Watching The Oscars Like A Normal Person, And It Sucks

Every year, Gini and I watch all the Oscar Best Picture Nominees and as many of the acting categories as we can get through.
But this year, I was a professional.  I was rewriting my novel so I could make the deadline (PRE-ORDER MAH BOOK AND MAKE MY SAD TEARS SWEET SUCCESS), and that meant I was in a spiral of “Ferrett gets off work, works out, and disappears into the basement for three hours of writing.”  That, and Gini’s stressful new job, meant that neither of us were in positions to go see films.
We saw a couple: Spotlight and The Big Short, both of which were so awesome they reminded us of why we try to see Oscar movies.  (The Oscars are like Michelin-starred restaurants in that yes, they’re snooty, and no, they’re not the only marker of quality, but they are very good for a certain definition of “good.”)  We’d seen Mad Max and the Martian already, like the good nerds we were.
The rest? Mysteries.  Revenant looked fucking terrible, and it was the movie we should have seen, but two hours of “Leo chews scenery to win an Oscar” seemed gruelling and we never worked up the enthusiasm.  (Remember, it’s never actually “Best Actor” but “Flashiest Actor.”)
Wow, were the Oscars boring.
For the first time in a decade, we were ordinary schlubs who weren’t invested. Having seen the movies, it was like sports – Revenant, I suspect, would have served the Yankees role as the “team we love to hate” and we would have cheered because the guy who stole “Best Supporting Actor” from Sly Stallone deserved the win and my God, wasn’t The Room wonderful?
But no.  These were just names.  We didn’t give a shit who won, because we’d never seen the movies and the only compelling story was Leo getting shredded by a bear to get the victory that Hollywood wanted to hand him.  (And then he made a totally boring speech.)
Chris Rock livened it up.  But the emcee always disappears in the last hour as the awards come fast and furious (but not to Fast and Furious), and what we’re left with is NAME, NAME, NAME, NAME, NAME, and NAME wins oh good for them I guess.
(Though we were psyched for Spotlight.  It’s a great small movie about reporters slowly uncovering the Catholic Priest molestation scandal over the course of a year, and it really does emphasize how much work goes into breaking some stories.  Nobody really suppressed the scandal; the terrifying thing about Spotlight is that all the pieces had been out there, but nobody had the time to fit them all together.)
Next year, we gotta see all the films.  It’s what makes us invested.  It’s why we love the Oscars – knowing who to root for.  And having watched it this year, I wonder why anyone does watch it.  Yeah, there’s celebrities and goofy little stories and flashy numbers, but in the end it comes down to things you didn’t see winning for reasons the ten-second clips they show cannot possibly get across, and that’s just dull.
Gini and I alway complain about the Oscars Slog we go through – we’ve usually picked up one or two of the Best Picture films, but the rest are usually presented as depressing dramas.  (Though they aren’t all; The Big Short was surprisingly nimble and funny.)  And spending our time watching four downer films in a row can be gruelling.
But the upside is that we see some fantastic movies along the way (like, say, The Big Short and Spotlight), and the Oscars become a great arena where we care deeply about everyone in it.
Watching the films is a necessity.  We learned our lesson.  Because God, we don’t want it to be that dull ever again.

The Fix Has A Cover! Go Check My Next Book Out At Barnes and Noble!

In case you missed it: on Friday afternoon, Barnes and Noble revealed the cover and synopsis for the third book in the ‘Mancer series, Fix.  If you’d like to see bureaucromancer Paul Tsabo doin’ his thang, well, I would click this link post-haste. As has been the case with all the covers in this series, it’s stunning.
(I would also note, unashamedly, that you can now preorder Fix for when it comes out later in the year. Paul Tsabo approves of orderly records.)
(And yes, I’ll probably be doing a small book tour later in the year to support the conclusion of the ‘Mancer trilogy, but remember I don’t get paid for these book tours.  They’re more like vacations where I pay cash to come out and say hello.  If you really want me in your town, try to get a local convention to ask me to appear!  I’ll try to show if it’s not an out-of-pocket expense for me.)
Anyway, go look at the cover!  It is amazeballs.

Kickstart My Cannibalistic Spider Romance Story For $5!

