On the Origins Bibliography

I wanted to start a post that serves as a running tally of all of the stuff I’ve been reading for the Tor.com column that can be referred back to if you’re interested in that sort of thing. It’ll be updated as I go. This bibliography is current as of 6/2/18, and includes all works read for the first three columns, and the upcoming post for June 2018.

History of science reference texts:

  • The Gene: An Intimate History (2016) by Siddharta Mukherjee
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) by Bill Bryson
  • The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of its Greatest Inventors (2002) by John Gribbin
  • The Origin of Species (1859) by Charles Darwin
  • The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-82 (1887) by Charles Darwin
  • Voyage of the Beagle (1939) by Charles Darwin
  • An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) by Thomas Malthus
  • Daedalus; Or Science and the Future (1924) by J.B.S. Haldane
  • Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (1942) by Julian Huxley

History of science fiction reference texts:

  • Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction (2011) by David Seed
  • The History of Science Fiction (2006) by Adam Charles Roberts
  • The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011) by John Clute, Peter Nicholls, John Grant
  • The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (2003) by Edward James

Books/Movies:

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870) by Jules Verne
  • The Time Machine (1895) by H.G. Wells
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) by H.G. Wells
  • Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang
  • We (1924) by Yevgeny Zamyatin
  • The Fatal Eggs (1925) by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • R.U.R. (1921) by Karel Capek
  • Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley
  • Island (1962) by Aldous Huxley
  • A Princess of Mars (1912) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • The Gods of Mars (1913) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Triplanetary (1934) by E.E. “Doc” Smith
  • The Skylark of Space (1928) by E.E. “Doc” Smith
  • Armageddon 2419 (1928) by Philip Francis Nowlan
  • The Moon Pool (1918) by Abraham Grace Merritt
  • Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest (1935) by Olaf Stapledon
  • Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future (1930) by Olaf Stapledon
  • Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon

Read, but not referenced:

  • Frankenstein (1823) by Mary Shelley
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Lewis Stevenson
  • The Lost World (1912) by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Tarzan of the Apes (1912) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • The Metamorphosis (1915) by Franz Kafka

Referenced, but not read:

  • Principles of Geology (1830) by Charles Lyell
  • Utopia (1516) by Thomas More
  • Republic (381 BC) by Plato
  • The War of the Worlds (1897) by H.G. Wells
  • Anticipations (1901) by H.G Wells
  • The Rights of Man: Or What Are We Fighting For? (1940) by H.G. Wells
  • The Tempest (1611) by William Shakespeare
  • My Life and Work (1922) by Henry Ford
  • Point Counter Point (1928) by Aldous Huxley
  • The Mechanism of Mendelian Hereditary (1915) by Thomas Hunt Morgan
  • The Doors of Perception (1954) by Aldous Huxley

 

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A Sight for Sore Eyes

Soon the third article in my Tor.com column comes out. The last two parts you can read here and here. For this one, I got to read Brave New World for the first time since I was a sophomore in high school. In fact, the copy of it I have *is* my high school copy, complete with a clear Property of Lincoln Park High School stamp on what is left of the cover. When I opened it, the smell of cigarette smoke and aging book paper brought me back 20 in an instant. It’s almost too bad I’d already used time travel as a theme already in the previous article because shit did that make me wistful.

I’ve been super grateful to have the opportunity to write this column. I had never once considered trying to write non-fiction, let alone an entire column, and Sarah Gailey is 100% to blame for it happening at all. I was super nervous about it initially, worried that I hadn’t read widely enough of older SF to be able to write about the history of SF with any confidence, but that’s the thing about any project – I never feel like I know enough about anything I’m writing about, but if I let that stop me, I would never write anything at all. And hey, that’s what research is for, after all.

