Peering Back In and an Update

I think it would be an understatement to say that I haven’t written here in a while.

There’s a pretty good chance, in fact, that I’ve even said this before. I remember when I used to write on Mythic Bios a lot. And when I mean a lot, I mean every single day. Then it became every other day. Then every two days, and after that, well …

Life happens, I guess is the best what to sum it all up.

How do I even catch up at this point? What highlights can I share with you?

Well, I can tell you that I’d been working on two very long pieces of fanfiction on A03. Both of them are set in the Fate/Stay Night universe. One of them, Fate/Stay Unlimited Bullets is finished — despite the errors I keep reading over and correcting — but the other, the longer one, Fate/Stay Life has gone into something of a hiatus. I know how I want to continue it. I know what parts need to be elaborated on. And I also know that if I sit down with it again, I will be able to continue more or less from where I started. But Unlimited Bullets really took a lot out of me: more than I thought. And given the content in FSL, I suppose it makes sense that because of a transitional period in my life it does make sense that I’m taking some time away from it. I do plan to come back to it, this 96 chapter monstrosity and ongoing thing mind you, but not right now.

But I know there are a few of you, who still read this Blog, that aren’t here to hear about my fanfiction, though you can definitely feel free to read it if you want as I am Ma_Kir on A03.

I’ve thought about writing more Alternative Facts short stories. I even have ideas and words and turns of phrase typed out in a draft somewhere. But … I don’t know. I just haven’t felt the impetus to continue for a time. Between having to find the right epigraphs, really focus on the language I’m creating, and think about what’s … going on, or could have gone on in Amarak, and just how derivative it all is, it is a lot of work to go through. I find that the stories don’t really work on their own, but you need to read through all of them in a certain order for them to get … some idea as to what is going on. I find it’s not as accessible, and I wonder just how good they really are when it comes down to it. If I have a story that is really pressing, rest assured I will share it with you. If not, they have been an interesting experiment in speculative political fiction.

I am, however, working a lot more on another universe. Actually, I have been working on two: creating one, and participating in the continued development of another. My original universe is derivative as well, with a Frankensteinian mix and mash going on, as these things go, and I hope to write two more stories in the series before attempting to get more readers to look at it. I play with horror archetypes and subvert a lot for human stories in that world. I hope them to be more accessible and while world-building is happening as a result or consequence, it is really the character interactions and more relatable characters that are forming that I hope to have stick. I look forward to sharing them, one day.

As for my other endeavour … I’ve written about 20th Century Boys before on this Blog, a long time ago now. In that manga, a group of children created a game — a game of make-belief — where they are a group of heroes fighting against the forces of evil. They made a whole mythology that someone, years later, adopts into an evil plan to take over Japan. I’m not really involved in something like that, but I can relate very much to a project or a world built between friends from childhood, and watching it grow with us.

My friends and I have been playing a homebrew world our DM created long ago for years now. I started playing it, with them, in 2001. I played one character from 2001 to 2004: developing him from a slave to essentially a demigod at the time. It was this process of collaborations and player verses player sessions, as well as solo sessions, that helped develop the game from a science fiction derivative to a more unique and quirky epic fantasy world. It isn’t entirely accurate, of course, but the the gist of it. I played again in 2005, as another character in the same world. Then I was gone for … about eleven years until 2011 when we continued the game where our old characters more or less became gods, and we played new characters in that world. And then, our DM made a multiverse in the form of various campaigns with these characters and elements which figured into it in 2012-2013 or so. They were fun in themselves.

I’ve roleplayed as wizards, mages, necromancers, sorcerers, alchemists, artificers, and the like. I have even been an assassin and a cleric at times. But the funniest thing is that the most enjoyment I’ve been having as both a player — and as a creator — is my current bard. I attempted to play a haunted bard in a Ravenloft campaign, and wanted to really add poetry — as an imitation of singing, or playing an instrument — to bring the bard to life. I had a choice, this current campaign and going back to our mainline homebrew world to either be a bard again, or a monk: which was another class I’d been thinking of trying out.

But I decided to be a bard. There was another game we were going to play where one of my characters in a faction setting was going to be one, and I just liked the idea. And she developed slowly from there, from a concept to more of a person. It’s funny. These days I tend to play female characters for some reason. Maybe I attempted to do so in 2012, to differentiate one alchemist character from another I was playing in a D&D campaign with my same friends. It … didn’t go well, for that character, and it impacted my experience.

