I did it. I talked for an hour with my examining committee. I had answers (be they good or bad) for all of their questions. I never felt like I was floundering although sometimes I felt like we were wandering a bit away from the point. And maybe best of all, I acted calm even though I didn’t feel very calm. Even the shaky hands passed.

On top of that, I had a great audience. Friends, family, classmates. On some level, I was just really grateful I didn’t disgrace myself in front of so many people I love and respect. (Epic celebrations followed, too, complete with thematically appropriate thunderstorms.)

So I’m happy but not quite yet triumphant. A few reasons for this:

Because of the way the college operates, I don’t officially know how I did yet. I’m pretty sure I passed, but beyond that, I can’t say. So one of my goals this weekend is not to think too hard about that. But I think I will feel better when I have an official resolution.

It’s also really hard to go from high levels of anticipation and anxiety back to normal. My brain is working to get back to equilibrium, but I still feel kind of twitchy. Plus I lack the will to do much or think that hard about anything. I’m hoping I will feel less tired soon.

There’s also that feeling of a big project being over. This essay has been such a constant part of my life for the past eight months. It’s strange to think of not meeting with my advisor or grumbling about Rousseau or extolling Shelley’s genius on a weekly basis.

That said, I definitely need a break from all this. It’ll be nice to pursue some other projects for a while (like writing fiction!). It’ll be nice, too, not to have such a major event hanging over my head. I did it. It’s done. 

That just needs to sink in a bit more. Process. Always process.


In lieu of a real post

You know, for obvious reasons.

Of the Frankenstein adaptations, this is one of my favs.

The difficulty with adapting Frankenstein is every generation imposes new ideas and fears on it. Which is why it’s timeless, but also why there are very few good film versions and none of the good ones are particularly faithful. Even the original play was…not Frankenstein.

But even though that makes me a bit sad, maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s more important for us to have Frankenstein to think about our world and our relationship to it.

Although a really faithful adaptation would be so pretty. And disturbing. And awesome.


Things I have drawn/written in the margins of Emile



“Sure, that’s how that would happen”

“Unless it killed them?”

Dinosaur eating a stick figure


“Biased, much?”

Face rolling eyes


“Flo Jo disagrees”

“Leave Euclid alone!”


“What would he think about Instagramming your food?”

Tiny Frankenstein monster

“Are you sure you’re not English since you hate the French so much?”

“Sick burn”


“Oh, thanks”

“Puberty, oh noes!”

“Ok, JJ”

“I bet this pissed people off”



“Masturbation” (His fault, not mine)




“Bloody peasants”

“Victim blamer”




“I guess JJ can’t conceive of overpopulation”



“What an ass”

“Hey, we agree on something!” (Corsets are terrible and vegetarianism makes sense)

“Asshole, she wouldn’t want to be friends with you either”

“Must it?”



“Like you raised your kids, you motherfucker?”




Just an insight into the creative process and why I make a terrible academic.


My defense/exam is in two todays and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.

(It’s providing excellent fuel for my review process, though.)

Anxiety is, of course, an anticipatory emotion, our fear of what may happen. What if I freeze up and forget everything about Emile? What if I say something untrue? What if everyone turns against me and starts pelting me with rotten tomatoes?

I didn’t say it was a rational emotion. In fact, far from it.

The weird thing is I know I’m capable of doing this. I’ve been talking lucidly about this topic for over six months now. Not only to my advisor, but to anyone who asked about the project. So I know I can do it. I just don’t know if I will.

The anxiety is annoying, because it doesn’t respond to reason. It’s in many ways involuntary. I don’t even spend that much time psyching myself out–the questions above don’t occur me all that often. And yet, nerves.

If past experience serves, once I get started, I’ll be fine. Shaky hands, maybe dry mouth, but otherwise fine. Like I said last week, it should have the potential to be fun. I just need to convince my lizard brain that’s the case.

It seems to like deep breathing, which, y’know, makes sense. Yoga is definitely on the docket for Thursday. There’s also the happy anticipation of celebrating with friends and family after. And today I’m going to a friend’s defense/exam. To be supportive, of course, but also to get the lay of the land. I hope that, too, will help.

Stupid lizard brain.

A Social Theory of Fandom

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been musing about this the past week or so. I mean, I always muse about fandom, but usually I try to keep it in my brain.

You may remember I discussed the political climate as opposing fandoms not so long ago (although it feels like forever, doesn’t it?).

This is still interesting to me because we treat fandom like a conscious thing, with one will and one set of behaviors. We refer to it, in fact, in the singular, as one entity. But of course it isn’t. Fandoms are made up of thousands–or sometimes millions–of individuals, all of whom express fandom in different ways. Fandom is in fact a variety of social grouping, and I would argue all fandoms behave in more or less comparable ways.

Now, I don’t think the social grouping itself is really that new. It certainly predates the Internet, if we think about all the people who wrote Sir Arthur Conan Doyle angry letters because he killed off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem” (spoilers?). However, the web has had a significant impact on how fandom interacts and expresses itself.

I don’t have to write you letters about our mutual dismay at the ending to Great Expectations. Instead, we can talk about countless shared interests instantaneously online. We can both react quickly to news–probably too quickly for us to make good, sociable choices.

