A Sudden Spout of Activity

As we move on into mid-June, Esme once again updates her blog.  This is another Maya story, a series of ideas I have that revolve around some sort of smart-mouthed prostitute/assassin who habitually ends up in rather odd situations.  You’ll notice these stories focus more on plot and character than normal Esme endeavors; they’re altogether more serious stories, though still pretty weird.  This is because I got the idea for this milieu before Esme was even a twinkle in my eye — I actually wrote the first story, “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” circa 2003 or 04.  When I decided I wanted to have more than excerpts on the Esme journal last fall, I pulled out the old story, rewrote it so that it suited how the characters had evolved in that time, and posted it.  I have a few other Maya stories rolling around in my head, and I think one of them could be an honest-to-goodness novel.  If I ever write it then I will be, for serious, a supernatural romance (or at least urban fantasy) author.  Whoa.

Speaking of novels, I sort of completed a new novel manuscript a few days ago, a thing that would likely be sold as a “short novel.”  It’s rather strange, a non-supernatural satire of my experiences with college life and the vague direction my generation is heading.  It’s basically Evelyn Waugh fanfic, though I’m waiting to hear back from some of my friends on whether or not it’s any good.  If it is, then I certainly have no clue what to do with it.  My experiences of bashing my head against the wall in the speculative fiction market have not prepared me for finding people to reject my attempts at “serious” fiction.

Oh, but before I forget, more Esme news.  Despite thinking it is a completely insipid platform, brought to the fore only by text messaging (which is itself a completely insipid form of communication), I have opened a Twitter account to expand the Esme fiction and give us some insight into the mind of Esme’s assistant, Alissa.

I’ve also managed to procure a passport and get my scholarships approved for my study in England, so that’s how things look on that front.

Oh, and in two days I will be getting my wisdom teeth taken out.  Thanks, human evolution.

The Death of Horror

By way of Dread Central I’ve stumbled upon an article in the Newark Film Examiner by Mark Jones about seven reasons why the horror genre is dying.  While Mr. Jones offers some very good reasons, I feel like the article has a few details wrong, and who better to discuss this than someone with a grotesquely inflated sense of self-importance like me?  So here are Mr. Jones’s points in quotes, with my responses after.

7) Over Saturation
It would seem “quantity over quality” has become the horror adage. Each week more and more poorly produced, straight-to-video horror films hit the shelves and each week, the genre becomes a little more diluted. Horror is becoming the new porn, where anyone with a video camera and willing participants can shoot a film and get distribution. This lackadaisical approach to filmmaking turns a genre with little respect into a complete joke.

This.  This this this this this.  Is.  Exactly right.

But only in a certain sense!  For example, how many Saw films are we up to now?  How many more Halloweens will go by with another shoddily constructed offering in theaters?  I don’t know, because Saw stopped being relevant after the first installment.  It’s a cash cow, now, and an easy buck for the studios.  This same sequel-madness is what felled the great Slashers of the 80s, my friends — even Michael Myers in his resplendent glory was toast once magical druids were on the scene.

I think this problem can be neatly contained in an exploration of a horror subgenre, namely, the zombie movie.  Jones points out that any starry-eyed wannabe film student feels like he can (or should) make a horror movie because it is the “easy” way to go.  Doubly so if it’s a zombie movie.  This is a staggeringly wrong assumption on both counts.  Horror is not (or should not) be the easy course of action, and a zombie movie should be considerably more complicated than most filmmakers (prospective or professional) seem to think they are.  Fear, despite being an arguably primitive emotion, is much more meaningful than we like to think it is.  The overarching problem, I think, is that the audience for a horror piece seems to refuse to have standards.  People will focus on one aspect of the thing: gore, the variety and ingenuity of kills, the makeup effects on a zombie.  If these things are good, then suddenly it doesn’t matter what the story is, what it is about, what it teaches us.  Who cares about that stuff when there’s enough blood and guts that the filmmakers must have raided the meat section at a Super Wal-Mart?

