Tag Archives: news flash

in which three book things are happening

Hello my friends.

It’s been a while.

That’s because I have been otherwise occupied by the fact that MY FIRST BOOK COMES OUT IN 27 DAYS1!

So let me quickly catch you up on some of the things that you should know about in relation to this whole “book comes out in 27 days” things, because, I’m so sorry loyal blog readers who have words, but this is ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT RIGHT NOW.

Firstly, if you are gearing up for reading THIS MONSTROUS THING but worried you might not fully appreciate it because you haven’t read FRANKENSTEIN2, there’s a video for that! One time, during a Boston snowpocalypse snow storm, I got really caffeinated and made a five minute synopsis of Frankenstein that I promise is the fastest you will ever hear another human being speak. Also it’s shorter than SparkNotes. Your’e welcome.

Secondly, on Friday, EpicReads will be revealing the BOOK TRAILER for THIS MONSTROUS THING! Remember when we filmed this? And it was freezing? And there was fake blood and a mechanical arm?

Well it’s nearly time, friends, when it will be revealed to the wide world.

Alive Dead Trailer

Steel thyself for Friday at noon. The monsters are coming.

Third of all, I got my first finished hard cover copy of the book! I swooned and cried and still grin nonsensically when I think of the fact that it is sitting in my apartment, a real thing and not just a dream. It just gets realer and realer!

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27 DAYS! This book thing is starting to look like it’s actually going to happen.

  1. Heavy breathing.
  2. No judgement, but what is wrong with you?!
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in which history is amazing

Unless you’re new here, it will come as no surprise that one of my three great loves is history. I have a BA in history. I write historical fiction. My first job was as a blacksmith’s apprentice at an 1850s reenacenment park. My first boyfriend took me to a pioneer ball1.

However, it has come to my attention that some people out there think history is boring.

To which I say, BORING!? What is wrong with you!?

Oh, you’re probably thinking about all those dates your teacher made you memorize in high school. On this day, this bill was signed. On this day, so and so was elected president. This was the year a war was won.

And you would be right—that crap is boring. But history is not!

So here’s a PSA to remind you that history is not boring. It is, in fact, the single most interesting thing you can study, because people are fascinating and the things they do and the stories they live are sometimes so much better and crazier and stranger than fiction.

So if you ever think history is boring, just remember…

  • Lord Byron kept a trained bear in his college dorm room.
  • Tycho Brahe, Danish astronomer in the 1600s, had a gold nose (after he lost his actual nose in a duel) and a pet moose.
  • The English government exhumed Oliver Cromwell three years after his death, put him on trial, and executed his body.
  • Isadora Duncan was killed when her scarf got tangled in the wheel of the sports car she was driving and snapped her neck.
  • Josephine Baker, exotic dancer most famous for wearing nothing but bananas, was a French spy during WWII. And had an affair with Frida Kahlo.
  • So was Roald Dahl (the spy part, not the affair with Frida Kahlo). He served with Ian Fleming of James Bond fame.
  • The Theremin exists.
  • Andrew Jackson was so vulgar that his parrot, who learned every word he knew from his presidential owner, was ejected from his funeral for cussing.
  • William Walker, a private US citizen in the antebellum south, once took over Nicaragua with an army he mustered by himself, and was president there for a year before he was overthrown
  • Percy Shelley had a disease that caused calcium to build up in his heart, so when he died and was cremated, his heart was so bone-like it did not burn. It was pulled from the ashes of his funeral pyre and given to his wife Mary Shelley, who kept it in a drawer, wrapped in poetry, until she died and it was buried with her.
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine rose from relative obscurity to become queen of both France and England at different points in her life. She went on Crusade with one king, and led her sons in a revolution against the other.
  • The Dutch were once selling single tulip bulbs for the price of a house.
  • Daniel Sickels, a southern general in the Civil War, lost his leg in the battle of Gettysburg, then donated that severed leg to the Museum of Health and for the rest of his life would visit his leg each year on the anniversary of its amputation.
  • Pope Pius II had a career as an erotic novelist before becoming pope.
  • So did Louisa May Alcott. Though she wasn’t a pope.
  • One man died during the Boston Tea Party when he got whacked over the head very sharply by a rogue crate of tea. Rather than bury him, because they were sort of in a hurry, he was tossed into a barn and decided they’d come back for him later. When they returned the next day, he was gone. They found him drinking at the pub. LOL, JK, not dead, just knocked out.
  • Teddy Roosevelt was shot just before giving a speech, but the pages of his extremely large speech folded up inside his breast pocket slowed the bullet enough to keep it from doing major damage. He was still bleeding pretty seriously, but before consenting to receive any medical attention, he finished the damn speech.
  • Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle were friends, both obsessed with spiritualism (though had a falling out when Doyle faked a séance to impress Houdini).
  • In 1788, the Austrian army attacked itself and lost ten thousand men.

