Posted in fiction, Tabletop Poetry (and Other Artforms)

World Anvil Summer Camp: Entry 1

World Anvil, a worldbuilding site for writers, artists, and dungeon masters, is hosting its second annual summer camp. This event is like the worldbuilding version of nanowrimo–you have the month of July to respond to thirty worldbuilding prompts, in whatever order you so desire. For some time, I’ve been interested in developing a world in which several different varieties of magic exist, mostly unbeknownst to each other, so I decided to tackle it for this challenge.

My first response was to a prompt about an animal that is used as a beast for transportation or as a beast of burden. You can check it out here.

Posted in Tabletop Poetry (and Other Artforms), Visual Art

Pride Month and Playing with Color

There is a sport around here which involves riding a raft behind a speeding boat. Generally speaking, the goal of the person driving the boat is to throw the person on the raft into the water, and the goal of the person on the raft is to hang on for dear life. When you do fall off, you hurl into the water at such speeds that it feels like hitting concrete and for a moment, before your life jacket pulls you to the surface, you have no idea which way is up. Getting back from the road trip felt a little like that.

I had two poetry shows that I’m supposed to be getting off the ground, and people from every corner asking about these things. One show is just beginning, with people who were part of it threatening to drop out, and the other show needs a rebranding, including a new name, and did I mention it’s taking place at a venue where the owner just died?

Unfortunately, the cool colors did not show up well on camera.

Needless to say, the last few weeks have been very stressful. But the first show got off the ground (and is getting a new name!) and being in June, we celebrated Pride month, and I tried my hand at some rainbow eyeshadow.

And I had so much fun with that, I decided to do some Slytherin eyeshadow and support my house.

And then I made a new shirt.

Yes, it is an owl print shirt with owl buttons. Dan Dreiberg would be proud.

The artistic endeavors have been helping me get out of my panic. The next show is tomorrow, so here’s to hope.

Posted in fiction, Tabletop Poetry (and Other Artforms)

Songfiction: Alcohol

Warning: swear words and alcohol mentioned in this post.

Bo Burnham has this song about how modern pop songs are vague and stupid. You may have heard it…

Unrelated, but he has great shoes.

Anyway, I was recently listening to a CD by a local band, Randall Shreve and the Sideshow (now Randall Shreve and the Devilles), and I realized that one reason I like this band is that their songs (in my opinion) do the opposite of those that Bo Burnham is talking about here. Aside from the unique sound of their music, practically every song I listen to on that CD paints a story in my head, and after a while, I really wanted to write some of these stories down. So I did. They’re really more vignettes than stories, but I guess that happens a lot in the fanfiction world. I guess this is fanfiction. Songfiction?

And I guess ‘cuz I don’t drink, I started with a song titled “Alcohol.”

And I also decided to set it in a fictional world and throw in some loose connections to The Twelve Brothers. Why? Because I can.

Alcohol

 When Soraya walked in to her office on Monday morning, she already had people clambering for her attention.

“Good morning, Ms. Fontaine,” her assistant, Agnes, said as she approached her office, “Mr. MacWilliam called to discuss the merger. He said he would wait, but I insisted he make an appointment to speak with you when you were free. He’s coming in at ten tomorrow.” Soraya raised an eyebrow, knowing that Agnes wouldn’t have scheduled him for tomorrow unless there was something else. “And your brother, Isaac’s on line two,” Agnes finished.

For a brief moment, Soraya understood why bosses had affairs with their assistants. She would have kissed Agnes right there, were she not already engaged to one of the girls in IT. The fact was, Agnes understood how much Soraya valued family. She knew Soraya not only would sacrifice the entire company for her brothers, but she had already threatened to do it once. If I ever do give up the company, thought Soraya, I’m giving it to Agnes.

“Thanks Agnes, I’ll get it in my office.”

“Of course, Ms. Fontaine.”

Soraya walked into her office, closing the door with a quick gesture. Magic was rare in Thuo, but she was one of the lucky ones. Out of thirteen siblings, she was the only one who had inherited the gift from her father–the reason he had given the company to her, rather than the boys. She sat down in her chair and picked up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Soraya!” Isaac’s distinctive lilt came over the line. He had been living out of the country for the last seventeen years, and at sixty-three, he was beginning to show his age, even in his voice.