And boy do I LOVE research, so writing it has been an absolute delight, and I harbor very little resentment that it leaves me no time to work on the two languishing stories I started at Rainforest in February (and we’re not even going to talk about the book draft).  I deeply appreciate the perspective it’s given me not only on major works science fiction and biology, but also fleshing out the larger context of these previously isolated mental data points. It’s also given me an excuse to read a lot of old foundational works of SF I never would have taken the time to read otherwise (what with my massive to read pile of contemporary books I am currently staring at even now with great longing from my couch). Being someone with one foot planted firmly in the sciences and the other in science fiction, having the opportunity to trace how they evolved side-by-side has been completely absorbing.

So my deepest thanks to Sarah for being a marvelous instigator, and to Bridget at Tor for her continued enthusiasm and support of this project. I look forward to continuing to be completely absorbed by it for the foreseeable future.

On the science side of things, my day job sent me out to Jersey City the other week for a meeting, and I got to arrive a few days before to spend the weekend with dear friends for two days of drinking and talking, and got to catch up with Bo and Ben, who it was so good to see after so many years. The work meeting culminated with a glass-domed dinner cruise, where I got to talk all the science talk and admire the Statue of Liberty and the lights of Manhattan by night.

Now I’m working on the next installment of the column, which should come out next month. It’s about mutation and the pulps, all working towards the following column, which will be about science and science fiction’s respective modern syntheses, a theme that is understandably near and dear to my heart.

I’ve got some fun stuff coming up, including a trip back to the midwest for a bachelorette party, a writing retreat followed by Worldcon, and between now and then I’ll turn over another year on the odometer. Can’t wait.

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Nobody Else Will Be There

Walking out of Annihilation on Sunday, my friend asked me how it compared to the book. I loved the Area X books – I’d read them after plowing through all three of Jeff Vandermeer’s Ambergris books. They’re surreal, beautiful and affecting – my favorite kind of horror. The movie managed to capture that same feeling for me while still being an entirely different thing, which made me happy. I love/hate that feeling when you get to the end of something you’re really loving to know that no more of that thing exists, and to know that part of you is going to spend the rest of your life looking for that feeling again. Seeing Annihilation gave me a little bit of that feeling back I had when I read through the book, so I was and am deeply grateful for that.

I am still slowly recuperating from my second bout with the flu this winter. I feel like it broke something in me – like the last illusion of being “young and healthy” has finally evaporated, and that I have been subconsciously buying more and more sweaters to cope with my entry into middle age. I am not so young anymore. I am not so healthy.

Before the movie, my friend and I had gotten brunch and walked around the mall for a bit, making the sales folks in Bose show off their expensive sound system room, looked at all the gigantic lego models at the Lego store, and were disappointed by the lack of crazy collectibles at the Disney Store. That short amount of walking left me breathless and dizzy, which, while a good state to see Annihilation in, led to three hours of napping once I got home afterwards.

I still deeply resent getting sick. I don’t think that’s going to go away any time soon.

But I did get to go to Rainforest this year, where I managed to write 11k words on a new novelette and 5k words on a new short story. I was also compelled by Fran Wilde to dress up in a T-Rex costume and go galavanting around the shoreline of Lake Quinault. I also discovered that people love to get a T-Rex drunk, much to the T-Rex’s dismay the next morning.

I also got the first post done in a series I’m writing for Tor.com tracing the evolution of science fiction and modern biology, which went live today. It feels really good to have an external deadline, and it’s been super interesting to read about the history of both in parallel. Individual histories of fields can be so myopic that putting both into thematic and social context is really making the slumbering academic in me twitch with joy. Links to the posts will be updated in the “Writing” section of this menagerie as they go live.

My band’s got two shows coming up in the next week – we’re playing a record store to support two touring bands coming through town, and a house party with three other bands. These two will make four shows we’ve played in the last few months, which is great for restocking the band coffers to pay for more studio time, but we have been necessarily playing the same setlist at practice every week, and we’ll all be happy when we can start working on new material and get back in the studio to finish recording the next EP.

I’ve got plenty of stuff to complain about, as per usual, but honestly, I can’t complain.

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Young Lover

This morning I took the last three lingering boxes of the ex-GFs stuff to her last known address. I had been waiting for months to get rid of those boxes that had stared me from the kitchen. Waited for months for her to arrange to come get them. Waited for months on her.