And that’s just the stuff I could think of off the top of my  head.

Do you have a favorite unbelievable historical fact? Leave it in comments—I eat this stuff up!

 

  1. And then left me behind when he went to fight the Yankees in the War of Northern Aggression

 

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In which the book deal is announced

If you have been around me at all this past week, you might have found yourself asking questions such as, “Why does Mackenzie seem so happy?” “Why has all her usual grump and cynicism been replaced by aggressive cheer?” “Why is she smiling at me like that? It’s creepy. Make her stop smiling at me like that.”

Well at long last, I can tell you! I can finally explain why I have spent the last week vomiting happiness on everyone I came in contact with.

Two words, friends: book deal.

Book. Deal.

I’ll let the official announcement from today’s Publisher’s Marketplace1 explain further:

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So this is happening! It is a real thing and not just the fever dream I have sustained for the past three years!

What does this mean for you, my lovely friends? Well, two things, really. One, you all are going to have to put up with my Frankenstein obsession for at least another year and a half, so prepare yourself for every conversation we have—online or off—to include some sort of tangential reference to Shelley. Two, and more importantly, it means that at some point next fall, you will be able to walk into your local independent bookstore, mosey over to the YA section, and pick up a shiny hard-backed edition of my incredibly weird post-modern revisionist steampunk-lite meta-gothic-horror Frankenstein reimagining2.

My novel is going to be published3!!! There are not enough exclamation points in the world to convey how I feel about this!! I have been dancing to myself all week, and now you all can dance with me!

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Friends, I am SO EXCITED. And even that is an understatement.

 

  1. Publisher’s Marketplace! I feel so fancy and legit!
  2. And at an undisclosed time after that, you will be able to buy ANOTHER book of mine. Because did you see—two book deal! That means I get to write another one!
  3. By, in case you missed it in the PM announcement, Katherine Tegen Books, a YA imprint of HarperCollins. You might have heard of them. They publish a little book called Divergent.

 

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in which some big things happen

I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for about a week labeled “Things I Should Probably Talk About.” Because I am often really good at writing about the weird little stories of no consequence that happen to me, but not always great at hitting the big things, and these last few weeks were chock full of big things.

So here are a few that I felt were worth talking about:

Big Thing #1: I finished my MFA!

Two weeks ago last Friday, I donned a funny looking hat, a wrinkled robe1 and a shroudy hoodish thing that made me feel a bit like a sorcerer, piled into a bus with four thousand of my closest friends and drove to the Bank of America Pavilion which, it turns out, is a terrible place to host anything when it is even remotely cold, and oh man, was it cold. Rainy and grey and the wind off the water was merciless. At one point, the girl I was sitting next to and I realized we could actually see our breath. In May. It was a cold, cold place to be forced to sit still on uncomfortable folding chairs for two hours while name after endless name was read off.

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But in spite of sounding very negative about the whole affair, it was a good time. Graduation ceremonies are a bit silly if you think about them too hard, mostly because of all the pomp and circumstance, but every time I’ve gone to one, I’ve had a genuine moment of pride and coolness when I got to walk up on stage, hear my name read, and get the little fake diploma. So overall the day was enjoyable. And my lovely family came in from Utah for the occasion, so I got to be with them. And, true to our usual classy selves, while everyone else went out to nice fancy dinners afterwards at places with multiple forks and cloth napkins, we went to my favorite eccentric diner and ordered a cookie sheet of onion rings.