“Hey Isaac. What’s the problem?” She cut right to the chase. With the fees he would be racking up, she knew he would only make an overseas phone call if there was a problem.

“Have you heard from Ben lately?”

“Not for a few days, why?”

“He drunk dialed me yesterday. Sounds like that girl he was living with–Frida? left him. Anyway, I figured you were closer to him, and you might be able to more about it.”

Soraya was closer in more ways than one. Not only was her youngest brother quite fond of her, he lived less than an hour away. “Thanks Isaac. I hadn’t heard. I’ll look in on him.”

“Thanks Soraya. Oh, and, Soraya?”

“Yeah?”

“You need to come by. Meet your new grand-niece.”

Soraya smiled. Isaac knew how Soraya felt about family too. “I’m booking the tickets as soon as we finish the merger.”

“Alright. Take care.”

“You too, Isaac.”

Soraya hung up the phone and walked out of the office again. “Agnes, I don’t have any appointments today, do I?”

“Nope.” Agnes glanced at her desk calendar, though Soraya had a feeling she didn’t need to. “Family business?” she asked.

“You know me too well.”

“Is there a time we can expect you back?”

Soraya shook her head. “Tomorrow at ten. But I’ll be at Ben’s if there’s an emergency.”

Agnes nodded and jotted something down on the desk calendar. Then she looked up. “Good luck.”

***

Ben didn’t answer his door when Soraya knocked, so she spoke a word into the lock. It didn’t work with every door, but Ben’s was familiar with her. The door swung open, revealing Ben at his dining table, a half-full bottle in one hand, and an empty one laying on the table next to him.

“Hey! Is my sister!” He slurred as she walked in.

Soraya strode to the table, picked up the empty bottle, and dropped it with a thud.

Ben jumped. “Hey! You coulda broke that.”

“That’s not the one I want to break.” Soraya rubbed her face, trying to control her anger. She sat down next to him. “Isaac told me about Frida. When did she leave?”

“Friday.”

“And you haven’t drunk yourself to death?”

Ben looked down at his shirt, then at the bottle in his hand, then at Soraya. He shrugged. “Guess not.”

“I think that’s enough of that.” Soraya tried to take the bottle from Ben’s hand, but he fought her. After a short tug-of-war, they both lost their grip and it smashed to the floor.

Ben looked at the puddle on the tile. “Well, that’s a waste.”

“Trust me. It’s not helping you.”

Ben nodded. “You’re right. But you could help me!”

Soraya stood up. “Yeah,” she said. “I can give you a bath and get you out of this hole for a few days.” She tried to help him stand, but he swatted her away.

“No,” he said, “You can turn her into a raven! That’s what dad turned us into, right? When he was afraid one of us would steal the company? Seven years as a raven…”

“I am not turning Frida into a raven!” Soraya snapped.

“You could turn me into a raven. I think I made a better raven than I did a brother.”

“I am not turning anyone into a raven.” Soraya tried to pull her brother out of his chair, but he was too heavy for her.

“Come on! You’ve got to have some kind of magic that will make me better!”

Soraya continued to tug at her brother’s arm. “You can’t just…” Then she stopped. “Actually,” she told him, “I do think I have a spell that will work. But we’re going to need some more alcohol first.”

Ben pointed to the broken bottle on the floor. “But you broke mine.”

“Then we’ll just have to get more at my house,” Soraya said.

“Now you’re talking.”

***

Soraya’s alarm went off at seven the next morning. As she walked into the kitchen, she heard a low moan from the sofa. She ducked into the living room and flicked on the light. Ben shielded his eyes. “Good morning,” she said, “How are you feeling?”

“Ow.”

“If you want to come to the kitchen, I’ll make you breakfast.” Soraya went back into the kitchen and put some bacon on the stove. As she was cracking eggs into a pan. she heard Ben stumble in and sit in a chair at the kitchen island.

“When did I get here?” he asked.

“Yesterday,” Soraya said, continuing to crack eggs into the pan. “I went to your house after Isaac called.”

“Isaac called you?”

“Yeah. You called him when Frida left you.”

“I kind of remember that,” Ben said.

