the details and history of each culture and noteworthy individual they encounter. This means that Zahn has a plot-relevant reason for info-dumping a bunch of world-building. More than that, Zahn has turned info-dumping into a story element itself, based on what Thrawn is ignorant of, what his translator chooses to reveal, what the translator keeps to himself, and what the translator himself misses due to his own limited POV.
I’ve always been fascinated by guide books, of the narrative implied by the way you talk about a place. By making your guide book an actual person, that narrative stops being implied. And to have it be a translator, to have someone literally have to interpret the designs of one character for another, is ripe with potential. I’ve got a fantasy story in mind that would benefit from such thing.
Fortunately, translators have existed since people started talking to another. None of us have to credit Timothy Zahn if we use this idea. I myself am foreswearing reading THRAWN myself, despite my love of the blue-skinned schemer, just to maintain plausible deniability.
February 1st was Hourly Comic Day, which I have participated in before. This year added Wednesday into the mix, which offered a much different day than the past. If you’re curious about how my day goes–in comic form!–you can read this year’s hourlies here.
The nice thing about Hourly Comic Day is it forces you to pay attention to your life in ways you normally don’t. It’s easy to get caught up in the broad strokes, and miss the details. Thinking about how you might illustrate any particular experience makes you realize how wonderful those details are. My life is pretty great right now. I hope yours is, too.
Good luck with the dragon.
6:27am – Family Breakfast
7:12am – Wednesday Selects Quality Literature
8:44am – Cane Walkin’
9:29am – Watching Sesame Street/Drawing Comics
10:40am – Unexpected Naptime Means Unexpected Worktime
11:27am – Pickle Break
12:12pm – Checking On Wednesday
1:42pm – Storytime
2:01pm – Innovative Song Lyrics
3:29pm – Important Conversations
4:57pm – Wednesday Learns A New Word
5:23pm – Shoveling The Sidewalk To Cameron Esposito
6:39pm – Have Cane, Will Travel
7:21pm – Marvel Strike Force Blues
8:33pm – The Negotiations Begin
9:09pm – All My Lullabies Are By The Mountain Goats
Happy New Year! I have new pajamas. One should always start the new year with new pajamas.
2019’s pajamas are purple, with little hedgehogs on them. The hedgehogs’ bodies are made up of flowers, implying either a conjoining of animal and vegetable that no god ever intended, or simply a group of critters unusually taken with self-decoration. Either way, I approve. There’s a story in both.
Forgive me, reader, it has been months since my last newsletter. There is, obviously, a lot to unpack that happened between now and the end of August. A non-exhaustive list: I made Halloween costumes for my family, I met with the people who will eventually be publishing STARDUST (remember, not its actual title), things got bad for trans people, my mother passed away, I had my computer break–the repair of which was so costly, there was a moment right before Christmas where were seriously wondering if we could afford food. Oh, and I’ve been testing out a new name.
Hello, I’m Jadzia. We’ve met.
Honestly, I don’t want to talk about it (in the case of STARDUST, I can’t talk about it). Let’s leave the past in the past. It’s a new year, with new pajamas. Let’s move on.
But, I will say this: I don’t think I was recognized at my mother’s memorial.
As a trans person, this is, of course, the dream. One wants to go through life unencumbered by the baggage of a gender presentation that never quite fit. We had very nice family portraits made years ago when my father was still alive, and I said it was okay to put one of them up in the memorial. There is a odd measure of comfort that folks did not connect me the slump-postured bearded boy with a smiling mouth but painfully hurt eyes, even if that was no doubt the expression I was making for most of the evening. I wore red and black, like I did in the portrait, a bit of children’s TV-show costuming continuity. Connection through broad shapes and colors.
One person asked my relationship to the deceased. When I told them I was her daughter, they said “Oh! You must be Kate!”
Must I? Is too much to ask that my sister not be my mother’s only daughter? She held that title for almost 40 years. Surely she care share it. Surely.
If there ever was a time to for people to look at the woman I’ve become and see the boy I was, it was then, at that memorial. But that may have indeed been too much.
While my brother and sister, recognizable despite years of fluctuating weights and various hair experiments, were who everyone flocked to and offered condolences, I was left aimless. I floated around the room like a ghost hostess, thanking extended family members for coming. Why was I the butler at my mother’s memorial? Something to do, I suppose. A middle child to the end, I held my grieving in, and made sure everyone else was comfortable.
But even this has it’s limits. We had put a display of the quilts Mama had made in a corner, and I was sitting there as everyone was starting to pack up. When it came time to fold up the quilts, I dutifully handed the one next to me over. And then, holding this quilt that she meticulously sewed with her own two hands, I lost it. I started crying and couldn’t stop. Mama would never make another quilt. This was the last of them, the last of her. I could feel her echo when held that quilt, the remains of her touch. I was not holding her, only the part of the world that wouldn’t exist without her. And now there would be no more of those.
My mother’s friend June, who once put up my drawings on her refrigerator, sat there with me, letting me pour it all out. How fitting that I get my cathartic memorial moment after everyone is gone. The chairs are being put away, the tablecloths are being folded, and I finally have no other responsibility but to weep into a crumpled quilt.
We didn’t hold this memorial at our home, as we did when my father died. Cancer ate him alive in tiny bites, like a swarm of ants, giving us plenty of time to plan. Mama mailed my daughter an envelope of stickers one morning and was gone that afternoon. Thanks to theater-friends in the area, I found a place that would let us hold the memorial for free. I found a caterer. I wrote her obituary. I did all of this. It may be crass to bring this up, but I’m doing it anyway. I bring this up because I want credit. Because I want acknowledgement. Because I want to be recognized as my mother’s daughter, mourning for her loss.
I signed enough documents identifying me as her son in the days before to have this distinction. I think I earned it.
My New Year Resolutions are nothing special, this year. I want to meet all my deadlines. I want to take all my medications when I’m supposed to. I want to get out of bed when the alarm goes off. I want to be the person I plan myself to be, the woman with hedgehogs on her pajamas who answers to Jadzia.
Let’s see if I can make it.
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.
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 endLook 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.
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.
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:
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
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 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.
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.