In Lieu

I didn’t feel it was appropriate to entitle a blog post “How The Fuck Is It Already June?!” but I couldn’t think of a better one either, and I think that is probably a good metaphor for the times, but it’s best not to think about it too hard. Which is a good general guideline for the times.

Anyway. June, yes. When I last wrote, over a month ago I am so sorry, I had just attended a small convention in Saint John and was attending a larger one in Moncton. That show was lovely and now I am looking forward to DCAF in August. I hope to get a bunch of stuff done before then, especially some new comics I am excited about.

A good chunk of my time since early May was spent fine tuning and printing and sorting and preparing my new card game, Story Mode. You can download it and play it or you can order a copy from me while supplies last. Please check out the site for an explanation of what the game is, how you can use the cards in different ways to inspire stories, and how you can try and even contribute to the game’s development.

It’s been a strange, stressful, emotional year, and it doesn’t look like that is going to change anytime soon. Part of it is external – the general insanity of a world where Donald Trump has any kind of real power – and some of it is internal, or at least a lot more local. It has forced me to take a more practical, triage-like mindset in my day to day life. Like a less-than-ideal kind of mindfulness that is not rooted in joy, but fear or anxiety.

The older I get, the more I am convinced that fear is the thing that we must fight hardest against. The lizard-brain that makes us hate and suspect any stranger, any deviation from the path we think is safe. Kill it; kill your fear dead, and be free.

As always I am tired and rambling on Sunday evening, so now I will just recommend things I enjoyed for a while:

There is a new film out you may have heard of called Hereditary, starring Toni Collette. It is an amazing twist on the demonic horror of Rosemary’s Baby, genuinely horrifying and very suspenseful. It is a type of horror- a Lovecraftian, ordinary mortals resist in futility against ancient evil- that is filmed fairly often lately but this is far and away the best recent example of the genre. It has jumped into my top 10 horror films.

We also went to see Ocean’s 8, which I guess is doing well and good on them. I thought it was fine, the script is dubious in parts but no worse than it was in any of the Clooney films and certainly no worse than the Sinatra film. What feels lacking in Ocean’s 8 is the absence of Steven Soderbergh; the angles he would shoot, the holds, the lighting, the edits. I speculated that if this one gets a trilogy, the next step would be to make Ocean’s 14 through 16 starring the remaining casts from both trilogies. Why not?

I took Jack to see Solo before that, and I thought it was fine. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Rogue One, probably about as much as Episode 7 amd a bit less than 8. I’d like to see more of those characters doing stuff, if that is ever an option.

The best book I have read lately is Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli. It is a sequel to her debut novel Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which was recently made into the charming film Love, Simon. Leah focuses on Simon’s longtime female best friend who enjoys drumming, feels inadequate compared to wealthier classmates, and is getting curious vibes from a same-sex friend. As a child psychologist, Albertalli is very good at giving her characters authentic-sounding voices and small moments that build a world I wish I could visit more often.

I finally finished The Peripheral by William Gibson. I don’t know why it always takes me so long to read his books, because I love them and it’s not due to a lack of interest, I just have to absorb them slowly I guess.

There have been some good comics launched recently- the new Nancy Drew, of all things, is queer as hell and very promising. Evan Dorkin and Veronica Fish have a nice new teen (dark) magic title called Blackwood, and John Allison is writing a new miniseries called By Night. The New Mutants: Dead Souls by Matthew Rosenberg and company has been brilliant and I am looking forward to reading his new book about Multiple Man.

All that said, the best comic I have read lately is the new issue of Love and Rockets, in which we get classic Hopey-Maggie conversations, childhood flahsbacks, intergenerational and intercultural dialogue, magical realism, and beautiful artwork.

My TV watching these days alternates between shows starring Gordon Ramsay and/or his family, shows about travel and possibly buying homes or at least eating local foods, and Noah Hawley’s shows, specifically Season 2 of Legion and season 1 of Fargo, which I just finished. I know, I’m behind. But I won’t be for long. Both of those shows are amazing.

