You have nothing to fear: Welcome to Night Vale West Coast Tour

If you’re following me on Tumblr, you’ve probably already seen these — but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll spam if I want to.

Welcome to Night Vale Seattle, Cecil et al! Last night my sister and I, along with various friends, went to the first live show of the WTNV West Coast Tour. I dressed up as fem!Cecil, and she was a member of the Sheriff’s Secret Police (complete with working blowgun). TONS of great costumes: there were several Glow Clouds, a couple Dog Parks, at least one Hooded Figure, and Cecils and Carloses and Interns of every description. koshekhs-purr on Tumblr has a lot of nice collections of people’s photos from the night — turns out there were also some Eternal Girl Scouts, a Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home, and multiple Kevins. I am slightly disappointed that there was no Hiram McDaniels.

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A Feminist’s Horror Film Marathon

But it is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it. Are nourished by it. Shudder and cling and cry out – and come back for more.
-Bela Lugosi

You said it, Bela.

I love horror movies. I’m a total wimp about them, the screaming, crying, watch-the-movie-behind-my-hands, “NO DON’T GO IN THERE oh god why am I watching this” kind of wimp, but I love them. Horror movies not only create spaces where we can explore and exorcise cultural fears: they are fantastically complex pieces of media that can reinforce cultural rules or shatter them, that celebrate and condemn transgression.

Plus they’re just wicked fun.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites. For best results, I’ve recommended a food/drink combo and some complementary feminist literature. Happy Halloween!

Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys’ “Medea.” Don’t mess with the best.

Suggested reading for everything: Men, Women, and Chainsaws, Carol Clover — the definitive work on feminism and horror films

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Video

10 Minutes (Approximately) of Obscure Books 2

More obscure books from my library! I managed to cut it down to about 11:30, but only by losing a long rant on Jerry Spinelli’s “Stargirl.”

Books under discussion:
-Jerry Spinelli’s “Maniac Magee” and “Wringer”
-Peg Kheret’s “Sisters, Long Ago”
-Zilpha Keatly Snyder’s “The Egypt Game”
-Jean Craighead George’s “Who Really Killed Cock Robin?”
-Monica Hughes’ “Invitation to the Game”
-William Sleator’s “Interstellar Pig” and “The Boy Who Reversed Himself”

Edit: Amusing addendum! While going through my acting books I discovered that Peg Kheret wrote one of my favorite books of audition monologues for young actors, so while I kind of dis-recommend “Sisters, Long Ago,” Ms. Kheret herself is a fine author.

Diana Wynne Jones’ “Reflections”: 6200 numens

A portrait of Diana Wynne Jones, leaning her cheek on her hand and looking rather wry about having her picture taken.

Diana Wynne Jones, or: another person on the long list of people I’d like to be when I grow up.

Do you ever find a word following you around?

Numinous.

I’ve been reading this fabulous, fantastic, inspirational book I picked up at the Tattered Cover: Reflections on the Magic of Writing, a collection of lectures and essays by Diana Wynne Jones. Ms. Wynne Jones is — as I now know she would be stunned but hopefully pleased to hear — one of those authors that I read at a young age (starting with Witch Week) and have happily never been able to escape. She wrote children’s fantasy. . . . Or at least she wrote fantasy. One of the things she talks about quite a lot in the essays in Reflections is the way people perceive children’s literature as being a different, often lesser, form of literature than books written exclusively for adults. Wynne Jones taught me early on that there need be no distinction between children’s books and adult’s books; her books always work on multiple levels, in part, she says, because of

… the spectacle of my husband falling asleep whenever he attempted to read aloud from almost any children’s book available in the late sixties. It seemed to me that he and other adults deserved to have something to interest them if they were prepared to read a bedtime story, and that people of all ages were more likely to be interested in something I myself found vividly interesting.

Wynne Jones talks a great deal about the literature that influenced her as a child, those stories and books she read that stuck with her forever and taught her what it means to be a hero and how to tell a story and what magic is, and she uses numinous multiple times. I feel as though I’ve come across the word recently in conversations as well, but now I can’t quite put my finger on when or where.

Numinous. I was almost afraid to look up what the actual definition is, because just the sense of the word, from context, from the way it sounds in my head and in my mouth, is so rich and fabulous — in the sense of coming from a fable or myth — that if the actual definition was somehow more grounded and mundane I would be so terribly disappointed. Numinous, like luminous, glowing with meaning and matter, magical and dream-like and not entirely effable. Numinosity.