I hate break ups, and of these, I have had my fair share. Some where I was angrier in the aftermath than I am now. Some where I was sadder in the aftermath than I had been this time. But none with someone I legitimately loved as much as I loved her.

I can talk about my feelings with the dispassion of a coroner – dissecting them with logic, weighing them each individually in a stainless steel tray, placing them aside, like-with-like. I resort to gallows humor as I sit patiently knowing that I have been here before, and I will be here again.

I spent so long waiting in that relationship. Waiting for her to figure out what was wrong. Waiting for her to tell me what I even meant to her. Every unanswered, “I love you,” an erosion. Every read receipt on a text she didn’t think it was important to answer a knick. Every time she turned away from a kiss or limply held my hand or didn’t return an affection, a decay. So many diminishments until my self respect screamed up from the pit where I had buried it in my starvation to stop waiting already because I deserve better than this.

Did she love me? I don’t know. I used to think so. I don’t think so anymore.

Does it matter?

It will until it doesn’t anymore.

I’ve got St. Vincent tickets tonight and poetry until then.

“Someone can be madly in love with you and still not be ready. They can love you in a way you have never been loved and still not join you on the bridge. And whatever their reasons you must leave. Because you never ever have to inspire anyone to meet you on the bridge. You never ever have to convince someone to do the work to be ready. There is more extraordinary love, more love that you have never seen, out here in this wide and wild universe. And there is the love that will be ready.”

– Nayyirah Waheed

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The moral test of government

Looks like there’s another survey from the White House. This one only has four questions. The first two are checkbox selections about what I think the Trump administration has done that is significant and what issues I think the administration should focus on. What a weighty word, significant. There are a lot of things it has been doing I believe are significant, but that word manages to hide any ability to report back on whether it is for the worst or the better. It robs me the feeling that this feedback will provide any guidance at all.

Words are important.

Because of that, I wanted to share what I wrote in for more open questions, which were, “What are your ideas to make America great again?” and “Other comments”.

Here were my replies:

Become scientific leaders in combating climate change, increase funding to the NIH and NSF to foster more biomedical advances, take steps to reduce hate crimes against the most vulnerable in our society, protecting the right of women to be able to make choices about how they live their lives, get private money and business influence out of politics, enact term limits, make election day a national holiday so that everyone can participate in our democracy, make redistricting less partisan so our House more accurately resembles the demographics of their respective districts rather than being drawn to primarily keep one party in power, expand social programs to ensure there is an adequate safety net for vulnerable populations, improve access to healthcare and enact a single-payer system so our country can catch up with the rest of the first world countries, use our expertise and wealth to assist in relief efforts around the world, raising the minimum wage to make a livable wage more accessible to more people, reducing the cost of higher education and the resulting burden of student loan debt, closing tax loopholes so corporations and wealthy individuals can as easily avoiding  paying their fair share.

I believe all people have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of EVERYONE in our society, which means we have a duty to protect those who are most vulnerable from exploitation and discrimination. We need to protect against and work towards dismantling hate. Help others to have better access to social programs and access to affordable medical care to help people get back on their feet, not punish them for having stumbled. A world with no government is impossible, and rolling back regulations that protect the most vulnerable among us does not enable more freedom, it simply enables greed and corruption to take root. It is the place of government to protect us from tyranny – ALL of us from tyranny, not become an apparatus of the very thing it is meant to protect us against. Please remember this. We are a government of, for, and by the people. Not of, for and by those with access or wealth. Please listen to us. ALL of us. Not just those who agree with you.

Check out if you got the link for the survey in your inbox. I’m guessing I probably received it because I have signed White House petitions before.

I’ll leave you with a Hubert Humphrey quote from 1977:

“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

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“To blave” means to bluff

Well, 2016 happened.

For me, personally, it was not a terrible year. Sure, I was diagnosed with another c. diff infection (my 3rd – woo, hat trick!), and have spent the last few months reasonably stressed out about things both good and bad, but another poop transplant seems to have once again cleared out the former. As for the latter stress, well, half of the things contributing are things that don’t go away because they’re adult-that-is-alive things, and the others I have no control over, so fuck ’em. I’m doing what I can.

