Monday, August 30, 2010

Joss Whedon: Literary Transvestite

Sometimes awesome things happen when you least expect them. Last week while I was online looking for opera tickets I saw the words “Joss Whedon: From Buffy to Dr. Horrible, Infinity & Beyond” and my heart skipped a beat. Five minutes later I discovered the event was sold out and my heart stopped beating. That was when I started stalking the Sydney Opera House box office, calling every two hours in hopes that one ticket would magically become free.

I was one call away from threatening to hold my breath until they handed over a ticket when I accidentally found a ticket for sale on Gumtree. Not just any ticket mind you, a $200 ticket that included an awesome seat and a ticket to the after event where we could meet Joss one on one in person! I immediately emailed the seller to see if the ticket was still available and then texted several people and went on Facebook so my friends could talk me into spending my food budget for the next two weeks on a two hour Buffy-gasm.

Despite my fears that the ticket would end up being a scam I agreed to purchase the ticket at its rather high face value and meet the seller at the Opera House on Sunday where we would attend the event together with her boyfriend. The huge theatre filled quickly with eager fangeeks like me. Despite my deepest fantasies, I knew James Marsters wasn’t going to make a surprise appearance but that didn’t stop me from daydreaming about the possibility with a few other nearby fans.

Then the lights went down and the audience roared its approval. After a brief introduction by the host, Australian comedian Wil Anderson, Joss Whedon took the stage at approximately 3:10p.m. to thunderous applause. The hours that followed can safely be called among the coolest of my life and infinitely worth the money I spent on the ticket.

Whedon started by acknowledging that at the Melbourne Q&A on Friday he had been asked the usual barrage of questions he was so frequently subjected to: “Why do you write about corporate oppression? Why do you write such strong female characters? Why do you hate families?” In order to head off similar questions that afternoon Whedon talked for the next 45 minutes about writing, “the dark place,” and the cult of Whedon.

Since I obstinately want to be a writer some day, I thought I’d start with his brilliant and insightful comments about the writing process. Over the course of the afternoon Joss (we’re close so I can call him that) admitted to writing about helplessness, being alone, and, of course, adolescent girls with superpowers. It was the first two, however, that led to the latter. “Two things I understood when as a child,” he said, “that I was scared and that I was alone.” This, he pointed out is essential to writers. “If you want to become a writer,” and I do, “you have to have a certain aloneness in you. Guess what: you’re going to spend a lot of time alone!”

Being alone, helpless, and clueless is at the heart of “the dark place” for Whedon who said that everything he will ever write “will always come from the dark place.” He considers this to be essential for any writer. Being an author is more than simply “writing better,” he felt it was about getting to the dark place: “Get in with a trowel and write from that. Because that’s the only thing worth listening to.”

“Stories,” he continued, “can be a way to pass the time or they can get inside you.” The key to the latter is making sure that your tales tell the story of WHY “because if there’s no why in the story you’re telling then you’re spinning a yarn. And that’s fine. That’s a noble thing too. But I don’t want to be anything less than a storyteller. I’m proud of that.”’

Later during the Q&A Whedon demonstrated not only his love of the fans but also his respect for those amateurs who hoped to someday follow in his footsteps. So many authors nowadays respond derisively to fanfic, which make Joss’s comments about this popular fan pastime a fairly inspirational breath of fresh air. He admitted to having read some of it and related a story of one he read early on around the 2nd or 3rd season that stayed with him because the writer was “super invested” in what they had created. He went on to call these fan created universes a great compliment to him and his work: “I think it is maybe the most beautiful part of the whole process, is the fact that there’s fanfic.”

Today’s post is beginning to edge near “ridiculously long” even by my standards. I haven’t even talked about the future of Once More with Feeling on Broadway, the Whedon Method, why everything is Anne Rice’s fault, a singing Thor, the joy of Nabokov and Burnett, guerrilla autographs, or the awesomeness of meeting other fangeeks. Rather than make this the post that won’t end, I’ll just ask you to tune in again tomorrow when I will continue to write about Joss freaking Whedon.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Important Questions

Warning: If you are lacking a sense of humor or do not like vampires, the following post will confuse you and leave you wondering if the author has taken leave of her senses.