Soraya turned around to look at him. His eyes were red and his brown hair was tousled. He held his head in his hand. She waved a bottle of whiskey at him. “hair of the dog?” she asked.

“Oh, God no.” he turned away from the bottle and she smiled.

Soraya set the bottle on the counter in front of him and returned her attention to the stove. “Why did she leave you anyway?”

“Fell in love with somebody else. Apparently they’d been dating for six months.”

Soraya turned around. “And how long had you two been living together?”

“Two years. I… would you mind if I stayed here for a few days? I just… we bought that furniture together. All the pictures… her face is all over that house.”

Soraya flipped the eggs. “Stay here as long as you like.”

“Soraya?” She turned when he called her name. “Could you also move this?” Ben pointed to the bottle of whiskey. “Just looking at it makes me want to vomit.”

Soraya stashed it under the counter. “Just wanted to make sure it worked.”

“Make sure what…” Ben raised his head slowly to look at her. “You did magic on me?”

Soraya shurgged. “Well, you did ask if I could do something to fix you.”

“So you….”

“Made you sick of alcohol. Can’t even look at it.”

“Great,” Ben said as Soraya put the eggs on a plate, “I’ll be sober for the rest of my life.”

“Nonsense. The spell only lasts a couple of months.”

“A couple of months!”

Soraya set the plate in front of him. “By then, you should have figured out a healthier way to grieve. Now eat breakfast. I’ll take you to work.”

Ben picked up a fork and stabbed the eggs. “All that on top of a Monday.”

“Oh, I have one more thing to tell you,” Soraya said, catching Ben with his mouth full. “It’s not Monday.”

Posted in Uncategorized

The Trouble with Grimm

I know that Grimm is old news now, having ended in 2017, but I never got to watch it when it came out, mostly because I was in college and didn’t have a TV. But I love fairy tales. And I love retellings of fairy tales. And I love new stories in the fairy tale tradition (like Pan’s Labyrinth). I think fairy tales don’t even have to be that good for me to like them (though it’s appreciated). So now that I have finally had a chance to watch Grimm, this is not really an assessment of its strengths and weaknesses as a show, so much as its strengths and weaknesses in its use of fairy tales.

As you can guess, Grimm is heavily inspired by Grimm’s fairy tales. All the “fairy tale monsters” turn out to be people who have some additional animal form that also informs their personality (Galapagos turtle people tend to be peaceful, mouse people are skittish, goat people are carousers, and wolf and snake people are often aggressive and predatory, the list goes on.) And then there are grimms, who who can recognize the animal forms and are tasked with keeping the peace between them and humans (which in the past mostly meant mindlessly slaughtering other species.) 

This is not the first show to lay itself on a foundation of fairy tales, or even on Grimm’s fairy tales for that matter, but unlike some of its predecessors, the creators were not lazy about their choices. First of all, there’s the title of the show. Not only is it cluing the audience in to the fantastical element, it is telling them what to expect. The show is… well… grim. And they make that clear in the first few seconds of the pilot by starting with a quote from Little Red Riding Hood: “And the wolf thought to himself, what a tender young creature, what a nice plump mouthful… –The Brothers Grimm, 1812.” Then there’s the fact that the brothers Grimm were German, which they utilize by giving most of the monsters German names, like blutbad and hexenbiest. As you learn more about the world, more and more terminology is introduced, and the show uses it in ways that wouldn’t work with just any language. German is notorious for its long words, and the show goes as far as to have people tripping over new terms while old hands code-switch between English and German as if expecting everyone to understand. It’s the kind of humor that, surrounded by the terrors outside the door, is reminiscent of running across Clever Gretel wedged in between the likes of Snow White and The Maiden Without Hands in the Grimm’s anthology. But my favorite tonal aspect of Grimm? There is a secret society that kills Grimms, known as reapers, and thus we have the Grimm Reapers.  

But beyond all that, they went there with fairy tales. These are not the Disney stories, and this is not Once Upon a Time. Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood all receive eerie, modern retellings. I love what they did with Cinderella. And if you care about details, you will find their Rumpelstiltskin a work of art. They include everything from the young queen’s promise to three days to guess the name, from her toying with him once she’s figured it out to him splitting down the middle. They even include the bit where he’s dancing around a fire, along with a reference to the miller’s daughter, and a character named Spinner.

