Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Submissions Are Open for Viable Paradise, OR, Why Leigh Wallace is My Gosh-Darned Hero



They teach you about symbolism, too.
While I was in the hospital, submissions opened for the Viable Paradise workshop. It's run by the incomparable James Macdonald and Debra Doyle, and attracts superstar staff-authors like Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear. If you're a beginning or emerging writer, you want to go to VP. It's held every October in Martha's Vineyard, a week in a cozy hotel space with a couple dozen other aspiring authors, and a host of professionals who critique your work and educate on the underpinnings of storytelling and the publishing industry. I learned more in one week at VP than any year of college. If you take your craft seriously, you could not ask for a better week.

But that's not why you want to go to Viable Paradise. There's something more.

Through shared interest and mutual support, some classmates came to feel like family. The workshop improved our game through insights and streamlining. In the year after my class, I sold my first pro-rate short story. Many classmates sold their first pro shorts, too, or pro flashes. One friend giddily explained to me that she was paid more for one anthology acceptance than everything she'd ever made in writing before.

That's not why you want to go to Viable Paradise, either.

If you fast-forwarded a year after VP17, you'd find that my body turned on me. Close friends, including some VP alums, were rightly scared for me. My health has always been poor, but over the course of nine months my body rejected the meds I'd always relied on, and then four new experimental courses of medication. The pain became so disorienting that my ability to multitask disappeared. I spent two hours writing symptoms on a piece of paper so I could read them at the doctor, because I was incapable of having a casual discussion about them. My ability to write, and finish stories, dwindled.

And if you care about writing, then this is why you want to go to Viable Paradise.

Because a month ago I was lost in the wilderness of illness, completely unable to edit my work anymore, despite having what I'm sure was the best short story I've ever written. It was a promising first draft, and became a phenomenal third draft, and in December I could tell it just needed its science rigorously checked. The story is about a sympathetic, even funny, protagonist with albinism, one attempt to counter the Evil Albino trope. And while I'd done a lot of legwork to depict albinism accurately, I could not check my own science further. Paragraphs felt insurmountable. The pain, and the brain-fog that chronic pain brings on, were winning. Having your best work just outside your grasp is purgatorial.

Leigh Wallace, one of my classmates from Viable Paradise, e-mailed me an offer. She'd check the science of the story for me. She'd read up on albinism and ocular disorders, and flag whatever I'd gotten wrong or left confusing. She'd point out my problems and then all I'd have to do was fix them.

She turned the story back over to me in days. The way she marked it up? It was so accessible that I corrected the entire story in a weekend. And it was a hard weekend on the health front, my friends. Leigh was my gosh-darned hero.

Now the story is out to markets, and I am on a sixth course of medication. At least for today, I'm thinking clearer and making the most of that clarity. I'm beta reading a classmate's novel.

That's why you want to go Viable Paradise. The greatest gift a workshop can give is supportive relationships with other smart writers who can have your back when your back gives out.

Submissions are open here. If you get in, congratulations! My advice is to spend half your time working hard at your craft, and the other half helping your classmates with theirs. That's the gift.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

This Beautiful 2015 of Ours

Because I'm numerically attracted to things that end in 0's and 5's, I've been waiting a solid four years for 2015. A couple weeks in, and it looks outrageously promising. Come with me.
In 2015, one of the greatest short story writers I've ever had the privilege to read is releasing a new collection. Kelly Link's Get in Trouble is due out in February. It's the first book I've pre-ordered in years.

This month, Selma sees a wide release. Today, it was nominated for Best Picture in the Academy Awards. The social media response? The people who've seen it were angry it didn't get nominated for more things.
This summer, Mamoru Hosoda will release his new movie, The Boy and the Beast. It's not a romance, but instead looks like Hosoda's first film set in an urban environment, a crossover between the demon world and ours that leads to fuzzy bonding. Hosoda's previously created three incredible films: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, and The Wolf Children. With just those three movies, Hosoda became my favorite living director. No one has the combination of his eye and imagination.