Let’s talk about zombie movies.  Romero has run the standard zombie invasions make us question who the monsters really are rigmarole in the ground and perfected it.  It’s pointless, I think, for any zombie story to take this exact same tack again because even Romero himself has seemingly devolved into self-parody.  Do not get me wrong; this is certainly an important part of the zombie formula, but it’s getting tired.  It needs to be expanded, played with, questioned.  It will take effort to reinvent this type of plot, to move beyond it, and to make the zombie genre exciting again.  But unfortunately, if people are not retreading Romero’s ground (which they rarely seem to do with any finesse), they’re instead making purely stylistic movies based on how “cool” or disgusting something would be — the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, for instance.  But because, in the stylistic or technical sense, all you need for a zombie movie is a working video camera, some friends, and some makeup, it appears to be the easy way to get something done, so all your independently produced DTV zombie movies are the DotD remake without the pleasing editing or absolutely stunning Johnny Cash opening sequence.

So the genre stagnates only because we allow it, only because we do not, for whatever reason, hold horror up to the rigorous rubric of quality we apply to other genres.

6) Big Budgets
It might appear shortsighted to say a bigger budget would have a negative effect on a film. The more money spent, the better the film will be, right? Not always. What made many of the older films so scary is how real they seemed, looking more like documentaries than feature films. Also, no one in the films looked like actors. Leatherface’s family in the original “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” looked like they were pulled from a local insane asylum, not a casting call. All in all, the films were so genuine that they scared audiences for days after leaving the theater. Today, horror films are so stylized and clean it would be like getting scared by a car commercial.

Debatable, I say.  While I agree that realism is a plus, low budgets are not always indicative of quality because a lower budget, as I pointed out in the zombie-movie syndrome, often forces a storyteller or filmmaker to follow the stylistic or technical approach to horror and neglect the deeper meanings and implications of the narrative.  The original TCM was somewhat boring, I would say, and I absolutely despise the first Evil Dead movie.  Now admittedly, in both of those examples the lower budgets and technical emphasis resulted in some pretty stunning special effects (mostly in the case of The Evil Dead), what’s the point if the narrative fails to engage me?  I suppose it’s preferable to the next insidious beast…

5) Computer Graphics
Has the price of corn syrup and red food coloring skyrocketed? Recent horror films have become so dependent on computer graphics that they look more like cartoons than live action movies. Think of how much better “I Am Legend” would have been if the monsters chasing Will Smith around dilapidated New York City weren’t those silly looking animated abominations. The thing with CG is it can be beneficial, but when it’s overused, the films tend to be less scary and more stupid.

Yes, I hate CGI.  Do you hate CGI?  You should, especially in horror films.  CGI almost unavoidably breaks my suspension of disbelief because it looks so unreal.  I cannot feel threatened by something that is obviously added in post hoc; it would be like being scared of a Photoshop filter, for crying out loud.  It really doesnt even have to be a CG monster; I would say that Let the Right One In is probably the best horror film of the last five years, yet it has one particularly heinous scene with CG cats that pulled me entirely out of the film.  Now this is something of a problem, of course, because I suspect that the scene would have been impossible (or illegal) to achieve with real cats, and may have even looked ridiculous with puppets or animatronics.  So I maintain that CG should always be a last resort — the recent film Splinter, while not as good as LtROI, is a fantastic example of the wonders we can do with makeup and puppets, with only minor help from computers.  (Still, there’s a cringe-worthy shot or two near the end, but like the heinous cat scene, it’s over quickly.)

4) PG-13 Ratings
Nothing makes horror fans gripe and groan more than seeing a PG-13 rating on a horror film. What this rating guarantees the audience is that there will be little language, no nudity, and toned down violence, while guaranteeing the producers of the film a better box office turnout.  The PG-13 rating plays to the teeny bopper crowd, who will scream in terror at every single cheap scare inserted throughout. It also robs potentially good films of any kind of legitimacy with unrealistic dialogue, little suspense, and moderate violence. Not to say violence in moderation isn’t sometimes a good thing, which brings us to…

Again, debatable.  You may ask me to think of a good PG-13 horror film and I would be at a loss, but I think if I did research I might find one. (EDIT – a friend of mine was kind enough to point out that the US remake of The Ring, which I hold as an example of cross-cultural-remake-done-right later in this essay, is also rated PG-13.  So hooray for that.) Horror is not — or should not — be proportional to the amount of tits and blood you can show.  In fact, in my personal philosophy, a horror story is especially successful when it manages to terrify you without these things.  The original 1963 version of The Haunting is a good example here; of course it was made before there was a ratings system for films, but it has no gore, no nudity, and little swearing, but I would say it is the best haunted house film yet made.  If there is anything in this movie that would warrant for it a higher rating than PG-13, especially in 1963,  it is probably the rather distinct currents of lesbianism the film (and its source material, Shirley Jackson’s immaculate novel) exude.

