*Ye Stars That Shudder | Snippets

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*in case you missed it last time, it’s a post-alien invasion re-conceptualizing of the King Arthur myth

Jake Uther had been dead for five years, according to popular belief. An easy mistake to make, too – people tended to think the worst after you fell off the planet for that long. Every now and then, for a fleeting handful of seconds, he wished they were right.

Then he remembered just how spiteful and petty he was, and the feeling turned into something smug.


“Dyethrin,” Arthur repeated. “The Vees?”

“I admit to not knowing why you chose ‘Vees’ as their moniker,” said the Metroid. “But I assume you mean the outside force you also refer to as ‘aliens.’”

“We call them Vees because it’s short for Visitor,” said Kay sharply. “It reminds that’s what they’re doing. Visiting.”

Arthur blinked. “I actually didn’t know that,” he muttered.

Hec’s eyebrows drew together. “Where you been, kid?”

“I don’t know, too busy to make etymology inquiries?”


Arthur settled back in his seat and watched the corner of Kay’s face in the rear-view mirror. He imagined he knew less about Kay and Hec than most kids did about their parents – but then, Hec was the only one old enough to have actually fathered Arthur, and neither of them were related. Hec was thirty-nine – almost forty, Arthur realized. It would be a good day of razzing, that birthday. Kay was only thirty-four, probably a decade Arthur’s senior, but between the two men it always surprised Arthur that Kay was by far the more mercenary.

To look at them, anyone would assume it was the other way around – Hec had that look, one Arthur could only describe as ‘been around the block.’ Kay almost looked softer – a softer mouth, lighter eyes. Always clean-shaven. If not for the jewelry in his eyebrow and the intimidating width of his biceps, you might assume he was the friendlier of the two. Not that Arthur would call Hec friendly. Reasonable, up to a point, though.


Twilight had melted into night when Kay finally found a place to turn around on the winding mountain road. Arthur glanced at the clock – it was fun to be able to tell the time when sitting in a car – and whistled.

“What?” asked Kay, resting his free arm out the window. He looked in his element, which was weird, Arthur considered, given he hadn’t thought much about Kay’s life before they met.

“We drove fifteen minutes out.”

Kay’s mouth curved, his signature almost-a-smirk-but-not-quite. “Calm down, I’ll have you home by midnight.”

“If you weren’t looking at the road I’d roll my eyes, but you wouldn’t see it so just know I rolled them. Hard. That’s half an hour of gas we just wasted.”

“Pretty sure your idea of liquid measurement is off there,” Kay remarked, slowing down for a sharp curve.


He pressed his lips together, his expression still neutral, and that’s when Gwen realized it wasn’t difficult to read – the more emotions he was having, the less he seemed to actually emote; as if his feelings were on tap and he had to shut the water off to keep the sink from flooding.


“I was beginning to wonder if I had killed you by accident,” said a voice. It might have been fairly monotone and robotic, but Arthur recognized it.

“You wrecked the car,” was the first thing he blurted, then shook his head. What the heck, Arthur.

            “I did wreck the car,” the Metroid agreed, folding its long arms. “An odd choice of vehicle; I thought the van much better suited to your needs.”

“The Ferrari wasn’t for our ‘needs,’ it was just a quick joyride,” Arthur sighed.

“Joyride?” The Metroid sounded puzzled. “A ride for joy?”

“For fun, anyway. You probably don’t get that concept.”

“I do not. I do understand another concept, however: stubbornness.”

Arthur blinked. “Good for you.”

“You have it in abundance.”

“You try living with a couple of ex-military hardasses and see how stubborn you get.”

“It is not in your best interest.”

“Well, that’s your opinion.”


He couldn’t tell the Metroid where the sword was – that would mean telling the Metroid where Hec and the girls were, and he still didn’t know what the Metroid wanted. They were known for killing people in the blink of an eye. He couldn’t risk it. He couldn’t tell him.

He shrugged as well as he could with his arms tied behind his back, trying a bluff. “Is that supposed to scare me?”

“It does scare you,” said the Metroid. “I can hear your elevated heartbeat.”

“I bet you say that to all the kidnapping victims.”

“You are my first.”

Arthur opened his mouth, then shut it, and shrugged.

“I will damage your friend until you talk.”

“He’s not really my friend,” Arthur drawled, his mouth dry with fear. He was seconds away from watching the alien robot murder Kay, he could feel it under his skin, and he didn’t know what to do. “He’s more like a weird surrogate dad. Maybe an uncle. Hec’s more the dad type.”


She cleared her throat loudly. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“To find Arthur.”

