Step Inside, Love

If there’s a surprise gift that keeps giving when it comes to being a full-time staff writer for a website after ~13 years of being a freelancer, it’s that I have paid holidays and paid time-off for the first time in a long time. I am, I confess, unsure quite what to do with this new and wonderful experience.

It’s not as if I didn’t know this was part of the whole deal; I mean, I was paying attention to the job offer, and can read, I promise. It’s simply that my brain sped past that when weighing up the pros and cons of taking the gig, in favor of things like “a guaranteed wage every month that is unlikely to fluctuate wildly through no fault of my own” and “health benefits, no really, health benefits, can you imagine?” All of this was happening at the beginning of the summer, far enough away from everything bar July 4 (and even then, it was going to take effect after then), so holidays and what they’d mean for me just wasn’t something even vaguely on my radar.

Now, of course, things are different: not only am I about to get to take Thanksgiving off without being thankful for losing the money that I could be making otherwise for the first time in… well, 13 years, I guess, but I’m also facing down the start of the holiday season knowing that I get to take basically half of the month off at the end because Chloe’s family are in town and, again, I don’t have to worry about losing money as a result. On the one hand, I feel somewhat shocked at this turn of events; on the other, I feel as if I’ve accidentally slipped into a far more cultured, kind world that doesn’t punish me for wanting a life outside of “content creation.”

That said, the problem with full time jobs is that they find whole other ways to punish you, but that’s neither here nor there right now…

Behind The Muzak

The one thing I didn’t really consider with the slow motion collapse of Twitter that’s going on is that the company doesn’t just own Twitter, but Revue, the platform I used for my shorter-lived-than-intended newsletter at the start of the year; if Twitter collapses, so does the archive of Comics FYI, as well as the mailing list attached to it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those are two things I’d like records of for posterity, for my ego, and just to be utterly cynical, for potential further use should things go suddenly wrong with my day job and I need to think about alternate outlets again.

Back when I started it, Comics FYI was my attempt to inoculate myself against the freelance life in some way, by having something that was mine and therefore couldn’t be pulled away without notice — or, maybe worse, with notice, as happened at THR, leaving me an anxious wreck for a month, scrambling to try and argue my value to executives who really didn’t care one way or another. The newsletter was mine, and that was genuinely thrilling, and that freedom was something I felt both an excitement from, and pressure of, every time I sat down to write an installment.

What it didn’t do, however, was pay.

Something I honestly hadn’t really considered in any appreciable manner about the newsletter was how effectively it would act as an advertisement for my writing skills, but within weeks of it launching, my freelance career — which had been slowly but clearly dying throughout 2021 — was more active than it had been in years. So much so, in fact, that it would eventually bring me a full-time job offer that came with a non-compete clause that only had so many cutouts available. Figuring that Popverse would give me the opportunity to do the same kind of work as the newsletter, but also pay me for it, I signed up and quietly folded the newsletter.

That said, I’m going to keep hold of the mailing list for the future. Just in case.

On Twitter

I feel as if I should probably have more of a reaction to the apparently-imminent demise of Twitter than I actually do, somehow. If reports are to be believed, the company’s workforce has dropped by around 88% since Elon Musk took over just three weeks or so ago, in a mixture of enforced layoffs and voluntary departures from those who didn’t want to work in an environment that was clearly becoming increasingly toxic and destined to fail. (Musk had, if rumors were true, written two separate mass-messages to employees telling them that, in the absence of a plan to fix the chaos he was causing, he expected them to become “more hardcore” and work longer hours; alarm bells couldn’t be louder, let’s be honest.)

Twitter has been my social media home for, what, 14 or so years now…? It’s the one social media site I felt able to navigate properly, able to play around in — there was something about the then-140 character limit (now 280, of course) that worked for me in a way that Facebook or Instagram, Friendster or Vine or whatever, didn’t. Maybe it’s that my mind responds well to short bursts of activity; maybe it’s that I am drawn to platforms that center around writing, instead of images. Whatever; I was a believer in Twitter. It was where I felt comfortable.

That home is going to go away, according to those in the know. Ultimately, I feel… ambivalent…? “Numb” feels melodramatic and wrong, to boot, but I struggle to have a response that goes beyond a quiet sadness and feeling that I’ll miss it for the social aspect — there’s a number of people I made friends with because of it! — and the ease of news gathering aspect, but otherwise…? I’m not sure, I’m genuinely not. Maybe I’m just old now, too old for social media and everything it asks of me. Or maybe I’m just waiting for someone to make Twitter 2, and I’ll move there happily and quietly, and live out the rest of my days.

Maybe both.

Have You Ever Considered…?

It’s almost the holiday season again, somehow — a realization I came to, as so many are these days, because of work, as we start to plan coverage that includes gift guides and Best Of lists. (It’s beginning to look a lot like Listmas, as the song almost goes.) 

That this is what you do for the end of the year isn’t anything new to me; I’ve been doing this for long enough that it’s not only second nature by this point, but almost a nostalgic tradition in and of itself. There was a period of a few years where the end of the year meant coming up with Best Comics Of The Year lists for both Wired and The Hollywood Reporter more or less simultaneously, and still trying to ensure that I wasn’t entirely repeating myself. They were for two different outlets with different audiences, I’d tell myself, and therefore what met the criteria of “best” was different.

By now, then, it really is as much a part of the end of the year to think in terms of this kind of writing as listening to Christmas music, putting lights around the tree or stressing that I’ve not gotten the presents right for whatever reason. It’s a comfort, in some kind of a way, if I’m honest: a familiar landmark that lets me know where I am in terms of the year, and reminds me that, before too long, the whole thing can be packed up and put away as we look to the new calendar with no small amount of hope that surely, surely, this one will be better. 

