bITS 'N CHUNKS
Recently, I received a copy of Welcome Home, an anthology of short stories centered around adoption. I'm not adopted myself but I have plenty of people in my life who are, are adoptive parents themselves, or at least interested in the process. Also, I'm not someone that reads young adult fiction on a regular basis…but here I am. Although it's not my forte, representation and visibility are important to me and it's especially important that young people are able to see themselves reflected in the literature they read.
That being said, cracking this open I still wasn't sure what to expect. What does an adoption story look like, really? I combed my recent memory and realized I don't really know. The last positive depiction of adoption I saw was on Doc McStuffins, which was great because it involved a black family to boot. But an anthology of stories? I recognized a lot of the names and I was very happy to see a great variety of authors writing from a multitude of experiences. These stories have a wide spectrum of representation across an impressive variety of genres from gen lit to dystopian cyberpunk.
To say I was surprised might come a little condescending, but I was. And pleasantly so! What we have here is a solid collection of stories that really expanded my thoughts and made me realize I was all wrong. Anthologies can be hit or miss and highly subject to taste of course, but I'm very happy to say this collection is all killer and almost filler. I really do think there's a little something for everyone in here. The stories are sensitive and obviously written from personal experiences. I laughed, I cried, I got caught in my feelings, just the gamut of emotions. I also appreciated that the stories tackled the emotional aspects of adoption as well, but also cultural issues that span countries, language barriers, sometimes planets. The stories reaches across multiple aisles including race and sexuality to make what I would consider a very inclusive collection. And as I've harped on, inclusiveness is nothing if it's not inclusive of bleeping everyone.
Reading this anthology made me realize the dearth of positive & accurate depictions of adoption there are out there. Movies are especially bad. Adoption is often seen as a last, desperate resort or a step above the changeling fantasy. Don't even get me started on horror and sci-fi movies. Those stories are obviously far from the truth of what adoption is, but they just don't help the perception. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding the topic. It's getting better sometimes, but reading these stories and the book announcement from editor Eric Smith made me realize there is still so much work to be done. These stories, to me, truly do that work to create understanding, to normalize and center the experience. A couple of my personal recommendations out of here are "A Kingdom Bright and Burning" by Dave Connis, a cathartic story about a young boy trying to work through trauma and learning to communicate with his adoptive family; "Webbed" by Julie Eshbaugh was another great highlight and kind of flipped my expectation of the changeling family, and included discussion of physical deformities to boot; and William Ritter's "Deeply" is...something that has to be seen to be believed.
(Sidenote: as a native Tennessean, how hyped was I to see a lot of my home state people repped here! Yeehaw.)
Anyway, if I've recommended Welcome Home to you already I will recommend it again and again because I can't say enough good things about it; please put it in the hands of an adult or a child that needs it, request it at a library, and if you need it yourself please check it out from wherever good books are sold.
Do you think a lot about finding your aesthetic? Or what that even means?
I was finally able to see Bladerunner 2049 (which is excellent) and one of the things that struck me, visually, is how it captured the Philip K. Dick aesthetic maybe even better than the original. Of course, there have been technological advantages since then to help out with that. The liberal usage of CGI enhances the artificiality of this dystopian cyberpunk world. Bladerunner did its best and is still very good, but it's a very urban story and kind of hampered by the mysteries in the plot (also known as inconsistencies, also known as "is Harrison Ford a damn replicant or not").
The sequel leaned in a lot more to the cyberpunk aesthetics than the noir, although that was well enforced as well. Forgive me the reference, but it was very Chinatown. That being said, tonally both Bladerunner and the sequel and subsequent shorts in the 'verse are and have always been way off. They tell a much more romantic story than "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" That's cool because I don't expect my movie adaptations of books to get every last nook and cranny right and I'm glad even when they shoot for 70%. If Bladerunner the movie is Chinatown, then "Do Androids..." is No Country for Old Men. Anyway. As usual, I'm struggling to get to the point.
Once again with the bullshit!
This is another one that I really liked the concept of and I actually like the story overall, I just had no real interest in developing it further or working on it. It was a nice exercise. I was like, "a noir-ish underworld fantasy? Yeah." after most of this flash fiction challenge was full of stories of death and self loathing el oh el. This story is so...pure it just looks weird in comparison.
So I've started becoming more sensitive about where I take inspiration from and why. I've admitted several times out loud, to myself, workshop guests, my cats my writing is a little overly theatrical sometimes. Like I'm just begging for a movie adaptation one of these days.