But in all, things are just about where I want them to be, and as another year clicks over I look back (not-so) fondly at all of those things I didn’t do. Namely, all those stories I didn’t finish and submit.

I kept thinking, “If only I get a job that doesn’t eat all of my mental energy, I can focus.” Or, “Once I get effective treatment for my depression, I can focus.” Or, my favorite, “Maybe if I reduce the stress/number of things online I look at/amount of music/TV/movies I consume, I can focus.”

Well, I’ve done those. I’ve done all of those. Can I focus?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

::wipes tear:: ::goes off to chase a squirrel::

Wait, what was I saying?

It’s becoming apparent that I can make the following revision to those previous experiments:

“I can’t focus.”

So that’s my goal. My resolution, if you go in for those sorts of things, for this year. I’m trying to find someone to talk to about my inability to focus on anything for more than 15 minutes at a time. Except for when I get super focused on something engrossing. Like the book I’m reading (I read 38 in 2016, which is pretty good considering I only really have time to read on weekends). Or video games (beating all three Bioshock games in the span of a week made my hands hurt). Or cleaning (the apartment has become spotless since I began to restrict myself from going on social media – I’m only allowing myself Instagram and Goodreads, currently). Or when I have a deadline and I will fuck over not only myself but everyone around me if I don’t meet that deadline. It seems like I can hyperfocus on anything except what I want to be focused on, which makes me feel like a lazy asshole. All the while everyone I know tells me I’m the least lazy person they know. Hmph.

Woah there, Tangent.

Anyway, I’m hoping this is gonna be there year where I figure out how to start addressing the “so I can focus” thing.

I’m setting a goal for myself to write at least 2 new stories this year. Last year I wrote 3 new ones. I’d also like to collect more rejections that my best year of being rejected and collect over 20. I’d also like to be able to focus long enough to finish that damn book draft and start working on the next one I’ve been picking at.

And I know why I’m getting the rejections. I’m lazy as fuck at editing. So I’m going to try to be better about making that a more organized effort than what I have been doing, which had no discernible system whatsoever beyond, “Sit here and frown for at least 20 minutes before you’re allowed to go down a wikipedia rabbit hole of research.”

An important work thing has made it impossible for me to go to Rainforest this year, which is always my most productive week of writing, where my mental energy isn’t sapped for the first 10 hours of every day by work, and I don’t have to run errands or do anything other than write all day. I’m more than a little frustrated I can’t go this year, but at the same time, getting too attached to the fact that I *can* churn out 25000 words of (honestly not that bad) fiction in five days, isn’t doing me any favors. It’s making me feel like I can only write well when I’m in the zone and I can only get in the zone if I have 8 consecutive hours to write. And when I sit down on a weekend to try and replicate that, well, let’s just say without any momentum going into those kinds of sessions, you’re gonna walk away disappointed when you spend 30 minutes trying to remember what the hell you were doing the last time you worked on this story and oh, hey, look, I need to do the laundry and go to the store and hang out with friends who are starting to get really grumpy with you because you can’t hang out during the week because you’re too fucking busy all the time.

Ahem. Tangent again.

Ah, well, here’s to 2017. May the resulting excuses take on a distinctly different flavor!

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I still have a mouth and a throat and a voice

I posted this on facebook this morning as I’m still dealing with the shock of it all. I wanted to put this here too. In the past I’ve been afraid of putting myself out there too much online in a public forum because I was afraid of exposing myself to the vitriol and doxxing and hate out there. I don’t want to put myself or anyone I love in danger just because I decided to speak up. But what yesterday means is that I no longer feel safe and accepted in my country. This election has legitimized hate in so many different ways and I can no longer in good conscience let my hope and optimism, that people are good and everything will turn out for the best, silence me.

I am a different person this morning than I was yesterday. I vow to never let myself become complacent again. There is too much at stake.

You know what’s really getting to me this morning?