You don’t see this level of detail in TV shows much anymore. Creators tend to skim the surface of familiar stories, which is how we end up with episodes like “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester,” (Supernatural S04E07) and “Look Who’s Barking” (Charmed S03E21)… or for that matter, any episode of Charmed. Don’t get me wrong, it can be refreshing to see a new spin on an old ideas, such as in iZombie, when zombies take on the personality of the brains they have eaten. But it’s a rare delight when someone has taken the care to dig into the source material. And I think there’s certainly room for both of those in one place. Take Sherlock, for example, or since we’re talking fantasy, Lost Girl, which made changes such as making sirens neither strictly evil nor strictly female, while also remembering that though the cry of a banshee predicts death, banshees are not themselves malevolent. Now, Lost Girl is far from perfect. One particularly egregious episode is “Groundhog Fae” (S04E08), in which we discover that’s it’s important to celebrate Christmas in July, and Krampus is a dude in a Hawaiian shirt who creates time loops and turns regretful people into candy…. Which made it all the more satisfying when Grimm depicted a goat-man in a Santa suit whipping children for stealing Christmas presents and then throwing them into his sack.

Of course, Krampus is not a Grimm’s fairy tale. Because once Grimm gets going, it expands beyond the Grimm’s canon, including episodes on The Little Mermaid, The Three Little Pigs, and La Llorona. Or, perhaps, it does this even before it gets going, as episode two is based on the story of The Three Bears, which is actually an English folktale. Now, I don’t begrudge Grimm its right to go beyond the original collection. It’s a show about folklore, and as I said before, the title is as much about the tone of the show as it is about the source material. In fact, having grown up in New Mexico, I was excited about the La Llorona episode because I felt like it was digging into my childhood fears. But remember that quote from Little Red Riding Hood in episode one? Well, those quotes show up in every episode. But after episode one, they never have citations. 

It is as if Grimm figured that, after the first episode, audiences would just assume all the quotes came from Grimm’s fairy tales. And probably most of them do. But one quote is in Spanish (S03E05 “El Cucuy). Another is “Oh Christmas Tree” (S03E08 “Twelve Days of Krampus”) No one is going to mistake these for quotes from Grimm’s fairy tales. Nor is anyone going to mistake an episode about gladiators or La Llorona. And while there’s nothing wrong with having an episode based on The Little Mermaid, especially when you show the level of attention that Grimm does to the original story, there is a problem with failing to note that The Little Mermaid is a story by Hans Christian Anderson. Now it is possible that some of these episodes feature Grimm’s quotes and stories from others, but this doesn’t exactly solve the problem, as it conflates the two stories. The lack of citations seems to attribute each story to Grimm’s, like some sort of second-hand plagiarism.

And why bother passing off another story as a Grimm’s tale when there are already so many Grimm’s stories out there? This is a great chance to play with some of the more obscure fairy tales in the canon. After all, The Donkey is perfect for the premise they set up. Or they could remind us that in the original Frog Prince, the frog is a total creep! And where’s the episode on Fitcher’s Bird? Personally, I prefer a show with an expansive set of folklore, especially if they are going to show that folklore the respect of digging into it properly. But citing sources is also a way of paying respect to the original material, and it is no less important.

Posted in Tabletop Poetry (and Other Artforms), Visual Art

Light Up Cards

This month is the rough two year anniversary of my sewing habit. In that time, I have made half a dozen quilts, several shirts, a couple of skirts, and a dress. But all of this got started with a little Klutz book I picked up on a whim at our school’s book fair: Paper Fashions. Whenever I felt stressed out, I set to designing clothes. And then I got out my sewing machine to make them.

Ironically, I didn’t make this shirt, just added the appliques, but it’s a good example of paper to fabric.

But then there’s the question of what do with all the paper fashions? Sure, I can make magnets out of them, but at some point, I’m going to have a lot of magnets cluttering up my refrigerator.

Solution: make cards with them.

And with some help from Chibitronics, I even made them light up!

You can’t really tell in this picture, but one light is white and one is pink

I even tried my hand at a shaker card and attached one of my magnetic outfits to it.

I accidentally knocked the outfit while taking this picture.

Looking forward to giving these out!