But then in about 2016 or 2017, I tried it again, and I find I really like these characters. And my bard is one of the best. I have been writing whole epic “Ballads” of our adventures and certain world lore, in an attempt to spread information and misinformation on the world: to unify factions to deal with a greater evil. But I find I really get a lot out of this game writing these Ballads and actually reading them aloud in session. I haven’t really read anything I’ve written aloud in a while, never mind write something out by hand. I find it does affect the game, and not just because the DM gives us Inspiration or sometimes some bonuses, or even in my case EXP.

I just feel more immersed in that world. I feel like, when I write stuff like that, I am accomplishing something. Between that, and my own original creations … I could seriously live my entire life doing something like this. I wish I really could. If we ever made a studio, and I was asked to be a writer for it, I would do it in a goddamn heartbeat.

I find that the issue with my life right now isn’t that I don’t know what to do, or what I am doing. I do know what I want to do. Often, it’s just the world that won’t cooperate, or do what it’s told. Lol.

More realistically speaking, I just need material to work with, and collaborators, and people and resources that can help me make something tangible that will … support us. And the focus to do so, along with the determination in a hard, ridiculous world to keep going.

I’ve accomplished some other things too. I wrote some letters that got published in comics series. I’ve helped edit, and even make some character concepts for my friends’ — my role-playing group’s own game — Ankle-Biters: Pixies Vs. Gremlins game. And I wrote a Sequart article about the film adaptation of How to Talk to Girls at Parties that got retweeted by Neil Gaiman himself: which made my day for a really long time.

So I have not been completely idle or brooding in this time I’ve been away. Sometimes I think I should take my friend up on his old offer and see if I can redesign this Blog and make it look less … choppy, and plain with its ads. And maybe with something more substantial to offer besides my nerdy speculations and fanfiction, and the occasional story, I can build something more noticeable. Perhaps there is a way to get my works to interrelate. That would be sweet.

It’s been a stressful time, in an uncertain age. But I just wanted to write here to let you know that I am still alive, and I have not forgotten this Blog: or you. Hopefully, we will be seeing a little more of each other, if not here then elsewhere. Once again, thank you all for reading.

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Two Stories About Seeing Stan Lee, and One Where I Actually Met Him

I can’t believe I never told the story of how I met Stan Lee, at least not on this Blog.

There were actually a few times I saw him, outside of his Marvel Comics, and even his Marvel Cards: of which he has Stats, obviously.

I met him in two dreams. The first time, was on August 10, 2016. According to what I painstakingly unearthed from Facebook’s terrible search history:

“had a dream yesterday of running into Stan Lee at the Toronto Reference Library. He was dressed as a janitor and it felt like he was making a cameo in wherever it was I found myself. I was in front of a bin and I found a collection of my old crudely drawn and pencil-crayon coloured comics. He asked me if these were mine. I said I used to make these, once. Then I took a book exactly identical to the one I picked up, somehow already in my hand, and put it with the rest.”

I don’t actually remember what was even in the book, assuming it existed yet: or became words instead in reality. I did draw once, a long time ago, inspired by his work and others even if I didn’t fully understand what he did, then. It was a while that I would interact with him, dream or otherwise, until May 18, 2018:

“where I was lost in a giant version of my University, thinking I hadn’t graduated grad school. Then Stan Lee made a cameo in my dream and got younger, and younger, as he initiated a conversation with me. He said I will meet with him on a Wednesday or something. Then he was gone.”

Somewhat appropriately, that was the last time, so far in another reality, that I interacted with him.

But then, there is the story of how I met him in reality. I must have told it to a few people, and I didn’t really write it out. It was between August 31 and September 1 of 2016. I’d gone through a rough year where, finally, after being jerked around for so long I got on social assistance in the form of ODSP. I’d challenged the legal system, as part of the system, and they settled with me out of court. I had been worn down, and tired after years of this.

And then, one day, I discovered that Stan Lee was coming to Fan Expo. That this was a special event, as fairly soon he wouldn’t be travelling out of the United States. I decided, then, despite my history with the previous Fan Expos — which were organized by HobbyStar — that I had to see him. I had to see the man who helped to create some of the characters in the comics that inspired me, and not only helped me create stories, but even learn how to speak and write words period. I had to do something to revitalize who I was, and as part of something that meant a damn to me.

So I not only went to Fan Expo, but I bought “Backstage Access,” such as it was to Stan Lee himself. That Fan Expo was one of the best events I’d ever attended in and of itself. It had new management and organization, thanks in a good part to Kevin A. Boyd, whom I knew in the comics scene, and met when he owned the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery.

I’d met Alex Kingston and Michelle Gomez, River Song and Missy respectively at that Expo, as well as seeing a Jay and Silent Bob Get Old Show. Bu then, there was Stan Lee himself. I’m going to try to piece in some excerpts I wrote down from Facebook at that time, and then my own impressions about meeting the man personally.

