Friday, July 30, 2021

Episode 30: Genre, Burgers, and Alien with Jonathan Auxier

Just two weeks later, here’s another episode of “The Secrets of Story Podcast”! We’ll try to stick to a biweekly strategy for a while, alternating with “Marvel Reread Club” on the alternate Fridays.

And hey starting on Monday, I’ll embark on a major new project on Mondays through Thursdays, so you’ll have five days a week of posts for a while!

Today’s episode was extricated from the previous episode. This is the discussion Jonathan Auxier wanted to have, but we ended up having a different discussion about the Sayers triangle that broke off and became its own episode.  Now we can present Jonathan’s original idea about genre, how it is like burgers, and what this all has to do with the movie Alien. James then high-roads us with some classical music cues.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Marvel Reread Club Episode 7: October 1962

Welcome back to the Marvel Reread Club! From now on we’ll be coming to you every other Friday, starting today. This week, we’ll tackling five big issues: Fantastic Four #7, Journey Into Mystery featuring Thor #85, Strange Tales featuring the Human Torch #101, and Tales to Astonish featuring Ant-Man #36. Hostility Rays! Anti-Matter Particle Fans! Asbestos Bedspreads! Angry Portraits of Khrushchev!

I usually decline to post interior panels we discussed, in the interest of making less work for myself, but I could resist posting this gorgeous page from Fantastic Four:

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Believe Care Invest: Aladdin

Hey, where’s Marvel Reread Club?? Well, after overwhelming you guys with podcast content last week, I’ve decided to do one podcast a week. MRC will appear this Friday morning and will now be bi-weekly every other Friday from this point on. The next Friday, we will have a new Secrets of Story Podcast, then a new MRC, etc. Hopefully we can maintain both podcasts on a bi-weekly schedule, alternating with each other. In the meantime, let’s do Aladdin!
  • A merchant trying to sell us a lamp tells a story: First we see Jafar try to get something from a magical cave, then he says he must find the “diamond in the rough.” Cut to Aladdin who has stolen a piece of bread and leads the guards on a merry chase around the city, singing a song. He gets away with the bread, but decides to give it to some starving kids. He then protects the kids from the whip of a prince going to the palace.
Why Aladdin might be hard to identify with: No real reason, he’s tremendously lovable.

  • We begin with a song about his culture and the setting.
  • He has a distinctive outfit.
  • He has a gap between his exterior and interior: When he’s alone, he sings to himself, “Riff-raff, street rat, I don’t buy that, if only they’d look closer, would they see a poor boy? Nosiree. They’d find out there’s so much more to me.”
  • He’s an orphan: The people in the streets say, “I’d blame parents but he hasn’t got ‘em”
  • He’s poor: “I steal only what I can’t afford – That’s everything!”
  • He’s envious of the prince.
  • Needlessly insulted: “You are a worthless street rat. You were born a street rat, you’ll die a street rat, and only your fleas will mourn you.”
  • He falls in unrequited love at first sight.
  • He’s great at running away. After he dives off a building and swings down a series of clotheslines, the guards say, “You won’t get away so easy!” and he says, “You think that was easy??”
  • He has a reputation. Women think he’s adorable. “He’s rather tasty!”
  • He has a resourceful monkey assistant.
  • He’s kind: he gives bread he’s stolen away to poor kids.
  • He’s badass: He protects kids from being whipped by grabbing the whip away from the prince.
  • He’s good at improv with the princess when he has to save her from having her hand cut off. They “yes and” each other.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Believe Care Invest: The House on Mango Street

  • Pre-teen Esperanza moves with her family to a modest house on Mango Street and looks for friends.
Why Esperanza might be hard to identify with: It’s an unusual format. The short book essentially consists of 150 one-page short stories, with only a small amount of interconnectivity. Obviously, scenes don’t go very far in depth and not a lot of momentum builds. There’s very little dialogue.