Later this year, Playdead Studios will release INSIDE, their second game as a group. Their first is one of the few perfect videogames in existence: LIMBO. Playdead needed private funding to make LIMBO, and then managed to profit enough off of it to buy their independence from their corporate parent. And this year, they're giving us this:


This is also the year that Nero will release its second album. Their first, Welcome Reality, is the only real reason that I say I like Dubstep. Turn up your noses at Dubstep's alleged lack of art, but at the end of that album, after all the tech beats and heavy drops, Nero rearranged all the themes of all the major tracks into a 17-minute symphony.
It's telling of my psychology that I present optimism for a year through art. Art is what swirls up inside me where the more moral or political mammals are fueled by events. This does not dismiss the importance of events and progress, though 2015 is scheduled to be a good year. 
Around the world, more people will access the internet than ever. By the sheer amount of possible connections, more people will talk to more people than ever before. Somebody who thinks they are alone in this world will find somebody who understands them.
On Monday, I have an appointment to see what we can do about my body rejecting medication so frequently in 2014. It would be quite the year for me if we find a remedy, but 2015 will be a good year even if I don't make it all the way through.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Best Reads of 2014

2014 was a rough year. Twice, I found myself so sick for prolonged stretches of time that I wasn't cognitively capable of reading at all. That's why it was a surprise to look over my Goodreads list and remember that I've actually read a plethora of incredible prose this year. While I may have gotten down on film and videogames, books have remained something special. This might even be my favorite line-up since we started the #bestreads tradition.

So here are my twelve darlings. I couldn't cut it any further.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Dinner Prayer 2014

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
bless us for our good intentions,
which always outstrip our good works.

Today: please be kind to those who couldn’t be here,
and those who shouldn’t be here,
and those we just decided not to invite.

Bring bread to those who have not,
and softer hearts to those of us who don’t share their bread as much as they could.

We ask not for a richer world,
but for you to make us better citizens of it,
to love and appreciate each other as much as we can,
and for lenience, when we disappoint.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Catching Up

This is the first year my sister has hosted Thanksgiving dinner, and God has decided to celebrate by sending a blizzard for my drive. While there's much I should blog about, I'd like to catch up on five dear topics:

1. The World Fantasy Convention was wonderful.
When I got home, several things I don’t care to write about fell on me at the same time and I never got to write up what a lovely time I had at the WFC. I got to spend an hour digging into what makes Max Gladstone’s fantastic world work, and to gush at Ted Chiang and Guy Gavriel Kay. My God, the number of fascinating people I met. Seeing VP classmates was a blessing each time, even when I couldn’t hear anyone over the noise of the bar. It’s one of the finest publishing conventions I’ve ever attended, and I will do my damnedest to attend the one in Saratoga Springs next-year. Join me?

2. io9 Likes Me?

So in the middle of everything, I was quoted for a full paragraph in an io9 article called “7 Worldbuilding Tropes Science Fiction and Fantasy Needs to Stop Using.” James Whitbook appreciated my old essay on the vast potential of Fantasy to stretch beyond visions of Fake Feudal Europe. It was a lovely thing to wake up to that morning. I stand by the essay, too.

3 “Wet” is now available for free.
Earlier this month my short story “Wet” was published in the first issue Urban Fantasy Magazine. With the magazine now out there, they have posted “Wet” for free on their website. While the magazine is Pay-What-You-Want and very slickly designed for e-readers, anyone who prefers browser reading can click right through. I’m very proud of this little story, which is about a ghost, and the patience only an immortal can have for her. I’d love your feedback on it.

4. What do you think happened in this airport bathroom?


5. Start Thinking About Best Reads 2014.As December approaches, I'm reflecting on the splendid books I've this year. I'll be hosting the annual Best Reads blog hop again this year, probably starting right after Christmas, giving anyone who wants in enough time to check their shelves. Any books, published at any time in human history, that you read for the first time this year, and that struck you the strongest.

So, that's four. I've got to get the family lasagna together. What have you all been up to?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

"Wet" is in the first issue of Urban Fantasy Magazine

This week the first-ever issue of Urban Fantasy Magazine was published. Its first two stories are "A Chance of Cats and Dogs," by the award-winning Ken Scholes and "Wet," by myself. I'm honored to be in their first issue, and in this company. The magazine is currently available in EPUB and MOBI formats for Pay What You Want. One penny, ten bucks, it's up to you.

"Wet" is the story of a friendship between an immortal and a ghost, between someone who can't die and somehow who is traumatized by dying far too young.

It's a ghost that speaks exclusively in the voice of GWAR.

It's an immortal that volunteers as the fire department as a first responder, because what's the worst that can happen if the building collapses? You dig me out in a week.