First, when he finally did come on that stage, mostly legally blind and hard of hearing, when he came up there in his old sweater and pants, and his dark glasses under the cheers of everyone in that audience, thirty years at least seemed to slough off of him. He smiled the brightness smile, and waved, and cracked jokes. And there was just this … presence about him that I’d seen in videos, and heard about, but I never truly felt, not personally, and until that moment.

Here was one observation I managed to write down from that time:

There were two poignant moments in the Q+A Panel with Stan Lee today that I want to write down here.

The first was his response to what it was like to work with Jack Kirby. He told us that it was like watching someone tracing a story or a picture that was already there inherent in the page. He said that Kirby was never late and he never complained: that these were some of the reasons why he was called the King.

The second thing he said was in response to whether or not Peter Parker should be allowed to grow old. He told us that Spiderman still has stories to tell and as long as he does, he will remain young forever.

Given that this is supposed to be Stan Lee’s last trip to Toronto, there is something that really hit home about that. And you know, maybe he’s said all these things before. Maybe he is just repeating himself. But until today I didn’t get to hear *him* say these things myself and I am glad that I did what I had to in order to do so.

A bonus: Two people asked him two different questions. A kid asked him “What advice would you give to DC to make a movie that’ll make critics happy?” while another person asked him something to the effect of why Marvel films have worked out so well.

He tied both of these into a cameo theory: this self-effacing joke that people see the Marvel films for his cameos, and see them multiple times in case they missed them the first time. He also suggested that maybe he should star in a DC movie and write one.

The hilarious part is that Stan Lee actually did write something for DC called Just Imagine … where he re-imagined the origins of DC superheroes he had written them in “the Marvel way.” In the unlikely legal event that this mini-series ever got film rights, Stan may just get his wish. Whether that is What If? or Elseworlds jurisdiction, I don’t know.

All of this is still relevant, even now. He has probably said many of these things before, but it just felt … different, hearing them again. And then, there was the Backstage Event. Not only did I get to keep a lanyard from that time, but afterwards he signed my copy of his comics autobiography illustrated by Colleen Doran, and he took a picture with me.

Before that, however, the rest of us with the Backstage Access, a smaller group crowded under the podium, moving closer to hear more of what he had to say. I probably forgot a lot of it, much to my shame. But here is what I did write down — again — on Facebook. It was something that I actually didn’t do:

I do want to mention one more thing. I actually did have a question for Stan Lee at his Backstage Event. Unfortunately I wasn’t chosen as we ran out of time,, but my actual question was to name one comics idea he had that he never had the opportunity to use. He probably would’ve wise-cracked his way out of it and told me to get one of my own, or his helpers might’ve given me the stink-eye, but there you go. I think I will leave you with that for now.

But regardless, I was in the line with others to meet him. Some had Captain America Shields. Others had vintage comics issues. One girl tried to flirt with him in a costume that, for the life of me, I can’t even remember. And then, I came up. He took my copy of his autobiography, and scrawled his signature. Then I said to him: “Excelsior, sir.” He snorted, either not hearing what I said, or being amused. His helpers certainly looked bemused by that.

Then, we took a picture together. He smelled of scotch, and old man. Like my uncles, and grandfathers did at times. And that was the first, and last time I ever saw him in his physical avatar.

It meant a lot. More than I even knew. I think just that Fan Expo, and the experience in the audience listening to Stan Lee, and then meeting him after he told us some stories that I could see him telling people near a hearth with some bourbon on the rocks helped rekindle something that had been so battered, and tired inside of me.

A lot has happened since then. And now, today, the man himself has gone to go watch the Watchers, and annoy the fuck out of them.

I almost didn’t go to that Event, you know. I was ready to cancel going to a Fan Expo I’d previous been disappointed with, just to see my girlfriend at the time in the States. But that was one instance where I was thankful that her schedule interfered with our previous plans, because that rescheduling encouraged to do something I never thought I’d do again, and to meet someone I never thought I’d have the chance to see: a person who helped influence me, and the imaginations so many others.

So I’m going to say what I’ve already said on other social media:

Excelsior, Stan Lee. I’m glad I got to meet you. I hope make to a tenth of what you made, and helped produce. Thank you, for all of it.

And for the chance to have my own, brief cameo.

 

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There is Punk and Heart in How To Talk To Girls At Parties

I’d read Neil Gaiman’s short story “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” a long time ago now, back in 2006 when it had been published in Fragile Things. It’s hard for me to remember…

Source: There is Punk and Heart in How To Talk To Girls At Parties

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A Walkthrough

A spiritual sequel to Let’s Play.