So I’m now a master. I expect you all to refer to me as such from now on.

Big Thing #2: We went to Maine!

After a day of graduation and another of doing Boston things3, my family and I packed up our rental car and drove up to Bar Harbor, Maine, where we spent a very enjoyable week doing enjoyable and Maine-ish things, like hiking in Acadia, riding on boats, and tearing apart lobsters with our bare hands2. Maine was lovely and quiet and not anywhere near as cold as graduation, so we spent our time overdressed and marveling at how easy it was to breathe when the hiking trails are level and at a low elevation4.

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Maine was impossibly lovely, and after a rather arduous two years of graduate school, I really enjoyed a week of doing little to nothing that required any brain power5.

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Big Thing #3: I got a new job!

Okay, job is a relative term. It is an internship. But not just any internship. My dream internship, an internship I have been chasing and applying for over and over basically since I got to Boston. At last, they either got sick of reading my resume or decided I was actually maybe worth considering, because they hired me. I am over the moon about this news, and I feel really lucky to be putting my children’s lit knowledge to use so quickly after graduating from school.

And speaking of children’s lit things…

Big Thing #4: The PEN-New England Susan Bloom Discovery Award Night!

So as you may remember, a few months ago I went nuts with excitement over being one of the winners of the PEN-New England Susan Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. Last week, there was an official awards ceremony, at which I was invited to read from my winning manuscript. And guys, it was amazing. I polled some friends who came to see if it was actually really that awesome or if I was biased because I was one of the guests of honor, but the general consensus seemed to be that it was genuinely awesome. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people who were enthusiastic about children’s literature and me as a writer and my possible contribution to the field.

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Myself, Rebecca, and Pamela, this year’s three discoveries.

Everyone deserves the experience of being shepherded around a room full of witty, intelligent people who all tell you how much they love the art you are creating and the things you are doing, which was basically what the whole night was for me. Everyone also deserves the chance to be introduced by someone you really admire and hear them say nice things about your work, which I was also lucky enough to have happen when Lois Lowry introduced me and my manuscript. I did my best to not freak out when this happened.

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Miss Lowry and myself

After Lois’s very generous introduction, parts of which I am considering getting tattooed on my forehead, I got to read from my manuscript6. I am pleased to report that I did not lose my place, drop a page, say “Ingolstadt7” wrong, or pronounce “Frankenstein” the way they do in Young Frankenstein, which I was worried might happen since the MT and I spent the whole week in Maine quoting Young Frankenstein in honor of my impending reading. Then there was a lovely Q&A, where I got to talk very fast8 about Mary Shelley and how cool she was and about the Danny Boyle production of Frankenstein that inspired the whole thing9. And then I ate cookies and talked to more amazing people and showed off my Frankenstein tights and basically just had an amazing night. It was a fairly once in a lifetime experience that I will treasure and carry with me as a badge of courage as I go forward with my writing career.

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Rebecca, Susan (form whom the award is named), Cathie (head of the Simmons program) and me.

And those are the big things worth noting that have happened over the past few weeks. It’s been rather eventful here at Chateau de Lee, and I have enjoyed very much having a few weeks of good news and fun things. I’m bracing myself for real life to set back in again.

 

  1. Because some genius had the idea of making our gowns eco-friendly by crafting them out of recycled plastic bottles, meaning they couldn’t be ironed or else they would melt. To which I say, “A plague upon environmentalism!”
  2. The MT and I got very into naming the lobsters we met/ate. Or maybe that was just me and the MT indulged me. Whatever the case, over the course of the trip we met/ate Aloysius, Randall, Gob the Lob, Buster Bluth (because he was missing a claw), katniss, and Hannibal (because, it turns out, lobsters are cannibals).
  3. Such as treason, living free or dying, and protesting intolerable acts.
  4. Upon completing a particular hike, we were greeted by a sign boasting that we were now 520 feet above sea level. The Utahans, who live their lives at four thousand feet above sea level, were unimpressed.
  5. Though this doing nothing was interrupted by some strange and unexpected distractions, when I shall discuss in big thing number 3…
  6. This is the post modern revisionist steampunk Frankenstein book I have talked about a little bit here. In case you were wondering.
  7. Far and away the hardest and most German word in the manuscript.
  8. “Fast” meaning both briefly and at break neck speed, which I often do when I am nervous or excited, and I was definitely both.
  9. I also very nearly got set up on a date with Benedict Cumberbatch. Really.
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in which people who are not me run 26 miles

Happy Marathon Day!