3) Torture and Rape
Many of today’s horror filmmakers are confusing what’s disgusting with what’s scary. In a genre where less can be more, over the top, bizarre violence has become a crutch. From the “Hostel” films to “Saw” one through one million, it’s obvious that these filmmakers are trying to get scares by repulsing their audience. What they need to realize is making someone vomit is far different than actually scaring them. Along with torture, rape scenes have become a way for filmmakers to push the envelope. Yes, some older horror films did contain both these aspects, but today it seems every horror film has a scene with someone tied to a chair getting god-knows-what shoved god-knows-where, while somewhere else a poor unsuspecting girl is about to be deflowered by some maniac. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself, is this really entertaining?

No real disagreement here.  The sooner we move beyond torture porn the better.  This ties in with my own opinions on horror, letting a lot go unspoken so your audience can fill in the blanks with whatever makes them the most uneasy.  But it’s also a matter of meaning I brought up back when talking about zombie movies; torture porn is porn because it lacks any merit beyond gore, pain, and suffering.  There is no lesson being learned, there is no reason for this pain!  Again we have a stylistic or technical emphasis over the narrative; torture porn is about what looks cool, with no greater message being coherently formed or stated.

A particularly strange strain of torture porn, I will briefly argue, is the Ju-On series, which is being consistently remade and sequelized in the states as The Grudge.  The characters encounter an evil female ghost who has at best a tangential connection to their lives; they remain mostly ignorant of this malevolence until they are too late, and then they are spirited away or whatever the hell it is the creaky throated ghost bitch does with them.  The series is significant because it does not fall into the bloody mess (heh heh) of other torture porn: there is little blood, really, and the gore is usually restrained enough.  Yet it still operates in the same way: characters, who are  pretty much completely innocent of the reason for the ghost’s vengeance, are murdered one by one and — this is the kicker — there is no way to stop it or save yourself.  Tell me, why in the hell would anyone want to watch this, because I don’t understand it.  What is the thrill in watching an unstoppable monster be literally unstoppable as it kills random people for no goddamn reason?

Compare the “classic” torture porn plot: some unstoppable and seemingly omnisicent antagonist (a collective of heartless, rich foreigners or something) for no evident reason other than perhaps their own evilness-for-evil’s-sake slowly murders a group of basically innocent protagonists who lack any possible form of recourse.  In the end one or two may escape, but there’s always the stinger ending where MAYBE THEY DIDN’T or, more likely, they get killed off in the first five minutes of the sequel.  This sort of thing could be a ripe criticism for the disconnect between upper classes and lower classes, let’s say, but you only have to watch one of the movies to see it’s not.  It’s about how badass people being hit by trains looks.

2) First Person Point of View
Why is it that every time someone runs in a film there are sequences of nauseating hand-held camerawork? Can the viewer not understand what the person on the screen is doing without seeing it through their eyes? If that’s not bad enough, there are the films in which the characters themselves are shooting the movie. Ever since “The Blair Witch Project” filmmakers have been making first person horror films and every time the characters use the same sparse reasoning of “I’m filming this because it’ll be important,” to justify their actions. Even horror legend George A. Romero took part in these shenanigans in his last film “Diary of the Dead.” There is nothing more unbelievable than a group of twenty-something idiots who think filming giant aliens or zombies or invisible witches is more important than their own safety.