A long time ago, now, I used to play Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I’d play it every day before school, during lunch time, or on one of my breaks, during the downtime waiting for food runs between the table-top role-playing games I’ve always had with my friends, and before bed when I really needed to sleep.

It wasn’t even the DX version, which might date me a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I did play it once and while when I got a GBC, but more often than not it’d be my old Gameboy with its chartreuse, grey-white casing, and faded grey yellow screen where I’d play the original. One of my friends might have told you about that already so I guess you’re not hearing anything particularly new.

Some retro players I know say that they like the 8-bit tunes: that it brings them nostalgia. You know the kind: the type that reminds you of being kids, not having to pay taxes, not working a dead-end job, not being on welfare or disability, always have energy — being so damned restless, vibrating with it — and going over to your best friend’s house after school. A lot of players like the original Zelda because of a similar feeling, you know? The Legend of Zelda was all cryptic and obscure on the NES, but it was really all about weird symbols, fighting monsters, and exploring. You never knew what you were going to find in that 8-bit world.

But to me, the music and pixels aren’t nostalgic. They don’t remind me of something that happened to me, of my childhood, or what I used to be. Playing those games reminds me of a place that doesn’t exist: that never did. When I played A Link to the Past, for example, it was new and exciting and tapped into a mythic place that even when you were directed to where you needed to go, there was still something new to discover in that colourful, dark world between worlds. And yeah, I’ve played Ocarina of Time, and Majora’s Mask that both tried to be all third dimensional, and all the games that became part of a timeline. The Hyrule Historia is a beautiful clusterfuck that tried to take iterations of a legend and a myth, and impose a linear-chronology onto the experiences: or a least a heroic test of multiple choice.

And every time, when left to my own devices, I’d return to Link’s Awakening. But just like I don’t wear baseball caps nowadays, I don’t play that game anymore, at least not as often these days. I always said that one of the reasons why it’s my favourite Zelda game is that the game’s not about Princess Zelda at all … if any of them ever really have been. I’d relax into the familiar koan of Link gradually realizing that he is asleep in the dream of a greater, ancient being that dreamed an entire island into existence on the open sea. And I’d think to myself, way before the Historia ever came, that this was more the Adventure of Link than Zelda II, and its cool side-scrolling uneven linear weirdness, had ever been.

Way before I knew about artificial intelligence attaining consciousness, or awakening — far before dealing with Mother 2 and its Magicant that we barely missed out on in North America, I just felt that quest of Link encountering all the strange entities that made up his dreaming mind: his hopes, his humour, his play, his fears, and his pain. I mean, can you imagine being someone knowing that you will always have to save a princess? That she will never really be safe? That no matter what you do, you will have to go out there, or your kids, or spiritual successors will need to head out and fight the demons and the monstrosities that you can never fully quell? After a while, if you were that character — if that kind of character had a consciousness — the cycle would all seem so utterly meaningless.

But I think what made me really stop playing Link’s Awakening, was Marin.

Zelda isn’t the only girl you meet in the Zelda series. From Malon to Princess Ruto of the Zoras to Nabooru and her questionable gifts to helpful little boys … to Midna and her clever little games that lead to her true nature, all of them were interesting. And sometimes you had to save some of them, or fight alongside another, or do a quest for them. And whatever else, they always wanted something from Link.

Even now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. That’s just life really, miniaturized and making you see just how things are. But Marin is … she was different. At the beginning of Awakening, Marin is the one that saves you. She nurses you back to health at her and her father Tarin’s hut. She sings songs in the Animal Village and it’s her song that helps you progress past the Walrus. And all you have to do, in exchange, is spend time with her. That’s it. You fool around with her in Mabe Village, falling down a well, playing the Trendy Game, and eventually talking on the side of the beach where she found you the first time … and you almost talk about real feelings.

Even when you do have to save her on Tal Tal Heights, she almost tells you something important: something that isn’t part of waking up the Wind Fish. By the time the game is almost over, she will teach you “The Ballad of the Wind Fish” and that you remember her when you leave the Island, as she will never forgive you if you forget her.

Of course, you always discover the truth: that Koholint Island was created from the dream of an ancient and powerful being known as the the Wind Fish, and that once the Nightmares keeping it asleep are defeated, it will awaken and the Island and everyone on it will cease to exist.

In the end, when I look back on the game now Marin, the girl who saved Link, and never asked anything from him aside from spending some time with her … also never existed. At least Midna exists somewhere in the Twilight Realm. In many ways for Link, it’s so much worse than someone you love being dead, than not being in the same reality anymore, than your Princess even being in another Castle.