As you may remember, some really terrible things happened in Boston around this time last year. But some really awesome things happened last year too. In fact, there were far more awesome things than bad things. Far more people being kind and heroic and brave than being cruel and cowardly.

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This time last year, after living in the city for almost eight months, this was the week I really fell in love with Boston, and I’ve been smitten ever since. In the wake of a tragedy, everything seemed really united and hopeful, and I felt very much a part of a coming together of different people inhabiting the same space, and through that coming together I fell in love with that space. I had a similar moment of intense Boston love while walking around my neighborhood this morning1. Everything was blue skies and sort of warm after being neither of those things for so long, and I thought, you couldn’t pry me out of this city with a crowbar.

I love Boston. It feels like home.

So let’s celebrate one year—hundreds of years really, but this one in particular—of being awesome and resilient and good and BOSTON STRONG2!

 

  1. On a quest for Diet Coke, because my regular place was closed and it is apparently really hard to find Diet Coke within walking distance of my apartment on marathon day.
  2. The phrase ‘Boston Strong’ has become so overused in the last year that it now can only be written or spoken in all caps. However, after a year of feeling it was worn out and cliché and laughing everytime someone used it, every time I’ve seen it this past week a small part of me has gone “Aw.” But that’s sentimentality for you.
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on the Boston bombings

I’ll keep this quick, because I don’t have much to say on this subject, and I know there are a lot of other people who do.

First of all, thanks everyone for your messages and calls yesterday. I’m safe and fine. I was in my apartment when the bombs went off in Copley Square. For the first time in my life, I was grateful that too much homework kept me indoors. I know people who ran in the race and people who were at the finish line when the bombs went off, but they are all safe.

Second of all, I want to add my sentiment to everyone else who has been saying that Boston is a tough city that is going to rise above this. One person set off a bomb yesterday, but there were hundreds of people who rushed to help those who were injured. And 1 to 100 ain’t bad odds.

Third of all, this is the first time in my life I’ve been this close to a tragedy of this scope. My apartment’s about two miles away from Copley Square. I walk through there all the time to go to the Boston Public Library. I get my hair cut a block away. I’ve eaten at restaurants that now have their windows blown out. I stood in line on that street where the bomb went off to see Buddy Wakefield perform a few weeks ago. But for me, the most lasting impact and the saddest thing is that this incident stole our feeling of safety in our own city.

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When I was a junior in high school, there was a shooting at Trolley Square, a shopping center near my home in Salt Lake. I love Trolley Square, and I’ve been there many times since the shooting, but every time I go, even years later, it’s still the first thing I think of when I’m there, and it makes me a little uneasy. I hate that one person and one senseless act of violence was able to steal that feeling of safety from me, so that even walking around a shopping mall makes me nervous. We saw the same thing happen this past summer in Aurora, Colorado, and this winter in Newtown, Connecticut. Beyond the direct victims, the entire country was robbed of feeling safe in their movie theaters and schools, and that to me is so tragic.

And now my entire city feels like it is walking on eggshells. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jumpy getting on the train today. But here I am at school, and tomorrow I’ll go to work, and my week will proceed just the same as it would have if the bombings hadn’t happened. Everything there is to know about life can be summed up in three words: it goes on. And Boston will go on too.

Because Boston is freaking awesome.

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in which I survive a blizzard

Hello! Can you hear me over the hurricane speed winds currently spitting snow at my window so hard that I can actually feel my bed shaking underneath me? Oh, also the girls outside my window who are screaming like they’re being chased by an axe murderer. Grow up, it’s just snow.