“We’re Kickstarting an anthology on inverted tropes. We want stories on things like the opposite of the Magical Negro, or the Prostitute with the Heart of Gold, or Damsels in Distress. Ferrett, do you have any ideas?”
Hell yes I did.
I’ve always been astonished by how little it takes for us to accept a romance in stories. At the lower levels, we don’t need to know why the boy and the girl like each other – they just look at each other for a beat too long, and we know they’ll be kissing by the end of the story.
I wondered what the stories would look like if sex involved death.  Like, you know, what sorts of Hallmark specials do cannibalistic spiders watch?  What would that look like?  And given that all romance tales are lies we tell to ease the ache of finding a lover, what was the emotional truth of cannibalistic spider dating?
I wrote them a story they said was by far the most unsettling thing they’d read for the book.
They accepted.
And now I’m in a book with basically, all of my favorite people on Twitter – Shanna Germain, Sunil Patel, Alethea Kontis, John Horner Jacobs, Delilah Dawson, Mike Underwood, Alyssa Wong, and more.  All fine authors, all really fun to talk to, all people who’ll invert these hoary tropes in entertaining ways.
So!  You can get my story for $5 in ebook, and – as is usual with Kickstarter – all sorts of cool rewards to boot!
What’s that?  You’d like a sampler?

He watches romantic comedies as most men do: alone, knife in hand, wedging the tip underneath his carapace until his gray skin dimples with blood.  He itches to shove the knife in up to the hilt, to unleash that flood of luscious endorphins that simulate love – but a wound deep enough to provide release might also cost him his job.  
If this film is good enough, he promises himself, he’ll allow himself a taste.  Not too much.  The skin under his exoskeleton is already criss-crossed with shamefully straight scars – not ragged curves from a proper set of fangs, no, those he obscures carefully with layers of makeup, hiding the history of his failed love affairs from the weak eyes of the females, yet outlining his wounds proudly in swirls of bright colors only men could see.  
He hates touching the good scars.  All he feels is what was taken from him.
As the opening music starts up, the television sags in the cheap webbing of his wall; he scuttles to follow the cracked screen unconsciously, ignoring the hitch in his step from the old, good wounds.  
That’s when he notices the lead male in this comedy shares his name: Mesoth.  
Excited, he draws slow trails under his belly with the knife, beads of blood welling up.  It’s not unusual for the lead to share his name – there are only so many names anyone’s going to bother to give a male – but any connection to this fantasy sets his pedipalps quivering.  
He settles in and watches, slowly cutting off the scabs of last night’s injuries, anticipating the great moment.  The two leads are introduced: Mesoth, a plucky meat-harvester, and Spinara, a cunning trader of great renown.  They have grand adventures upon the town, coming so close to meeting that his knife quivers as he prepares to ram it home –

Mild spoiler: Mesoth finds love. But life’s a little more complex than TV movies, even for spiders.
Anyway, if you wanna see it, here’s where you get it.