I’m a lot older now, obviously, since the first time I played this game … since even the first couple of times I played it. I can refer, roughly, to a Japanese sentiment of mono no aware: an understanding of the beauty of sadness in the transitory nature of things. I can also go into some Classical Western thought and look at a woman representing the wisdom that a man gains when he ultimately loses her, especially by his own hand: as Link did when he beat all Eight Nightmares, and used the song that Marin taught him to awaken the Wind Fish.

Yeah. Even now, I’m still not comfortable with either thought: that Marin had to cease to exist, that she had never existed, so that Link could complete his own awakening as a whole person away from Zelda … before, you know, presumably returning to Hyrule and reaffirming the cycle all over again. Hell, Marin even looked like Zelda, when it comes right down to it.

That was my final koan, really, as we all finished high school. What did it mean when you met someone — when Link meets someone who helps him, who just wants to spend time with him in exchange and ends up never existing? Is gaining and losing someone like her the only way he could be free? And was he truly free? I used to dream about it, at times, even when I fell asleep in front of my laptop playing the “Sword Search” theme of Link’s Awakening: the song making me think of a Link who had gone old and grey, who’d retired from adventuring, who had put the Master Sword away for his successors, and dozed on his front porch remembering bygone days when he was a hero and he persevered, and had many quests. I wondered if sometimes, in his sleep, he thought about a seagull singing her song across the world. I wondered if, in his sleep, he ever murmured her name, after all that time.

I was a very angry kid back then. Like I said, the game was never nostalgic. For me, it always reminded me of the present. And when the present became the past after a while, and I got tired of playing and watching playthroughs past 5 am, I put the game away, and moved onto other things.

The thing about a game, is that when it frustrates you, it’s that it generates the opposite of a Zen state. And it’s in that negativity, when you can’t solve that part, that sometimes you need to step away and do something else for a while. Maybe one day, after I’ve played some other games, I will return to this one, searching across an invisible shore, an ephemeral beach. And maybe then, I’ll finally find the answer.

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Alternative Facts: An Alternate Perspective On You and I

This is one of my first Mythic Bios revisits today. I said before that I didn’t conduct my examination of Alternative Facts in order. And now, to complicate things even further, I realized I actually forgot some things and instead of adding them to my previous entry, I thought about it, and came to the decision that these elements deserve their own.

In my last article, I mentioned how the first draft of “Lost Words” didn’t really work. The spirit of it was there, but it wasn’t really direct. I wrote about a few reasons why it had issues, and while most of them were structural and still trying to figure out what they were beyond a gimmick or two, there is one major change between the first and the succeeding drafts.

The first draft of “Lost Words” was actually in first-person. The narrator, who was a student academe, was talking to their teacher. They are separate from the reader, they and their teacher at the Freed Dome. The entire situation is outlined for the reader through the dialogue and some small description on the part of the narrator. In a way, they are basically telling you what is going on more than anything and as I said in my “Alternative Facts” analysis, it is a more “Gee Willikers this is the World, Batman” dynamic and feeling more than anything else. In other words, it felt cheap. It felt like, as I said before, a gimmick to sell one idea. And some of that is fair as I never thought there would be an interconnected story after this until a friend of mine said all but said they wanted to see a story about the Repos that survived their official disbandment and their exile from the main State of Amarak.

The first draft wasn’t even a Word Document. It was an inline text email that I’d sent to my girlfriend at the time, and then my friend a few months later after we reconnected. To be honest, I even forgot about what literary perspective I used. For a while, I even thought I wrote it in third person limited perspective because there were two characters having dialogue with one another. Talk about degrees of separation and cognitive dissonance: thoughts that are appropriate given the title of the series, and the times that has inspired it.

I don’t remember why I chose to rewrite it, and then rewrite and write the succeeding stories in second person perspective. Second person perspective is not a common literary narrative point of view. It is the kind of thing you would expect in a Choose Your Own Adventure book, or a video game, or the post-card fiction I was told about by my World Literature teacher back in Grade 13 or OAC. I thought it interesting, and I played with it when I designed Twine narratives and even some of my own Choose Your Own Adventure and Roleplaying Game experiments back in the day.

But as I planned to hone the story down … you see, it’s clever. Not me, but … one of those age-old exercises you always get in literary classes is to determine what narrative perspective you are using. And even as I reviewed my stories for this article, I see how tricky it is. Technically, “Lost Words” is first-person perspective. However … the narrator is talking to an audience. They are talking to you.

It isn’t as clear, perhaps, in the first story but from “Freedom” and onward, while there is an “I,” there is also a “You.” Certainly, Alternative Facts stories like “View From the Badlands” and “Beyond the Wall” actually have specific narrator characters, and the others have a clearly delineated group talking to the reader-audience, to you, but that is just it, isn’t it? It feels as though they are talking to someone. There is always a you in this narrative.