The things these two can mean for each other... well, you'll see.

I'm so proud of this story, and not just because it's one of my more unbridled imagination pieces. Something I strive for is to mix to the absurdly humorous and the cathartic, which are the two things we owe ghosts. If you've ever enjoyed the imagination or humor of The Bathroom Monologues, then you're going to like getting "Wet."

A great thanks to everyone at UBF for giving me this chance. For other writers, they're open for submissions and pay SFWA pro-rates. They already have some amazing stuff in store, including work by Carrie Vaughn and Tim Powers.

If you read "Wet," I'd love to know your responses. Comment here, on UBF's site, or at my e-mail, bathroomDOTmonologuesATgmailDOTcom.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Jaws is Not a Halloween Movie

"We need a Halloween movie."

"Jaws?"

"No, Jaws is a winter movie."

"You mean summer?"

"No, watch it when it can't ruin swimming for you."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why Are Zombie Stories Always Disasters?



Yesterday I finished John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Handling the Undead, and I wanted to call it the most creative zombie story since Max Brooks’s World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Except Handling the Undead was published the year before Brooks’s novel, and I simply took a while finding it. They’re opposed books, because World War Z is the best at what zombies always are, those rotting hordes of the apocalypse. Handling the Undead makes you question why they’re always that.

At this point, Zombie might as well be a genre. It’s apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic, usually gory, stories of survival and moral ambiguity. Humans turn out to be the ultimate evil more regularly than in The Twilight Zone. Every year people proclaim zombies must be done, but The Walking Dead only gets bigger ratings, and more videogames and indie authors produce the rotting hordes. I haven’t fatigued of the zombie, which is the unusual promise that the world we live in will be transformed into a fantasy playground. But I do wonder about it becoming so conventional.

Early on, Handling the Undead de-fangs the zombie apocalypse by showing the police and military immediately rolling in against dangerous ones, while are others are so weak (they’ve been decomposing, for God’s sake) that their families can overtake and even keep them. It’s so matter-of-fact, both from the accounts of survivors and the newspaper-like chapters that fill us in on the world’s reactions, that it wholly disarms the fantasy of the undead toppling everything.

What they topple is the catharsis of death. A mother grieving over a dead son now has something even more inexplicable in her house. She doesn’t know if he’ll recover, if he remembers her, if she can feed or help him. She yearns to, and we read with hands over our mouths, hoping he won’t bite her the next time she leans in.

It’s not a story of headshots and desperate amputations. It made me wonder about Warm Bodies, which I couldn’t stand, but also didn’t give a chance to. YA Romance is so far from my wheelhouse that I didn’t consider it as a property changing the zombie and the story of zombieism. Handling the Undead got more leeway, both because its author wrote Let the Right One In, and because it was about the pathos of the sting of death being removed, which was more novel. Even Shaun of the Dead is really the same old zombie story, but with very funny handling. Part of its appeal is it talked about zombies the way our generation had been doing for years. It wasn’t this disruptive.

Eventually the zombie apocalypse gets so familiar that this happens.
Handling the Undead breaks some explicit and some unspoken rules about zombies. That’s what we all do now, right? You want them to run, you want the bite to be an instant change, etc. For Lindqvist, the undead don’t immediately go after flesh, and he plays on your expectation of this brilliantly, as you’re fearing for mourners who get too close. They seemingly respond to the emotional states of those around them (this is going to start the flesh-eating, isn’t it?).

More pregnant are the unspoken rules it breaks, for instance: zombies no longer spawn like hordes of videogame enemies whenever convenient. I love The Walking Dead comic, but both the comic and show get silly with the number of zombies that show up miles from any source of food or civilization, like they’re smelling the plot. You need that unspoken rule if you’re going to tell an action story. Handling the Undead, though, is about the emotional effects on loved ones of the recently returned.

It’s when you tamper with those “rules” that are actually contrived conventions that audiences can wonder why all those other stories act alike. There’s drama in a mass of zombies banging on the hero’s door when he’s only got two bullets left, but there’s a rarer drama in a devastated grandfather researching what medical equipment might keep his returned grandson alive, and the knowledge that if he can sustain the boy, he’ll have to flee the city to keep him safe from the government.