That half the country feels I deserve to die if I lose my job. You know what Obamacare did? It made it so if I lose my job and employer health plan, I couldn’t be denied health insurance for my pre-existing autoimmune disease, which can, and has twice now, tried to kill me.

That half of the country sees the field I work in as a ivory tower cabal that’s out to destroy their faith. I can’t imagine what might happen to sciencefunding, and my ability to make a living and feel secure enough in my company’s future (see previous point). I can’t imagine the damage to be done to the planet, and the humanity on this planet, when we’re already past so many tipping points. When researchers who are trying to solve the problems of disease and starvation have their funding gutted because science-illiterate, conspiracy theory-loving nut jobs are in charge of the national budget from top to bottom.

That half of the country sees me as less that human because I love my girlfriend. How else could they have elected into office Mike Pence, who single-handedly sparked an HIV outbreak in Indiana because he believed that gay people didn’t need treatment, they needed better morals. Seriously. Read up on him. He’s an anti-science, religious fundamentalist, homophobic bigot. And he’s next in line now.

That my body does not belong to me. That I do not have the right to choose to not have children. That I do not have the right to say who is allowed and not allowed to touch me.

Yes, I am white. I am comfortably middle class. The kinds of tax policies Trump has been hinting at (there wasn’t a single detailed plan anywhere in that campaign) would benefit me. But they would benefit me over MOST.

I’m a socialist and a liberal at heart. I believe that people are fundamentally good and that everyone has hard days, and we should do our best to help each other out however we can, and I’m always happy to have my taxes go to social programs and improving both my local and national community. I would gladly give more in taxes if it meant that science, education, social safety nets, infrastructure and medicine benefited us all.

What last night taught me is that half of this country hates me for believing this. That Half of the country doesn’t believe that we ALL deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That half of this country wants me to shut my mouth and step in line and happily die because that must mean that I was lazy or I deserved it or I didn’t do adequate push ups to be able to use my bootstraps properly.

I am afraid of what will happen to me and the people I love.

Believe me when I say that I will not go down without a fight. I will not let you go down without a fight. I will not let the overwhelming hate and invalidation I feel from half of this country shut my mouth and make me fall in line with their fearful and small-minded values.

We are better than this and we can be better than this.

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This Past Weekend, My Brain Exploded with Joy

img_2998I was sitting on the ground in front of the most perfect dance performance to David Bowie’s Underground by a Rogue in a live action Dungeons and Dragons interactive nerdstravaganza.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard in my entire life. There are some delightfully mad creative people in this world and I enjoy my sometimes role as an enabler.

This year I got to camp with the folks who always make the art I enjoy the most at Youtopia. It was really great to be able to hang out and take it easy while watching the unsuspecting festival goers interact with  all the art pieces at Fool’s Errand.

I got to do a second round of the Nightmare Menagerie again this year, thanks to an art grant from the SDCAP folks (who were super great to work with), but also a successful GoFundMe campaign to buy the bulk stuffed animals I needed to sew into all kinds of weird combinations. I sewed a lot of really ridiculous ones and made a lot of ridiculous art to go with the custom ones for folks who donated.

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So stuffed with nightmares

It took about six weeks and a lot of ibuprofin (my hands still kind of hurt) to sew the total of 205 animals stoked in the Menagerie over the course of the weekend. And I was pleased to see that it was completely empty on the final morning. I have not yet started sifting through the nightmares. I still have the ones from last year. Eventually I’ll figure out something to do with them all.

Highlight possibly of my life [“the ones I missed because I was napping” edition]: Apparently one afternoon, a five year old girl took it upon herself to become a temporary  Menagerie barker. She stood there yelling, “Nightmares! Get your nightmares!”

Which also kind of made my brain explode with joy when I was told about it later.

After all the gut stuff and sewing, I was more than happy to take it super easy all weekend, considering I had just had another (successful, yay!) poop transplant the week before. I feel SO much better now compared to before. I hadn’t even noticed how truly shitty I had been feeling. I mean, I was having to leave work early to go home and lay down. I had a hard time making myself focus on anything. I couldn’t eat without a lot of pain and stopped working out because I was tired.

