I had the absolute pleasure talking about one of my longtime Marvel crushes: Gambit on Crushgasm!
I had such a great time talking fanfic with the hosts of the LoveCast!
In this episode, hosts Tori and Amanda discuss Equus by Peter Shaffer discuss the merits or lack thereof in being a horse girl and why, oh why, is Daniel Radcliffe’s ass so fine.
For as long as I can remember, I have always felt a kinship with Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist. A charismatic and strong-willed leader with dreams of order and change but is often too bogged down by the weight of trauma and past regrets to see those grand plans through. A leader who can rally troops but sometimes can barely manage the strength to get out of bed. I’ve always had men and women at my side, just as Mustang has, that have been a stabilizing force in my chaotic life. While the names have changed, the roles have not, so let’s go over some of the men and women who stand by my side and help me see my mission to its end.
My Right Hand, Hughes
At this moment, it’s Carlos, my best friend and co-panelist. It’s been others before in the past but I want to talk about Carlos for a bit. Like Hughes while he can seem all over the place and even dismissive, he’s far from. He’s remarkably attentive and always trying to make sure I eat something (even when it’s something sweet). I’ve always needed someone who can drag me out of darkness, someone who listens and understands but also can challenge my negative thoughts in a way that I can process and Carlos has learned remarkably quickly how to speak to me in a language that I understand. And while we don’t always agree, I’m blessed to have such a dedicated and trusting person by my side to push me forward.
My Cheerleader, Havoc
Again, a role filled by many before but right now it’s filled by Ricky. This man will cheer me on no matter what I’m doing. I could be plotting world domination (and let’s be honest, I am) and he’d support me with an enthusiasm and genuine care that I think rarely exists on Earth. I’m fortunate, really, that I have someone who can support me no matter how grand or small my endeavors are.
My Shield, Hawkeye
Despite my earlier brushes with misogyny, I have many women that I now consider close friends now that I am removed from the need to see them as competition for a mate (also known as highschool in America under a patriarchal society). Right now, a few women get to hold this role: Amanda, Victoria, Amber; all of them willing to support me during my darkest days . Not just as protectors but those willing to tell me when I need to be better. My trauma and illnesses are not an excuse but are context; it is not a pass to be a terrible person; it’s just a brief explanation as to why sometimes I do what I do. This is why I appreciate these women so much; they’re not just passive shieldmaidens, they are just as active in the fight as the rest of them.
Those No Longer Ranked
It’s hard staying friends with a miniature tyrant bent on world domination. I’m the first to acknowledge that it isn’t easy being my friend but I try to be empathetic and understanding. Needly to say, some just don’t maintain their ranks. I normally spend years agonizing over those I’ve lost along the way but thanks to a lot of medication and even more therapy, I’m coming to terms with the fact that sometimes, people are bad. Obviously, out of respect and an abundance of caution, I have no reason to name names and more importantly, despite the hurt I carry with me, I don’t wish these people ill. I genuinely hope all of them are doing well and are getting what they need that they clearly could not get from me. The bow can not always hold, things fall apart, friendships don’t last forever and people can be cruel; they don’t always mean to be but that’s just how it happens. The problem with friends that also have trauma is that we all have these horrid burdens within us, these maladaptive skills that we’ve honed our whole lives to cope with untenable situations. But because we’ve been honing these horrible coping skills for years, we tend to use them on those closest to us, oftentimes blissfully unaware that we have become no better than those who have abused us in the past.
Friend breakups are their own special kind of hell, having to remove those once close from your existence, divide up mutuals like you’re going through a divorce, cut every picture in half, burn all of their gifts in a kiln, slice open your hand to reverse the blood pact you made with them…
It’s strange timing considering that as of writing this post, I’m going through another friend breakup that is going about as well as anyone can expect. I feel nauseous if that person even appears on my timeline even though I’ve blocked them nearly everywhere, the thought of this person makes me cry and I still feel the hollow sting of pain in my heart when I think of the betrayal butI’m stronger for it and here because of the men and women at my side who are strong for me when I cannot be.
They have supported me, comforted me, provided me with sage council when I wanted to be rash and irresponsible. They gave me safe harbor to rest my tired sails and anchored me when my heart was nothing but battered against the rocks.
I’m told I’m a generous person, always offering my friends help, always baking for people, always going above and beyond but to me, it’s still an act of supreme selfishness. I give because I know how much I take. I give because I know that once I need to cash in those cached chips of good will, I will need to. I will need these treasured few more than ever. I don’t give because I’m a saint, I give because I’m a sinner.
I’m so grateful to the men and women by my side. Many of them bonded with me through shared secrets, shared heartbreak and most importantly shared healing and understanding.
At ease, troops. You’ve earned a break.
In this episode, hosts Tori and Amanda discuss All Quiet on the Western Front, talk about the horrors of PTSD and enjoy our not-so well-deserved rum ration.
In this episode, hosts Tori and Amanda discuss Chinua Acebe’s Things Fall Apart, talk about how horrible colonialism is and make good on a promise to Mothman.
