Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Journey's End (Jillian)

For months now, ever since the gut-wrenching, tear-jerking conclusion to Doctor Who Series 4, we Whovians have held our breaths in wait over one question: how much longer will David Tennant play the Doctor? That question was answered yesterday... and is all over the net now (such as this article). Doctor Ten will last through the 2009 specials before handing the keys to the TARDIS and his sonic screwdriver to Doctor Eleven... whoever it may be.

I have to admit I cried when I learned of this, but it wasn't a surprise. I will miss him terribly, as he is the Doctor who has made the biggest impact on my life. The sadness is mixed with the realization that the show does not revolve around David but the Doctor himself and what a unique character he is for being, essentially, flexible, existing in different physical facets for different eras. David knows it is time to leave before "I wear out my welcome" and I admire that greatly. He's an actor who wants to further his career by dabbling in new things... and must recognize that if he stayed in the Doctor's shoes for much longer, it might become stale... cliched and unable to find peace with the heart-breaking events of the last four series. The story moves on around the Doctor. And I think David will be watching with great interest as he passes off the screwdriver.

This points to several good possibilities, despite the fact that it will be really strange to have the show without his wonderfully familiar face. But I have been thinking on this for a few hours:

1. Russell T Davies gets to decide how Doctor Ten leaves the show before he himself leaves. Which means the regeneration - which will be hard to stomach - will be in good hands.
2. The loathed River Song might not have an opportunity to reemerge as Ten's future spouse. The might mean that her connection might be to Eleven... if at all.
3. I am hoping that when the Doctor regenerates, it will be with the peace that his struggles as Ten are over, and he starts over fresh.

As a writer, I am always looking for the positive in a scenario like this. Things must end this way. But good can still blossom out of it, and protestations maybe proven useless. We won't know how it ends... until it ends. The possibilities are endless in this universe, and that continues to make me grateful for it!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Unusual Love Lyrics (Michelle)

I recently downloaded the Juno soundtrack, and I've been enjoying it immensely because it's lyrics are often so interesting and surprising. The simplicity of the soundtrack really forces you to listen to the words as well as to appreciate the beauty of the unvarnished, unpolished human voice.

But I've been thinking of it also in relation to Jillian's post about the difficulties involved in writing love stories. It is so hard not to feel hackneyed, particularly if you are terrified of being accused of sentimentality.

But there are some excellent love songs out there with surprising lyrics that make me, at least, think that it is possible to talk about love in original yet still tender ways. Some of these lyrics from the Juno soundtrack have me imagining possible stories that could lie behind them. You could almost grab one of these lines as a writing prompt and try to craft the story to explain them.

Elope with me, Miss Private, and we'll sail around the world
I will be your Ferdinand and you my wayward girl
I love you I’ve a drowning grip on your adoring face
I love you my responsibility has found a place
Beside you and strong warnings in the guise of gentle words
Come wave upon me from the wider family net absurd
“You’ll take care of her, I know it, you will do a better job”
Maybe, but not what she deserves
("Piazza New York Catcher," Belle & Sebastian)

I kiss you on the brain in the shadow of a train
I kiss you all starry eyed my body swinging from side to side
I can't see what anyone can see in anyone else.

You're always trying to keep it real
I'm in love with how you feel
("Anyone Else But You," the Moldy Peaches)

Or take any line from "All I Want Is You," an old-style bluegrass song that's a series of pairings:

If you were a river in the mountains tall
The rumble of your water would be my call
If you were the winter, I know I'd be the snow
Just as long as you were with me when the cold winds blow
If you were a castle I'd wanna be the moat
And if you were the ocean I'd learn to float.

I find it intriguing to imagine the relationship for each pairing - what is it like if she's the castle and he's the moat, or if she's the winter and he's the snow? A good prompt for a writing exercise.

Have fun!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Stephenie Meyer's Character Thoughts (Michelle)

Continuing with my endless quest for character:

Last night, while idly searching around for information about the Twilight books (Who doesn't love a good romance? Except some people.), I came across Stephenie Meyer's website. Like many authors who have websites, she has some advice for aspiring writers. Her FAQ is worth looking at in full, but I especially appreciated her advice on character. I think one of her greatest strengths as a writer is her ability to create real, believable human moments for her characters - it's what makes her series worth reading, in my opinion...even if Edward's eyes do "smolder" a little too often for my personal tastes. She has this to say:

My focus is the characters--that's the part of the story that is most important to me. I feel the best way to write believable characters is to really believe in them yourself. When you hear a song on the radio, you should know how your character feels about it--which songs your character would relate to, which songs she hates. Hear the conversations that your characters would have when they're not doing anything exciting; let them talk in your head, get to know them. Know their favorite colors and their opinions on current events, their birthdays and their flaws. None of this goes in the book, it's just to help you get a rounded feel to them.