Interestingly, although fandom is a voluntary social grouping (insofar as we can control what media/personalities/teams we do and do not like) and participation is both voluntary and individual, fandom itself is far beyond our control. Not only is it an extraordinarily difficult thing to regulate a fandom, even for creators (see: Dan Aykroyd and the members of Ghostbusters who reject the reboot; Bernie Sanders trying to convince his diehard followers to support Hillary Clinton; the Italian soccer players I once saw trying to calm an incipient riot), but we have no control whatsoever over who our community members are.

For example: It’s well established I am an actively participating member of the Baltimore Orioles fandom. They’re my team; I love them; I go to lots of games every year. It’s also well established that I hate it when fans boo their own players. But if I’m at the stadium and the audience around me begins to boo, what can I do? Well, I can yell at the people around me or try to get a positive chant going. But there’s very little I can do to impact people not in my immediate vicinity. I am a participating member of a fandom, but that fandom’s current expression doesn’t reflect my feelings or personal behavior.

Moreover, I know for a fact that there are racist, sexist, and homophobic members of my fandom. Nonetheless, I share a community with them. We share a category–voluntarily. It’s not like when Italian people say racist things and I wince, because there’s nothing I can do about being Italian. (I can, again, yell at the people in my vicinity but that’s a different conversation and one we’ve had before. Say it with me: “That’s not okay.”) But in a way, it feels the same, because fandoms are inherently open communities. You can evict people from spaces, but not from fandom itself.

Now, that makes community members sound pretty powerless. In fact, we’re not. It is characteristic of every fandom to have a mouthy minority of assholes. These are loud people who enjoy being angry and feasting on the flesh of the innocent. They are my least favorite people. If you don’t want such trolls to characterize your community, it is your job to speak up as loudly as you can and encourage others to do the same. More than one creative has said that it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed by the negativity online because people who like things are less likely to speak up than people who hate them. Let folks know you like what they do. It doesn’t take much time and it improves your community. Don’t expect anything in return–just say the nice thing. You are benefitting from more positive interactions between fans and creators. You’re also modeling good behavior. A lot of fandoms are majority young people; if you can, don’t let toxic behavior online poison them. And if you can, become a leader or moderator in your fandom. It’s thankless work, but it does affect the culture.


Why so serious?

Another busy weekend of reading undergraduate work.

One thing that immediately struck me about this course is that my students take on such grim topics for their writing assignments. Terrorism. War. Cyberattacks. Illness. Global warming.

Someone told them at some point that essays have to be deadly serious, I think. It’s not even really present in the instructions to the degree I see it in their writing.

It may be, too, of course that they write about their preoccupations. I definitely encourage them to write about their interests, but most of what I get is not fun for either of us.

I guess it doesn’t have to be fun, but it’s a writing class. The central goals of the course are to increase verbal expression, familiarize them with different essay structures, and help them consider rhetorical strategy. The content should be well discussed and objectively presented, but it does not need fit any particular discipline or even really be very academic.

This term was the first time I was explicit about the range of what they could write. (Literally anything as long as it fills the assignment requirements.) And I’ve gotten a few more interesting debates about pop culture. Those were fun. I imagine they were more entertaining to write, too. And it’s not the kind of class that has a ton of room for fun. The material’s pretty dry. We aren’t in the classroom so it’s tough to liven things up in any meaningful way. So I try to give them space to enjoy the writing, even a little.

And yet. Most of the time I need breaks from grading not because I’m tired of correcting punctuation and passive voice, but because I’m so damned depressed I need to think about something happy for a minute.

Ah well. A few more weeks.


Lord, it is hot.

We’re lucky here–being in the country by the water. Spares us about 5 degrees compared to the local cities, which are total heat sinks. One of them is also built on a swamp, so.

It’s difficult not to look at the forecasts this week and think, “This is the future. It will only get worse.”

And I know that local weather patterns in particular are not indicative of climate change. Which is why it’s stupid to say that a cold, snowy winter disproves climate science.

But. But, there are certainly trends. Every month is the new hottest month. Worldwide, it is hot. It is 50+ degrees Celsius in Kuwait. That’s over 120 degrees, my Fahrenheit friends.

We are slowly cooking ourselves.

Indeed, some of us are cooking each other more than our fair share.

We are running out of time to fix this. Some of the damage is by many accounts irreversible. But if you can limit something this apocalyptic, shouldn’t you still at least try?

On the whole I am optimistic about getting older, but this does give me pause. There’s a good chance I’ll be alive in 2050, when things are supposed to get really bad. And everyone who really had the chance to do anything large-scale right now will be long gone.

It’s difficult not to be angry about that. To hear about the Great Barrier Reef dying and organisms going extinct and whole communities getting displaced. And to think if we had tried a little harder, if so many of us hadn’t bought the lies sold to us a society, we might have prevented much of this.

This isn’t a very positive post, I know. But it’s hard to be positive sometimes. Sometimes, you just need to be angry. And the next day, maybe you go back to work and keep doing what you can, even if you know how little that is. It’s something.

Of course, the heat will still be here.