I sort of agree here.  The shaky first-person-cam of Cloverfield of Blair Witch is annoying as hell.  Who cares about seeing a movie?  I’d rather watch blurs of movement while people scream at each other incoherently!  But the Blair Witch film, in particular, is interesting as a cultural artifact; if you will recall, many people were confused as to the movie’s veracity.  Was it really long-lost footage?  This is rather silly, of course, because it is about fucking witches and spirits and anyone with two brain cells should be able to tell you it’s fake as all get out, but the fact that the movie was shot realistically, with an every day video camera, somehow managed to blur the lines between reality and fantasy.  I am reminded of the Victorians and their delight at staging pictures of fairies and ghosts for photographs; among the populace there was a sizable portion of people who simply did not believe you could fake a photograph because a photo reproduced exactly what it saw — what was ostensibly “reality.”  Anything in a photograph simply had to be real.

A small aside, while we’re still on the subject of cinéma vérité: the Spanish film [REC] was well received among horror circles, touted as being frightening, got an American remake called Quarantine, and there is a sequel to both on the way.  I will tell you now, contrary to popular reports, this movie is terrible.  It has plot holes galore, has no cohesive horror-aesthetic sense, I could really go on and on.  But I will stop for now and bring it up again when I’m through with this list.  Speaking of which…

1) Remakes
It’s nothing new for filmmakers to rehash old ideas and characters, but the horror genre has become notorious for it. At this moment, there are over 60 horror films slated to be remade. Granted some of them are just talk, but it’s a staggering number even if only half of them come to fruition.

Yes.  This really needs no explanation.  How are remakes a good idea?  What is up with the current studio fascination regarding “reboots” for classic horror franchises?  Do we really need an Elm Street remake, no matter how dated the original is?  Just because this worked for Batman doesn’t mean it will work forever, guys.

I’ve already mentioned [REC] and how it got an American remake, and so I will take this moment to talk about importing horror.  Up until recently, most horror media were imported from Japan and other Asian countries — original movies, Americanized remakes, etc.  I like being able to take part in a sort of international culture of horror just as much as the next guy, you understand, but as per my comments above I don’t really like remakes.  It worked well for The Ring, and that’s pretty much it.

So as long as we’re importing the original films, then we’re good, right?  No, we’re not, because the original movies can be just as shitty as anything we crank out in America.  The amount of Japanese/Korean horror that has been imported is far too large and diverse to point fingers at every little thing, really, but I will say the original Dark Water is a good horror story while One Missed Call is not.  However, in the wake of Pan’s Labyrinth the American horror scene seems to have gravitated to the other big ocean and set its sights on Spain.  This is not a mistake in and of itself; after all, Guillermo del Toro is a wonderful filmmaker, a man after my own heart, and Pan’s Labyrinth is a great film.

But perhaps because of the astounding quality of Pan’s Labyrinth as both a piece of horror and a piece of cinema (genre does not exclude art, it turns out!) there is a marked tendency to call any Spanish horror film the next big thing.  The Orphanage, for example, was very highly regarded even by critics despite having plot holes you could drive a bus through.  Certainly it deals with Important Issues in the same way Pan’s Labyrinth did, but it’s wholly more clumsy and nonsensical.  It was a passable film, but not deserving of the praise it received.

[REC] is the flip side of the coin, a movie with little worth that (like The Orphanage) was undeservedly praised.  It is — again! — style over substance, sound and fury signifying nothing, and so on.  The plot holes in this baby are wide enough that we could slip a 747 through.  It’s torture porn, except the first-person perspective means you never have any clue what sort of torture is going on (unless it’s torture of you, the viewer, heh heh heh).  It is scary, but only in the way that a jack-in-the-box is scary to a child who has never seen one before.  You jump when the monster pops out, but beyond that there is no emotional engagement.

I feel I should draw this ramble to a close.  It’s something of a mess.

Horror is a crappy genre.

This is true.  It has been a crappy genre for a long time, because so much of it is bottom of the barrel, derivative and desperate scrapes at the feet of better works.  So much of it is style in place of substance, disgust in place of true horror.  This is the fault of fans like me and you, because we refuse to challenge this genre we love so very much.  We refuse to ask it to do great things, simply so we can watch it do cool things.  When the genre gives us something good — something that is art, or approximates it, or strains the conventions in even a wonderful little way — we stand back and let the sequels come, the remakes, the reimaginings, the next-big-things.  We refuse to think about what horror as an emotion means for us as a species, what it communicates.  We horror fans are content to sit here and simply amuse ourselves to death.

