Superman

So, on National Coming Out Day this past week, October 11th, the current Superman—Jonathon Kent, son of Lois and Clark—came out as bisexual. When I saw the New York Times piece I literally gasped out loud. This wasn’t some minor character in a team comic; this wasn’t even a second-tier lead of a less-popular title. This was fucking SUPERMAN, the Big Blue Boy Scout, the tentpole character on whom all of DC Comics, and the DC television and film franchises, are built around.

I literally had tears come up in my eyes. This was So. Fucking. HUGE.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much that would have meant to me as a deeply closeted and terrified gay teenager in the Chicago suburbs and later, small town rural Kansas. I really don’t know how best to explain what this meant to me as a sixty-year-old gay man, but here goes.

Oh, Superman. You are the ubiquitous comic book character; since your debut back before the second world war you have become the default; the super-hero every other super-hero is judged against. It’s even right there in your generic name: you are the super man, hence you are Superman.

Superman is kind of the Bill Jones or Joe Smith of comic book heroes: basic, simply named, and the best of them all.

I was a kid when I first started reading comic books about super-heroes. Before I bought my first Action Comics (all I remember is that Lex Luthor was the issue’s villain), I read Archie in all of its iterations; I also read Millie the Model, Dot, Little Lotta, and some others that have faded from memory. The Jewel Osco where my mom used to buy groceries when we lived in Chicago had a comic book vending machine near the entrance, right next to a soda machine dispensing cans of Pepsi and its variants. You put in a dime and two pennies into the appropriate slots, and pushed the appropriate buttons for the comic you wanted; the metal spiral thing holding the comics would spin and drop your comic down, so you could reach in through the door and pick it up. That particular day I wanted a Betty and Veronica, which was A5 but I was in a hurry and accidentally pressed B5 instead; voila, I got an Action Comics instead, much to my bitter disappointment. One of the local independent stations, Channel 32 (which also showed repeats of The Munsters, among other black-and-white classics) aired reruns of the old Superman television show; which I thought, even for my unsophisticated childish palate, was cheesy and silly. I remember grousing about it to my mother—whose response, “Boys read super hero comics anyway” was the kind of thing that usually would guarantee that I would never read a super hero comic book, but I picked it up after we got home and I started reading, certain that I would hate it.

It probably should go without saying that I didn’t hate it.

And it opened an entirely new world for me. Sure, it got a little frustrating from time to time for me (Superman was such a goody two-shoes, but that was kind of his job) and Lois being so desperate (and jealous) to either marry and/or expose his secret identity was annoying; especially because Lois otherwise was such a kick ass woman. There were any number of Superman or Superman-adjacent titles, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen had their own titles; Superman often appeared in (and was definitely a charter member of) Justice League of America; there was also Superboy (“Superman as a teenager!”) and Supergirl…it was like the comics readers couldn’t get enough of Superman and his world. I eventually moved on to other DC Comics titles, too—everything Batman (Detective Comics was always my favorite, because there was a mystery to solve) and Flash and Green Arrow and Green Lantern and…yes, my dollar allowance every week for a long time went to comic books (Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were $1.50 and my allowance was $1 per week; and no, I couldn’t wait until I had two dollars to get one; I always needed to spend my money as soon I got it on Thursday—Mom’s payday—at either Jewel Osco or at Woolworth’s…because I could always talk Mom into buying me a book if there were Hardy Boys or Three Investigators to be had). When we moved to the suburbs the Zayre’s didn’t carry comics, nor did the grocery store in town; the 7/11 only carried Marvel (I tried with The Mighty Thor, but the continuing story aspect Marvel used irritated me because I would inevitably miss an issue), and when Zayre’s finally started carrying comics, things had… changed. Wonder Woman was no longer an Amazon, and was just an every day modern woman running a boutique (somehow she’d given up her powers). Supergirl had been poisoned, which meant her powers came and went without warning; one moment she’d be super, the next she wouldn’t. It was an attempt to modernize the books, of course, make them appeal to the newer, more sophisticated modern audience of the 1970’s; some of them started addressing social issues and became a lot more adult in theme. (Green Arrow actually became my favorite book during this time; he was drawn naturally—had curly chest hair AND nipples—and he had no powers other than being an expert archer and skill at hand-to-hand fighting). I eventually moved away from comics because I started spending my money on novels—Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, etc.—and comics were, I thought, really for kids.

Later on, when we moved to Kansas, I got back into comics again, and things had changed yet again. Some of the Legion of Super-Heroes’ costumes made them look like strippers (male and female); the drawing of the characters had become more natural and realistic (Superman, for example, went from being barrel-shaped to having a narrow little waist and abs showing through his skintight costume), and Wonder Woman was an Amazon again. This was my Howard the Duck period, when I also started delving into Marvel a bit more. Comics always remained of interest to me throughout my life, with me going through periods of collecting and reading in large volumes at different times…before moving on from them again. I am not an expert on comics by any means; I know the names of some artists and some writers, but for the most part, I always paid more attention to story and character (go figure). But I’ve always maintained a love for the characters; and yes, the original Christopher Reeve Superman movie (which I rewatched recently for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival) indeed made me believe a man could fly.