“Sorry. You can’t leave the tent.”

He couldn’t look over his shoulder without more pain, so he turned to fully face her. “Watch me.”

She snorted. “Says the guy I could probably cripple with a well-aimed pillow.”

Kay’s mouth twitched. He was tempted to like her – probably would have, under different circumstances. Right now, he just wanted to be able to snatch the gun from her hands, and he seriously doubted his body would let him.


She was followed by a man who looked more pirate than civilian. His long hair was pulled away from a leonine face, and he lowered a cigar from his teeth when he saw Kay.

Then he grinned. It wasn’t a wide expression – more like a smirk with teeth, but it rubbed Kay the wrong way and he felt an immediate desire to punch the guy in the face.

Cool it, he said to himself.

“Where is Arthur?” he asked, keeping his tone even.

“About thirty feet that way.” The man gestured outside the tent, then made a sweeping gesture with his cigar, indicating Kay’s frame from head to foot. “You look like you tried to wrestle a tractor.”

“He doesn’t have a good sense of humor,” said the woman. It took Kay a second to realize she was talking about him, not the man.

“Ah.” He lifted the cigar to his mouth, the tip glowing orange before he blew out a long stream of thick, sweet-smelling smoke. “I wouldn’t be either, if I looked like that. Makes me miss aspirin just looking at him.”


“What are we going to do?”

“Leave a note and head out.” He shrugged, wiping gasoline off his hands with a rag.

Elaine stared. “We’re just leaving?”

“Don’t look at me like that; we’re going to look for ‘em.” He shook his head with an incredulous frown. “Geez.”

She released a pent-up breath. “Okay. Great, I feel better.”

“You always go around assuming the worst like that?”

She snorted. “Like you don’t?”

His eyebrows drew together. “Maybe, but I’ve seen more shit. You’re a kid.”

“A kid in the apocalypse.”

The corner of his mouth lifted slightly in a near-grin. “Eh, good point, I guess.”

“And I’m not a kid. I’m twenty-one.”

“You’re a kid until you stop saying ‘I’m not a kid,’ trust me.”

“Oh, yeah?” She wanted to be annoyed, but she couldn’t find it in herself.


“Most new cars are harder to siphon gas from,” he said. “They don’t have a cap over the gas tap, so you have to put this in there first, then use the guide tube.”

“Wow.” With equal parts appreciation and apprehension, she asked, “Where did you learn that?”

He grinned a little and crouched down, putting the pieces into the open toolbox at his feet. “What, you mean did I learn it in prison?”

“No,” she said quickly, grimacing. That was exactly what she’d meant.

“Well, I didn’t learn it in prison.”

“Ah.”

“I learned how to make a shiv in prison, though.”

Gwen raised both eyebrows and glanced at the garage door. “Oh.”

He looked up. “That was a joke.”

“I was really hoping it was,” she admitted with a laugh.


Hec turned right, heading farther up the mountain, and Gwen blinked. “You think they went this way?”

“Yep.”

“Aren’t the roads better the other way?”

“Yep.”

“So…”

He glanced at her. “You’re a couple of guys driving a fast car for the first time in six years, you gonna take the safe boring route?”

“Good point.”


“So are you really okay?”

“Yeah, I’m all right,” said Kay easily.

“Who patched you up?”

Kay’s clear eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why?”

“Because I want to ask them how you’re doing and see if they say ‘yeah, he’s all right.’”

“It’s not that bad, moron.”

“Look,” said Arthur, allowing the X-Caliber to rest on the ground and relieve the tension in his arm, “there are two kinds of guys who get hurt. The smart type, who recognizes they’ve been injured and should probably take care of it, or the dumb kind who pretends nothing happened and probably exacerbates the problem.”

“What the hell does ‘exacerbates’ mean?”

“Thus illustrating my point that you’re the dumb kind.”


“He doesn’t know how it works either,” said the Metroid, sounding miffed.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“No. Kidding isn’t ‘my thing,’” the Metroid retorted.

“Then why bring it to me? If you don’t even know how to use it, or what I’m supposed to do with it? Are you crazy, or are you just some kind of chaotic neutral?”

“I am a lawful neutral. I resent the implication I am capable of chaos.”

Arthur snorted. “What if I swung it at you, huh? If it’s so darn special, it could probably do some damage.”

“Try it, tough guy,” said the robot, sounding suddenly both paternal and annoyed.

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An *Idiot’s Guide to Growing Indoor Plants

*It’s me. I am the idiot.