I tell myself all of this as I sit here, thinking about my work to-do list for the day, trying to find the piece of surprise, curiosity, and “new” — the novelty — that gets my fingers on the keys and my brain in gear, that makes the work happen every day.

That I Keep Calling It “Don’t Worry Baby” Doesn’t Help, Either

Somehow, I’m still thinking in the back of my brain, half-heartedly, about Don’t Worry Darling more than a week after watching it. On some level, I’m sure, some would take this as a sign of the movie’s artistic value — if it can be thought-provoking so long after viewing, especially considering that I’ve watched another handful of movies since, then surely that says something about the movie’s power, the argument might go — but the sad truth if it is, the reason I’m thinking about it remains that I’m mystified that it got released in the form that it was, without someone in some position of authority stepping in and going, “Maybe we should try and fix this…?”

The core of the central idea, after all, isn’t a disaster, even if it is shockingly derivative: the picture-perfect mid-20th century society the protagonist lives in is a lie, constructed by what is, for all intents and purposes, a cult of tech bro incels. It’s a twist on The Stepfird Wives, with a dash of The Matrix and Mad Men to boot; it’s not anything special, but it’s solid enough. 

The execution of this idea, though…! Ignoring the fact that it’s never quite clear how the fake reality works — the wives have all been… given electroshock therapy in the real world, and then implanted with fake memories but basically given the same fake memories, even though they spend all day together, talking…? — or, for that matter, why it exists, given that those responsible apparently still have to spend the majority of their time in the real world to support their captive wives’ lives of leisure, suffering exactly the same indignities and upsets as before, but with added responsibilities and costs added on, there’s the fact that the movie would rather offer trailer-ready moments than anything making any narrative sense.

For example, the first signifier that reality isn’t what it seems is when Florence Pugh’s character is baking, and discovers that all the eggs are hollow. Why is that the case in what’s later revealed to be virtual reality? What’s with the scene where she’s cleaning and suddenly the house starts to contract, crushing her? Why, when she’s watching a swimming display on television, does she suddenly find herself drowning? All of these make sense if her reality was responsive to her state of mind, but it’s not; it’s a virtual reality world controlled by external forces, right…? 

Again, there’s nothing so wrong with the writing that a second pass couldn’t have at least addressed, but it never happened, even as the multi-million dollar enterprise chugged along with some truly terrible performances in the process. (Harry Styles is as weightless as the reviews argued, but not enough was said of director Olivia Wilde’s lifeless performance as the lead supporting character.)

Maybe what’s sticking with me is the wasted potential, the idea that it could have been better with just a little more effort in specific areas. Maybe I’m stuck on something that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I should just take a cue from the title and quit caring, perhaps.

I Wanna Wake Up In The

I disappeared from here before New York Comic Con — and truth be told, the convention exhaustion is no small reason why I got so overwhelmed and stopped posting here — which meant that I didn’t share my dual excitement and terror about returning to the city that never fucking sleeps please God just shut up already for the first time in three years. It was something I was both breathlessly excited about, and endlessly nervous about, at the same time.

I love New York. It’s not just a trademarked t-shirt slogan, but the actual truth; I have such happy memories in that city, and there’s an energy and feel to it that genuinely can’t be matched by anywhere else in the world that I’ve visited. (London comes close, maybe, but that’s something else in its own right, another city locked in memory from another part of my life altogether.) New York is one of those rare places that I can close my eyes and picture myself in almost immediately, entirely — the architecture, the busyness, the crush and the noise.

But, again: the crush and the noise. The busyness. It had been three years since I was last there, and they were Pandemic Years, quieter and more withdrawn than most. The prospect of being in New York in COVID times was a scary one, just from the idea of all those crowds, never mind the mental math of surely I’ll get sick this time — math that’s just permanent in my head now — and everything else. As exciting as it was to imagine returning to the city, I was genuinely worried that it wouldn’t end well.

Looking back now, I feel as if my nervousness was misplaced, at least to the degree that the city didn’t feel any more or less dangerous than any of the other cities I’ve visited this year; while there was certainly some worry about COVID during the trip, that arguably had more to do with individual choices rather than an entire city, per se. I’m glad I got back there, even if I wish it had been a different trip for other reasons.

Is This Thing On?

I’ve been feeling self-conscious over my disappearance from here again, lately. I managed to keep up a relatively regular, three-times-a-week schedule for years, and then… I just didn’t. And I’ve been feeling anxious about it, to no small degree; anxious enough to stop myself from returning, if nothing else. I’m a professional writer, after all — words are my business — so what happened? How did I manage to stop writing for myself for six weeks, or however long it was since I’ve last been here…?

The truth is, I start to get tired of the words. Being a staff writer for Popverse is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a heavier work schedule than I’ve had in years — as a freelancer, I’d shaped my week into four work days pretty deliberately, and now I’m doing five days a week from 8am through 5pm — with a weekly (in theory) Wired column on top of that. For much of the time, it was Wired that I let slide — there’s about five or six columns I just didn’t even pitch, because my brain was too full of Popverse stuff — but the combination of guilt over missed deadlines and remembering how well Wired pays kicked in and brought me back into that fold… but it meant that something else had to go. So, the blog went dark.

It’s been in the back of my mind this entire time, though. Especially in the last week, as Twitter has started to be stripped for parts and people have been talking about returning to blogs en masse. So… here I am, wondering how to find the balance between everything that allows me to keep going without putting too much pressure on myself, or letting myself get tired of the words again.

Expect less regular posting, but continued posting, might be the answer. Shorter posts, more random posts. Or not…? Just know that, even if (when) things go quiet here, I’m wishing I had more words to share.