I’ve always had, and always will have, a soft spot for Superman.

To me, Christopher Reeve was Superman–the prior versions of the character, including the popular television show (which I watched religiously) always seemed, to me, to be an actor playing the part; Reeve somehow just was the character. He was so insanely and ridiculously handsome; the body was just right, and he had the right mix of charm and charisma the part demanded. Reeve’s Superman could never be seen as a threat–and he also made it completely believable that no one could tell Clark was him, with different hair, glasses, and street clothes; he physically changed how he stood, his posture, everything about him that was Superman, when he was playing Clark.

Reeve never got enough credit as an actor, frankly.

And while my memories of Margot Kidder as Lois Lane aren’t fond ones–I thought she was a fine actress, but miscast–overall, the first two Reeve films were good ones. They could have stopped there, but didn’t–and the last two weren’t good. I enjoyed Lois and Clark (despite what Dean Cain turned into) and Paul and I eventually succumbed to the simple pleasure that was Smallville…but I wanted to see Superman back up on the big screen, where he belonged. I was very excited when they cast Henry Cavill in the part (I’ve been crushing hard on Cavill since first noticing him on The Tudors)….and then came the movies. I enjoyed them for what they were, and I did think some of the changes made to update and modernize the story (how would Americans today react to the discovery of a super being from another planet?)–and you can never go wrong with Amy Adams, either.

But…they forgot the most important thing about Superman: his kindness and genuine concern for people. In the quest to make the DC Film Universe of all that is dark and angsty like the Batman movies–the direction Batman has gone in since the comic mini-series The Dark Knight Returns–was a bad one. Patty Jenkins got Wonder Woman so fucking right–and it was the same basic formula as Superman. Superman used to be derisively called “the world’s oldest Boy Scout”, but that can work with the character, and with the right actor. I think Cavill has the charisma and the charm–and the extraordinarily gorgeous smile–to pull that off; I just wish they would have let him have the chance.

The new show on CW, Superman and Lois, is also excellent; I absolutely love it, and I do think that Tyler Hoechlin is one of the best Supermans of all time, frankly. (The entire cast is stellar, frankly.)

So, as I said earlier, I was pretty fucking jazzed the other day to see the piece in the New York Times earlier this week about Superman “coming out”–on National Coming Out Day, no less–and even if it turned out to not be Clark Kent, but Lois and Clark’s son Jonathan (in the comics they have the one son; on Superman and Lois they have twin sons, one of whom is named Jonathan), and while I, in my white gay male privilege assumed this meant that he was gay–he’s actually bisexual. But he is attracted to other men, and even has a boyfriend.

There was one particularly noxious piece posted on Medium, which the homophobic piece of trash who wrote it proudly posted on Facebook (I reported his post on Facebook as well as the piece on Medium as hate speech; the Medium piece came down, but the last time I looked, of course Facebook had done nothing about it). I read the whole thing–poorly worded, not grammatical, would have given a C- grade on the construction basics level alone–but the part that I couldn’t get past, the part I can’t forget, was him saying this: But why take one of the few heroes left for the “Straight World” and make him abnormally offensive to us?

Abnormally. Offensive.

I guess I missed the massive closet exodus for the DC and Marvel Universes? Let me see–right off the top of my head, at DC aren’t Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Nightwing, Cyborg, Aquaman, the Flash, the Martian Manhunter, the Question, Beast Boy, the Elongated Man, and Shazam, all straight? (And that is just off the top of my head., and only DC.) But you know those people who are so afraid of the queers–you know, like the piece of shit who wrote the Medium piece–they just can’t help themselves or keep their fucking mouths shut. Oh, no, Mr. I’ve Never Brought a Woman to Orgasm just can’t let us have anything without letting us know how much it offends their delicate, needle-dicked sensibilities. You know, the same kind of guy who undoubtedly always complains about “cancel culture” and “social justice warriors” and “wokeness” and I don’t have a problem with gay people but why do you have to exist? Those kinds–sad, bitter little men with so little joy in their lives they have to spend their precious time on this planet letting everyone else in the world know how much they object to our existence.

But he has a right to his opinion and we are oppressing him if we call it out for the hateful trash it is…and him for the piece of shit he is.

As my editor at Kensington wrote on a note he included with a copy of a bad review of one of my books, this just reeks with the stench of failed author.

This guy claims to be a crime writer, and claims to work for a publisher (I’ve never heard of it or him before this moment)…but after reading this piece and another one he published on Medium, the real crime is his actual writing.

Fuck off, dude. And know that bisexual Superman is going to have way better sex than you could ever pay for, no matter how long you live.

God knows I have.

Believe

And now it’s the day after, and you know what? I feel no older, wiser, nor smarter than I do on any given morning. I don’t think I will ever completely grasp why everyone makes such a big deal of birthdays.