Until about a year ago, I thought I was the Plant Killer. Everyone always said, “Start out with a succulent! They’re SO easy.” So I would buy a succulent and do my best to take care of it the way everyone said (which was basically: don’t. just leave it. flick water at it every few months). Unsurprisingly, these hardy unkillable plants would wither under my baffled care.

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Then, last spring, I saw a plant at the farmer’s market and I fell in love. It was called an artillery plant (I’d never heard of that before) and I had to have it. “I’m so sorry,” I crooned to it on the way home. “You’re going to die but I had to have you.”#truelove

I bought a terracotta pot and some soil from Home Depot, and thus I had my first green plant. (The non-succulent kind. Although I did receive a venus flytrap as a gift, before I figured plants out, and it died, and I was heartbroken. I want to find another and care for it properly this time, but they’re NOT easy to find around here).

I kept waiting for the artillery plant to keel over and die, but every day it remained – beautiful, green, and happy. I began to wonder – was my curse over? Had God taken pity on me and given me a green thumb (or at the very least taken away my black one)? I began to keep my eye out for more plants. Grocery stores and the farmer’s market became new fields to scope out, and I found myself regularly coming home with new plants. Every space that DIDN’T have a plant began to look bare. Every few days I’d be crouched outside, quickly potting a new one so I could take it inside and spruce up my room.

The most plants I’ve ever had in my room at one time was a grand total of sixteen. Right now I have thirteen, but the farmer’s market is almost back and I’ll have more plants than I know what to do with.

NONE OF THIS HELPS YOU (yet) but I’m about to, I promise. I have a variety of plants right now – roses, pothos, ivy, ferns, a few mystery plants I haven’t sent to Flower Checker because I’m used to them and hey, we’ve made it this far together. SO without further ado, onto the tips!

LIGHTING

My room faces east(erly) and while I have two windows, my room isn’t particularly sunny. It’s bright, but it’s not ‘sustain all the plants with photosynthesis’ bright. I realized, while trying to take care of a large ivy plant and keep it from dying, that some of my plants weren’t getting enough sun, even though they were consistently getting several hours of ‘brightness.’ With plants that aren’t low-light or shade plants, I developed a system – I’d take them into the bathroom every two or three days, set them on the counter, flip on the light, and leave them for a hour or so. At first I was afraid the light might be too bright and might burn the more sensitive ivy leaves, but no! The plants began to thrive, sprout new leaves, and grow faster. So if you’re wondering why you have a plant that’s ALIVE but isn’t growing, it might not be getting enough light!

That said, NOT ALL of my plants need this extra treatment. So far only my ivy and a mystery plant require this extra light, but if I get a plant that doesn’t seem to be growing, I give it the extra light.

SOMETIMES a plant just needs to be moved. Ferns need SOME light, but too much will burn them or dry them out. (Most ferns die in this house, I’ve discovered; it’s simply too dry. The thicker the leaves + darker the color of the fern, I’ve noticed, the hardier it is. Fiddle-leaf and maiden hair ferns need a lot more moisture and might do best in a bathroom.) If a plant’s leaves are turning yellow or brown but it’s getting enough water, it might be in too much sunlight so try moving it somewhere a bit shadier or more out of the way. Most plants DO NOT thrive in COMPLETE shade, though, so don’t lock them under the stairs like Harry Potter.

LOCATION

Another important thing to consider when choosing a location for your plant, aside from lighting, is the air quality and flow. Basically: don’t put your plan right by or under an air vent, or anywhere with extreme temperature changes. Plants like consistency. I know I said to move them around and test which lighting they like best, but don’t move them TOO much. They actually ‘get used’ to residing in a certain location, and moving them around too much will stress them out.

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WATER

I’ve heard many different plant owners give many different recommendations about watering your plants. ‘Water them once a week, that’ll keep them alive,’ some say, but that doesn’t work for all plants. Some, sure – devil’s ivy and pothos plants are pretty low-maintenance, but I have a mystery plant that begins to wilt if I don’t water it every two or three days. I essentially water all my plants the same way – I give them roughly a cup and a half of water ever two or three days. You don’t need to be exact – your plant isn’t going to die if you forget to water them one day, or don’t give them e x a c t l y a cup and a half of water. I fill a regular-sized water bottle, and that bottle waters two plants before I go refill it. A common tip is: dig your finger into the soil of your plant, and if the top two inches of your plant are still damp, you don’t need to water them (I think this works as a rule of thumb, but since I have a loose watering schedule I don’t use this unless I’m trying to figure out why a plant is unhappy).

