My Unfulfilled Dream, Starring Chris Claremont

If there’s one thing that I wish I could do as a “comics journalist” (although, now that I’m on io9, I wonder if I still earn that title or if I’m “journalist who occasionally writes about comics”) it’s write the definitive Chris Claremont BDSM story. Everyone has heard the rumors and innuendo – and if you haven’t, I’ll point you to Google and wish you good luck – but there’s no denying that there are some interesting and unusual recurring themes throughout Claremont’s writing and especially his original 16-year run on the X-Men that suggest some familiarity with S&M and control and submission and all of that kind of thing. It’s something that he’d doubtless never agree to, but I’ve often wished that someone was able to sit down and just talk to him about it without any sensationalism (Claremont is Fetish Pervert Corrupting All Of Us When We Were Children!) or judgment or whatever, just to… well, get to the bottom of it. No pun intended.

Of course, maybe I’m just saying that because I’m convinced that he did terrible things to my libido when he turned Madelyne into the Goblin Queen during Inferno and I want some kind of payback.

(A side note: One of the reasons Morrison’s NewXMen run felt so faithful to Claremont’s was that it, too, seemed to acknowledge a certain transgressive nature in its treatment of the Scott/Emma relationship, and the idea that, by being “naughty” outside of his marriage to Jean, Scott could be “himself” in a way he couldn’t be with Jean. But it was an interesting – and very Morrisonian – take on Claremont’s “I am evil and it’s so freeing!” idea, because it ended up (a) sticking, and (b) not being part of an evil mind control plan, but a genuine emotional need that ended happily – or, at least, as happily as these things end in superhero comics.)

(Originally published July 16, 2009 at iamgraememcmillan.com before it got retrofitted as a work site. I’d still love to do this, one day. Also amusing: Despite the writing I do for Newsarama and Comics Alliance and Robot 6, I’m now firmly in the “journalist who occasionally writes about comics” mindset; I’m pretty sure that happened at io9.)

Putting In A Little Thought Apparently Pays Off

Lookit me at #2 for the day:

Seriously, these Time Entertainment pieces are some of the most… frustrating, fulfilling things I’ve written in the longest time, but seeing them be so warmly received on the site is such an amazing feeling you can’t believe. It’s like the opposite of writing for the Comics Internet, I’m telling you.

(The story is here.)

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

I have trouble admitting to myself (and others) that I’m a professional writer. On some level, I know that I make my living from putting one word in front of another and doing it until I make sentences and then making enough sentences until there are paragraphs, posts, essays and thoughts, but on another, I still don’t feel like a professional writer. There’s part of my head that thinks “Well, you’re only a blogger, and that’s different. It’s not like you’re a novelist or playwright or a real writer like that.”

(Our next door neighbor, having seen me sitting at my laptop typing many many times, asked Kate if I was working on a novel. “He seems to always be working,” he apparently said, and I am. I had to bite back the response that it feels like a professional blogger seems like more work than writing a novel, sometimes. All those ideas, all that brevity! On an unending daily basis!)

I have trouble remembering when writing became my “thing”; I went to art school for years because drawing was my thing, and the only writing I did was to support that, whether it was stories to illustrate or essays or whatever. But somewhere along the line, making images became less fun and more exhausting, more competitive, and I was always surrounded by people who could do what I could do much better, and so I retreated into words: My final MA show was a book, which I had illustrated, yes, but which was about the words as much as the way it looked. Self-expression through language.

From there, writing was a hobby, a way of blowing off steam, I guess; an all-encompassing way, sometimes, but still. When I started writing for other people – at first, the audience I realized I had, then for Brian (My first paid writing gig!), for Matt, for others – it became this responsibility, scary in its expectation. But by the time Annalee and io9 came around, I’d gotten over that (Well, for the most part), and the idea of making a living as a writer seemed like a dream come true.

It still does, I should add; doing what I do for a living is amazing to me, even now, more than a year into it. But, for some reason, I still feel that there is a distance to go before I become a professional writer.

(Originally published July 12, 2009 at iamgraememcmillan.com before it got retrofitted as a work site. This is very funny to go back and re-read now, considering that it’s three years later and I am far more jaded about being a writer by this point, even though I now write for Time.)

Rediscovered From 2009, But Well Worth Revisiting

I swear, I didn’t Photoshop this in any way. For those who may not know, Brian Michael Bendis is one of (if not the) most successful, senior, writers at Marvel Comics and works as part of the publisher’s Creative Committee shaping Marvel Studios’ movie output. He likes saying things to make people upset online.

Not All of Us Have An Ace Rock and Roll Club

There comes a point in everyone’s life, I’m convinced, where they fall victim to their own self-mythologizing. Or, at least, start their own self-mythologizing, which is practically the same thing as far as I’m concerned; that time in life when you become convinced that everything is exactly right, that your life is full of fascinating things happening and interesting people and that this is the moment that you’ll always remember and that other people would want to know about.

This may, of course, just be my own rationalization for having done it coming into play; my personal self-mythology begins around 1995 and ends about three years later, spanning the end of my art school experience (as a student, at least; the dark lost years of teaching followed, thereby firmly ending a period I’d like to remember). I’m not necessarily sure why I was convinced at the time that those were going to be the Best Days Of My Life – they weren’t, by the way, and I’m still unsure that I’ve found those particular days yet – but I was, and because of that, every day was lived in some strange mix of expectation of the amazing and constant feeling that I should try and remember everything for posterity… both of which held me back, ironically, from actually doing that much worth remembering years later. Instead, I lived a familiar routine of friends and relationships that were almost certainly doomed from the start, of studying during the day and going to the same clubs at night with the same people and listening to the same music week after week.