I slept very late this morning–past nine, which may be a new record–and I feel very calm, very rested, and very relaxed; an auspicious start to this my sixty-first voyage around the sun. My birthday was actually very chill, and very relaxing. We got up and went to Costco to pick up Paul’s glasses and a few other things (I got a new LSU cap for my birthday–GEAUX TIGERS!!!–and then we went out to Metairie to pick up my amazing deep dish Chicago-style pizza from That’s Amore–jalapeños, hamburger, mushroom, and pepperoni, for those who are wondering–and then came home to have a most relaxing day. I put on last year’s LSU-Florida game for background noise (the Shoe Game, which will never get old or ever stop being funny) and curled up in my chair to finish reading The Other Black Girl, which was amazing–it will be getting its own entry, no worries on that score–and also started reading The Turnout, which of course is the new Megan Abbott. I also watched the season finale of Superman and Lois–seriously, Superman fans, this is the show we’ve been waiting for since Christopher Reeve took off the cape–and then we got caught up on other things, like Ted Lasso, Animal Kingdom, and Titans. We also started watching Nine Perfect Strangers on Hulu; which we’re enjoying, but are there really only three episodes, or did Hulu only drop three to begin with? (A quick google search assures me they only dropped three of eight thus far.)

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a more delightful birthday. It was exactly what the doctor ordered–no emails, very little social media (trying to like all the happy birthday wishes on Facebook; I’m not sure I succeeded), and no stress at all. It was marvelous, really, and then a wonderful night’s sleep capped off the end of the day. If this is indicative of what my sixties are going to be like, well, then I am ALL about them. Today I am going to run a single errand–picking up the mail–and then I am going to come hide back inside the cool of the Lost Apartment, read more of The Turnout, and then I am going to start working on the edits for #shedeservedit. I also at some point–possibly during the reconfigured Bouchercon vacation–need to do the copy edits on Jackson Square Jazz so I can finally get its ebook up for sale (as well as a print edition, and the print edition of Bourbon Street Blues as well), not to mention work on Chlorine. I also have a contract for an exciting new project to go over before signing and returning it; so my weekend is going to be fairly full this weekend. We’ll probably start on The White Lotus tonight, as well as maybe something else; I’m not sure what, really. I also know there are some absolute classic noirs that have been airing lately I would love to rewatch–I’m looking at you, In a Lonely Place and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers–and as always, there is so little time to get everything finished that one wants to get finished.

But I also have to do some organizing around here as well. I put that off for far too long far too often, and I often, even when I do filing and organizing, inevitably always have some odds and ends I am not quite what to do with; today is the day I am going to do something with those things–or throwing them the fuck out. I also have to figure out what I am going to do with all those boxes of files I moved out from under my desk and scattered discreetly (ha ha ha as if) around the living room; a lot of those files are New Orleans and Louisiana research I may never get to use, or get around to using–and the more you learn about local history here, the more you realize you’ll never really know. That can be daunting, of course, but for me–it just fuels my desire to know, and learn, more.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a research trip out to the old guardian forts along the mouths of the Mississippi and near the openings of the lakes–I suspect at some point Scotty is going to wind up left to die in one of those old forts, or something; it’s simply too good of material to just continue to let sit there, mouldering and crumbling in our swamp climate without ever writing about them; just like one of these days I need to write a Scotty book that somehow involves Jean Lafitte and pirate treasure. The next Scotty, Mississippi River Mischief, is very amorphous right now and is going to need some more gelling and planning and pulling together; but I think it’s going to be one of the better Scotty books, I really do.

When I get to it. I do also think I want to get the Scotty Bible written and pulled together–at long last; only in process to write the ninth book in the series, so finally? I also want to catch things from older books that have been left hanging. It’s also occurred to me that I could go back in time and write Scotty adventures–there’s time, after all, between books for other cases to drop into the boys’ laps; and it might be fun to go back and revisit Scotty in the early days of his relationships and his detecting career, such as it is.

I am also thinking about a stand alone book with my true-crime writer, who’s crossed over between both series now, and whose name I cannot think of right now–oh, yes. JERRY. I could write an interesting story about him as well, methinks, although he would be the perfect main character for a novella I am planning to do for Chanse…in fact, I thought about using him as the POV character before realizing it works better as a Chanse novella than as a Jerry story.

And on that note, I am going to go curl up with Megan Abbott for a bit before I can run my errands, while swilling more coffee. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

If I Can’t Have You

Friday!

I feel very rested this morning; I’ve been sleeping well (thank you, medication) ever since last week, and am probably jinxing myself this morning for tonight’s sleep, but it is astonishing what not having insomnia feels like, and how literally marvelous that actually is. Yesterday was nice and relaxing; I made condom packs and other day-job related things around here all day, while doing the laundry and cleaning the kitchen (sort of); today I will be making more condom packs as well as doing various other day-job related things while watching some thing on television. I am now caught up on Superman and Lois (seriously, the best Superman adaptation since Christopher Reeve; if you’re a Superman fan, you really need to watch this show) and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills–which isn’t quite as absorbing as it has been before; it’s difficult to watch the Erica Girardi performances as “victim” without wanting to slap the smug smirk off her criminal face–and am not entirely sure what to watch today–I forgot to check with Paul about Loki–but I am sure I can find something.