SINK WATER IS FINE, also. At first I thought it was causing problems, but it isn’t. Washington water is known to be pretty hard, and the plants still like it just fine. If your water is unusual for any reason (extremely high-mineral, etc.) maybe test it out on a hardy plant to see how it reacts.

FEEDING TIME

I use the little yellow sprinkle-food balls (I never said I was a professional at this, okay) because they’re the easiest and seem to work. Miracle Gro is TRICKY, GUYS. I killed four plants using it wrong because I, in my genius, didn’t read the instructions and assumed it worked like regular plant food. Yeah, that artillery plant that kick-started my obsession? I killed it this way. It was tragic. I also killed my largest, most beautiful ivy plant. So either use it the way it’s instructed or NOT AT ALL. I’ve decided I don’t like extremely concentrated plant foods like that anyway and prefer the time-released fertilizer types, but that’s up to you!

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SOIL

Not all soil is created equal. If you have indoor plants, use soil for indoor plants. The more nutrients it comes with, the better. Also, some plants thrive on sandier soil – I try to avoid those plants, but if you’re looking for more desert-style plants, be sure to check on what kind of soil they’d prefer! Since I don’t have any of those, I use the same soil (I don’t remember the brand, but it’s a fairly generic brand of indoor potting soil from home depot) for all my plants.

POTTING

Except for my hanging plants, I use typical terracotta pots. It’s VERY important that whatever pots you buy have a drainage hole + saucer, otherwise they can build up backlogged bacteria inside the plant and that will rot it from the roots. Also, after you’ve watered a plant, if you notice water in the saucer, be sure to dump it out. You don’t want your plant sitting in a puddle of water.

NOTE: mold does grow on terracotta pots. If you notice a thick white film forming around the bottom, that’s a kind of plant-mold. But never fear – it wipes off with a damp paper towel, and it’s not dangerous. Super easy to take care of.

If you have hanging plants in plastic pots (of which I have four), you obviously won’t want to just water them over the carpet, as water WILL drain out through the hole in the bottom. I just take mine into the bathroom, put them in the sink, run water into them, and let them drain for 10-15 minutes before hanging them back up. Be sure to tilt the pot in all directions to get the excess water out, otherwise you’ll have surprise dirt-water dripping out after you re-hang them.

Finally…

Some plants will still die. For example, I bought my little indoor rose plant on a whim, and it’s not doing so well. I can’t figure out why, since by all accounts I’m doing everything right, but I don’t think it’s long for this world. That, unfortunately, is life – and if you get emotionally attached to your plants, like I do, it can legitimately be hard when a plant dies under your care. Don’t worry! The more you practice and the more plants you succeed in growing, the easier it gets. I rarely have plants die anymore, unless I have no idea what they are, can’t find any information about them, and have no clue what they need despite my experiments.

I recently downloaded an app called Flower Checker (it does cost something like two dollars, I think) where if you send in pictures of your mystery plant, a team of botanists will try and identify it for you!

I hope this helps you on your journey to becoming a plant mom, plant father, plant cousin, weird plant uncle, etc. etc.

Frondest wishes to you all.

(yes that was terrible i’m leaving now)
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Recovering Mysticism: Part Five

I believe in magic.

That may sound bonkers, even heretical. The mistreatment of language and misunderstanding of words has led the modern Christian community to believe that the words ‘magic’ and ‘witchcraft’ have meanings and connotations that they needn’t have.

I spent most of my life believing that verses such as Leviticus 20:27 (“A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them”) were talking about the kind of magic or wizardiness that one finds in Harry Potter, or even in modern practiced ‘witchcraft.’ They fell under very vague umbrellas for me, everything lumped together, everything definitely evil and anti-God. After all, the Bible is very clear: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, and all that. Best not even look that direction to see what the Bible’s talking about.

But language is a funny thing, and it’s taken many twists and turns over the years. The brunt of modern ‘witchcraft’ has a definition, and it’s probably not what you think it is. (Unless you read the second post in my Mysticism series, in which case you have an idea.) Witchcraft, for reasons I touched on in the previous posts in this series, has taken a huge upswing in the west – sometimes this is a bad thing, because as with any practice, it can be done wrong. It can be taken places it shouldn’t. I’m an artist – I could use that ability to draw evil, to paint pornography. I’m also an author – another skill I could use to write the next erotic bestseller. Bear in mind – any practice can be used for evil. But that does not mean the practice is evil of itself.