This is what Jillian always advises as well. I find it difficult to talk with my characters about unimportant things. When you're dealing with medieval people, it gets frustrating that you have never tasted their favorite foods or seen the world exactly as they see it. Still, when I do try, I find it worth doing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reading Rainbow (Michelle)

I got the gift of another unexpected artist date this week. I was baby-sitting, actually, for my niece and nephew, and we were watching Reading Rainbow together. It's no secret that I love this show and really have not grown out of it --- I truly buy all that stuff about being able to go anywhere and do anything when you read.

Anyway, this was a great episode, about travel. It was "based" on the premise of LeVar showing off his "travel room," which is full of maps and souvenirs from the places he's visited. The segments, though, basically amounted to a really neat collection of interesting people doing interesting
things that emphasized the richness of life, the variety available even within the United States. There were segments on:
  • a woman with a rooftop garden in New York City
  • a Brooklyn man who raises pigeons on his roof (He was extremely cool; he had so much pure enthusiasm, took such joy in the beauty of the birds and the feeling of freedom he gets from watching them fly.)
  • a potter in Hawaii inspired by volcanoes
  • a family who lives on a schooner in the summer months

There are so many different lives in this world; there is so much richness in being human. It's amazing that we take refuge in fantasy at all. And I say this as a writer of fantastical fiction.

So, I am an advocate of exploring children's literature and television when imagination runs dry. Children have a sense of wonder that we for some strange reason expect ourselves to leave behind as we become adults. But there was as much for an adult to savor in the potter explaining how thinks about his art as there would be for a child.

If you're curious, you don't have to take my word for it. I've checked, and the DVD is available on Netflix --- the one called Let's Go. The book of the episode was called Someplace Else.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Horror? How Grimm! (Michelle)

So, my horror-reading jag continues, sort of - I don't exactly get a lot of time to read these days.

But it's got me thinking about other reading jags of mine. I spent almost two months last year reading nothing but fairy tales, retellings of fairy tales, and critical essays on fairy tales. And it occurred to me that perhaps these two reading jags are not unrelated. It's fairly common knowledge, at this point, that Disney pretty much eviscerated the raw power of the original tales collected by people like the Brothers Grimm and Straparola -- if you spend time with the original tales, there's plenty of horror to go around, and yet it doesn't quite qualify as horror fiction. There are important differences that I'm exploring imaginatively at the moment.

The following is typed pretty much verbatim from a free-write I did, and in it I'm working out the delicate balance between dark and light in my own aesthetic. I imagine that balance is different for everybody, but at the moment I feel like a tuning fork, striking some clear, precise note between horror and happy endings:

Horror is always lurking in the darker corners of fairy tale -- cutting out a young princess' heart, cooking children for dinner, killing wives and keeping them in a bloody chamber...ugh. But what I like about fairy tales is that those dark corners are offset by brighter shades, by the glittering gold of happiness and beauty.

Horror, true horror, is in actual fact a bit too dark for my aesthetic. Though I read Swamp Thing to the end of Alan Moore's run and feel that I got a lot out of it, it was too grim for me. I like a hint of the macabre, but too often in horror it takes over and the darkness is unrelieved.

I like the way fairy tales gesture at horror, at chaos, at darkness, without dwelling there for too long. It does seem rather as though, if you chase the horror too much, if you deliberately linger in the bloody chamber, you can just keep going into ever-deepening dark corners that just grow narrower and narrower but never actually end, as though the actual corner were some kind of asymptote or event horizon which you never reach. From the horror of the threat of incest in "Donkeyskin," you find yourself with the actual presence of a dead uncle reanimating the dead body of your husband in Swamp Thing...and the images are horrible, crawling bugs and rotting can always, always get darker. You never actually reach the heart of darkness, but really, do you want to? Aren't you more interested, really, in the light that escapes from it?