To put it like that makes it sound more depressing, more mundane than it was – definitely more than it seemed at the time. But when I think back at everything that was happening, and how caught up in it all, I wonder whether the reason I was so convinced that everything that was happening was so special was because I was trying to make it come true by believing hard enough.

(Originally posted July 6, 2009 at iamgraememcmillan.com before it got retrofitted as a work site.)

Recently Read (Prose)

Books read in the last couple of weeks:

The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson
Alpha – Greg Rucka
Feel: Robbie Williams – Chris Heath
Fables: Peter & Max – Bill Willingham (re-reading, for last week’s Fairy Tales piece for Time Entertainment)
Star Trek: New Frontier #6 The Quiet Place – Peter David
Star Trek: Titan #1: Taking Wing – Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin

Admit it: You thought I was joking about the Star Trek books, right…? Definitely not; I can make it through one of those (one of the regular ones, at least) in a couple of nights, post-work/pre-sleep, and they definitely work in the enjoyable-enough-to-keep-reading-dumb-enough-to-decompress-the-brain scheme of things. And, thanks to the local library, I can speed through as many as I want without it costing me anything. Success!

The Ronson one was enjoyable, but ultimately disappointing; it felt like a series of shaggy dog stories as opposed to something more coherent, but I loved the Rucka book – Really, really good thrilling writing. A bit looser than his Kodiak and Queen and Country novels, but not necessarily worse for that. The Chris Heath book was… I don’t know. I feel really ambivalent about it, to be honest; it was very readable, sure, but I felt like I was being conned the entire time. For a book so lauded by British journalists and profile-writers, it felt very much like something that wanted me to buy more Robbie Williams records than anything else. In that respect, it pretty much worked; I didn’t buy any Williams, but I did get his In and Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits 1990-2010 from the library, and have been surprised by how much of it I enjoyed, even the songs I’d never heard before (Pretty much everything after I left the UK).

366 Songs 126: Say You’ll Be There

It’s genuinely hard to overestimate just how weirdly, surprisingly important the Spice Girls were back in 1996. Not only were they a genuine pop phenomenon™, but they were somehow beloved by those closest to me, too. We liked the songs in an unironic way, we liked the branding of “characters,” we talked about which ones we fancied.

Looking back, that seems kind of ridiculous and embarrassing. Apart from the bit about liking their songs unironically: “Say You’ll Be There” is still a great pop song, all squelches and singalong choruses offering a spectcularly desexualized worldview even as two of the band wear latex outfits. Everything’s forgiven once that harmonica hits, though…

And In The End

But this is, for me, also about the adjustment away from the weekly and daily deadlines I’ve been on for the last twenty years.  Now I actually have a little bit of time to do something other than write scripts.  Not that’s made me a better blogger, oddly enough — I was more productive on warrenellis.com when I was writing eight things at once than I am now.  Funny how that’s worked out.  Presumbly a result of a mind being overclocked in pursuit of getting all the words out now now now now.

That’s Warren Ellis, from his latest MACHINE VISION (It’s all in caps, apparently) email newsletter, quoted because… Well, because it’s a Friday afternoon and it’s been a long week (I didn’t have the holiday Monday that regular folk did; freelancer, you see), and because I am all too familiar with the mindset of getting all the words out now now now now. It’s something I’ve been struggling with, recently, the problem of (a) meeting deadlines, (b) writing a lot of stuff without it all becoming mush – I’ve really had problems with that this week, and feel like I screwed up at least a couple of times – and most importantly for me, (c) stopping afterwards. What I’ve found myself doing is being trapped in this loop of just feeling constant… anxiety isn’t the right word, but as if my brain is a train that refuses to stop, even though I want to get off. It takes too long to calm down, which is a problem.

Weirdly enough, I’ve discovered that Star Trek novels work; they do something that somebody smart enough to know these things once told me: They give your brain enough to distract it, but not enough to actually tax it, so you get to decelerate and, if you’re lucky, stop every now and again.

Plus, now I can tell you all about the Thallonian Empire and what happened to the crew of Deep Space 9 after the series finished, which is something.

366 Songs 125: Kids

I read Feel, Chris Heath’s book about the weird and wonderful life of Robbie Williams (Note: It does seem weird, but not so wonderful, in the book), the other week, and as a result, I’ve been thinking about Williams’ music a lot recently. Williams is one of those acts that you kind of like, because you kind of like parts of his songs, even if the whole thing never quite sits right, but “Kids,” his duet with Kylie Minogue, has enough good bits to make it one of my favorite songs of his – Not least of which for the sarcasm and snark that comes with a chorus that sees such big-in-the-UK pop stars singing “And we’ll play it by numbers/Til something sticks/Don’t mind doing it for the kids.” That sly humor? Singalong choruses? That’s what I want from my pop music, thanks.

366 Songs 124: The Book of Life

Somehow, I only found First Serve (Essentially a De La Soul album from earlier this year) this week, but this song has been on pretty much constant repeat since then. Seriously, even if you take off Kelvin Mercer and David Jude Jolicoeur trading lines and storytelling with ease as they do so, the music here is just great. First listen for me was the music, second was the lyric. Both times, I immediately hit repeat to try it again.