Now, on to the summary – in her book ‘The Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to the Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More,’ Arin Murphy-Hiscock gives us a description of the craft she pursues – “…a practice that involves the use of natural energies as an aid to accomplishing a task or reaching a goal….For the sake of this book, the term ‘witchcraft’ refers to the practice of working with natural energies to attain goals, without a specific religious context.” That’s another thing to keep in mind – there are religions for which witchcraft is a part, such as Wicca. (Wicca is hugely problematic for a large number of reasons, 0/10 do not condone. However, as with most religions, there is truth to be found in there somewhere – and in this case, I believe it is the acknowledgment that ‘magic’ is real. I just happen to believe it’s God-designed.) But magic is not in fact a religion; it’s a fact put into practice.

Witchcraft (are you still cringing every time I use that word? I know, I know. If I could find another word to use, I would – the word has the wrong connotations and our automatic response to it is probably somewhere along the lines of fire and brimstone/holy water/get thee hence/etc. and I get that, believe me. I’ll use the word ‘magic’ from now on because ‘witchcraft,’ while often pursued in – I believe firmly – completely healthy, and God-given ways, can also be pursued in /other/ ways. I’ll touch on those later, but for now, I’ll say magic. That is, after all, the main point here) as practiced by many people is, and has always been, a word to describe the acknowledgment that energies, vibrations, and natural substances, when used with intent and purpose, can achieve an end.

Read that again.

You can take that description to Scripture and find no condemnation. Plants? God gave us those. Energy? God infused everything with it. I’ve discussed how the God of the Bible, the full, glorious picture of God shining through every page of His holy book, isn’t lacking. He gave us what we need, He designed His creation to work for us in ways we, the modern church, have shunned thanks to Satan’s propaganda – that anything ‘tainted’ with the flavor of magic is bad, evil, and must be repelled.

  Sir Walter Raleigh said that, “The art of magic is the art of worshiping God.” As I mentioned in the Astrology post in this series, it used to be widely acknowledged and understood by the Church and Christian mindset that God was in every detail and had given us the tools and means to know Him in every way possible.

Are there ways to use that wrong? Of course. Remember Leviticus 20:27? The phrase ‘has a familiar spirit’ means ‘is a medium.’ (The original Hebrew word is א֛וֹב – a necromancer.) The word that has been translated ‘wizard’ (originally an old English word meaning ‘wise one’) was originally the Hebrew word יִדְּעֹנִ֖י  – conjurer, one who communicates with spirits. The Witch of Endor who actually contacted a grumpy Samuel in the Bible? The word ‘witch’ there is the word ‘medium’ again, in the original language.

In case you wondered: God doesn’t want us messing with the dead. He doesn’t want us messing with spirits. He also doesn’t want us trying to divine the future. The future, the afterlife – those are His realms and His alone, and he’s pretty darn clear on that subject more than once.

Interestingly, those who practice witchcraft, even in a non-religious sense often like to associate their work with a deity. It’s heartbreaking – to see people come so close to understanding, and miss the Whole Point. To miss the God who gave us these energies, these means and tools. The God who created magic.

Arin Murphy-Hiscock goes on to say, ‘Is brewing a cup of rosemary tea for a headache a spell? Or is it a natural medicine? To the green witch, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the conscious use of the energies of the rosemary to help heal a temporary imbalance.’

In her book ‘Liturgy of the Ordinary,’ Tish Harrison Warren says, “In Letters to Malcolm, C. S. Lewis devotes a delightful letter to the subject of pleasure. His advice: begin where you are. He writes that he once thought he had to start ‘by summoning up what we believe about the goodness and greatness of God, by thinking about creation and redemption and all the blessings of this life.’ Instead, he says, we ought to begin with the pleasures at hand – for him, a walk beside a babbling brook; for me at the moment, the wonder of hot water and dried leaves.

“Most of us love these moments in our day at a gut level. We intuitively know that goodness and beauty are connected to the divine, that ‘every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights (James 1:17.’ We aren’t overly ascetic fundamentalists trying to stamp out delight or pleasure wherever it is found. We naturally greet these moments with adoration. We are not only grateful for pleasure; our hearts wonder what kind of Creator makes a world that overflows with such loveliness and beauty. As Lewis says, ‘One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.’”

                Unfortunately, modern Christianity in the west has largely allowed those sunbeams to be stamped out and in doing so, it has shrunk our concept of God down to a shriveled, dry, boxed-in concept that does God no justice; and in doing so, it has caused us to miss a huge part of who He is.

Magic acknowledges the meaning, the intent, behind things. It sees there is more to life than what we can see and touch. It’s aware of the spiritual realm. It is, at its purest form, the acknowledge of God’s power in our lives and the world around us at its fullest.