Being focused on bottoms, on the roots and limits of evil, leaves you like Gollum, like Matt Cable with his disgusting fantasies. It turns you into Kurtz from The Heart of Darkness; master of your own horrible empire of death. A little bit of the macabre is great, is a good reminder of the speckled, spare, and strange that is truth, but it's too easy to be like some Gothic heroine, edging towards darkness with perverse fascination.

Better by far to explore the mysteries of the light, as though we were all versions of Stephanie Meyer's vampires, who glitter with a thousand colors in sunlight, with so much to see.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Creative Energy (Jillian)

I have rediscovered my profound love for Enya, thanks to an article I just finished reading on the Daily Telegraph. It is a rare glimpse into her life and history, the reasons for being so reclusive and what continues to inspire her. Please read this article and enjoy the posted song!

I think the thing that strikes me about this article was how her creation has become her. Raised in a large family who formed the band Clannad, she was rigorously taught music from a young age... and would later follow the call of her own craft rather than fight them in the realm of "traditional" Irish music. The music she creates with Nicky and Roma Ryan is so personal... exploring the power of songs and lyrics that do not necessarily make sense. It is entirely a visceral, personal and human experience... one that was more reflective of her spirit. In following her call and experiencing a rift with her family, she created a new family with the Ryans. And while she remains elusive, almost a ghost in this world, she is still creating beautiful sounds... sounds that inspire a lot more people that you think!! She's almost otherworldly!

Says Enya: 'I like to sit with the blank canvas. I'm not one of these people inspired suddenly by a beautiful landscape or a story or an emotional moment... I like to curate different ideas and put them all in one song, and see the journey of what it will become.'

Ah, the journey! I cannot wait to listen to And Winter Came!

Terrors of the Bookstore (Michelle)

I went to a talk on Tuesday night at the library. An author was talking about "where inspiration comes from." It mostly amounted to her talking about her poems, but I liked her poems, so that was OK. :)

But alarmingly, she said that she feels very pressed all the time, afraid that someone else is going to write her book before she does. She's working on a cycle of poems about a topic that has suddenly become trendy, and she's afraid someone will beat her to the punch.

This was distressing as I thought I was the only one who got anxious at the bookstore. I used to be excited when I saw a book that looked like it might speak to my interests; now I get really afraid that it's my book, already written! Apparently, being an experienced and published author does not rid one of these jitters. Darn.

There was some division amongst the company during the Q&A session about whether these jitters are justified or not.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Character: Contains Perishable Goods (Michelle)

Yesterday, I sat down at Starbuck's (ugh) to work on the novel for the first time in about a week and a half, and I made an interesting discovery: characters are perishable. They can go stale.

I was working with a character I hadn't touched in about two weeks, and I discovered that I had completely lost the feel of her. There was something completely undefinable that was missing.

I could explain her, obviously. I could list her physical features and her emotional tendencies and her personal history. But all those things didn't amount to a character. She had become - the horror! the horror! - a collection of quirks, exactly as I had criticized in the characters in Heroes and Lorna Doone. Such amalgamations result, at least in cinema, in this sort a thing:
Do creations go wrong because they receive insufficient attention and love from their creators? Mary Shelley might say so. Frankenstein is supposed to be one of those dark-side-of-art kind of novels, isn't it?

Anyway, since my character was insufficiently human but rather seemed to be a mere amalgamation of traits, all the dialogue I wrote felt like it belonged in the sequel to the Fantastic Four movie. I can think of no greater way to describe its deficiencies.

It was fascinating to realize that this could happen not though some active mistake on my part but through the simple failure to keep giving her life by writing about her. I left her alone too long, and like a plant unwatered, she died.

I feel fairly confident that I can resurrect her - that decrepit house plant you forgot about while on vacation is rarely actually dead - but it's going to take some time and reinvestment of energy, and it took me months to get her "living" and "rounded" the first time around.

It's made me realize that I need to be spending at least a little time with the novel every day, lest something like this happen to its other hapless denizens! Consider this reason #692 that writing is never just a hobby. Hobbies don't require daily attention.

A New Beginning... of sorts (Jillian)

Last week, I recieved a rejection of sorts on my writing. Briefly, I spent pretty much half of my life constructing my own epic for a certain franchise that I absolutely loved. I've mentioned it here once or twice... but, granted, it does NOT involve a TARDIS. After three serious drafts, I finally completed this monster (1,000 pgs long!) so as to graduate from college with High Distiction. On advice of my advisor I sent it to the company who basically owns the story, proposing that maybe they could look at it. Take note: I had no sincere hopes to publish this thing... whilst turning my full attention to a novel that is more "me", etc. That was June.