That’s pretty spooky, isn’t it.

31st of May, 31st of May… the month of June starts after today??

Things are becoming unnecessarily busy here at the end of the month.  Tomorrow I shall be traveling extensively to see a performance by a group of musicians I very much admire, and meanwhile I have a stack of six or so books to read through before classes resume.  This is assuming I don’t somehow pick up more cheap paperbacks around my birthday (the odds of this not happening, of course, being very unlikely).

I am currently taking my sweet time with the first book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and I must say I’m really seeing what all the talk over this is about.  It only took me something like ten years to actually care enough to read it!  The one great fault I can spot is that the series is projected to be seven books long, which is, if you will pardon my French, a goddamn metric ton of reading, especially when it’s seven eight-hundred page fantasy books.  Of course I haven’t read further in the series (and the last few are yet unfinished) so I’m not really qualified to say if GRRM pulls it off or not.  I will say, however, that if you have a story that cannot be told in less than eight-hundred pages (if I am lenient, I will say three times eight-hundred pages, as everyone likes trilogies) then you are putting yourself in a very good position to waste the reader’s time.  We will see.

In other news, Esmeralda Sinn seems to have developed a Facebook presence.  Show your support, why don’t you.

Meanwhile: I’m up to 24 rejections, but I have four submissions on the market — which is more than I’ve had in probably the last six months, as the “economic downturn” is not kind at all to publishers and magazines, causing a lot of them to go under completely or at least temporarily close to submissions.  As it happens, one of the pieces I currently have out is my novel Brutal, which I’ve entered into Leisure Horror’s Fresh Blood contest.  Wish me luck on that, whoever you are, Kind Reader.

SNAPDRAGON

And Esme’s May entry is up over on her blog.

I am hesitant to call this a return to form for her, since it seems to be a bit less heavy on the awkward sexuality than her stuff usually is.  It’s also a little longer than most of her novel excerpts and, I think, there’s a lot more plot-centric content.  It’s a completely stupid and ludicrous plot, yes, but there’s just a lot of it.  Also, fewer puns!  Bottom line: it’s pretty stupid, but that’s how Esme entries go, and it’s the first piece of real supernatural romance we’ve had since November, so we should count ourselves lucky.  Five months until the wedding!  Color me excited.

Cthulolita

Cthulolita, loath of my life, fear of my lexicography. My syllables, my sanity. Kuh-thoo-lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a temerarious trip of five steps down the palate to tap, timidly, on the teeth. Kuh. Thoo. Lo. Lee. Ta.

It was Tulu, plain Tulu, to the Tcho-Tcho people, standing four feet ten in their squalid jungle. It was Q’thulu in Quechua. It was Kutulu in deep Y’ha-nthlei. It was Dread Cthulhu in the archives at Miskatonic. But in my darkest dreams it was always Cthulolita.

Did it have a precursor? It did, indeed it did. In point of fact, there might have been no Cthulolita at all had I not read, one summer, a certain incantation in a certain aged and worm-eaten manuscript. In a princedom on the shores of dim Carcosa, lost Carcosa. Oh when? About as many years before the blasphemous bubbles crawled out from beneath the thumbs of their five-lobed southern lords and loped on the shores in the shape of an ape. You can always count on a madman for a fancy prose style.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, again I say, I do not know what has become of Clare Quilty, though I think — almost hope — that he is in peaceful oblivion, if there be anywhere so blessed a thing. Look at this tangle of tentacles.

I’m Burning for You

I just finished my last final, which was for an Intro to US History class and ugh whatever it’s over.  Time for summer.

I haven’t been blogging about my DAILY LIFE because honestly I’ve been so fucking busy it’s not worth it.  However, that doesn’t mean interesting things didn’t happen to me.  For instance, about a week and a half ago I went to wash my hands in the dorm bathroom and the water came out boiling hot, so I spent the night in the emergency room because you would not believe that pain goddamn.  Apparently there had been a problem with the pipes the day before and campus maintenance thought they’d fixed it.  Anyway, I got all the blisters popped and even though it was only second degree burns I had to visit a plastic surgeon to make sure the healing process wasn’t going to do something weird, since my fingers were burned and I guess finger burns like to heal by webbing your digits together.