  • She talks about, “windows so small you’d think they were holding their breath.” Always good to personify things
  • We always like vivid but unexpected smells: “Mama’s hair that smells like bread.”
  • We have all, in our odder moments, experienced bits of synesthesia. I remember as a child thinking “red and green make brown because red is 5 and green is 3 and brown is 8”, as if that were the most obvious thing in the world. Giving your hero a bit of synesthesia makes them feel oddly real: “In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.”
  • Odd sensory information: “At school they say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurt the roof of your mouth.”
  • Let your characters relabel themselves: “I would like to baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real me, the one nobody sees. Esperanza as Lisandra or Maritza or Zeze the X. Yes. Something like Zeze the X will do.”
  • Unlike some Hispanic authors, Cisneros doesn’t sprinkle in much Spanish, but she does have culturally unique syntax: “Two girls raggedy as rats live across the street.” Different characters have different culturally unique syntax. One says, “but me I’m Texas.
  • Not a lot of dialogue in the book, but what we do get has lots of personality: “People on the bus wave. A very fat lady crossing the street says, You sure got quite a load there. Rachel shouts, You got quite a load there too. She is very sassy.”
  • Vivid sound description: “Our laughter for example. Not the shy ice cream bells’ giggle of Rachel and Lucy’s family, but all of a sudden and surprised like a pile of dishes breaking.”
  • Unique similes: “It’s like all of a sudden he let go a million moths all over the dusty furniture and swan-neck shadows and in our bones.”
  • There are lots of chances to tie the book in to specific cultures, but there are also details like this not specific to their culture, implying that there are some aspects of culture that cross over, just because they’re great songs. “She can’t come out—gotta baby-sit with Louie’s sisters—but she stands in the doorway a lot, all the time singing, clicking her fingers, the same song: And we always love song lyrics. Apples, peaches, pumpkin pah-ay. You’re in love and so am ah-ay”
  • They had to move hastily because the pipes burst in their old home and their landlord refused to fix them. Decisions made under pressure are always good ways to launch stories.
  • The opening humiliation of the story is often the moment when a hero first realizes how others see them: “You live there? There. I had to look to where she pointed—the third floor, the paint peeling, wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldn’t fall out. You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded.”
  • She arrives in her new neighborhood and has to go through the humiliating ritual of asking kids to be her friend. One replies, “You want a friend, she says. Okay, I’ll be your friend. But only till next Tuesday. That’s when we move away. Got to. Then as if she forgot I just moved in, she says the neighborhood is getting bad.”
  • This book is about Esperanza getting wised up to the true nature of the world: “I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The house on Mango Street isn’t it. For the time being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how those things go.”
  • As with all semi-autobiographical novels, we invest primarily because of the fact of this book, which, because we’re reading it, proves that the hero broke free and made her place in the world (though the author and heroine have different names). All of the Believe examples above show both Sandra and Esperanza’s exquisitely perceptive eyes, and we like good eyes.

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Annotation Project: The House on Mango Street

Non-podcast content! I was trying to get some Latina content in my book and discovered this wonderful novel.  BCI tomorrow. 


Friday, July 16, 2021

Episode 29: Author Draft, Artifact Draft, Audience Draft with Jonathan Auxier

The Secrets of Story Podcast is back! Sorry for the long delay-- I promise it’s not because I’ve been distracted by my shiny new podcast (Marvel Reread Club), this episode just took a lot of effort to make happen. In the end, just like the last two episodes of MRC, we had enough material from this SOS recording session to make two episodes. In this case, it was trickier, because our conversation with Jonathan Auxier jumped back and forth between two topics, each of which deserved their own episode, so I had to carefully disentangle them to become episodes 29 and 30.

Here is the first of those episodes, and it’s a doozie! Jonathan introduces the idea of the “Sayers Triangle”, which basically boils down to this: Everything you write needs an Author Draft, an Artifact Draft, and an Audience Draft. James and I are blown away by this, and we spend 40 minutes grappling with it.  Eventually, we end up discussing how it applies to Jonathan’s new book series “The Fabled Stables” and it all becomes clear...  

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Marvel Reread Club Episode 6: September 1962 (Part 2)

Hi again, everybody! It’s time for the second half of September, 1962, featuring Incredible Hulk #3, Journey Into Mystery #84 (featuring Thor), and Tales to Astonish #35 (introducing Ant-Man!) Elephant punching! Volcano-triggering! Plugging guns with ant-honey! Check it out!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Guest Appearance on "Pod Dylan" discussing "Restless Farewell"!

Hi, everybody! So I sure hope you like the sound of my voice (which I myself am not crazy about) because if you check out all my podcast appearances you’re going to be hearing a lot of me in the coming weeks. I continue to put out “Marvel Reread Club” every week, we have not one but two episodes of “The Secrets of Story Podcast” all edited and ready to go once they gain James’s approval, and now we have my appearance on a third, totally different podcast!

One of my personal favorite podcasts is “Pod Dylan” where host Rob Kelly and a guest examine a different Dylan song in depth every week. I’ve been invited to be on many podcasts over the years, but this is the first time that I’ve initiated it. I’m such a fan that I just wrote Rob out of the blue and asked if I could come on his show as a guest. I proposed a few songs and this was the one he picked. We discuss 1964’s “Restless Farewell”, one of my favorites.

Here's the podcast, and here’s video of Bob performing the song for Frank Sinatra:

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Marvel Reread Club Episode 5: September 1962 (Part 1)

Hello everyone and welcome back! I promise that I will have non-MRC content on this blog soon. I am currently editing not one but two episodes of the “Secrets of Story Podcast”, and there’s more goodies to come!

But for now, let’s dive into September, 1962. There were five issues that month and we recorded 100 minutes talking about them, but we decided to split that into two episodes, so this week, for part one, we’ll just be discussing Amazing Fantasy #15 (introducing Spider-Man) and Fantastic Four #6. Spider-pupils! Unstable molecules!

And come back next week for Part 2!