I also neither read nor wrote yesterday; the desktop computer isn’t working as great as it could/should and I suspect I am going to eventually need to replace this bitch once and for all, which is galling, but it’s also, now that I think about it, fairly old. It was at least two or three at the time of the Great Data Disaster of 2018, and that’s almost three years ago as is. I hate spending the money–would actually prefer not to, in all honesty–but it is something I really need for my work and it is a complete tax write-off. I ordered a wireless mouse to use for the laptop–I lost the old one, and have looked for it everywhere–which should also arrive today, so working in my easy chair should be a lot easier as far as that is concerned going forward as well. I am also looking forward to paying off the car and some of these outstanding bills–which has also helped with my sleep, quite honestly–and so maybe, just maybe, I should get a new computer as a birthday gift to myself. I can’t really decide, to be honest. I mean, I could take this one back in and have them install more memory into it, but I am also not entirely certain that is the wisest course to take. Heavy heaving sigh.

But as my coffee continues to warm and wake up my brain from the deepest recesses of sleep, I see all kinds of things I really need to get done around here–I am going to bag up some more beads to donate, for example–and maybe I can start working on clearing things out of the attic. That’s a great, if problematic, project–I hate that little ladder that folds down and it attached to the trap door to the attic, and when I’m standing on it that creates an issue getting things up and down from there–but I can handle getting over my ladder phobia for a little while, and of course there’s no need for me to be going up and down; it can be done bit by bit.

And let’s be completely honest here–I’m not going to read anything that’s stored in the attic, am I?

So that can all go. And while I have been saving my papers almost from the very first–I don’t know, maybe I should try to see if there’s an archive still interested in them. I don’t think there will be much interest in them, or me, once I’ve left this mortal coil–I can’t imagine MFA or PhD candidates ever needing or wanting access to them, nor can I imagine I would be the subject of future biographies and/or scholarly research. And that isn’t me being self-deprecating, either–I am trying to watch out for that stuff, to be honest–and I have to wonder if I am, in fact, hoarding the paper. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Heavy sigh.

But it’s a lovely morning, and I need to make a to-do list for the weekend. One thing for sure I need to do is take boxes of condom packs back to the office (thus clearing out the living room) and pick up the mail; I also need to pick up a prescription. This should all be relatively easy to accomplish; the question is how do I want to do this all, and in what order to maximize my efficiency as I am out and about in the world. I feel pretty good, and that bodes well for my visit to the gym after I get my work done. I want to focus mostly on reading and writing this weekend–often a challenge–and trying to get caught up on everything.

Some day, methinks–or me-dreams–I will be finally caught up on everything. Ha ha ha ha, I still can crack myself up when I put my mind to it, can’t I?

I was also thinking, yesterday, as I made my condom packs and listened to the accessory-after-the-fact nonsense on Real Housewives, about my twisted view on gay relationships when it comes to writing about them; one of the things I’ve always been interested in is relationships gone bad, turned sour, and how to adapt common criminality tropes used for heterosexual couples for gay ones. One of the things I found so interesting about PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus was the power imbalance between Nathan and Oliver, and how that dynamic deeply affected not only how they saw each other but how they interacted with each other. The tired cliché love is blind isn’t really quite so tired when your couple is no longer opposite-sex; those dynamics really haven’t been as explored in queer relationships in crime novels so much as its been done to death for straight ones. When I wrote Timothy, I wasn’t playing with the romantic suspense trope (as Rebecca is so frequently and commonly mistaken considered) as I was writing a gay noir with a completely untrustworthy narrator–how innocent is Mrs. deWinter, after all? I have other ideas, of course (as always) for other explorations of noir and gay characters who aren’t on the up-and-up; there used to be a sense that gay characters in gay fiction had to be heroic in some one–no matter how flawed they were in service to the story they might be–because we needed to create them since history and most literature erased our existence. But things have changed, and I don’t feel that tiresome burden anymore–which I didn’t take terribly seriously in the first place if we’re being completely honest; the villain in Murder in the Rue Dauphine was a gay man, after all–but I no longer feel, when I am creating a character or starting to write something that I need my characters to be role models; that is a subconscious thought I am not sorry to have to consider anymore. Certainly my short story characters are not heroic people; they are damaged and flawed and often driven to their breaking point by circumstances beyond their control. My main character in “Festival of the Redeemer” is certainly incredibly flawed and more than a little unreliable; his mental instability and horrific, almost emotionally crippling insecurities are fun to write if emotionally exhausting.

And on that note, I am starting my day. May yours be a fabulous and amazing Friday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you later.

Style

Friday morning, and I had an absolutely lovely night’s sleep, thank you for asking. It’s the final day of the work week, the weekend looms, and as always, I have a million and a half things to get done before Monday. I somehow managed to fall behind on the writing again–by the time I was finished with my work-at-home duties yesterday I was exhausted again–and as such, didn’t write another word. So I need to get my writing going again today, knowing I am at least two chapters behind that need to be caught up, and yes–NO PRESSURE THAT AT ALL, is there?