Now it is October and last week I recieved my letter and sample chapters back unread with a note attached. They will not read unsolicited advice, etc, etc, but thank you for having an interesting in us. Surprisingly this garnered up something new in me. Finally, I was free of this novel... free of the story that inspired me all those years ago. Not that I hate it. I am just finally able to move on... constructing plans to place all of the new nuances and characters in a novel that has absolutely nothing to do with... urgh... let's say Star Wars. The novel had emerged monstrously huge and mishapen due to its attachment to a story that wasn't mine. And I can see where the possibilities are endless if, finally, the Force is done away with.

So out of the ashes of an old story I vowed never to return to... there is hope. I've grown up. And I am taking this rejection as freedom to run with what I have created... and see what it can become on its own. Just thought I'd share!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dream Advice (Michelle)

My subconscious has the rather hilarious habit, when it's figured something out about what I'm writing, of telling me in my dreams using writers I really respect. Often, I don't realize that what I'm remembering is a dream until several days later. It's extremely funny.

Hence, Jillian appeared once in a dream to explain to me that what made Star Wars work as an epic is that it's is a series of self-sufficient episodes that are nevertheless linked by a larger purpose. These episodes aren't just the divisions between films but also between scenes in the movie. Actually, Howard Hawkes, director of The Big Sleep, used to say something similar - he tried to film great scenes, not great movies. Reading that quote from him is probably what got the idea into my dream in the first place, but apparently my subconscious decided I wouldn't believe it until I heard Jillian say it.

Anyway, last night I dreamed that J.K. Rowling was explaining her writing process to me, and she said that when she writes a book, she knows how she expects it to end, like a person predicting what will happen next in any story, but she has to be open for the story to surprise her. I have no idea if this is how J.K. Rowling actually works; but apparently this is what my subconscious thinks is a good idea.

Have a good laugh at my expense today. :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Other People's Prose (Michelle)

The quote of the week last week was from Philip Pullman: "Read like a butterfly; write like a bee." I've always liked this quote, probably because it affirms what I already do (and isn't it nice to be affirmed?): read everything that crosses my path and then make it my own. I also like the image of the bee's sting - particularly apt for what Pullman does with Milton, I'm afraid - mixed with the nectar of its honey. It makes me feel powerful as a writer, which is a rare feeling!

Some writers, though, have a horror of reading while they're writing. I can sympthize - just like your annoying third cousin's sister's husband's voice gets stuck in your head, some writers' voices get stuck in your head. Even if they're good writers, this is a problem. For example, after I read I Capture the Castle, for months every single one of my characters sounded like Cassandra - i.e., always about to ask for a cup of tea.

And though reading is oxygen for my pen, every now and then I'm seized by paranoia that this is bad or dangerous. This happens most often when I'm reading something I feel slightly guilty about (say, Doctor Who fan-fiction, or a junky mystery novel) - then I hear a voice in my head going, "You're going to absorb that voice and then you'll never write anything good again, and it'll serve you right for not reading more Virginia Woolf." Or words to that effect. And sure, it's true that reading quality writing is the best way to teach yourself, unconsciously, about good craft. So fan-fiction, like junk food, should be kept at a minimum, I suppose.

There's also the fear that reading so much will choke originality. Every now and then I'll be writing, and I'll realize, "Well, shoot, this scene came right out of Our Mutual Friend. Now I have to figure out something else!" I've come to feel, though, that these moments aren't reasons to stop "reading like a butterfly" - a very manly butterfly, for my male readers.

We accept that other artists need materials, for instance that painters need models and paint and canvas...but we often expect writers to create from nothing, I think. But everyone needs materials. I've started to think of the imagination as a great big compost heap, as unromantic as that sounds, in which we throw all our experiences and all the books we read and all the films we watch and all the songs we hear, to break down into something new from which we can grow our own garden. (Just look at the way I kept control of that metaphor! ShaZAM!)

Every now and then, something pops out of that compost heap that hasn't broken down sufficiently - a character too much like Andrew Foyle, a phrase too much like something Fitzgerald would write, a setting that just is a little too much like Hogwarts - but that's not a reason to stop reading. The solution is not insulation but inundation. We ought to read more when that happens, find something else that touches our hearts and stirs out imaginations, because then the still-fresh images and prose of other books will break down and mix a little more, into a new color, a new soil, a new story.

