The first volume of Alisik opens with the lead character, a teenage girl, asking the reader, “Do you believe in love at first sight?” She says, but, “There’s one problem. I’m dead” (8). A pretty big problem considering that her love, Ruben, is alive. The catch is, he doesn’t know that she’s dead. He takes frequent short cuts through the graveyard she’s buried in since his accident left him blind. Other humans can’t see or hear Alisik or her undead companions, but Ruben can.
While Alisik frames the wrong side of the tracks love story as the center of the story by opening and closing the first volume with it, the world is what’s really remarkable. There are five other “post mortals” waiting with Alisik—Ottie, General, Frings, Hothead, and Pointy Head. They try to explain to Alisik what’s going on, but all they know is, “We’re no longer living, but haven’t made our final journey yet” (41). There’ll eventually be a judgement on whether each of them belongs in the good place or the bad place. Much of this volume is dedicated to establishing the rules that Alisik and the others must follow, which they break frequently.
Continue reading at Wicked Horror!
Technology is advancing on an exponential curve. Cell phones started getting popular in the ’80s, and them slipping their way into pop culture is an unending source of amusement. Watching a ‘roided up ass-kicker take out a phone bigger than his bicep would ruin most ’80s action movies if they weren’t so campy to begin with. The Twilight Zone doesn’t run into ’80s cell phone problem in its fourth episode though. Despite using cutting edge (for 1959) technology, Rod Sterling’s “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” tells a timeless story by focusing on the emotions of its protagonist.
The episode starts with a “Picture of a woman looking at a picture.” Barbara Jean Trenton (Ida Lupino) is a movie star that the world has passed by. She’s set up a home projector, and each day she watches her own films. She’s frustrated with the way the world is now, lamenting the life she had. Having a home theater was a luxury then, but the piece of the story that’s aged well is that emotional core.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but there are days where I click through my old Facebook photos and think about how different my life was. There are high points—me, drunk out of my mind in a cowboy hat on a sunny day, hopping into the arms of my friend Kit—but the lows are missing. I posted more negative things then than I do now, but even then I kept most of my negative emotions private. Creatively, I keep looking at an interview I published in The Missouri Review, my only pro-publication, in 2013 and wondering if that was my peak. Sterling didn’t know about Facebook or the eventual drying up of pro-rate magazines when he wrote that episode sixty years ago.
He couldn’t. The reason it still hits so hard is because while the technology is now hopelessly out of date, the emotions aren’t. And that’s the trick, if there is one, to writing something with staying power. If your stories are emotionally honest, they’ll connect with readers over centuries. The Odyssey and The Iliad are still read today. Shakespeare too. There is an emotional core to a great story that transcends, no matter what trappings surround it.
We could argue about whether or not “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” is a great story. We could argue about whether its portrayal of Barbra, the first female protagonist on The Twilight Zone is sexist, though I’d argue that Sterling is painting a picture more similar to Amy Schumer’s “Last Fuckable Day” than a screed against women. I’d rather look back at my old photos though, and hope, that like Barbara, I might slip back into those sunny days.
I lost my lactase enzymes—the ones responsible for breaking down milk products—when I was still in high school. It was a bumpy road figuring out what had milk in it, and what didn’t. Things with cheese and ice cream were obvious, but less obvious was where there might be butter. In restaurants, the answer was almost everything. At home, it took some time too. Eventually—probably too long after—I noticed that at the end of every list of ingredients there was a bolded sublist that had all of the potential allergens.
Even cheese has a warning that it contains milk.
There’s good news: this list doesn’t affect anyone who doesn’t need it. The lactose was still there. And even better, no one was forced to read it that didn’t want to.
I got invited back onto Beyond the Cabin in the Woods! Very grateful, as always.
We talked about Ari Aster’s controversial (and in my opinion excellent) film Hereditary. You can listen here!
My conceptual humor piece, “Excerpts from ‘Fire Cop'” is available in the newest issue of the Corvidae Courier! You can read it here!
Buddy cop comedies are a staple of American media. From Starsky and Hutch, to Lethal Weapon the movies series, to Lethal Weapon the TV series where Clayne Crawford is being replaced by Seann William Scott for its third season. They’re fun because the old-cop-who’s-about-to-retire and the young-cop-who-doesn’t-play-by-the-rules dynamic works. It leads to friction, and in the end, an unbreakable friendship. Russian director Aleksandr Andryuschenko and writer Andrey Zolotarev get that, but they sensed that something was missing. Or maybe that it had become too familiar. Or maybe it wasn’t Russian enough. So they decided that buddy cop movies would work better if the older officer was a baby. Thus, The Cop Baby was born.
It opens with a prison exit interview. Katya (Liza Arzamasova) is assessing whether Khromov (Sergey Garmash) is rehabilitated enough to be allowed back on the streets. She doesn’t know that he’s a cop who has gone undercover for the last year to gain the trust of the elusive drug lord, the Dragon. He doesn’t know that in the next fifteen minutes of film he’ll trade bodies with the baby she’s pregnant with. He insults her husband, his soon-to-be father, calling him a loser who ruined her career.
Continue reading at Wicked Horror!
The Twilight Zone makes a misstep with “Mr. Denton on Doomsday.” Al Denton is an alcoholic, a disaster drinker who’s willing to slurp from a broken bottle as the liquor tinkles out, not caring about the glass that might come with it. It ends much like James Frey’s fabricated autobiography A Million Little Pieces, with the protagonist kicking his addiction to the curb without help. Alcoholism, a disease which one of eight Americans suffers from, isn’t something people can easily walk away from, as Frey and “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” seem to believe. No one walks away unscathed.
If you’re going to write about something that affects other people’s live but not your own, do the research. This is something I talked about John Landis not doing enough for in “Beyond the Cabin in the Woods: The Twilight Zone Movie” too. If you want to write about identity issues, you may. Your characters can be a different race, a different gender, a different orientation, a different religion, a different anything than you. But you need to do the work to get it right. If you half ass it, you’re doing a great disservice to the people you’re misrepresenting. Don’t be that writer.
And before you go any further, ask yourself: What about me and my experiences qualifies me to write this character at this time? Make sure you have a good answer and that you’re spending time and money on traditionally underrepresented characters created by traditionally underrepresented characters.
Here are some resources for how to write from a point of view other than your own respectfully and realistically:
-“12 Fundamentals of Writing the Other” by Daniel José Older
-“Heroes and Heroin — Writing A Character Who has an Addiction” by Roz Morris
-“Writing With Color” (Blog)
-“Writing Gay Characters” by Megan Rose Gedris
– “Before You Write About a Trans Character, Read This” by Casey Plett
-“The Dos and Don’ts of Writing About the Disable” by Nicola Griffith
-“What to Consider When Writing Mental Illness” by Robert Wood