I have some copy edits for an essay that dropped into my inbox this morning, which shouldn’t be too terrible an issue to deal with over the course of the weekend–then again, I’ve not really looked at them, either, so it could be absolutely horrifying once I open the document–but again, I don’t see that I won’t be able to get caught up on everything that must be done this weekend. What I really need to do is make a to-do list; I’ve been meaning to all week and yet somehow have not managed to get around to it yet. Gah. But that’s the kind of week this has been; 2020, after dragging all fucking year, seems to have now speeded up time now that it’s coming to a close, continuing to prove itself to be a shit-bag of a year.

Given how much optimism we all had for 2020 and what we ended up receiving, I am a bit afraid of 2021, to be completely honest.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday, and I managed to watch Superman whilst making condom packs yesterday; the 1978 version with Christopher Reeve. I hadn’t seen the movie in years–I saw it originally in the theater and then watched again when it was on HBO in the early 1980’s–and wasn’t really prepared for the impact it would still have, many years later, on a rewatch. As I watched, my nimble hands breaking off condoms in groups of four and shoving them into little plastic bags, along with a packet of lube and instructions on how to properly use them, I found myself catapulted backwards in time and remembering the time period. The movie’s slogan was You will believe a man can fly and you also have to remember the late 1970’s was when films–and special effects–were changed forever after Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Superman was the acme of super-heroes; perhaps the most famous, the most loved, and possibly the very first comic-book hero with superpowers, and bringing him to the big screen with a huge budget and special effects to make it look like he actually had powers was a huge deal. It was a huge hit, set the stage for several sequels, and showed Hollywood that comic book heroes were big-ticket items–it can easily be argued that there would be no MCU, no Arrowverse on television, and no Batman movies had there never been Superman first. The first sequel was also a huge hit, but the franchise began to run out of steam with the third, and the fourth was misbegotten from the very beginning.

On this rewatch, Christopher Reeve was even more perfect than I remembered, and Margot Kidder, whom I always believed was miscast, actually fit the role much better than she had in my memories. But what made the movie work–just as how the Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman worked–was how Reeve, at that point a complete unknown whose biggest role had been on the soap Love of Life, fit the role like a hand in a glove. He looked the part, had the right body for the part, and he just was Clark and Superman–and the physical differences between the two different characters–entirely dependent on how Reeve held himself, stood, and his posture–I could see how you wouldn’t see one as the other. Obviously, there were some flaws–how on earth did Lois Lane afford a penthouse with that glorious view and patio deck on a reporter’s salary? How did reversing the Earth’s spinning turn back time so he could save Lois–and didn’t turning the clock back change a lot of other things as well? DC was still in its Golden Age–the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot was still some years in the future–and so this film fits into that comic book era; they were trying to update the comics and giving their characters more of modern flare and new costumes for the most part at this time, before realizing their universe was so convoluted and confusing they needed to start over. This was the period when Wonder Woman had gotten rid of her powers; when Supergirl was poisoned, which led to her powers becoming unreliable and actually coming and going beyond her control; when two more Green Lanterns turned up on earth in addition to the original; and Green Arrow going more in a Batman-like grim direction.

But it was an uplfiting movie, putting a clear-cut hero on the screen, and it is to Reeve’s credit that he made Superman’s integrity, code of ethics, and kind concern for all humanity from a two-dimensionality to a fully fleshed out, completely believable character that you root for. The John Williams score was excellent, and it really was perfectly cast–I apologize to Margot Kidder for hating her performance for all these years. It was also interesting to see the New York of the 1970’s (passing off as Metropolis), and remembering the way the culture saw the city in that decade (the Cynical 70’s Film Festival has also done a really good job of this); in some ways the perception of New York hasn’t really changed much since then, but it isn’t the same city today that it was back then. It was, I think, in the latter half of the 1970’s that Hollywood began to turn away from the cynicism of the decade and began making movies with happy endings or that were more uplifting in general–Star Wars, Superman, Rocky–the melding of those polarities in film deeply influenced the films of the 1980’s.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Love Story

Thursday morning, and I am working from home today. I have some errands that simply must be run this morning–fortunately I only have to work a half-day today–so once I get this posted and get my own act together, it’s off to the errands so I can come home and do data entry/make condom packs. I think I am going to rewatch the Christopher Reeve Superman–it’s a 1970’s movie, after all, and I don’t know yet if it will deserve a place in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival; I don’t think so, but I think it could be a fun reread while working with my hands.

I was very tired when I got home from work yesterday–so tired that I skipped the gym (!) and didn’t work on the book. Tonight when I finish my condom packing I am going to have to get back to the book, and figure if I can get two chapters done in one day I’ll be back on schedule. LSU’s lamb-to-the-slaughter game against Alabama isn’t until Saturday evening, so I should be able to get several chapters finished during the day that day, and maybe even more. Who knows? There’s a plethora of possibilities.

I slept late this morning–I did wake up at six, again at seven, and finally at eight. I feel much better: very rested, relaxed, my muscles feel good, and my back also doesn’t hurt at all. This is, needless to say, quite lovely, and while it is cold this morning, the cold is nowhere near as bitter as it was the last few mornings, so I can handle it. I haven’t even put on a cap to keep my head warm, which is a lovely thing. It’s very gray outside–the sky is covered with clouds, so it’s kind of grayish-gloomy; like winter mornings I remember from my childhood in the Midwest. I ordered electric blankets the other day–a friend on Facebook suggested it when I was complaining about the cold, and had one of those wow it never ever occurred to me to get electric blankets moments when I truly wonder about my intelligence and intellectual capacity. But in fairness to me, I don’t think I’ve ever owned an electric blanket, and we certainly didn’t have any when I was growing up….but thinking about it this morning, what a difference that could have made that bitterly cold winter I spent in Minneapolis twenty five years ago….