(Again, can it be misused? Of course it can. Are there those who practice magic in the aforementioned God-given ways who might also choose to use Ouija boards, contact the dead, and try to divine the future? Sadly, yes. Every good thing can be taken and twisted  – Satan is good at that. Be wary. Don’t wholesale accept things – including what I tell you. Take it to the Bible. Study God. Get to know Him. Spend time with Him.)

As I’ve said before, the modern church has grown so timid, so afraid, so unable to discern, that it has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Several babies, in fact.

And,  I would argue, highly important, useful, and intrinsically valuable babies. (Not that all babies aren’t. I’m pro life, and you can fight me, but this isn’t that conversation.)

I don’t like to use the word ‘witch.’ I really don’t. I have almost 25 years of knee-jerk reaction to that word, with some good reasoning behind it. And here’s the thing – you don’t want to be a stumbling block. Most people aren’t quite ready for you to jump on them with an excited, “HEY DID YOU KNOW MAGIC–,” and even fewer are probably going to be great with the concept of you saying ‘yeah technically you can be a Christian witch.’ I mean honestly that juxtaposition of words still looks weird and kind of distasteful to me, even if it’s more of a linguistic misunderstanding than anything else.

Which is to say – I’m still learning. Am I excited? Yes. Do I feel, one hundred percent and with no reservations, that God is leading me every step? Yes. Am I human and therefore fallible and prone to making mistakes? Also yes.

                But if we don’t share truth when we find it, especially when it’s pressing on our hearts so urgently, then what are we doing?

“‘Wyrd’ is an Anglo-Saxon term usually translated as ‘fate’ or ‘destiny.’ It occurs nine times in Beowulf for example. But Wyrd literally means ‘that which has turned’ or ‘that which has become’, and it suggests hte idea, confirmed now by physics, that everything in the universe is in a stage of change. In the ‘web of Wyrd’ everything is connected as if in a giant, three-dimensional spider’s web.” — The Book of English Magic.

I include this quote so I can follow it up with this quote from King Alfred the Great, said around the year 888 –

“What we call Wyrd is really the work of God about which He is busy every day.”

Framing Shane Walsh

Having recently come down off a Punisher Season Two high and looking for a bit of a Jon Bernthal fix, I thought, hey – why not re-start The Walking Dead? I watched it as a tender 15-year-old back when it first aired, although I never saw it all the way through. I remembered being more of a Daryl fan than a Shane fan – in fact, I remember disliking Shane quite a lot. But hey, Jon Bernthal is Jon Bernthal, and I am writing a post-apocalypse novel.

shane2

I started watching, fully expecting to appreciate Shane’s beauty and dislike his character thoroughly. That’s what I remembered doing back in the day – so I was taken aback to find that Shane was by far my favorite character by episode two. He had a rough start there in the first episode, but as the show picked up, so did his character. And I thought, hmm. I’m generally quite good at being objective, even if my feelings are involved, but maybe I’m too biased. Maybe Frank Castle is skewing me toward Shane Walsh. So, to keep track, I began a list, simply titled ‘Things Shane Does,’ where I listed everything of significance Shane did during the two seasons he starred in.

And the more things I listed, the more infuriated I became. Shane Walsh is literally listed in the Villain Wikipedia.

I’m an empathetic, diplomatic kind of person. And I was agreeing with almost every decision Shane made.

Now here’s the thing: Shane is not a perfect character. As far as I’m aware, nobody likes perfect characters. They’re boring. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of people adoring characters who are genuinely abusive, like Rhys from A Court of Thorns and Roses, for reasons I can’t fathom. Shane is neither perfect nor a horrible person. He’s a pragmatic one. He knows what needs to happen for people to survive, and he doesn’t need everyone to love him for it. And yet he’s not without empathy, or care – and in fact, he cares a lot.

shane3

Not only does he care, but he consistently puts his life on the line to care for others, is the first to jump into action when things go south, and consistently attempts to do the right thing no matter the personal cost. He’s constantly dissed for a few major mistakes, the only legitimate two of which I find is the time he gets dead drunk and comes onto Lori (although nothing happens and he leaves as soon as he comes to his senses) and leaving Otis for the zombies (which was a h a r s h thing to do, but also in all probability necessary for the most people to survive). People say he left Rick for dead – but we clearly see in flashback that he did everything he could. People say he tried to kill Rick – which he did. And while I don’t condone that, I stand by his reasoning for doing it.

But everything in-between those points is generally disregarded, not only by viewers but the Walking Dead fandom in general. People tend to come away with one of two views: Shane was a badass, or Shane was a villain. And while I agree, Shane was a badass, that’s doing him a disservice. He was more than some guy running around killing zombies. He was making difficult decisions with efficiency. He was carrying out the actions that needed to happen. He was living in the present, post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world and trying to keep everyone safe while they were attempting to live in a vague blend of the old world and the new.