The disruption underlies what excites me most in all Speculative Fiction. We’ve seen so many cynical zombie stories that we know where most of it will go, that the old world will die and any non-protagonists will probably form negative groups, like cults and corrupt military pockets. But when you take a creature that is typically the engine of global disaster, and instead apply it to the internal life of specific people who don’t even get the reprieve of oppressive social orders disappearing, it can become something else. The humanity of it is unyielding, ironically, because it can’t die anymore.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Couple of Horrors - #fridayflash

It’s not my fault we live in the middle of the woods. It’s not hers, either, but I can use this. We finish Nightmare on Elm Street around 2:30 AM and hustle to get the Netflix disc back to the mailbox before the morning mail. That is a quarter mile trek under an overcast of clouds and oak boughs, so I bring the flashlight. An actual fog rolls between the trees, making Lita shiver despite her coat and long skirt.

“I don’t know why they remake classics,” I say, depositing the Netflix envelope. I close the lid and flip up the flag. “You know, why not just remake crappy movies? Ones that will benefit from new effects or re-writing?”

She inhales through her nose, loud and elegant, and we both know that no matter how many flaws I can find in this remake, she’ll be afraid to go to sleep tonight. It’s not my fault. Not hers, either, but I can use this. I eye the distance to the edge of the road. About three steps. When we get far enough from the mailbox, I shut off my beam.

"Wet" sold to Urban Fantasy Magazine

It's a good day to celebrate! Yesterday morning I signed the contract and sold my first short story to a pro-rate magazine. The lovely space is the newly launching Urban Fantasy Magazine, and mine is one of the first stories they've ever bought! It will be available on their site, though the publication date hasn't been determined yet.

"Wet" follows an immortal narrator who's gotten used to being eternal, and meeting a traumatized ghost that's haunting the train station en route to work. I won't spoil where it goes, but it was really fun to write a buddy piece between the deathless and the undead.

I wrote immediately after Viable Paradise 17 - it might have been one year ago today, actually. The workshop gave me so much to think about, and this was my way of working through many of those thoughts.

Now to write something new. Urban Fantasy is still open for submissions, if you'd like to join me!

And now to celebrate by watching scary movies! Feel free to recommend me one, particularly obscure things streaming on Netflix.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nuke ‘Em: Pacific Rim's Problem with Kaiju Heritage


There’s a lot I love about Pacific Rim, but its ending has bothered me since opening weekend. Spoilers, naturally, if you haven’t seen it. In the last year, I haven’t heard a single person mention the oddity of a film rooted in Kaiju lore that resolves its problems by nuking the enemy army.

To start: Pacific Rim owes its existence to Godzilla. It has copious allusions to the 1954 film, and that franchise popularized the Kaiju battles that Pacific Rim is built around. Godzilla was punching giant robots a full decade before Guillermo Del Toro started making movies. It’s easy to envision the Jaeger program building Mechagodzilla in the eventual crossover – and Del Toro publicly said he wanted a crossover even before Pacific Rim screened. The appropriation is deliberate and largely affectionate.

In the fun and camp of giant battles, it’s easy to forget that the 1954 Godzilla is rooted in the trauma of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In that film, the beast is both an allegory for nuclear war, and is literally woken up by the usage of nuclear weapons. These themes ebb and flow in the ensuing franchise, but the beloved character was emblematic of a real national terror.

Pacific Rim solves its conflict by dropping a nuclear bomb into the rift. The characters are explicit that the Jaeger’s core is a nuclear reactor – that’s why it works when others can't, and it goes off like a nuclear bomb, not like a reactor in meltdown. The war isn’t resolved when the two Jaegers defeat the final Kaiju. It isn’t solved by Pentecost’s sacrifice. Humanity is only safe once we’ve A-bombed the bad guys.

I reveled in most of the movie. Kikuchi, Perlman, Day and Elba are delights, the soundtrack is pitch-perfect, and the overall film is greatly executed. Is the movie dumb? Yes, but it’s great at its dumbness. Even the bombing, with GLaDOS counting down and the heroes racing to safety, is exciting.

But even in IMAX, it was also troubling. We clearly hit a military installation, with no idea of how many civilians live on site. It’s like the lovably dumb movie suddenly committed another Hiroshima.

