Hello, everyone! Look, I’m actually continuing a project I started. I mean, it’s for school, so I’d fail the course if I didn’t, but still. It’s hard to stick with something, especially in the beginning. Apparently it takes an average of about two months to form a habit.
(Look, Prof, I know how to use links!)
Of course, two months from now, this course will be almost over. That’s kind of bittersweet: by the time this is engraved into me, it’ll be over. Or at least, the graded portion of it will be. Maybe I’ll do this after the class ends. Honestly, it acts like a great little freezeframe of where I’m at. What says more about someone than their work and what they’re consuming?
Like, that’s a combination of your input as well as your output, and really, what else is there?
Like the title of this post implies, I’ve been in a bookish mood. This means I’ve been working on my novel! It’s called AUBADE, it’s a weird OwnVoices Solarpunk Fantasy about subverting tropes I hate, and it’s existed some way or another for, like, a decade.
This is great, in that it’s lived in my brain long enough I know the characters like the back of my hand. I’ve drawn them, I’ve made playlists for them, I’ve given them totally random little quirks and details. You can ask me about how their thirteenth birthday went or what they’d study in university.
This is also terrible, in that it means my perception of the world has changed and making any tweaks in my manuscript that reflect these changes is like pulling teeth.
I spent an hour yesterday tweaking the 37th chapter, wracking my brain over whether or not what my characters were stressed about was realistic. I kept asking myself, “Is this how people talk, or how my 16-year-old self thought they talk?”
I practically tore my hair out over Maude’s dialogue up here. There’s a nonzero chance that a year from now this paragraph won’t exist, or will in a totally different form. I might look back at this and laugh at how terrible it is. But also, I shared it with another writer friend and she said, “Oh, pop off!” so I think that’s a good thing.
I’ll probably do more entries about Aubade here, because I’m revising a lot. I want to get back into querying by next year, after all. It’s been a wild trip: I did my first wave of submissions at 16, and was promptly rejected everywhere. I did my second wave at 18, got a full request, and was rejected on Christmas Eve. I’m still a bit bummed about it. But it’s fine.
I guess if there’s one moral to take from this whole ramble, it’s that your brainchildren can be enduring little things. They can be beaten down, they can be tinted by nostalgia, they can shrink as you grow (I can’t believe I thought 17 was mature at some point in my life!), but they endure.
They endure, and you can pick up that distorted little idea and work it into something great.
Speaking of nostalgia…
Like I said, I’ve been in a bookish mood. My latest literary love? The new Night Vale novel.
For those who don’t know, Welcome to Night Vale started as a podcast in the early 2010s. It’s a series of fictional radio broadcasts from the fictional town of Night Vale, where hooded figures lurk in the Dog Park, a Faceless Old Woman lives in everyone’s homes, and there’s a big glowing cloud that rains dead animals and also works on the Board of Education.
In short: it’s kinda funny, kinda creepy, and it’s wildly successful. They’re still going strong almost a decade later, they’ve done hundreds of live shows, and they’ve become a podcasting giant: Night Vale Presents has around a dozen shows under their belt, last I checked.
Anyways, a few years in, the first Night Vale novel was released, and it was a huge hit. More came. This spring, we got our latest entry in the canon: The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home. Yes, the one I just mentioned. She ran for mayor earlier in the series, she’s voiced by Mara Wilson, and now we have her whole backstory. It seems she wasn’t always faceless, she was born in the Mediterranean, and apparently she was a pretty ruthless criminal. I won’t spoil anything else.
I’ve seen, time and time again, people taking refuge in nostalgia during this quarantine. I guess I’ve joined the club, kind of? It’s a strange in-between: I’ve been a fan for about seven years, so even the new stuff has a distinct familiarity to it.
One reason I think I’ve loved Night Vale for so long is that it has this remarkable flexibility as a medium. The main podcast, where it all started, pretty much entirely takes form as broadcasts from community radio host, Cecil Palmer. This format gets played with as years go by, but that’s the core.
It just so happens that Cecil loves telling us about his personal life. We meet his friends, we meet his family, we watch him fall in love. It’s honestly incredible watching his character take form: he starts as this kind of vessel for the strange town around him, and gradually comes to life.
The best part? We’re stuck with his point of view, so we get all his opinions and biases. We hear about his lover in the purplest prose, how the man has “teeth like a military cemetery.” We hear about how his brother-in-law is the worst human being on Earth (he isn’t!).
This means that, on the occasion we get a book like this one, it pretty much opens up a whole new world. We aren’t bound by Cecil’s perspective. It’s great, because a lot of the “rules” of Night Vale are still there, and while I’m reading a different voice, the writing style is there, too. It’s a different flavour of a familiar treat.
Also, one more thing about Night Vale that means the world to me? It’s one of the first major queer stories I ever got into. Cecil is gay, his love story is a central part of the show, and he’s not the only one. Night Vale is so matter-of-fact about it, too: some women have girlfriends, some men have boyfriends, some people are nonbinary. It’s great.
The new book? One of the major characters is a lesbian. It’s the 1800s, so she disguises herself as a man for their safety. This one particular passage is just… poetic to me:
If you aren’t into Night Vale, I get that it can look daunting. 200 episodes, several novels… it’s a LOT. But if I can make a suggestion: go with either the novels or the podcast. Each can be enjoyed independently of the other. If you fall in love, you can proceed to dive in. If you don’t, you can say you tried.
If I’m not done this book by my next entry, feel free to kick me. I’m gonna dive back in now.