Even in “Lost Words,” there is a general “you” when the narrator talks about their research into the past. This tenuous link between the first and second perspectives in the narrative, arguably and from my obviously “unbiased” opinion, makes it so that you aren’t only watching an interaction, or passively having the information revealed to you. The idea is that you are involved in the process. You are supposed to be immersed in this world, through this pronoun become a verb. You aren’t separate from it. This isn’t another place or another time. And even if it is, you are there with them: actively discovering this.

Of course, you have to suspend your disbelief or pique your interest to do this little bit of roleplaying. You can remind yourself that you aren’t in this. That you are beyond it. But as I think more about it, in this convoluted way, given the subject matter about politics and horror, and the movement of a world, what is the difference between “I” and “you.” I refers to one’s self, but when “you” is used it refers to another. It can be exclusionary, but it can also be inclusive, an invitation, a realization that one is — that you — aren’t separate, but rather in the same place. Maybe not in the same situation, but you have that invitation to being invited to being a part of the story, to even the illusion of actively exploring it.

I’m looking at what I’ve written already, and I wonder if there was any point to it: if I have actually communicated anything worthwhile at all. I suppose, if I really look at it, the way that Alternative Facts takes “I” and “you” sometimes makes them distinct, but also makes the boundaries between them finer … almost erasing them entirely. It takes some doing to see where one ends and the other begins, to see which one is true, and which one is not. It gets muddy, and a bit unsettling even to talk about: and not just because of the strange hodge-podge language.

And maybe that is the point. Or something.

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Steven Universe: From My Crystal Heart

Spoiler Warning: There are series spoilers in the body of this article. Reader’s discretion is advised. 

As of this writing, I just finished watching the latest series of episodes of Steven Universe: in the Heart of the Crystal Gems arc. And, I think, this is an article for the fans.

I’ve written about Steven Universe, and the Crystal Gems elsewhere. It is a show very close to my heart. I wouldn’t have seen it coming, really. It is a children’s cartoon show with some very elemental illustration, brightly coloured animation, musical sequences, and humour. It is also a show with depth, character development, and world-building that slowly builds into some excellent storytelling. It talks about feelings. Some people might scoff, or laugh about feelings, but emotions are complex things, and Steven Universe doesn’t skim over that fact.

It is a show that starts off as a Magical Girls trope subverted into a story about ancient extraterrestrial mineral beings — sentient Gems that can take humanoid, feminine form — dealing with the aftermath of rebelling against an intergalactic conqueror empire with which they belonged, the horrors of war, the consequences of secrets and regrets, while also eating strange food, dealing with the zany humans of Beach City, misunderstanding human customs in ridiculous ways, and singing about their feelings: how happy they are, how sad they are, how angry they are, how afraid they are, and how it is all right to feel all those emotions: loss, pain, humour, and joy.

I have also stated elsewhere that it is a show about relationships. This is shown with how they deal with humans and their environment, but also how the Gems deal with each other: and how they Fuse. Fusion is something of a Go, Go Power Rangers mechanic where they combine together to form a whole new being to fight against monsters. But even as the show questions what monsters really are, what evil is, what good is, it also looks at the mentality of Fusion: of Fusion as an extended metaphor for intimate relationships.

Garnet, the leader of the Crystal Gems, is a Fusion and emblematic of the entire theme of the show: made all the more apparent by recent events in the series of just how inspirational she truly is. She is the Fusion of a prophetic Sapphire, and a short-tempered Ruby. And you watch as she works well, as she falls apart, as she recombines, as she is two people who after thousands of years is still getting to each other and the expression of love: the action, the living verb that is Garnet.

And the show makes no bones about it. What Garnet is, this almost permanent state of Fusion often taken once and a while, or between Gems of one kind for purposes of war or building, is not the norm. It is an exception. Not the love, of course. Love can manifest in different ways, among different beings.

And watching hem recently deal with another hurdle in their Fusion, in their reason to Fuse, in their relationship made me think about something.

Sometimes, you don’t always keep your Garnet. Sometimes you don’t always find your Sapphire and everything you think you know will happen, doesn’t … or you ignore the fact that you know what will happen, because you just don’t want to know. Sometimes you don’t find your Ruby, and that place of spontaneity and bravery amid the humility that keeps something so truly special.

I suppose that is a misnomer, however. I think what I mean is when sometimes you don’t find your Ruby or your Sapphire, when I say you don’t always keep your Garnet what I am really saying is that sometimes your Ruby and Sapphire doesn’t stay.

It can be different, of course. Sometimes you are Ruby and Sapphire, and Garnet. And sometimes you are a Garnet that has fun with an Amethyst, or a Garnet that lets a Pearl Fuse with her sometimes, or offers to show a ridiculous Peridot how to Fuse and places no pressure either which way.