On The Run From A Vast Government Conspiracy

I was supposed to be home this week, curled up with my wife and my dog and my daughter.
Instead, I’m holed up in a Pricelined hotel in downtown Cleveland, listening to the cold winter wind whistle past our eighth-floor window, my sweetie Fox in my bed, living on cold cuts out of a hotel refrigerator.
Life’s a little weird.
The reason for this escapery is because Fox was scheduled to visit me this week, and Fox has two highly relevant traits:
1) Fox is an opera singer, with a show they’re going into rehearsals for in two weeks;
2) Fox is highly immunocompromised.
Neither of which would be an issue if not for the third problem:
3) My daughter came down with strep throat while we were in New Jersey picking Fox up, and the doctor says she’s going to be contagious all week.
So I was faced with a weird choice: see no Fox at all, as we really cannot risk this gorgeously-voiced opera singer missing their role as a villainous chocolatier in the Steampunk opera Absinthe Heroes – or run away, away, away from my home and hole up with Fox for the week.
And now I am holed up.
And this is oddly like being on the run from a vast government conspiracy.  I cannot go home until our house is not a plague of viral contagions, so I am missing my wife fiercely, missing my dog fiercely, missing my daughter fiercely.  I am frantically trying to finish a book and cannot go to my usual basement retreat to pace in my library and frantically mutter as I plot out what happens next.  I can’t watch movies on my gigantic TV screen.  I am desperately trying to adjust my work schedule to program remotely in an only-slightly-uncomfortable hotel chair.
This is not my home.
Yet we are, intriguingly, building a culture.
Fox and I have only spent snippets of time together – a day here, a weekend there, always riven through with some other distraction.  We’re at a convention.  I’m visiting for a day.  They’re visiting me at home, where my daughter lives, and as such we can’t smooch at a moment’s notice.
Here, however, we have a full week to take this awkward rented space and discover who we are together.  And already a rough schedule is coalescing: cuddle in the morning, slog out of bed to get to work, exchange music with each other all day while I program and they mark up their copy of the Absinthe Heroes script, finish at five, write for three hours, go out to get dinner in fine downtown Cleveland, return home for Steven Universe and kinkiness.
I am getting a gift I rarely get with any of my partners:
The gift of boredom.
We cannot devote this time entirely to each other, and so we are discovering what we are like when the tedium strikes.  The day is laced with the mundane tasks of showering and chores.  We are finding our spaces – this chair is mine, the right side of the bed is theirs.  I learn to be quiet while they’re napping in the afternoon.  They learn to stay quiet while I’m pacing the room and plotting. I learn to deal with their chronic illness and brain fog, seeing them work through neck cricks due to their Ehlers-Danlos syndrome; they learn to deal with my endlessly discussing Mah Book and the analyses I am continually subjecting my prose to.
This is a ludicrously small space. We cannot get away from each other; even the mirror on the wall reflects images of the bathroom into our eyes.  And neither of us have the foods we’re used to, Fox living on Giant Eagle tea and me making very small glasses of chocolate milk in cardboard cups.
Yet there is intimacy in figuring out what portions of our space we work with.  Debating where we’re going for dinner tonight.  Discussing bills and living quarters.  The silence of texting others and refilling our introversion meters.  The small gossips of sharing funny things we found on Twitter.
And there are moments where I miss Gini so keenly tears sting my eyes.  I saw her this morning for all of three minutes and I still quiver from the need to hold her; I couldn’t.  She pushed me away, correctly, an act of love for all involved, as strep has a three- to five-day incubation period and she will not infect Fox.
I returned, shaken, to my hotel room, missing my wife’s touch.  Fox told me, quietly, “You know you can go home at any time.  It’s okay.”
I think of the love that surrounds me – Gini letting me go for a week to protect someone we both cherish, Fox willing to live alone in a strange town so I could be with my wife.  And yet the curse of this is that this outbreak means I can choose only one, and I choose the person who is more transitory.
I will not get this experience with Fox again.
And all the while, there is the awareness of this liminal space.  Things are strewn about like a hotel, the messiness of dishware in a space not designed to hold it.  The endlessly fending off maids who respect no “Do Not Disturb” sign.  This will be packed up and stored away and the room will be reset and the next visitor will never know what we had here.
I slide into bed with Fox at night.  Fox is a snuggler, holding me tight even in their sleep, and when I wake they have rubbed their scent all over me.  We kiss in the mornings before my eyes are fully open, Fox purring as I touch their back.
This is such strangeness.  This feeling of being on the run from our normal lives, yet forming something alien and yet simultaneously completely normal in the center of it.  Drinking orange juice in bathrobes and watching the storms come in. Both of us separated from our support groups, transforming this distance-separated relationship into the casual intimacy of roommates, threaded through with loneliness, and lust, and labor.
Spending time.
Peering into each others’ lives.

What's It Like For A Hamilton Fan To Finally See The Musical?

If you haven’t heard of Hamilton, that’s only because you’re not paying attention.  It’s the biggest smash on Broadway in a long time – tickets are sold out through 2017 – and it’s one of those rare Broadway shows that has a cultural impact, as it’s a two-hour rap opera (or, if you choose, a “hip-hopera”) about the life of Alexander Hamilton.
I have listened to the soundtrack straight through about a hundred and fifty times.  And unlike many other Broadway musicals, which have songs separated by dialogue, every word in Hamilton is sung.  So you get the full story by listening to the soundtrack, because it’s like an audio recording of a movie.
I thought I knew Hamilton.
But when I saw Hamilton, there were differences.  And so for those of you who hope to see the show some day – just win the daily Hamilton lottery for front-row seats, like I did! – I thought I’d write up some of the differences that surprised me.