But things are fine in that regard now, I’m off the bandages and the dead skin on my hand is falling off in horrendous sheets like some disgusting snowstorm.  I’d post pictures but that would be totally gross!

In other news, I’ve hit 22 rejections, almost all of which gave responses that were generally unhelpful.  Here is something I will outline that frustrates me about the speculative fiction market at the moment: There are form rejection slips (which I understand completely) but they do nothing in the way of telling you why something was rejected.  I do not feel like counting the number of form rejections I’ve received that run along the lines of “Thanks for the manuscript, it was really great, but no.  Also, please submit again in the future!”

What the hell do you want from me, people?  Of course, I’ve received a few personal rejections that also ran along these lines, but that was less infuriating.  That was at least some human contact.  A form rejection implies my story wasn’t good enough for special attention — okay, I get that — but why.  I have no idea where I should be taking my writing if I want to sell based on these responses alone.  The only assumption I can operate on is that my fiction is bone-crushingly fantastic in every way, but I’m not submitting the right stories to the right markets.

The few responses I’ve received with actual critcism (even if it was a few words, like “Fails to hold interest”) have been the most helpful.  Of course, criticism can sometimes be inscrutable — an sf story I wrote was called a Bat Durston rather pejoratively, for instance, but weirdly enough that was what I wanted.  That was why I wrote the story, because Bat Durstons are hilarious!  And I submitted it to a venue specializing in comedic sf!  But, well, you win some and you lose some.

Incidentally, I also had something of an acceptance recently.  My campus literary journal, Crucible, accepted a piece of flash fiction I wrote entitled “A Measure of Weekend Minutes for a Penny,” making a total of three pieces of mine to appear in its hallowed pages. Well, three pieces I know of. (The other two were in my freshman year.) I didn’t even know this was accepted so I didn’t attend the release party, I found out from a friend later, and I think that’s pretty hilarious. Anyway, here’s the story.

Continue reading I’m Burning for You

AtME: OH WE DO NOT MISS TEA, DEAR

Yesterday, in preparation for our eventual time abroad together, the professor leading the England program (programme?) had all the participating students, save a few with prior comittments, over to his house for a tea.  There was actual tea, naturally, but his wife (who is also going to the UK with us) managed to produce a healthy selection of scones, Scottish shortbread cookies, lemon custard, frutis, etc.  Good times were had by all.

Since it’s a relatively small campus, most of us seemed to know each other already.  There are currently sixteen-maybe-seventeen of us students, all from various majors, though English majors definitely have the majority.  Still, we’re a rather motley bunch, perhaps even a ragtag group of champions, and we all seemed to get along well enough.  We had pretty good conversation, and if that holds up throughout the year I don’t see why our time in London would be any different.  Sometimes I am pretty sure I acted like a jackass but I am a jackass in mostly any situation that deals with other people so that’s to be expected.  Also!  There was a packet of British English dialect differences and slang that we passed around and quizzed each other on, and do you know what the British call a band-aid!

Guess!

It’s elastoplast!  I think this is fantastic because it sounds like a horrible science fiction device that runs on hydrogen and you strap it to your wounds and it might heal you or it could go horribly wrong and electrocute you or maybe mutate you into an animal/human hybrid.

Also, on the endless paperwork front, I have managed to obtain and fill out my passport application, get my photos, and all of my supporting documents.  Now all I need is $100 and the time it takes to get to the license branch and turn the damn stuff in.

Other news: Rejections – 19.  If you read Stephen King then you know this is supposed to be a magic number.  But also if you read Stephen King you should also know that Stephen King is SOMETIMES REALLY TERRIBLE AND WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING, SHUT UP.

hmm uh what

my lord the power went out at 9:00 last night and people nearly rioted around the dorms, shouting and setting off fireworks and being jackasses until about two or three in the morning like it was a goddamned party and I wanted to shout

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE, DOES THE POWER NOT GO OUT WHERE YOU’RE FROM

WHEN YOU GET YOUR PEACE AND GLOBAL STUDIES DEGREE ARE YOU GOING TO DO THIS EVERY TIME YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO PAY YOUR ELECTRIC BILL

and I am so near death right now

This is my life I think that is how normal people use blogs

An American to Mother England

England! My England! can the surging sea
That lies between us tear my heart from thee?