It sucks because it makes things hard to transcribe from a very lucid visual point to a very literary point. Simply put, you're not going to see exactly what I see nor am I interested in you having the exact same interpretation.
Now, there's things we have to agree on. When I say a character is a black female, she is. When I say someone has red hair, they do unless I forget continuity and suddenly they don't. What I'm saying is this…
In my fiction class in college one year, I introduced myself with stating I'm a film student and I hadn't read a book in a long time. That was pretentious but it was correct -- up to that point I hadn't really read any books, much of my college course material was books I'd already read and did not need/want to read again, and I'd taken more to watching a lot of Japanese cyberpunk and New Wave.
I think what happened was I needed a new template. At some point literally all I did was read, read two to three books at a time to the point where I was literally getting behind on my coursework because I was too busy doing other things (this became a thread of my life). When I decided to write, until I figured out my own style I realized I needed a template. The books I was reading served as that template, but it was a weird time because I was reading a mix of Victorian literature, Russian modernism, and the young adult assignments I had to read in class. So looking back, of course I was finding my way but I don't really feel like I was writing as a real person. I was inhabiting various historical figures and writing as they would. A myna bird, basically.
Then what happened was I got mighty pretentious about it. I was shy in real life but on the internet I definitely got the big head. At this point I was writing almost exclusively fanfiction and people were praising my work and I was getting massive views. It was hear I learned to…monitor my activity. That's right folks, writing fanfiction will teach you a few things. While keeping my dashed together "style" I also started catering to my audience. But instead of making connections I was snickering at other people's writing because I didn't think they were as good as me. Look, I'm classically trained! These other punks sounded like amateurs.
I got humbled when I started branching out to original fiction and I realized nobody was really following me there. I was reading other people's works and wondering why they were so much more successful. Well, there's a few reasons young me -- being able to put together a cohesive story, good dialogue, character development, plotting and pacing…I had to sit down and figure it out. It wasn't just enough to copy Alexandre Dumas but the point was to learn from him.
At some point in my wayward youth, I drifted into something pretty hardcore: the underground movie scene. Now, I've been watching b-movies my whole damn life but I didn't realize there was an actual internet community for them until I was like maybe thirteen or fourteen. Then I was obsessed. I was in a place where biker babes were good and you said "feelm" with as much irony or gusto as you dared. Also, the people were funny and had a similar sense of humor. At that point I was Misfits horrorpunk trash. I read a ton of reviews and I wanted to write my own, too. In doing this, I made new friends, gained some damn people skills, and more importantly found a new template.
Yes, I started copying schlock movies. Except better this time because now I understood the principles of writing.
As I watched more underground movies, that became my template for writing. It kind of worked for a while because at least I was new and fresh again, but it got a little stale and I started struggling again. I couldn't figure out what was wrong.
Recently, I did a little comparison on myself. I compared what was essentially a songfic to something I'd written channeling a movie more or less. The songfic flowed so much easier without revealing it's obvious influences, it was subtle and dare I say kind of good. The other piece…well, it was trying but it was too wordy. Too emotive. I had a hard time getting to the point. You know what that means…
I need to get out of my own head and stop overanalyzing.
More tales from the storage locker that is my OneNote here.
Since I decided to do short stories, sometimes I seem averse to attempting anything longer that 3,000 some odd words. Well, that's not true. I write longer works all the time, I just like to focus on more self contained works. It's what I prefer to read, too, coincidentally.
As of late, though, I think I've met my match in a story I am very excited to finish one of these days. It began life as an experiment in world-building, which since so many of my stories are more pedestrian these days I don't do a lot of. I think it's one of those writerly habits I actually should adopt more often. I started world-building with this tale and included a lot of details, really developed a strong roster of characters.
Curiously, for being a sports piece this story was actually influenced a lot by the imagery of El espiritu de la colmena because I think it deals with a lot of the same issues of blurring fantasy and reality.
As in acting, in writing it's okay to have details about your characters that you may never explicitly use I think. As I was developing my protagonist, I just made a lot of notes on things that I think would influence his decisions -- he's young, for example, and in a career that is unstable at the best of times and treacherous at worst. He's a bit of a nerd but is required to be a jock for TV. His rival/partner isn't a bad fellow either but let's his ego and age get the best of him sometimes. They clash...and there's a demon.
Oh, it ended up being one of...those.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...