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That was my initial attitude to the great blizzard of 2013 that swept the east coast: Grow up, it’s just snow. Even though they essentially shut down an entire city, stopped running all mass transit, gave everyone a preemptive snow day, and then fined people who are out on the streets or driving, I just kept rolling my eyes. When I woke up this morning, my room was very bright, and I assumed that meant the blizzard had been a great exaggeration,  and I was thoroughly unimpressed1. It was just like every other storm I saw growing up in Utah2.

Then I actually went outside with the roommate to clean off her car. And realized that we literally could not leave the apartment. The snow was too high. Which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “snowed in.” The snow is almost up to my waist in places3 and I couldn’t have walked down the street to get a diet coke if I wanted to. And I did want to. This is partly because we live at the end of an alley, so the snow has drifted around us, leaving us with snow banks. I have no idea what normal parts of the city look like, but right now, there is quite literally no way for us to leave our apartment, which, in all my years of Utah snow storms, has never actually happened to me before. Maybe Utah’s just more on the ball when it comes to cleaning up after a snowstorm, but Brookline really looks like a wasteland right now.

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My roommate and I made it through the blizzard with a lot of Star Wars, which, let’s be honest, is the only way to get through any sort of disaster. It looked like Hoth outside, so the only logical thing to do is watch The Empire Strikes Back and make Star Wars shaped cookies and have an extended discussion about who should play Mara Jade in the upcoming Star Wars sequels4. I also finished a book, started another book, wrote ten thousand words sprinkled across various half-finished projects, and talked to one of my favorite authors on twitter about the Star Wars parallels in her historical zombie steampunk novel5.

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So the blizzard here has come and is still coming. Now we wait to be dug out of our snow caves, wait for the snow to inevitably turn to freezing rain and transform the snow banks into the least delicious crème brulee of all time. But for now, I am safe and warm inside, with power and tea and Star Wars.

So I’m fine. Thanks for asking.

  1. Also I’m fairly certain I’ve skied in worst conditions than the blizzard yesterday. But that’s my family for you.
  2. It’s also hilarious and worth pointing out that in the eighteen years I lived in Utah, I can remember them calling one snow day, and it was only a half day. I have lived out on the east coast for less than six months and we have already had three.
  3. It should be noted I am five foot six on a good day.
  4. Which I am weirdly really excited about.
  5. Just when I thought I could love this book no more, she hides Star Wars references in it.
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in which I experience feelings of love

Last night, I was on the home stretch of two-hour viewing of The Bachelor1 when I noticed that there had been an excess of diamond ring and Hallmark card commercials all night, each more nauseating than the last2. Then I realized why: it’s almost Valentine’s Day.

I’m not a Valentine’s Day hater. I’m not actually a Valentine’s Day lover, either. I’m pretty neutral in my feelings towards V-Day. I generally use it as an excuse to buy myself a book and eat chocolate. However, there is something in direct relationship to Valentine’s Day that I would like to discuss.

Valentine’s Day is a day that celebrates love in all its many splendored forms. But if the commercials and window displays are to be believed, the only love worth celebrating this February 14 is the romantic, hand-holding, face-sucking kind. Which—NEWS FLASH—is not the only kind of love.

So today, I’d like to talk about friendship—that kind of love.

When we tell someone of the opposite gender3 that you are not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with them, we say that we want to be “just friends.” Which is ridiculous. When did “friends” become a “just”? When we stacked the pyramid of worthwhile relationships, who put friendship a tier below monogamous, lip-sucking partners? When did dating someone become the whole game? Friendship should never be a “just”.

Since I’ve done a lot of starting over in the past four years, I’ve done a lot of making new friends, and it never stops being hard. Too often, when I’m alone in a new city, I tend to jump into friendships with people that are convenient to be friends with, or who I share one thing in common with, but nothing else. “Oh you also like turkey sandwiches? So, should I just go ahead and pencil us in for spending Thanksgiving together?” While I would never enter into a romantic partnership with such a shaky foundation, I do it all the time with friendships. I try to force a friendship out of something that isn’t there because I just want to know people. I just want to have someone to vent about school to and go see a movie with4.

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I stole this from Elizabeth Wein and a tumblr user named Kelly.