Luckily, that’s pretty much what it means. Imagine my relief. (Even better, there’s a noun — numen, meaning a spirit presiding over a thing or place, plural numina.)

As I prepare to turn off my computer and start working on my own writing, I can’t help thinking numinous, and the half-formed images it sparks off in my head make me think maybe there’s something there, some misty light I can siphon into my own work.

[The idea for a book] has to be a creative mix of interior and exterior notions. The best ideas conflate three or more things, rather in the way dreams do, or the minds of very small children. A very good example is a baroque muddle of my own when, at the age of five, I was evacuated to the Lake District early in the Second World War. I was told I was there because the Germans were about to invade. Almost in the same breath, I was warned not to drink the water from the washbasin because it came from the lake and was full of typhoid germs. I assumed that “germs” was short for “Germans.” Looking warily at the washbasin, I saw it was considerately labeled “Twyford,” clearly warning people against germ warfare. Night after night, I had a half-waking nightmare in which Germans (who had fair, floating hair and were clad in sort of cheescloth Anglo-Saxon tunics) came racing across the surface of the lake to come up through the plug hole of this washbasin and give us all Twyford.

Reflections is on shelves and available for purchase at your local Internet bookseller, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you enjoy fantasy/sci-fi, if you enjoy children’s lit, if you write, if you work with kids, if you’ve ever read Fire and Hemlock and been enchanted but completely confused by it*, get this book.

*I’m still holding out hope that she’s going to explain Hexwood somewhere in here. Goddamn Hexwood.

Link

Another blog rec: man boobz

A woman wearing a dinosaur mask, wearing a T-shirt that reads

I’m sure this picture makes sense in context. Somehow.

Another blog recommendation: man boobz, by the irrepressible and inimitable David Futrelle. I discovered man boobz sometime last year, devoured the archives, and now look forward to its updates in my Google Reader every day.

This recommendation comes with a major content warning. Man boobz is dedicated to exposing, critiquing, and mocking the Men’s Rights movement and misogyny in general. Futrelle does an excellent job of quoting and citing the people he’s calling out, letting their words speak for themselves — but that means that very often he is discussing topics like rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment, and his blog often contains extremely misogynistic language. If those are likely to be triggering or upsetting to you, you may want to steer clear. That said, Futrelle does a pretty good job of putting in his own trigger and content warnings when he’s discussing particularly vile stuff.

(It also sometimes contains kittens to clear the palate.)

While I read Slacktivist to remind me that there’s hope and love and hippies out there, I read man boobz to remind myself that there’s still a lot to be angry about, a lot to fight for. The people Futrelle quotes are often cartoonishly horrible, but they’re still real. They are real actual people who think insanely terrible things about me because I’m a woman and a feminist. They are actually for real out there. (I have lived a fairly charmed life in terms of knowing good men who consider me a person — or at least polite men who treated me that way — so sometimes it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that these retrograde excuses for humans exist in the real world.)

But people like Futrelle are also out there, calling those cartoonishly awful people out and doing it with humor and wit. So that does give me some hope.

Slacktivist life: A blog rec, and some musings on faith

David Wong, senior editor of Cracked.com, has the same favorite blog as me.

Movie poster for Left Behind. It's terrible.

The poster for Left Behind, the movie. Oh, Kirk Cameron. Just . . . oh, Kirk Cameron.

Fred Clark’s blog, Slacktivist, is probably best known for his long-running in-depth skewering of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind books, the best-selling evangelical series/franchise about what happens to those left behind to deal with the Antichrist after the Rapture takes every true Christian and every child on Earth to Heaven, body and soul. You may have heard of it recently because Nicolas Cage has signed on to star in the remake of the movie.

Left Behind is a very bad book series in terms of theology; it’s an equally bad book series in terms of writing. (In November, when writing the first draft of my novel, I started to notice that passages of Nicolae: Rise of the Antichrist had certain stylistic similarities to my novel — repeating things to make absolutely sure the audience got the point, spending pages upon pages on minutiae like how my characters were getting from one place to another, etc. The thing is, I will be revising and removing that kind of thing before I publish. Jenkins and LaHaye just went ahead and published the terrible first-draft version.) Reading Fred Clark’s careful, clever critiques of the books’ writing style over many years has done wonderful things for my own writing ability.

(Below the cut I’m going to start talking about Christianity and my relationship to it. Feel free to skip by it — but check out those links above!) Continue reading