I am still reading both The Bad Seed by William March and Lincoln by Gore Vidal; obviously I was too tired last night to make any headway on either. Paul and I did watch an episode of something that might turn into a guilty pleasure for us….Cajun Justice, about the sheriff of Plaquemines Parish. Louisiana was an enormously popular location for reality television shows back in the day–remember Duck Dynasty?–and since one of my co-workers is moving to Plaquemines Parish (Houma, specifically) she was the one who found this single season reality show…when she mentioned it to me the other day–when we first talked about her move down there, and it’s been a couple of weeks; it was around the time I was looking up Cajun/Louisiana folklore for a potential Christmas horror story, which is when I was finding all those wonderful bayou supernatural legends, like le feu follet and the lutin…which I was able to look up in Gumbo Ya-Ya. The show is kind of, I don’t know, offensive in some ways, as it depicts Cajuns and their culture as an exotic thing; lots of talk about voodoo and black magic and so forth. (This is part of the problem I had with writing about Cajuns and the supernatural; I’m afraid I’ll give in to the stereotypes rather than depict the culture and the people authentically.) I mean, I do want to write short stories illustrating Cajun culture and their interesting folklore and legends (Monsters of Louisiana), but I also want to do it correctly. Gumbo Ya-Ya is an excellent source material, a great starting place, but I am also very aware that its authors were also steeped in the white supremacy and racism of the time in which they wrote and compiled the book, which also makes it harder to decipher what is real and what isn’t.

All right, I’ve got dishes to put away and laundry to fold before I hit the errand trail, so have a happy Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you later.

Call It What You Want

Well, LSU lost, which certainly cast a pall over my day yesterday. The game was also early–11 am start time–and after that sucked all the air out of my day I struggled, frankly. I know, it’s silly to put so much emotional energy into being a fan of any sport, but I can’t remember ever seeing LSU play as badly on defense as they have so far this year. I feel bad for the kids, and I don’t know what the problem is–I didn’t expect them to have another record-breaking season, but I certainly didn’t think they’d have a very strong shot at going 1-9, either.

Heavy sigh. It seems to be a very weird year for college football–the Alabama-Ole Miss score was 63-48, with Ole Miss gaining over 600 yards; that’s the most points ever scored on a Nick Saban Alabama team–and Mississippi State lost to Kentucky, with Florida falling to Texas A&M; Arkansas almost beat Auburn, so clearly defense is no longer a thing in the SEC, a conference once known and respected for it. Georgia and Alabama are the only unbeatens left in the conference, and they play next weekend…yes, a very strange year in college football.

I did manage to get some work done yesterday–not enough, of course–but progress was certainly made, and I feel confident I’ll be able to get it all taken care of tomorrow. The Saints are playing on Monday night, so there’s absolutely no need for me to turn on the television at all during the day tomorrow, and the French Open final will be on so early I doubt Paul will get up to watch. This year is seriously shit, you know? All the joy from sports has been sucked out of them, and crowd noise, it turns out, increases the enjoyment of the game significantly when you’re watching at home–who knew?

So, I licked my wounds and thought about the things I need to write, and how to get them done, and how to improve everything I have currently in progress. That’s a win, frankly, and I refuse to feel guilty about not getting everything done yesterday. Sure, it means I have to get it all done today–but as I said, I am certain I can bang it all out and get it all done, and then I can go into the first three day work week of the clinic since March with my head held high and start focusing on the other things I need to get done–the manuscript for Bury Me in Shadows, a couple more short stories–and of course, getting the email situation back under control. I feel like this final quarter of the year, no matter what else happens in the rest of the world, is a time when I can turn this ship around and set to rights.

I especially hate that I somehow fucked around and managed to go a year without having a book out. How in the holy hell did I allow that to happen? What was I doing in 2019 that I didn’t get a book written? I turned Royal Street Reveillon in around Carnival of 2019, and it came out last October, a year ago. What in the name of God was I doing the rest of the year? I know I was working on Bury Me in Shadows, but seriously? I honestly don’t remember, but whatever the hell it was I was doing, one thing for sure I wasn’t doing was writing. Sure, I sold some short stories, but I honestly think most of the story sales were this year, not last. Part of the reason I signed contracts with deadlines so tightly on top of each other was partly to ensure I wasn’t going to go another year without a novel out.

Gregalicious, you need to start getting more focused.