It’s one thing to not make the anti-nuclear message your core point, and it’s another to explicitly go against it. Was it intentional? I like to think not. No press I’ve read around the film suggests an enthusiasm for nuclear holocaust. And mistakes happen in art because when you’re juggling a dozen things in your mind, a thirteenth can always hit the floor. What hit the floor here is an incredibly sensitive item, from the genesis of kaiju films and one of the worst evils human beings have ever committed.

And the bombing isn’t indispensible to the plot. The rift could have been blown up rather than the people on the other side. In Newton Geiszler’s mind melds with Kaiju, a solution to closing all rifts could have been revealed. The Category 5 Kaiju could have been the lord and mother of them all, and its defeat the guarantee that no more could be created, or that the remainder would have no motive to continue attacking. Rewriting a few scenes, you could craft several different endings that wouldn’t require nuking the enemy.

It's still a surprisingly haunting moment.
Re-watching the 1954 Godzilla on Friday night brought this all to mind again. If it wasn’t the first, Kaiju film began there, and that film begins with a makeshift hospital laden with bodies, dead parents, irradiated children, and a narrator dazedly waking up in the wreckage. This is the fallout of a radioactive dinosaur, an impossibility that harkened to another impossibility – a mushroom of smoke changing the world.

That’s what any alien survivors of the end of Pacific Rim will wake up to. It feels spiritually wrong.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fridging Women - #FridayFlash


As Soobin Kwan stepped from her car, a deer darted through the parking lot and for the woods. It made her pause with her hand on the door, and the deer stopped too, looking squarely at her from between two pines. Queer as it was, dappled expression reminded her of her father. It had an elegant neck and no antlers – a doe, then, not a Dad-deer. There was a circular bald patch in its left side. It seemed to turn to show her the pale scar before darting off.

“Okay, that wasn’t weird,” Soobin told herself, locking up her car. She started for the Snow White Institute. It was a tall, white building overlooking the seashore. Smelling the brine, she wondered if the sea air was important to their work. It grew colder every step she took toward the Institute, and the front doors swooshed open with frosty swirl, like someone’s breath on a winter day. It was June.

The inside was dimly lit, the first floor ceiling seeming to go upward forever. The walls were lined with stainless steel doors, and much of the lobby was a maze of additional steel units, that looked like refrigerators. Ten units down from her, a woman in a grey pantsuit and green flats was in the midst of opening one of them, and it illuminated her face just like Soobin’s fridge at home.

“Hi, I’m Alexandra,” the woman said. “Can I help you?”

“Uh,” Soobin said, which is a surprisingly common thing said when people walk in on someone checking a fridge in the lobby.

“Are you the one o’clock?”

“Yes,” Soobin said. She was the 12:45, but she was also always late. “But I’m not here about kitchenware…”

“That’s good, because these aren’t for sale,” Alexandra said, and moved to close the steel unit. Soobin neared enough to glimpse a teenage girl inside, eyes closed, tranquil under the luminescence. The girl wore a funny black headband and a green overcoat. She could’ve been sleeping behind glass waiting for a prince. Now, Soobin thought prince-kissing sounded more reasonable than the help she’d come to ask for.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How Do You Segregate Fantasy and Horror?


An iconic Fantasy villain,
with his +1 cleaver.
From an early age I didn't understand most genre distinctions, and especially why stories weren't supposed to enter other territory midway through. This came to mind recently as I struggled over recommending Horror novels to someone who prefers Fantasy. John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In, for instance, is technically Fantasy - it's got vampires burning in sunlight like any of a thousand Urban Fantasies. But it's widely recognized as a great Horror novel rather than a great Fantasy novel.

I've asked this on Reddit today, and will ask the blogosphere as well: how do you segregate Fantasy from Horror?

It's tricky for me as they often overlap. Horror is classically defined by the emotions it inspires in the audience (dread, tension, fear), whereas Fantasy is classically defined by things we believe to be unreal existing in the story (dragons, magic swords, other worlds). The presence of zombies doesn't make something Horror novel: Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel has zombies and is alternately slotted as Comedy, Mainstream and Fantasy. You only get Zombie Horror by doing the right things with them, but if you write a Medieval world with flying wyrms, you can't escape the Fantasy label. 

Herein lies the trick, because a genre about audience emotions can overlap with a genre about items at any time, but people will still consider something Horror rather than Fantasy.