Writing about Writers (Jillian)

I was advised many times as a beginning and then an undergraduate writer to not write stories about struggling writers and authors. Because this advice came from an instructor who is the published author of several novels, I remember being a little disquieted. In the novel I am currently writing, there are three writers working through kinks, living out their own stories and pursuing the ones that are burning in their hearts.

Is this wrong? I have no plans to change this, but I cannot help but wonder if there is some truth to the warning. Should I really not write about writers... or is it just a silly thing?

More importantly, I am merely glad I know where my story is.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October: Images (Jillian)

I am reliving October to the fullest. I went walking at 6:30 tonight, which means I didn't not get back until 7:45. Just a typical walk, a little strip of peace inside our town I always enjoy. But tonight felt like October to me. I didn't return until dark was pretty much settled… which added to my autumn bliss. I was gone a little over an hour, but it felt timeless.

I have always loved this month - and not simply because my birthday is smack in the middle or because of Halloween, although the two do play a role in my enjoyment of the season. It is the time of transition that amazes me every time - the feeling of being precisely between summer and winter, and having the best of both. The mosquitoes are dying. The air is turning brisk, the leaves are turning colors, but a freeze has not killed off the growing plants… nor is it quite cold enough for a coat. The heavy humidity of summer is lifting. I can feel the days growing shorter… in a cozy sort of way.

As a writer, there are so many things that spark my imagination this time of year. So much beauty in the leaves, and the smell of them as they drop… the only dying thing that actually smells nice. The goldenness of the light. Sweaters and scarves. Candlelight - not in a pyromania sense but in a light-in-the-darkness sense. Cider. Chocolate and marzipan in the forefront of my memory from an Oxford October two years ago. Bonfires and secret identities. Really pretty gourds and squashes. The image pool runneth over.

Halloween is a tiny fraction of it. As a child, I appreciated it for the make-believe aspects - the idea that I literally transformed into a witch, or a nurse, or a dead Spanish dancer, or a fairy, or Luke Skywalker, or a summer nymph. The haunted-house monsters running with chainsaws, the display of severed body-parts and the ode to serial killers - the dark hints of the rotting, and the evil, and the macabre only scared me. Pumpkins in the night did not conjure images of Sleepy Hollow visits from the Headless Horseman - but faces smiling out into the dark. Glowing. It took me to other worlds… imagining that I truly was a new person riding into the unknown in the darkness. Candy seemed to be small consolation for it coming to an end, when the grease paint washed off and the fantasy drifted to November's calmness.

The fact that it is so historically rich grabs me nowadays. Neo-pagans may dance and conjure up a ritual to commemorate the passing of ancient Celtic Samhain… which involved human sacrifice, go fig. But I think back to the medieval fears of fairies and witches… the actual shaking belief that the dead did return. Halloween is a way to step back in their shoes, hear their stories and feel the chill come on after harvest. In a way, we are taken time-traveling this month, not to digress… but to open the possibilities… even if we get scared along the way.

Writer's Block (Jillian)

I am dropping a fairly quick line this morning, as I am supposed to be getting ready for work. Here goes nothing.

I made a discovery a few days ago. Not long ago, I was a college student - an English and History major. Now that I am graduated, I think those college habits have stuck with me. When writing in the midst of an undergrad English class, allowed to write pretty much whatever I want - in my case chapters of the novel I have been working on and that has pretty much taken over my life - I got caught into an unsuspecting pattern: being so task oriented and chapter-oriented that I have been more obsessed with a novel's overall structure (i.e. how many chapters will it have; how many pages should I be writing; how much dialogue, etc). That's good, really, but not for someone who is no longer awaiting feedback from classmate or a grade from a professor. Those days are over. And writing has been given back its power. At least, that is what should be occurring.

I've been hit in the brain with writer's block simply because I wasn't letting the story write itself. Strange, huh? We're so engrossed with the idea that "I'm the writer! I'm in charge!" when that isn't entirely true. You cannot plan, schedule or completely outline a novel. That will stifle it. Strange how old habits die hard - this perfectionism to create each section as I go along in concise order. That's bad. If the story living inside wants to veer off in a different direction or linger on a seemingly insignificant piece of character development listen to it! It will prove you wrong and it will make you think in different ways about those characters. That they are more than tools... but creations!