I saw the trailer for the new version of The Stand, and I have to say it looks good. I liked the original mini-series from the early 1990’s–that chilling opening when Campion runs and “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays over the opening credits as the camera moves through the Army base and all the dead bodies within still gives me chills (it’s on Youtube). I love The Stand, and generally consider it my favorite Stephen King novel. It used to be one of my primary comfort reads; I think I’ve read the original dozens of times. Despite some issues, overall I approved of that initial attempt at filming it; the final episode was the weakest, overall, but they did a pretty good job. This version has a terrific cast, and it looks like CBS All Access spared no expense on putting together a great show…but–the whole Mother Abagail thing really doesn’t hold up well after all this time. At least they’ve added other people of color to the cast this time–in the book and the original TV version, apparently most people of color succumbed to the pandemic.

It’s also interesting that when I was reading plague fictions and histories earlier this year, I didn’t pick up either The Stand or Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, which are both favorites. I think both–which feature almost the entire human population dying–were probably more than I could handle earlier this year.

And I do think that was probably the wisest course.

I read two more stories by Nathan Ballingrud, from his collection North American Lake Monsters: Stories yesterday while the Alabama-Ole Miss game played on the television–“Wild Acre” and “S.S.”–and both were superbly written. Ballingrud does a truly great job writing about desperate people–financially desperate, emotionally desperate–and his use of the supernatural and how it affects/impacts the desperate people he writes about it is stellar. “S.S.” isn’t really a supernatural story; it’s set in New Orleans and is more about a desperate young man, a loser, who turns to white supremacy to try to find a place where he belongs, and it’s an ugly little story, yet compelling at the same time. The horror of his own life–he’s a dishwasher at a small restaurant in the Quarter, his mother was severely injured in an accident, can’t work, and is now mentally deranged; their power has been turned off for non-payment–makes him an easy target for white supremacy and hate; it’s terribly sad, and makes a surprising turn towards the end. The interesting thing I am learning from reading Ballingrud is that the premise of his work is the real horror comes from humans, not the paranormal or supernatural.

So, today is the day I am going to get a lot of work done, trying to start getting caught up on everything. I slept deeply and well last night, which is always a plus, and so am feeling relatively well rested this morning. Once I’ve had my coffee and finished writing this, I am going to get cleaned up and dig into finishing my essay and then move on to the website writing before the revision of my short story. This will possibly–probably?–take most of the day, so I doubt that I will get around to Bury Me in Shadows today (but one never knows; I could go into the zone and get a ton of shit done today). We watched three episodes of The Boys last night, and I have to say, the primary problem we (Paul agrees with me on this) have with the show is the character of Butcher. He’s really supposed to be the character we root for, leading the resistance against the proto-fascist tendencies of the super-heroes and Vought, the company they work for, but he’s so routinely unpleasant and unlikable it’s difficult to care–and if you excise him and his personal story from the show you wouldn’t really be missing anything; I don’t care about his him or his wife or their situation, frankly, and the fact that almost every sentence he utters includes the words “cunt” and/or “twat” doesn’t help. I realize the words are more commonly used in England and don’t have the unpleasant misogynist implications they do in the United States, but the constant usage is like the writers were all “Oh, he’s British so he can say cunt and twat all the time!” like junior high school boys rubbing their hands together in glee about getting away with something. I do like that the show subverts and looks at super-heroes with a wary eye, exploring the dangers of super-powered beings who are arrogant and don’t really care much about people, but Watchmen also explored the ethics of this, and did it much, much better. Still…for the most part, we are enjoying it, and will continue watching. We only have three episodes left, and so will probably either finish it tonight or tomorrow–there’s also a new episode of The Vow dropping tonight; even though we are slowly losing interest in it, we’ll probably continue watching and see it all the way through.

Although I have to give props where it’s due; The Boys has gotten me thinking about Superman, and why the DC films with Henry Cavill about Superman have been disappointing, despite a stellar cast, because they really don’t get the essence of Superman–and why on earth would you make a movie about the greatest comic book hero of all time when you don’t understand the purpose of the character and why he is a hero? Hero is the key word there; and if Marvel could manage to do Captain America and make him believable, Warner certainly could have done the same with Superman. Watching the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies would have been a huge help, frankly; Superman isn’t angsty or tortured the way Batman is, and using the film version of Batman as a blueprint for Superman, I think, was the first mistake.

Look at Wonder Woman, for that matter.

And on that note, it’s time for me to get back to the spice mines and get this day off and running. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Missing You

Sunday morning, and after a glorious night’s sleep I am wide awake this morning and pretty ready to give the day my best shot. The Lost Apartment needs to be cleaned, as always, and I am wanting to do some writing/editing today as well. I am going to go to the gym later today–it is my experience that going earlier wears me out, despite the endorphin high, with the end result I often don’t get any writing done. I want to work on revising and polishing a story to get it out of my hair–early submission, since the deadline is a long way’s off–and the same with another. I also want to get that Chanse story–the first one–revised and sent off somewhere as well; and in addition to all that revising I want to work on the Italy story.

My work, as it were, is cut out for me today, is it not? I’ll also probably finish watching season 2 of Versailles as well this evening.