But the truth is, we should screen our friends just as closely as we do our romantic partners. Just because someone is convenient or willing, does not make them suitable friend material. Just like you aren’t going to be attracted to every person you meet, you can’t expect to have friendship chemistry with every person you meet either. And in the end, when you’re left crying on a street corner in the rain after that boy dumps you5, you want the people on speed dial in your phone to actually pick up.

With all the changing my life is done in the past few years, I have started to value my friendships more than ever. When I was younger, friendship was such a given thing. I moved within the same circles of people for most of my young life, and I took for granted how well I knew my peers and how easy it was to judge our compatibility. When thrust into an unfamiliar situation with new people, I am much more impulsive about my decisions, and have ended up perusing a lot of relationships that were doomed from the start just because I missed having friends. So when the new, sparkly-ness of a place falls away, or when distance and space comes between us, those people that are left standing with me have become so very important to me.

I think we as a society tend to romanticize6 romantic love. We act as though the only thing that gives us value in this world is being in a romantic partnership with someone7, when really, that sort of love is only half of it. Life isn’t just about forming relationships with people you are attracted to. It’s about valuing and finding strength in people who you don’t want to exchange saliva with.

This is not to say that I am a man-hater, or a relationship-hater. I am neither. But when I think of my life, and the relationships that have lasted and mattered, I don’t think of the boyfriends I left behind. I think of the friends who are still here with me.

So on this Valentine’s Day, I will not just be celebrating the ghosts of boyfriends past or lamenting my singleness, because there’s nothing lamentable in it. I’m not alone, and I’m not lonely. Instead, I would like to celebrate the people who inhabit my life in a non-hand holding, non-face licking capacity8.

  1. Don’t judge.
  2. I noticed this because every time one came on, I made a very loud and very dramatic groan, and by the time the Bachelor was half done, my throat was starting to hurt from the exertion.
  3. Or same gender, depending on what team you bat for.
  4. Trick question, because I go to 90% of movies alone. And I like it, because no one judges me for sneaking a diet coke in in my purse, and I do not have to share the popcorn.
  5. Everything I know about breakups I learned from Lifetime movies
  6. WORDPLAY!
  7. Which is why I am all the time told, “Oh, you have lots of friends and important people in your life and you’re happy and fulfilled, but you have no boyfriend? Don’t worry darling, you’ll find a good man soon.”
  8. I kind of hate myself for writing this post, because even as I’m reading over it now, I’m so painfully aware of how much it sounds like the sort of thing girls say around Valentine’s Day to hide behind really desperately wanting a significant other. Which is not me. This is an honest opinion that has nothing to do with my current dating situation. I also want to say that this is not a post to discredit anyone who is in a romantic relationship—that’s awesome, and I get finding strength in your partner and being two halves of a whole and that whole Dove chocolate wrapper nonsense. But for me, right now, in my life, this is how I feel about love, and this is where I find my strength. This is my life, as honestly as I know how to explain it.
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in which I surrive a hurricane

Hello, hello, posting from the eye of the storm here!

Alright, not the eye anymore. Never the eye ever really, compared to what’s going on in other parts of the country. But Boston was certainly hurricane-adjacent yesterday, and I definitely survived to blog about it!

This is the obligatory I survived Hurricane Sandy post. Not only did I make it out the other side, but my area of the world got off fairly easy. We didn’t lose power. No damage, other than the large tree that fell down in our yard and very narrowly missed my bedroom window. No major issues at all. Not that it was fun listening to wind so strong it sounded like a train accident outside your window all day. But we are still here, unbroken.

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I spent a day inside being alternately anxiety-ridden and fascinated by a storm the scale of which I’d never seen before, watching the new season of Downton Abbey, and lamenting the fact that I was woefully unprepared for this hurricane and didn’t have any diet coke in the house. But I got the day off from work and school and an extension on a paper I hadn’t written.

So it isn’t all bad news.