But going through in order:
There’s a moment in “Aaron Burr, Sir” when he meets Lafayette and the crew, and the entire orchestra cuts out while Hercules Mulligan provides percussion by beating the wooden table they’re sitting at.  And maybe it’s the miking, but hearing that boom of a real hand hitting a table booming across the theater and damn near drowning out the voices seemed so much more vibrant than the low-key background beat they give in the soundtrack.  It felt rowdier.
The central stage had two concentric rings that rotated, and they used that a lot to keep everyone walking in place.  Things were constantly swirling around, and that led to the greatest moment of the show –
In the break between “Helpless” (which is told from Eliza’s perspective) and “Satisfied” (which is told from Angelica’s perspective), you hear a brief reversing noise.  In the stage show, however, they show the courting and marriage of Eliza from Eliza’s perspective – and then the stage fucking rotates, and everyone moves backwards in slow motion, reenacting the wedding as a rewind until we wind up perfectly in Angelica’s perspective watching the two of them.  It is the second-most beautiful thing in the show.
…we’ll get to the most beautiful thing.
The actors switch up between halves – Lafayette becomes Thomas Jefferson, Hercules Mulligan becomes James Madison, John Laurens becomes Hamilton’s son, and Peggy (“and Peggy!”) becomes the seductress in “Say No To This.”  Which works out quite well, although frankly Hercules Mulligan is wasted by becoming the sedate James Madison.  I would have been happy watching Hercules Mulligan just bursting into various scenes for the rest of the show.
The dancers were on-stage everywhere – and maybe it was the front-row seating, but they were damn near invisible.  The dancers spent a lot of time walking through the background to give the impression of a bustling city, and when they occluded the performers they were expressing a physical form – most notably one dancer representing the shot, crossing the space between the two duellists in slow motion.  I was surprised at how my attention never got drawn away from the lead performers.
The King spit a lot.  Like, a lot.  Like, a Gallagher show of sputum.  Like, to the point where Gini and I wondered whether it was a purposeful thing to show his madness.  I mean, I know it happens when you’re singing at top volume, but still.
The King also didn’t move.  At all.  Well, maybe a little.  But he was stock-still and regal and yet somehow remained absolutely hysterical.  An act of beauty.
The Cabinet Battles were surprisingly jocular.  I mean, I played Jefferson’s part in a public performance of Hamilton (against fantasy author Max Gladstone’s Hamilton) and we couldn’t stop laughing, but I assumed that was a weakness in our performance.  But no!  Jefferson kept cracking up whenever Hamilton scored a good point, and Hamilton sniggered at Jefferson’s insults.  The fight is SRS BSNESS but boy howdy, the actual battles themselves involve a lot of sniggering.
Having Aaron Burr on stage ties the narrative together in interesting ways.  Showing him standing side by side with Jefferson (who gets all the best lines) and Madison really accentuates how Hamilton’s success spurs Burr’s envy spurs Burr’s ambition spurs their duel.  I mean, yeah, he’s present in the songs, but Jefferson always steals the show; the plotline became far more coherent and tight in the physical presence.
The second half is heartbreaking.  That’s pretty much all.  If you thought it was sad on the soundtrack, seeing Philip pass away as his mother desperately sings at him to keep him alive will Kali Ma your goddamned heart.
Okay, now we’re at the end.   And here’s a mild spoiler – not really a spoiler, but an effect you may wish to keep to yourself.  It’s beautiful, though.
I’ll give you some space.
Okay.  On the soundtrack, when the show is over, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” fades to black after Eliza tells about establishing the orphanage.
But in the show…
Goddamn, the show.  I’m tearing up.
In the show, Eliza is at the front of the stage.  Everyone has moved to the back, having faded into history.  And Eliza stares out into the unknown, having told the story of her life, and…
She lets out one anguished shriek.  Her death-gasp.  Which is both pained and somehow astonished, as her life fades in the split-second of a gunshot, and then…
It’s beautiful.  You should go see it.