Yesterday I got my contacts ordered and did some shopping at Target, which was lovely. I also went car shopping with a friend; he needed a ride and I took him out there. I merely sat there and read short stories from Sue Grafton’s Kinsey and Me; I finished all the Kinsey short stories yesterday, and read some others as well. I was, frankly, worn out by the time I got home but managed to finish the laundry somehow, despite being so tired; I also watched several episodes of Versailles before finally retiring for the evening once the laundry was finished. Paul moves into the hotel this Wednesday; tomorrow morning I am touring the FBI offices in New Orleans with the local Sisters in Crime chapter, and then Tuesday is my usual long day. Then of course the festivals kick into gear, and the rest of the week/weekend is utter and complete madness.

There’s also some filing needing to be done, as always. I’ve also renamed both the Italy story and the Chanse story–the Chanse title, “Glory Days”, only worked if it were his high school reunion, which I dropped from the story–and I think the new title of the Italy story is better.

Here are two of the short stories I read yesterday”

First up is “Trapped! A Mystery in One Act” by Ben H. Winters, from Manhattan Mayhem, edited by Mary Higgins Clark.

Setting

Studio L, an unremarkable rehearsal studio in a warren of unremarkable rehearsal studios, collectively known as the Meyers-Pittman Studio Complex, located on the sixteenth floor of a tall nondescript building in Chelsea, a couple blocks south and one long avenue over from Port Authority. The walls are mirrored; the floor is marked with tape; tables and chairs are clustered to represent the location of furniture on the real set.

Downstage right is a props table, laden with all manner of weaponry. The play in rehearsal is the Broadway thriller “Deathtrap” by Ira Levin, and the table displays the full range of weaponry called for in that show, viz., “a collection of guns, handcuffs, maces, broadswords, and battle-axes.”

This is an incredibly interesting twist on the short story; it’s actually a short story written in play form, and it’s also an homage to the classic thrilled play Deathtrap by Ira Levin. The play was an enormous hit on Broadway, and featured the wonderful Marian Seldes in a supporting role; she set a record for most consecutive performances by one actor in this play. Ira Levin is also one of my favorite writers. Deathtrap was made into a film; not as successfully as the play, alas; the film starred Michael Caine, a young post-Superman Christopher Reeve, and Dyan Cannon. What makes this story/play so clever is it’s a play on Deathtrap; which is a play about a play which basically tells the same story of the play–and this is a play about a murder during a production of a play about a play; complete with the requisite twists and so forth. Winters is an Edgar-winning author (for The Last Policeman), and one of my favorite novels of the last few years, Underground Airlines. if you’re not familiar with Winters, you should make yourself so. I loved this; clever clever clever.

It also reminded me of a crime short story I wanted to write about the production of a play. *makes note*

Next up is  “Fat” by Raymond Carver, from the collection Will You Please Be Quiet Please?

I am sitting over coffee and cigarets at my friend Rita’s and I am telling her about it.

Here is what I tell her.

It is late of a slow Wednesday when Herb seats the fat man at my station.

This fat man is the fattest person I have ever seen, though he is neat-appearing and well dressed enough. Everything about him is big. But it is the fingers I remember best. When I stop at the table near his to see the old couple, I first notice the fingers. They look three times the size of a normal person’s fingers–long, thick, creamy fingers.

When I talked about Barry Hannah several weeks ago, I mentioned that the other writer my professor in my second attempt at taking Creative Writing wanted us to read, whose glory we should bask in, was Raymond Carver. The only texts for the course were Airships by Barry Hannah and Will You Please Be Quiet Please? by Carver. We read two stories before starting on our short stories; I was unimpressed with both writers. Several years ago I decided to repurchase the collections and try them again (I’ll talk about Hannah another time) thinking that perhaps now, as a more mature adult and reader, I might appreciate them more. It wasn’t the case with Hannah, and it certainly isn’t the case with Carver, either.

I am not sure what the point of this story is; waitress waits on a large gentleman, everyone else on staff is mean and cruel about him whereas she is fascinated in him in some way; it’s rather oblique in its meaning, and in its ending; when she says she feels like her life has changed in some way, why? Why did this man have such an effect on her? It isn’t clear and maybe that’s the intent; is it the recognition of the casual cruelty of her co-workers and her boyfriend? Why is she so fascinated by this customer and how much he eats?

It’s a very small story, and rather intimate; I like the way Carver does his writing and tells his story, yet I fail to see the genius here in the actual story itself. I learn nothing about the waitress, not do we learn anything, really, about her customer other than he is polite, well put together, and enormous. Is it about the waitress seeing, and disliking, the casual cruelty of her co-workers and her lover, seeing them in a different way in their inability to see her customer as anything other than enormously fat, that his size somehow strips him of his humanity? Is that what Carver’s intent is, to be so vague and uninvolved with the story that it’s left to our interpretation? I honestly don’t know, and what’s more, I don’t care. I don’t care about this waitress. I don’t care about her friends. The authorial distance just doesn’t work for me. I’ll keep reading his stories, though–I read “Neighbors” for the class, and I remember it fondly–although it didn’t drive me to read more of Carver’s work.

I suppose this is why I am not a literary writer, and could never be one; my purpose is writing a story is to not only to tell the story but to make the reader understand the characters, get to know them, and hopefully empathize with them; to make, in the case of anything I write, to make the inexplicable explicable. I don’t get that from either Carver or Hannah, to be honest. Ah, well.

And now, back to spice-mining.

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