But I know that things back here in the east are pretty messed up. From the sound of it, a lot of places are in shambles. Even here, the evidence of the storm is everywhere. The standard “how are you?” greeting today has been replaced with a “how did you survive the hurricane?” There are people here without power, with trees on their houses, with flood waters in their front rooms. I am grateful I am not one of them, and I am thinking about them and wishing there was something I could do.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a classmate who was in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. We talked about her experience, and I asked her about the general atmosphere there. She said that yes, things were rough, but that the news organizations chose only to focus on the bad things that happened. She said that Katrina brought out not only looters and murderers, but also an influx of people helping each other and reaching out. Let’s hope that Sandy does the same. Tragedies and extreme circumstances reveal either the worst or the best in people. In coming days, we need to do everything we can to support the recovery effort and make sure that we are the best.

Because really, we’re all trying to put things back together as best we can.

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in which heroes rise

Note: I wrote this as a post for the NPR intern edition blog. They opted not to publish it, and suggested I write an article about modern nuns instead. But I am quite proud of it, so I thought I’d share it here anyway. No footnotes, because, as said, I didn’t write this for my blog. I wrote it for another, normal blog. And normal blogs don’t use footnotes. 

Last night, at 3:02 am, the screen went dark, the lights went up, and The Dark Knight Rises crowd in auditorium 19 at the AMC River North went berserk. People stood up, they cheered, the flung their bat-masks in the air. Then they swarmed towards the doors, leaving a trail of empty soda cups and half-eaten popcorn in their wake, and out into the night.

As I joined the mass exodus through the lobby, I listened to the many opinions about the film we had just watched flying around me. Most of them seemed to be along the same theme, namely:

OHMYGOSHTHATWASTHEBESTMOVIEEVER!!!

Except it wasn’t.

It wasn’t a great movie. It was a good movie, sure. It was entertaining. It was engaging. It was exciting enough to keep me awake in spite of the fact that I was watching during that awkward time between late night and early morning after a twelve hour day at work.

But it wasn’t a great film. There were plot holes, unbalanced storylines, a villain with a speech impediment that gave him the diction of an intercom announcement on the subway. And let’s be honest – it’s a movie about a guy in a suit that looks impossible to put on, with a flying tank. Come on.

And yet there were twenty-two theatres with sold out shows in the AMC River North theater alone, and I felt myself to be the only person there who hadn’t really loved it.

We experienced the exact same phenomenon a month ago with Spiderman, and earlier this year with the Avengers, and we will again with Man of Steel next year. We are emptying our pockets to watch ridiculous movies with cheesy dialogue about people who wear spandex.

What is it about the superhero movies that draw crowds like that?

This morning, I read about the shooting at a Colorado movie theatre just like the one I had sat in, and a creeping nausea settled in my stomach. As I watched newsreel footage and grainy cell phone videos from the scene, I was sickened by how closely they resembled Gotham in chaos from The Dark Knight Rises. What I had just hours earlier watched with the thought, “Thank God I don’t live in that world,” was suddenly reality.We are Gotham, I thought. We are that population who turns against each other. Who murders.

So where was our Batman last night?

The shooting last night in Colorado, no matter how horrific, is an illustration of why we are obsessed with the idea of superheroes: it is because when things go south, we wish there was someone to drop out of the sky in his flying car and save us. We wish for our own superhero.

As a human race, we seek out saviors. We want people to look to, to rise to, to aspire to be like, but are secretly grateful that we never will have to be. We want permission to be cowardly because we know that there is someone else out there who will be brave. We don’t always want to be the heroes of our story, but we want there to be a hero none the less.

And, as unrealistic as superhero movies are, the largest and most appealing element of truth within them is that in times of tragedy, people will rise. They always do. Horror creates heroes, and ordinary people prove themselves to be extraordinary through their actions. Superheroes and the movies that feature them reflect the hope that lies within every heartbreak: the hope of transcendence. The hope that we can rebuild something better than we had before.

And I have no doubt in the days following the shooting in Colorado, heroes will emerge. They may not wear capes and spandex, but we will know them anyways.

Our heroes don’t choose us, we choose them. We decide who to worship, who to idolize. We choose the morals upon which we build our foundation, and we choose who we look to to protect that morality.

We keep going to see superhero films so that we remember that there will always be people around us who, like phoenixes from the ashes of a tragedy, will rise.

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