I’ve also been enjoying Westworld (even if it does feel like a pale imitation of a Noah Hawley series in comparison), Elementary, and much to my pleased surprise, Fear the Walking Dead. I had actually skipped that series all of its third season and checked out the beginning of the new season because Morgan from the main series was going to be on it. They did some interesting retooling as part of that move and have written a very strong season so far, as compelling as its parent series when it is at its best.

That’s it for now. I will try to write more regularly. I hope it is a consolation that if you don’t hear from me, it’s because I am busy doing stuff I enjoy and it is helping me cope with some stuff that I don’t. I hope you are having a good summer. We deserve it.

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Spring Forward

It’s been a good week, despite my son falling ill for much of his March break, spending half of it prone on my couch and the other half propped up in his mom’s basement playing video games. I managed to be reasonably productive without feeling a lot of stress about it, which is a good zone to find and stay in.

As I write this I have just come back in from my third excursion of the day. The first was skating on the Emera Loop with my dear wife this morning. The second was a walk to the waterfront, by way of the central library to return a book and DeSerres, where a thick pad of their watercolour paper and a pad of their mixed media paper made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

My ultimate goal for the waterfront was to pick up this week’s comics at Strange Adventures, and it was most of my pull list: new issues of Assassinistas, Black Bolt, Captain America, Giant Days, Jughead: The Hunger, and The Wicked + The Divine, plus a Harley and Ivy comic with a cover by Tula Lotay, whose work I buy wherever possible. A few of those titles are ending soon or have ended already, so I added a few upcoming books to the list to try out.

The third walk was in the opposite direction, to the Anchor Archive zine library on Almon street, in the Radstorm space. I donated some copies of recent zines and comics after meaning to for ages. I also gave them some extra copies of what I have in my inventory for sample zine packs that they were talking about putting together. If you’re in the Halifax area and you are interested in zines (making them or reading them), you should pay them a visit.

The new episode of Sunday Night in Cinema 3 is up. Do check it out, won’t you? And speaking of movies, I realize that the new Tomb Raider is probably the destination for most moviegoing manchildren next weekend, but if you want to see a film that is genuinely special, one that is fresh and smart, I urge you to check out the teen dramedy Love, Simon. It’s directed by Riverdale showrunner Greg Berlanti, based on an excellent YA novel called Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli, a child psychologist turned author. Nicole and I saw a sneak preview of Love, Simon last night and absolutely loved it. I am so glad that gay kids and their allies will have it, however it does at the box office.

And speaking of Albertelli, the sequel to Simon, called Leah on the Offbeat, comes out next month. Her second book, set in the same book-universe, was called The Upside of Unrequited, and I also recommend it. I love good YA fiction, the more of it kids have to choose from, the better.

I was feeling glum after taking my son home, as I usually do, and I decided to cheer myself up by spending some time working on one of the card games I hope to publish sometime this year. It’s called Story Mode, and it will be an open source project. I plan on working on its alpha website after this blog post, so if you want to read more about how that would work, I’ll explain there.

Anyway, I had a couple of little breakthroughs, both in terms of the game taking shape in my mind and in technical terms. I was able to map out a development strategy for the game, basically taking it through alpha and beta editions before publishing a true 1.0 release for public consumption. I’ll go into that in more detail on the Story Mode website too, if you are interested in downloading a copy of whatever I have ready or playtesting. Or both.

So it has been a pleasant surprise to work on that at the end of the week, and my new goal is to have the alpha version posted online and printed for a limited distribution. The game will always be free to download online, but if you want a physical copy that comes from me, the easiest method to ensure you get one is to join my Patreon.

I am going to be doing my first mailout to patrons at all levels in the next few weeks, as an orientation package. It will include a new exclusive minicomic, the alpha version of the Story Mode game, a little bit of original art, some small prints and probably a mid sized print, a holder to put it all in, and my eternal gratitude. So don’t miss out!