More than that, Shane is framed more and more frequently in opposition to Rick, the main character and the character the show most wants us to root for. But FRAMING a character in opposition to the protagonist does not a villain make. Disagreeing with the main character, even on important life-or-death situations, does not mean you’re wrong.

And in fact, the majority of the time Shane disagrees with Rick – it turns out he was correct. The show frequently presents us with a situation like the following:

  1. Sophia, Carol’s twelve-year-old daughter, goes missing. The group sets out to go find her. After days, that turn into more than a week, they still haven’t found her.
  2. Shane points out that even before the apocalypse, after 72 two hours of searching for a child, you were searching for a body. It’s been well over a week, the rest of the group is in constant danger from attempting to search for Sophia, and by every logical conclusion, Sophia is dead.
  3. Shane is vilainized for pointing this out, despite the fact he does not do it out of some gleeful desire to hurt everyone or abandon Sophia.
  4. They find Sophia, who has apparently been a zombie for quite some time. Shane was correct.
  5. Shane is still villainized.

This touches on a large problem I see this frequently in fiction.

Any character who behaves in opposition to the main character is labeled an automatic antagonist. A character points out the truth and other characters don’t want to hear it because the truth isn’t kind, or nice, or pretty. Would I expect that to happen in the real world? Yes, I would. But that wouldn’t make it any less frustrating. Books, movies, and TV shows love to label a character ‘antagonist’ because that character is practical and willing to do the hard thing. The character often opposes the main character, and the writers assume that because somebody opposes said protagonist, the opposition is now ‘a bad guy.’

There’s a scene where Shane decides to kill the walkers being kept in a barn near their camp before the walkers can harm anyone. Dale – an excellent man, but whose views tend to rely on the world revolving like it used to – threatens to shoot Shane if Shane tries to take the guns. In response, Shane walks up against the barrel of the gun and tells Dale he’ll have to shoot him. Dale, unable to shoot anyone, relinquishes the guns but delivers this line – “This is where you belong, Shane. This world, the way it is now. This is where you belong.”

He says that line as if it’s an insult, something Shane should be ashamed of. One can see where Dale is coming from – but in the end, ‘this world’ is the only one they have. Shane didn’t make it what it is, but he’s the only one willing to accept it for how it is, and act accordingly.

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I don’t know about you, but during a zombie apocalypse, I wouldn’t want the man ignoring reality to lead my team. I would want the man who acknowledges what’s happening and does his best.

Does Shane always make the best decisions? Not always. He can seem cold-hearted, but he is never without sympathy or empathy. The decisions he makes are never about keeping himself alive. They’re about keeping others alive. Shane has very little regard for himself, and there’s the irony – people often come away from The Walking Dead with the concept that Shane is a terrible person. A selfish person, because he always angles to get what he wants.

They tend to disregard that what Shane wants is to keep everyone alive.

My fury with the general concept of Shane as a terrible person (including my own past belief that he was) was the culmination of years of frustration with ‘that character.’ The one unfairly framed as a villain for trying to do the right thing – and for not doing it ‘nicely’ enough.

(And if I may go off on a brief tangent, Shane actually does even the most pragmatic things with as much obvious care and empathy as possible. It takes a lot to push him to a place of harsh behavior, and it’s clear that every time he would rather go the path of least-resistance and keep everyone happy as well as safe.)

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So this is my plea – please don’t unfairly frame your characters. Don’t treat your characters like The Walking Dead treated Shane, unless you have an intentional reason for doing so. Allow characters to do the hard thing, to disagree with the main character, to act on what they believe is right, without being automatically viewed as some kind of monster for doing so.

Because if the apocalypse happens, apparently you may not like me very much. Yikes.

If you want to read the 95% unbiased list of Things Shane Does, I’ve uploaded it so you can read it here and see that what Shane does doesn’t always align with how he’s framed by the show.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN – who is your favorite widely-misunderstood character, and why?

 

Ye Stars That Shudder | snippets

It’s been a hot minute since I posted anything about novel-writing (which is usually what I do around here). I took Ye Stars That Shudder, my post-alien-apocalypse retelling of King Arthur, back to the beginning and re-started it, as pieces had come together and the tone had shifted into ore of a finalized form. So, since I have almost three chapters completed in the new version, I thought I would post some pieces and re-introduce you!