This is a good river to cross - learning that my story is not a matter of getting things done or presenting a piece to a committee of classmates, but that it is a living creature buried in the heart, trying to show me something... and that the tugging of my heart strings are more important than scheduling events (i.e. character A will talk to character B and C about X event and they will go to lunch to meet character D).

Instead... let a story run wild, unleashed, unorganized... free! It will not fail to surprise!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ode to a Victim of Limited Brain Space (Michelle)

I am trying out a new writers' support group tomorrow night, and I'm horribly afraid I'm going to forget to go. I'm applying to grad school, and the stress and paperwork are sucking up every available brain cell. I hardly notice what's going on around me, I was a disaster at keeping count of how many spaces I'd moved in Eurorails last night, and all I can think about is how on earth I'm going to get X form in by Y date. I'm amazed I got a chapter done last week - I'll probably go back and read it and find that I haven't written a chapter of my novel at all but a postmodern cross between a personal statement and a horror comic.

I wish I were a better multi-tasker! It seems like multi-tasking is a vital skill for a writer to have, and yet I just don't have it. Suggestions for developing an ability to multi-task???

In other news, I added a new gadget (oh horrors! she's discovering all the gadgets!) that's supposed to generate random images to help break down writer's block. I know nothing about it, but I figured it sounded better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Let me know if you find it helpful; alternatively, let me know if it generates anything obscene or offensive, and I'll take it down.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Swamp Thing (Michelle)

Continuing me on my horror-reading jag, my brother-in-law has recommended the comic books of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing to me. It's been a mind-expanding experience in a lot of ways, especially since I've never been a comic book reader before, outside of Calvin and Hobbes, and it's opened a whole new genre of art to me.

The jury is still out for me on what I think of the medium, and sometimes I definitely find Swamp Thing too overwhelmingly horrible for my sensibilities - the story with the Monkey King (if you're familiar) terrified me, and some of the images are viscerally terrible, disgusting beyond my ability to assimilate.

Yet I keep returning to the stories, because I feel like I'm learning something, about the fate of medieval romance in modern culture (how can you resist a comic book that makes use of the medieval folk motif of the Green Man?!), about the interplay between text and words, about how to write compelling stories and characters...anyway, watch this space. I'm sure I'll have more to say.

I have also been very impressed with Alan Moore's prose. It's dramatic and reminiscent of Lovecraft's excesses, perfectly pitched for comic books, but it has a strong poetic sense as well that really makes the stories as much about words as images. I am impressed.

A sampling, from "Down Amongst the Dead Men":

There are people. There are stories. The people think they shape the stories, but the reverse is often closer to the truth. Stories shape the world. They exist independently of people, and in places quite devoid of man, there may yet be mythologies. The glaciers have their legends. The ocean bed entertains its own romances. Even here. Even here, within these chill and perished thickets that know no witness save the sleeping toads, each curled like a gorgeous alien fetus beneath its stone. There are stories even here. Stories that grow, as blighted trees, into a tormented puzzle. Frictions that become over-ripe and fester on the vine. The stories here have blossomed into deformities, nurtured by a curious soil. There are heroes, there are wicked uncles and princesses, but the drama is askew, the fairy tales contorts into a tragedy…The hero, slow and massive, comes too late…the wicked uncle’s passing achieves nothing…and the princess finds no cliché in the fate that’s worse than death.

There are also some wonderfully imaginative stories. I loved the dream sequence "Abandoned Houses," in which Abby Arcane visits the collective unconscious, which turns out to be two decrepit houses, the House of Mysteries and the House of Secrets, where all the stories in the world are guarded by Cain and Abel respectively. Cain is being punished for being the first killer, Abel for being the first victim, and every night the crime is repeated. This fusion of Jung and medieval allegory is just bursting with poetic energy and possibilities. Love it.

Likewise, another story includes a journey through the afterlife a la Orpheus, Odysseus, Aeneas, Dante, or, most recently, Philip Pullman's Lyra. I was a little disappointed with the execution, but any modern story that attempts to assimilate those ancient, primal themes of Western literature gets my stamp of approval! I still remember how excited I felt, reading The Amber Spyglass, when I realized I was getting a reworking of the Inferno. Nevermind that I completely disagreed with the worldview fuelling it; it was so exciting to read another modern author engaging the ideas that fuel my own imagination.

So...Swamp Thing. Scary and stimulating. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I have a feeling it's the cup of chai that helps me understand why I like Earl Grey...if I may extend the metaphor to the point of absurdity.


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