Today I received notice that I have been accepted for my college’s off-campus program in England for Spring of 2010. This was something I was anticipating and part of my reason for starting this blog — in addition to my desperate attempts to get published, I’ll probably be keeping something of a journal of my experiences. In keeping with the theme of my site the series, I have decided, will be called An American to Mother England, after the Lovecraft poem linked above. If you do not bother reading the whole thing, I don’t blame you. Lovecraft was a pretty terrible poet most of the time, and I picked the title for this because I mostly think HPL’s Anglophilia was absolutely hilarious.

Anyway, I suppose this exercise might prove enlightening. Students keep journals when they’re staying overseas pretty much all the time, like my friend Ross who is in the lead-up to a year in Japan, but I figure England is boring and unpopular enough that I can be my own unique self. Being in the UK also means I will have less of the “OMG GUYZ THIS FOREIGN COUNTRY IS SO GODDAMN WACKY” that stands a serious chance of contaminating a Japan blog. At most I will probably end up with “OMG GUYZ THIS COUNTRY IS SO GODDAMN RUDE TO AMERICANS” which at this point probably applies to all of Europe.

So here is, I suppose, the first official entry in AtME: I have to scrounge up the time and money to obtain a passport and a deposit. It’s not due until September, thankfully. Also, in the papers I received, there is mention of obtaining a Visa. I’ve never traveled outside of the country before, but I am under the impression that the Visa is a new development for this program. Back in the good old days no one had to have Visas, but the UK has apparently tightened up some immigration laws and as a consequence people without Visas can’t hold jobs.

This means that students in my college’s England program couldn’t have the staple job placement/exposure portion. I hear this was circumvented by calling the job placement something other than job placement, but that fell through recently and I’m not sure what the students currently there are up to. The last I talked with a friend in the program she said something about having to pick out a random person on the street and shadowing them to see what the life of a normal Londoner is like. While that seems wildly unlikely, I also think it is a good way to become embroiled in a Guy Ritchie movie, so I am torn between wanting to believe her and calling bullshit.

More on this as it develops. Oh, and the rejection counter now stands at a healthy 18.

New Esme entry.

Over on Esme’s blog things are taking a sour turn this April Fool’s Day.  No fiction excerpt this time, unfortunately but May should see that problem remedied.  A friend of mine remarked that he always thought “Esmeralda Sinn” was a pen name, though today’s entry seems to prove otherwise.  We’ll, he’s half right.  I’ll tell you right now that the “Esmeralda” is the pseudonym; I find the idea of a Sinn family much too hilarious to pass up.If you’ve been following the blog then perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve begun to insert continuity and an overarching plot into Esme’s entries.  I am definitely building up to something big, and as today’s entry shows, it is probably going to be the end of Esmeralda Sinn.  This has been met with some outcry, but I assure you that I have good reasons.

First of all, writing an Esme story, though quick and easy, is formulaic as hell: “Unlikely type of lycanthrope fucks tenuously characterized female protagonist, plus puns.”  If you remove the pun, then you basically have a normal supernatural romance story.  And if you think those things are by and large boring and derivative (as I most assuredly do) then you can imagine what it must be like to write them.  (And, probably, for you to read them.)  That’s why since December Esme’s entries have been dominated either by her daily life, excerpts of other authors’ works, and even… The Metabrophosis.  We haven’t had a good old-fashioned Esme entry since November, and it’s kind of awkward.  This is because essentially there is not a good way for me to make Esme’s blog not insanely predictable, so I’m shaking things up while it still matters.

The other reason is that writing from Esme’s point of view is becoming steadily more depressing.  While she is certainly a figure to be mocked, the more I write about her the more I realize she has reasons for acting as she does.  And while the reasons are melodramatic and ridiculous and laughable, it’s also just the tiniest bit tragic.  But I’m getting ahead of myself; you’ll all know more about that this October.