But sometimes you do not stay Fused. Sometimes you have to separate. Sometimes it is just temporary as you talk outside the action that is Garnet. Sometimes you have to deal with other Gems, other people. Sometimes you have deal with the fact that you are other people too, or that there are other people that make up the totality of you. Sometimes you come back together, stronger than you were before.

Sometimes, you don’t.

Sometimes you are a Rose Quartz that doesn’t want to keep secrets, but doesn’t know how to do anything more and just as you stay with your Pearl, you find many others in your life before losing yourself to the experience, the dynamic, each time. Sometimes you are that Pearl waiting for your Rose Quartz to come back to you. Sometimes you are that Pearl pining for a Rose Quartz that will not — that cannot — come back.

Or you’re a cranky flustered Peridot that is used to the way things are, and you don’t see how lucky you are to meet other Rebels who can show you how life is, and that they will actually stay with you. Sometimes you are that Lapis Lazuli that’s been hurt and you flee the prospect of more pain while taking the barn, and the knick-knacks, while viewing the life that you left behind, that went on without you, that is going on without you on the Moon: missing it always.

You could also be that Bismuth whose Gem is inverted, and you try to do the right thing while always feeling a bit of loneliness while engrossing yourself in your work. Or, you’re that Jasper. You know the one: the one that feels like you have to prove yourself to everyone, and you wonder why you can’t hold a Fusion each time.

Or you’re a Diamond and you are hard and unyielding in your rules and strictures, but even the hardest heart can shatter under the right circumstances.

Perhaps the best thing to be, though and in retrospect, is an Amethyst. Sometimes you still don’t know what’s going on, but you don’t always care, and you just go with it until you realize that your one thousand year baggage is your own, and that you change yourself for only one person: you.

Mind you, being an Off Color — for all Gem society rejects it or hunts you down — can be fun too. You can all be freaks together, and who knows? Maybe you might become part of a great, old, chosen family of Fusion like a Fluorite, if you are brave enough, and if that is who you really are.

It’s easy, given that  Padparadscha Sapphire’ retrovision is 20/20, to look back and see the point where your foundation or body can vanish, or where you shatter, or whether or not you should have eaten all that garbage as Amethyst … or overeaten those Cookie Cat ice cream cookies that were so full of love that they made the Gem on your body, that makes up your very being, shine.

I don’t suppose there is a point to any of this. There never is. I’ve lost a lot of things over the years. Some I’d seen coming. Some I did not. Some I wish I hadn’t. You don’t always get to keep your Sapphire. You don’t always get to keep your Ruby. And Garnet, under most circumstances, never stays forever. That state of being, that insulated bubble and the barn with the weird art pieces and the animated Pumpkin entity pet can’t always be there in that current form.

Yeah. If you haven’t watched the show yet, that is a whole long, other story.

I don’t cry as much these days. But I do when I watch this show. It lets me. It’s appropriate when I do. Every time, especially now. I never thought it would have gotten into my life as much as it has. Under my skin. Into my heart. If only people were like the Gems, or even the people of Beach City where problems can always be solved through talking, and no one has to be that Jasper who sucks as Fusion forever.

But I think, as long as Steven Universe exists … as long as shows like it exist and the people that create them continue to possess this form of empathy — a strength of compassion and emotional depth — even if I never Fuse again, even if I feel disembodied, or broken, or flawed, or shattered, or “not made right” like an Off Color … even if I have to be alone like a moping Peridot, or a sad Lapis Lazuli just knowing something like it exists out there, like a Garnet who is almost always Fused and actually marries after over five thousand years honestly?

I can live with that. Despair, perhaps I am stronger than you, like an Amethyst on some Cookie Cat.

Or, you know: this lucky, awesome guy who has grown so much.

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10: Alternative Facts: Summer Camp

“Sometimes by losing a battle, you find a way to win the war.”
— Donald Trump and Tony Schwartz, The Art of the Deal

You’re back. You came to us, to the Badlands fore, cause you wanted our historia. Our mythologia. The mythologia of the State. Of the Cycle. Of Amarak.

To think your search started with just one word. I recall wording with you about the Cycle of Opposing, and its roots in the mythologia of Ground Zero. About the ethnoi, and ethnos. About the Disunity. About divise itself. Opposing, and divise start inside. You glean that. But it goes outside, too. It has to.

You found the Climbers. They told you, worded with you, about walls: about where they come from, how they form, and what they do. We traded lore for lore. You were told no Wall was made in Amarak. The Wall was always there.