Two days after the poop transplant, I could focus again. I complete stopped being kinda nauseous all the time. No more abdominal pain. I haven’t even had any minor flare up symptoms. I no longer be have to paying super close attention to what goes in and comes out of me all the time.

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Poop transplants are both!

I AM FUCKING ECSTATIC.

As a result, I’m trying to be as careful as I possibly can be through this cold and flu season coming up and keep cramming as much fiber as I can into my diet to keep my new gut buddies happy for as long as I can.

Despite all the sickliness, the GF and I had a great time up in Seattle for one of my best friend’s weddings (where I was pleased that my rehearsal dinner speech achieved the right mixture of sentimental and dry academic). We got to wander through the Chihuly naming glass flavors, and wander around the 50th anniversary of Star Trek exhibit at the EMP and stand inches away from Hudson’s armor and gun from Aliens, and get to spend time eating and arguing about everything with my briefly reunited grad school fam.

I’m really fucking happy I’m feeling good again.

Now I just need to mail the GoFundMe custom creature orders to all my non-local donors, then I’ll hope I’ll be able to enjoy at least one long, uninterrupted minute where absolutely nothing is wrong.

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“We need a plaque for the trophy”*

Well, I’ve got c. diff again. I have no idea how long I’ve had it for. I have no idea what caused it this time (maybe those antibiotics I took for bronchitis back in February?!). We almost didn’t even catch it. The test was an afterthought before we were supposed to be starting me on more involved treatments for my colitis.

So that was a mindfuck.

I stared at the test results for a good long minute before it occurred to me that maybe I should be calling my doctor instead of dumbly staring at my monitor.

I had this for a year and a half not so long ago. They just kept throwing more and more expensive pills at me until I splurged on a poop transplant (because insurance didn’t really cover the whole thing). Then I was largely okay for months and months.

So when I talked to my clinic and they started laying out a months long antibiotic taper, I started having flashbacks to the endlessness of all of this shit before and asked if we could skip all of the antibiotics (which only worked while I was on them and as soon as I stopped taking them, it came back) and just go straight for another poop transplant.

Which I have coming up on Monday afternoon.

This time around, it’s been both better and worse. Better in that my doctors spent zero time fucking around this time and we’re immediately doing the thing that worked like a charm last time, so there will be much less time this go around that will be spent in pain, losing weight, or letting the depression sink it’s jaws back in. Worse in the implications of the fact that this fucking happened again.

We’d had a treatment plan in place before this test result came in. Does this change things? If not going into the more involved treatments means that I’m going to keep getting c. diff over and over again until maybe one time we’ll miss it and maybe that time it will fucking kill me because the symptoms are the EXACT SAME FUCKING THING AS COLITIS.

::dog-sigh::

But brain weasel health-related frustrations aside, I am extremely well cared for. I am one lucky asshole to have developed IBD fifteen minutes from one of the best care and treatment centers in the world. For example, the lady scheduling the poop transplant took a minute to tell me about what a badass the doctor who was going to be performing the procedure was in the field of inflammatory bowel disease, and I had the idle thought, one of the finest minds in his field is going to be shoving poop inside me next week.

And folks have been making sure I’m okay in the interim, rubbing my back when my guts

trophy

Yes, that is a c. diff bacterium on the lid

are cramping, getting me food, bringing toilet paper. The GF and my friend-fam have done an excellent job keeping my anxious brain from taking over.

So in the meantime, I’m going to continue to pretend that I’m not a little bit queasy a lot of the time and a lot queasy a little bit of the time; and I promise not to get angry at myself for having to take it easy or take a day off just because nausea, unlike abdominal pain, is not something that can just be powered through or ignored.

*from a discussion about the trophy my GF made for me before my first poop transplant in March of 2015.

 

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Stand-er Things

A couple weeks ago, a friend recommended I check out Stranger Things, and I proceeded to blow through the 8 seriously-why-are-there-only-eight episodes twice in the space of a week.