I’d argue that Pennywise and Jason Voorhees are Fantasy characters you could slot into a RPG system. Many of our scariest ideas as a fiction-loving culture are intrinsically fantastical ones we still irrationally fear in the right contexts. Paranormal Activity even has a magic system by which its demon operates, though interestingly, it’s figuring out that system that adds much of the tension to the early movies.

Yet works like Stephen King's Misery and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho don't need any otherworldly justification. We know Horror isn’t always fantastical, just as what we usually call Fantasy doesn’t bring Horror to mind, even when Jon Snow is cornered by a wight. 

So what makes you think of a favorite book or movie as one genre?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Don't Write This: Fiction in Danger Zones

Senility as wish fulfillment.
I've already written a full review of Jo Walton's My Real Children, but I want to talk about something not in my review, and in no review I've yet read. The novel follows Patricia Cowan as she suffers a peculiar senility, forgetting most of her life, and then seeming to recall two different lives in high detail. Late in the novel, we see how the onset of senility hits her in both lives, and in one her lover dies. Patricia immediately hopes her senility will make her forget the death happened. This excited me. 

For the last two years of his life, I called my grandfather every night to make sure he had at least a little daily contact with a family member. He hated living in an old folks home, and was very demented on top of that. Our nightly contact made him remember me more than the other grandchildren, though there were still calls when he mistook me for his son, friend, and on one night, his mother. Living that intensely with a disability can stifle the way you think about it. It's easier to default to a somber, anodyne mode, both in avoiding conflicts, and in taking your mind off of things. It takes a different mind to see something so painful and be creative with it.

In reading that paragraph of Walton's novel, I wasn't offended. It was enlivening to read someone subvert our default thoughts of dementia, and simultaneously, tap into those desires, because in moments of weakness we've all wanted to forget things. In the moment, I could only compare it to FX's Archer.

I'm probably the only person to parallel My Real Children and Archer, but one of Archer's great strengths is its anarchic sense of humor. People mistake the show as dark, but it features the lightest hearted graphic tiger mauling I've ever seen. The series uses the drug trade, asphyxia fetishes, eco-terrorism, homophobia and the Oedipal complex as fodder for amazing character humor. It is neither didactic nor cynical; it's creative enough with its deployment of highly flawed characters to avoid offense while depicting the people themselves as intensely offensive. This is great for some audiences (like me), but also stifles how others think about creativity in danger zones, making them think it has to be transgressive.


Archer is often transgressive, as is most comedy about touchy subjects, because that's the easy edge for a laugh. But take George Carlin's early performances of The Seven Words You Can't Say on Television. For the first six he's juvenile and profane – and then he hits "fuck." It's the beginning of life, he says, and yet it's something we use to hurt each other. Very rare for George Carlin, he isn't sure about his footing on a topic, and only has one joke, before saying he'll try to make a full bit out of it next year. He did, and the later versions have never been as interesting to me. That he's vulnerable and unsure about something so touchy, after being so flippant about the other touchy subjects is a haunting deviation.

As I've aged, I've become increasingly attracted to artists who can remain creative in danger zones. It seems either the hardest thing to do (plausible) or so risky to market that it's avoided (also plausible). Certainly if you botch your attempt at a new angle on pedophilia then you can offend a wide audience. But if you try, you might get John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In, and that scene wherein the pedophile Hakan rents a child prostitute, but is then so disturbed by how the boy is treated that he tries to give him enough money to run away. This foreshadows the compassionate angle Lindqvist later casts over the vampire/familiar relationship. The compassion of a pedophile in an otherwise uncaring world was so unexpected that it gave me goosebumps, where most vampire stories give me boredom. 

A predator in need of companionship.
These deviations stir me up. In most art you can get a sense of how touchy subjects will be handled; Grimdark Fantasy will probably slouch into rape, and a children's cartoon will probably avoid or didactically instruct about disabilities. Predictable paths are not always wrong, and often writing from a place of reliable sensitivity can avoid opening wounds. But I don't accept the failure state of attempted creativity in a danger zone as loathsome. My general reaction is discomfort for an author who probably knows they screwed up on something meaningful. It reads like seeing someone fall when both of us thought they should have flown.

Maybe I'm so attracted to these because I haven't figured out their parameters yet. There's a strong attraction for some people mired in what we don't yet understand. But to remain flexible with in writing about topics as tender as senility and pedophilia is too much for most artists. It's why most won't touch it at all. That might be why the few that can do it, even for a paragraph are so precious.
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