Once, as the Pains of the Hidden Lady told you in Repo Land after you walked the zigzag path of the Hidden Festive, that they worshipped Libertas. And the last son of the Eleuth told you of how his lost Maters and sestra Pride named themselves after the Lady of the same name. Even now the center of the Repolitik is called Freed Dome: what our Land, this failed Rene Project, was supposed to be.

But that was Lye, as the Repos call it now, in the end.

Amarak was always a prison. And if there was a god of prisons, if it ever had a name, it would be the prophet of profits. Or the profit of prophets. Or the edicts of predicts, and predicts of edicts. Most populii came to Amarak — birthed Amarak — to serve, to live, to die: made by Europa to be monster, and labrys cleaved together. That is the story here.

The mythologia of the Sancts.

It was said to have happened after the Cycle of the Forty-Fourth Precedent, fore the Interregnum, when the Repo Party ruled. Many other States burned, then. Ethnoi were purged. Populii died. Amarak was free. It was a Sanct. It was made of Sancts. But those Sancts were iron vaults. They were lost time. Dark. They were prisons.

Amarak was a prison.

The Repos always talk about earning freedom. Their Gilder-Booms talk of sacrifice. But they have other words too.

It’s said that when populii wanted to flee their State, to come to Amarak, they could stay. They could be a part of it. Like the Amaraki of old. For a price. The diablo’s gamble. The Bargain.

The Bargain has been here as long as Amarak, throughout every Repolitik. Every Cycle. From the beginning of the Cycle. The terms just change. The stranger, the ethnoi, can’t pay to come in. They are feared. Hated. They are in divise with the State. Some try to, in the words of some of the Prides, climb the Wall, and they fail. Or they do it, facing the mercy of the Law. Of freedom. Of Amarak.

But Amarak is a prison, and a game. And Laws are Rules. The Coustume Guardians have ever been their enforcers. It’s clear. You can enter, or leave. But when you enter, you will be a part of that prison.

And your children will go to camp.

Fore the Interface, familia were sepped in the Dark of that Cycle, snatched away, placed in cages, in grey and metal. Not allowed to see their familia. Not allowed to play. Or touch. Or be touched by Amaraki Caretakers though, sometimes … They were.

It’s said that the children were supposed to be released fore long. As were their parere. Some were. Some never saw their familia again. Some never saw the children again. Or their camps of simmering summer garbage ruled by ice. These child prisons. These child Sancts.

The true Interregnum, the Dark Age, began with the silence of the child Sancts. When the Second Disunity started. Most of the child Sancts were under the so-called Great Repo Precedent, where it was said that work set them free, one way or another. Others were taken by Demos Brigaders and their princeps, the children freed. The populii wanted to bring down the regime. Others, were still lost. It’s said that even now, a thousand years later, there are still parere looking for their children, children wandering for their parer, forever sep … And others, even now, dwell in the husks of the Sancts, lost to the labrys of a lost Repolitik, starving, lonely, angry, and isolate.

You’ve been to Freed Dome. During the Reunity and the beginning of the Tripartite Repolitik it was built on the ruins of a tyranny, made into a Collective for young academes, Affirmation Groups, and visitors. It was made Sanct, one of many to memor the atrocities of the Lost Sancts, just like the remains of the Coustume Posts and their flower gardens. Some Sancts, in the former Repo fiefdoms, remain as more ruined memors, while others are cities made Reserves for “exotic” antiq-ID ethnoi, or those that grew in the Sancts. Over time, during the wars and the retreat of the Repos, forgotten by them and the Demos, the children of those Sancts grew, and traveled.

There is another story as well to tell. There is mythologia we have made collect, from our Eyes in the Interface, from the Badlands to the Borders, that some of the Sancts still remain: that they have made liberate themselves over many gen. Some may have met each other throughout, embraced the silence that killed so many, and become Co-operative. We have heard a few whispers that perhaps some, called the Free Sancts, actually exist: beyond Repo and now Tripartite Repolitik gleaning.

If true, they don’t seem to be on the Interface, Markers, and all. But we want to glean them as well: to glean their historia… their own mythologia. The Gilder-Booms would have you know, by their own coustume, that their children are made hallow by the armaments to which they have destruct themselves, and others. But if there is any hallowness, any heroism, in any of this, after all this time it’s that true sacrifice is what the children of the Free Sancts suffered, thrown away, used, destruct, or left to keep the Wall — the Prison — of Amarak alive.

But if they live, beyond this, without the control of the Repolitik, then perhaps they did it, broken away from the Cycle. Perhaps they did win the war that the Repos lost despite them.

Maybe now, they really are what Amarak should be: children in summer. Perhaps they are the children that are now, truly, free.

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2018.

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