Don't judge me too harshly but I not only own all the books but I actually paid good money to see Sparkle Vamps 3: TwiHard with a Vengeance Eclipse shortly after it opened in July. I'll even admit I was pleasantly surprised with the film. Great one-liners (Jacob: “Let’s face it, I am hotter than you.”), bad special effects (Victoria’s laugh inducing beheading), and plenty of teen angst had people in the theatre squealing with delight throughout the film.

For those of you not familiar with its questionable charms, the Sparkle Vamps Twilight series, is, to quote my eternally hilarious friend Ceecee: “basically about an ugly girl who has to decide whether she’s into bestiality or necrophilia.” I am loathe to spoil the ending for those of you who haven’t read the last book yet but let’s just say that Bella isn’t a dog person.

Jokes about lame bedazzled vampires who prefer chasing deer to biting necks aside… No wait that was the point of this post. Anyways, as I watched TwiHard with a Vengeance, I started thinking about my two greatest vampire loves: Eric Northman and Spike.

Those of you familiar only with True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård cannot begin to understand how painfully sexy Charlaine Harris’s Eric in the Southern Vampire Mysteries books is. Not that Skarsgård isn’t drool-worthy (I may like to read but I’m not blind) but the literary Eric literally melts the pages he’s so hot. Then there’s Spike – my first great vampire love. For fellow Spuffy-believers out there, I have only one word for you: Smashed.

Now that we’re all on the same drool-tastic page, I will leave it to you to pick the best fictional vampire (As opposed to actually vampire. 'Natch.). Just to clarify, Edward is not in the running because real vampires don’t sparkle! So vote now for your favourite Fanged One or leave a comment to join the long list of people who think I’m certifiably insane.

IMPORTANT NOTES: Today’s awesome and giggle-worthy photo is courtesy of my friends the Quarantine Kids who passed through Sparkle Town a few weeks ago.

Later today I will be attending a talk at the Sydney Opera House given by… wait for it… JOSS freaking WHEDON! I’ll post all my fangirl ravings about the event later this week so stay tuned!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Chicken Joke

I never thought I’d say this but I really miss Cairo… parts of it anyways. I developed so many bad habits in the Egyptian city that life on the straight and narrow in the Real World is driving me crazy. Of course, my walking in front of moving cars is probably making the drivers in Auckland a little crazy too.

Crossing the street in Cairo is like playing a real life game of Frogger. You wait for the moment when at least two lanes are clear and then walk sedately forward weaving, dodging, yelling, waiting, and occasionally hitting the fronts of cars as you go. The point of the game, obviously, is not just to get to the other side but also to do so in one piece. Sure, there were the occasional traffic lights (like the ones near the Institute’s old base), but people usually just crossed the road wherever the mood struck.

Now that I have returned to the Developed World, people seem to frown on jaywalking and walking in front of moving vehicles. See, what I didn’t mention before is that despite the fun of dodging and weaving around moving cars in Cairo the drivers usually know well enough to slow down or at least not aim for you. Here in Auckland, I swear I’ve had at least two people speed up when I dared to walk out in traffic.

Sadly, this means that I’m stuck waiting for traffic lights to tell me when I can and can’t cross the street. The other day, for example, I stood for three hours minutes waiting for the happy green walk sign to appear while watching a street that was practically devoid of cars. The fact I waited just proves that I’m slipping.

While my car dodging habits are making me twitchy in this law abiding new life, they aren’t the only skills that are growing rusty. Ever since those first shopping days in India, I perfected my negotiation skills and became something of an expert at bartering for everything from cloth for new shirts to taxi rides across town. Sadly, it turns out that when you get into a taxi in London they expect you to pay what’s on the meter and don’t believe in finding a middle ground between what’s in your pocket and their exorbitant fees.

I’m sure there are other questionable habits and skills I picked up over the last five years but I have to admit that negotiating the price of dinner dinner and playing chicken with buses are two of the things I find myself missing most here in the boring old, law abiding Real World. I guess that means that I’m simply going to have to go out and find some locals to corrupt to my way of thinking. After all, positive changes like these can only happen one person at a time.