In this episode, hosts Tori and Amanda discuss Victor Hugo’s work of architectural pornography, I mean novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame while talking about gargoyles, whinging about absinthe and discovering Amanda’s new divinity as Our Lady of Perpetual Gargoyles.
I started writing fanfic when I was 12. I don’t really know why; I always had an overactive imagination and a strong desire to escape the world I was in. It started, shockingly, with To Kill a Mockingbird because I guess I had some feelings to work out about a Southern boy and I quickly found myself inserting shades of myself into various narratives, mostly anime. The characters I created then were hollow; overpowered fantasies that were all beautiful, lily white and strong and always paired with whatever character I had some feelings about; that or they were some kind of estranged secret sister that never came up until now. We see these kinds of writings now and mock them but for formative youths, it was almost necessary to have a way to escape daily life.
I did my school work and came home to write, then mostly on paper with pencil so I could always fix a mistake and I shared my work with almost no one. I was proud of my work but in the sort of way anyone is proud of a secret. It was something that I could keep to myself; a place that only I knew.
I didn’t start sharing my work until I was 14 both physically with friends by sliding folders full of my unfettered musings between classes and on lunch breaks and later in the year online on sites like Quizilla and Xanga. I grew fairly popular because I was attached to a ship that was popular (mostly slash pairings with Envy from FMA and the occasional InuYasha piece). Typing made my work so much easier and I could spend hours in Notepad writing out my deepest desires for characters now in hindsight would start to shape nearly every part of me and my sexuality and orientation. Looking back, I had no idea what I was going; especially as I began to write out sex scene and explicit material. I was mimicking what others were writing; most of us also underage and hadn’t seen the anatomy of the other biological sex. We were all the blind being led by the blind but I don’t think we cared. We continued on as writers with the foundation we built together, as a community, and were prepared to go out into the sea with our headcanons, ships and shipping manifestos.
I was 15 when I started my longest running fic, a Gravitation series I used to help work through some angst about my sexuality and gender and more importantly helped continue to hone in who I would become as a writer. Unreliable narrators, first person limited, lots of commentary from your main character and occasionally out of character behaviors but always rationalized and rooted with the canon lore of the series. This was also when I started writing to music, letting the beat and rhythm of each song carry my fingers along and focus the many noises in my already-filled brain. I’m listening to music now as I write this piece. I kept writing fanfic well through highschool, even writing some original fiction and taking commissions for pieces from friends where I was paid in favors, clout or money to write them a few chapters or scenes with a character they were particularly fond of with a character of their choosing either canon and original. I liked providing that for others, giving them an outlet, too, as I had given myself.
When I graduated highschool, I gave up a lot of my anime and manga, assuming that I would grow out of this “phase” that had occupied nearly a decade of my life by then as my aunts had hoped. I didn’t. Within a year, I was back to writing and added roleplay to the mix. I thrived in large roleplay forums and with many partners in many series with OCs perfectly tailored for every situation. Again, this taught me a new skill: completing actions. RPs were based on making sure actions were closed and completed; if you left a door open within the RP, that open space could be used by anyone. You’ll notice that in my fiction that anytime a door is opened, someone closes it; if a product is brought into the scene, it is set down somewhere solid, rooms have depth and proportion and items because rooms aren’t blank slates and to this day I still draw out room layouts and home layouts for various works.
I had a dedicated RP partner when I was in my third year of college; she was the most formative to my works and my continued dive into fanfiction. She was my muse, my everything. She helped me grow as a writer by giving me a challenge, something I rarely felt like I had. Not that I ever thought my skill was that grand but she was really someone who could keep up with me and could match my energy levels in a way that I could have only ever dreamed of. She continues to be my partner and I am grateful for that.
I continued to roleplay and that kept me satiated as far as fiction came but it was when my then-girlfriend began to grow interested in my work that I returned to fanfic: picking up my Gravitation series as it was a series that helped bring us together. I would write mostly for her, because of her and at her behest and encouragement. I had a captive audience of one and it was more than enough motivation for me to continue to write. That strategy worked out perfectly until she broke my heart and left me.
I lost my will to write. I lost my Raison d’être and I couldn’t stomach looking at my work again. While during that time I had another RP partner who kept me entertained from time to time, it was a time I mostly focused on non-fiction and getting this humble little blog up and running. My schedule then didn’t leave me with much time to think about fiction and my day job that also had me writing plenty didn’t leave me with the needed creativity once I returned home from work to want to write much else.
It was in my late 20s that I decided that I was going to finish my Gravitation series mostly out of spite. I was tired of looking at the unfinished document and tired of feeling sorry for myself and my broken heart: I kept writing, sometimes manically and for hours on end late at night sitting on my bed in my shitty one-room apartment. I finished the series and was triumphant and elated; celebratory in a room to my own and then promptly began working on the sequel knowing that it was unlikely anyone else would see this work ever again. It was too personal, too old, too problematic and too close to my heart to share with others. It was my dirty little secret to be buried with me in death and rot with me for an eternity.