Note: I get asked about the who’s-who re: casting choices and so the dramatis persona in these snippets include –
Arthur: Cole Sprouse
Hec: Jon Bernthal
Kay: Jai Courtney
Gareth: Charlie Hunnam
Archer: Garrett Hedlund

YSTScollage

Kay jogged down the stairs, his boots heavy on the bare wood. “Jackpot.” A dozen orange pill-bottles nestled in the crook of his arm, and he dumped them into the canvas bag on top of the gold necklaces.

“Guess it wasn’t a total loss,” said Hec, hitching his gun over his shoulder by the strap.

“Except they don’t have anything in there for crazy,” said Kay.

Hec gave him a questioning glance, but it was already fading into a knowing expression as Kay added, “Sorry, man; maybe next time we’ll find something to help you.”


After a few more seconds the door opened the rest of the way. The woman in the doorway was younger than Arthur expected; early twenties, his age. She was dressed in boots, jeans, and an oversized plaid shirt, like she had raided her father’s closet, but her hands holding the gun looked steady.

“Leave your weapons outside,” she said. “But you can come in.”

Kay got out of the van and walked up behind Arthur.

“Sorry,” said Arthur. “She said we had to leave you outside.”

Kay shoved his head forward in response.


“You hanging in there?”

“You bet I am. Don’t worry about me, kid, I’ve had a lot worse. You know that.”

“I know, you’re a badass,” said Arthur, with an extravagant roll of his eyes. “But you’re bleeding all over that girl’s couch, so I figure it’s an okay time to ask about your welfare.”

“You weren’t always sarcastic,” Hec remarked, a faint grin playing on his face. “Kay’s being a crap influence on you.”

“Oh, I don’t think we can blame Kay for that,” Arthur retorted.

“Heh.” Hec grinned wider, without looking up at Arthur. “Yeah, that’s all me. Do me proud, kid.”

“I try.”


“My name is Gwen.” She took a pair of scissors from her back pocket and began to cut at the shirt, pulling it away from the quills puncturing Hec’s side. “What about you two?”

“Hec.”

“Kay.”

“Your mothers were very original.” Gwen picked up the tweezers as soon as she had the blood-stained fabric out of the way.

Arthur pointed down at Hec. “Hector Vance, but he doesn’t really look like a Hector so nobody bothers.” He pointed at Kay. “Kay Sawyer. Don’t call him Sawyer.”

“He’s right,” said Gwen, looking briefly at Hec. “You don’t look like a Hector.”

“’Preciate it,” he replied.


Arthur obliged, backing up a few steps, lifting his hands in surrender for the second time that day. This woman wasn’t much older than Gwen, but she looked a lot more likely to do damage.

He didn’t need to turn around to sense Kay had appeared behind him. “Lower that thing before I shove it in your eye.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. Instead of lowering the arrow, she only shifted it again, pointing it at Kay this time. “Gwen, who’s the guy with the attitude?”

“I don’t know,” Gwen called from the other room, “I think they all have attitude. That one’s Kay. He’s my least favorite.”


‘Control’ was the Vees’ name for the large, square building that took up a half-mile of Seattle. The building was five years old – one of the Vees’ impressive overnight additions to various skylines. It was nothing fancy to look at, but the inside was a different story. The first time Gareth had walked in, he’d felt like a comic book character, suddenly transported into superhero headquarters.

Yeah, that feeling had faded pretty quick.


“All Metroids are armed,” said the Vee flatly. “He is Zi-Class. He is, of course, deadly.”

“Right on, right on. Anything I need to know?”

“He stole a piece of our technology when he left. We require both the technology and the Metroid fully intact.”

Well, that made things more fun. “Understood. Any chance you’re gonna tell me what the tech is?”

“A sword,” said the Vee.

Gareth blinked again, but this time it wasn’t to clear his vision. “Right,” he drawled. “Robot with a sword.”

“Zi-Class Metroid.” The Vee sounded almost indignant, which amused Gareth. Of course calling a Metroid a robot was like calling a megalodon a goldfish, but as far as he was concerned, a robot was a robot.


The rogue Metroid’s designation was printed at the top of the page: MR-1-LN. “That’s a mouthful,” Gareth muttered, his eyes drifting down the page. It didn’t list the Metroid’s strength, everyone knew it was that of five or six men, if not more. They could use guns – any weapon they wanted, probably – but they came equipped with a weapon unlike anything Gareth had ever seen.

He had seen a Metroid corner a civilian before; the robot had clenched its right fist and pulled its hand back. The civilian’s body had gone from standing and alive to dead on the ground in less time than it took Gareth to draw in a breath – no visible weapon fired, no nothing.


| to be continued |