It hit me in practically every nostalgic squee that I had, particularly all the weird, dark 80’s horror nooks and crannies. All of that came wrapped in a thick, comfy Spielbergesque blanket and I found myself in a swimming pool on a hot summer day I never wanted to get out of (Oh, Barb!). One part ET, one part Poltergeist, with a generous splash of John Carpenter and Stephen King, it homaged so many vivid pop culture muscle memories it was impossible to NOT fall deeply and madly in love with it.

This pleasant feeling lingered long after finishing the show, and other than gaining a deeper and immediate appreciation of all the fan art and memes I’d been seeing popping up on Reddit and Tumblr in the weeks prior, I also now had to grapple with the deep-seated and utterly reliable post-nostalgic need to seek out more media to prolong the feeling.

It’s an almost universal compulsion brought on by a particular type of nostalgia that anyone that pays any amount of attention to pop culture immediately recognizes. It’s the same compulsion that’s been feeding the culture of remakes, reboots and sequels (which is not a 100% awful thing, but I’m not going to get into that now). And I feel like the wave has finally caught up to my weird “Oregon Trail” demographic of the Millenials.

Maybe it’s because we’re the cohort that finally has a little bit of money now that after a decade of following our dreams and making the last of our student loan payments, we have all that disposable income we kept getting told we were gonna have after college. And maybe that also means that people who’ve been toiling in the artistic fields this whole time are getting bigger budgets and higher profile projects, so they’re making the stuff they want to make.

Is this a useful thing to market to? Absolutely. I don’t see nostalgia as a bad thing. I see it as an inevitability. I am in my 30s. For the most part, all of my formative moments are behind me. There are scars all up and down my psyche from all the experiences I’ve had and art I’ve consumed over the years. It’s hard to look at anything now and not have a complex mixture of emotional reactions to them. Nostalgia is the direct result of the texturing of our experiences. That I get to choose how and when I remember certain times and feelings is one of the great things about the internet, because I now get to go back and experience those things over and see what the world once looked like to me and everyone else. That’s fucking valuable and becomes relevant to where I’m about to take this blog-ramble.

In any case, that nostalgia inspired me to go back and rewatch all the movies Stranger Things pulled from, which then got me to rewatching some Stephen King adaptations, and now I’m sitting here thinking about the changing depictions of good and evil in media over time, and the underlying assumption of the sad puppy mindset where we would all just be better off as human beings if we were all the same and all liked the same things and all wanted to live the same way.

 

Despite my macabre reading tastes as a pre-teen, King was never my cup of tea. I was more of a Clive Barker/H.P. Lovecraft kinda kid. But there was a part of me that found the movie adaptations of King’s stuff to be a sort of horror comfort food.

It’s a bit surreal to watch now. There’s this presumption in so many of these adaptations (I can’t speak for the books since I haven’t read any of them, though King did write the teleplay for the adaptation of the Stand, so I guess I can speak to that in this case) about what the world should look like, and it’s hard for me to get past the adorable quaintness of it all.

For example: the first scene where bad guys are introduced as characters (beyond the brief flashes of The Literal Devil in the cornfield), they’re driving a red corvette and listening to ZZ Top (one of them even lops ZZ Top so much that they specifically make a note to turn it up). Or in IT and Stand By Me, where the human villain in the script was a white kid in a leather jacket with a switchblade. I wish evil were actually this banal. Or had ever been this banal. I find it hard to believe this was ever the epitome of a “bad element.” But it was to to large segment of the population that spent the most money on media in the 80s and 90s. I can admire the feeling of optimism that’s behind it – that the world would be a better place if the worst person in the world was someone in a black leather jacket on a motorcycle.

But we live in a world where Winona Ryder’s character had to remind the owner of the store she worked at for years that she had never missed a day of work when he denied her request to take a few days off to look for her missing son. And there is evil in that momentary lapse of empathy, just as there is evil in the monster’s indifference to the meaning its prey finds in living life.

So it’s sometimes hard for me to watch things like The Stand, between the nostalgic comfort of my familiarity with its type of wholesomeness and the cognitive dissonance over the simplistic impossibility of it all.

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