It took me a long time to decide on posting fanfic publicly again: mostly a desire to reclaim a lost part of my youth and for the most part, my fiction slid under the radar. That was before I started working on a passion project: a MattxMello fic from Death Note that would later balloon to over 50,000 words and 40 chapters. For the first time since my teen years I had an audience, an upload schedule, comments and cliffhangers and fans.
I had regained part of myself that I had shunned for years and now, it feels even better than ever to be back.
In this episode of Unfortunately, Required Reading hosts Amanda and Tori celebrate Amanda’s birth month by reading one of her favorite plays: Arsenic and Old Lace, drink some elderberry wine and discuss the merits of letting a mentally unstable person dig graves for you.
I started my video game journey in earnest with Pokemon back when I was a wee demon living in suburbia. Pokemon is well-known for its clueless NPCs and how invasive you can be in their lives. Now, let’s back up: an NPC is a non-playable character in a video game. Typically they hang out in the background and only provide things to move the plot along or are just random extras. Sometimes they’re given really fun lines but for the most part they are meant to let you continue on in your own quest for fame and in-game self-importance.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has changed that for me in a way that I currently find unsettling and interesting. Animal Crossing is a game in which you (player and character) live on a land or island with villagers that are your neighbors and you help them out with mundane tasks and interact with them on a daily basis creating strange parasocial relationships with fictional characters. As stated, I started my journey with RPGs with Pokémon and for the most part the NPCs in any given region are pretty linear with their motivations and movements. Sure, they can walk around and move around but they rarely seem to exist outside of you. The houses don’t feel lived in, the parks don’t feel full, they are ghosts that fill a landscape for you: the hero of a Nietzschean wet dream. You walk into a house and rummage around the trash for goods and talk to someone, sometimes but for the most part, the unmoving digital eyes care little for your activities or actions. It’s perfectly normal within Pokémon to walk into someone’s home, steal their shit and leave.
Animal Crossing is not Pokemon and I didn’t think that fact would unnerve me until I tried to leave Rocco’s house without saying anything. I had entered in the hopes of giving him a gift to build clout, I mean because he deserved it for doing nothing, and when I found him working away at his workstation, I left without acknowledging him. I was shocked to see how he reacted to that. Of course he would react and not kindly but with confusion. I entered his home and said nothing; that’s deranged and rude. But Rocco was confused and that gave me pause for the first time in my decades of playing video games. NPCs are watching me. I never worried about that until recently. I never cared about how I dressed in-game or how I behaved but now playing Animal Crossing I feel like I have eyes on me all the time. Characters’ eyes follow me when I run around; when I enter their homes and greet them they are often interrupted from a previous task. When I don’t see them, they are disappointed and when I talk to them too much, they comment on that.
They have lives outside of me: something I rarely have had to think about for an NPC. I am part of their world, not a part of mine like most traditional narrative structure in games.My villagers are neighbors, on par and equal to me. While I am the main character, I am in many ways in service to them. I have to weed and water and pick up rocks and fill the museum and catch bugs and fish and keep the entire economy running by selling to a gaggle of capitalist tanuki.
It created along with it a strange short of shame to me that I rarely feel in video games: most games allow players to be shameless with their dress and actions. You are the ubermensch of this world and it bends to your will. So what if I break into someone’s house in Legend of Zelda. But in Animal Crossing the characters have a life outside of you. They leave their homes, they sleep, they fish, they do things where you don’t matter; where I don’t matter. I am as much an NPC to them as they are to me. They are people creatures who truthfully would probably be fine without me sans “missing” my character and things getting full of weed because someone has to do the damn work around here.
I’m a vain person, which is hilarious considering how low my self-esteem is. I’m image conscious even in games. I had this concern while playing Animal Crossing when Clyde, a horse I do not like, showed up on my island. I was told by friends that hitting him with my net and generally being a damn menace would encourage the horse to leave. I was fine with that, I’m used to being a sociopath in games and decided that I wanted to appropriate his land for my Japanese-themed garden on the island and proceeded to hunt the horse down mercilessly and hit him with my net repeatedly. I was then shocked to see the horse show visible frustration and sadness and when I spoke to him he said that his feelings were hurt and it was my fault.
This is a video game. This horse isn’t real. But I broke down over that. I hurt the horse’s feelings and hurt him. And while of course that makes sense because don’t hit random people with nets, for god’s sake, I was shocked that my actions had consequences. In video games, I am a lawless sociopath doing as I wish but here I did something that caused a reaction and one that was not positive. I was emotionally crushed in that moment (thanks, trauma) and I have left the horse alone for now to continue to mar my land with his existence but too afraid now to harm him.
An NPC’s gaze can be powerful, more so than I ever assumed before. Now, I am paranoid, anxious and scared with so many virtual eyes on me. It has affected how I dress, act and move in-game and now has me wondering if I’ll ever view NPCs the way I used to again.