Pros & Cons

I spent this weekend at C2E2, spending the majority of my time walking Artist’s alley and looking for cool merch or new comics to buy.  I got some signatures, commissioned a few pieces of art.  Friday was a good day!  I got through my entire signature list, and got what art commissioned I could.  Saturday, however…Saturday was a rollercoaster.  I got the last artist on my sketch list pretty much right as the doors to the event space opened, and then I felt both empty and at loose ends.  So much of my average convention experience is hunting down creators for autographs, that to not have that…well, it felt off.  Add on top of that I’m over a year behind in a LOT of the titles I pick up every month, and it just made me feel out of place.  As if I didn’t even know what I should’ve brought to have signed, who to seek out, which panels to go to–for someone who structures their convention experience as much as I do, it was very unpleasant.

Or, at least I initially thought that was the problem.  But as I wandered around alone, in this funk, I kept stumbling mentally into wishing I had my laptop with me, because I kept revisiting elements of both San Keros and another cycle of stories I’m writing.  It took imbibing some brutally strong brew on the convention  before i realized that some part of my brain was angry that I had all of this sudden downtime and wasn’t writing.  That part of this dreaded funk I was dealing with was due to me wanting to do–in a way–what these creatives around me were doing–making characters, telling stories, filling worlds with their truths.

Once I realized that, I felt much better.  I wish I could say I ran to the hotel and just wrote the rest of the afternoon, but cons are crazy expensive, yo, and I decided I’d enjoy myself for the rest of this one.  And I have.

Sunday I have 1 panel to attend, and some art to pick up.  Otherwise it’s just wandering the sales floor and seeing wassup.  Then we’ll do dinner at our favorite Thai place with Andy’s niece and boyfriend before we head back to Kalamazoo.

I have Monday off, and I promised myself I’d start hitting the gym after this weekend.  But after that no doubt ugly attempt in the morning, I’m pretty sure I’ve got some worlds of my own to visit.

But don’t worry…you’ll be visiting them soon.

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A Different Kind of Revolution

So it’s my day off from the bookstore, and I knew I was going to reserve some time for writing today.  What I wasn’t sure of, until I sat down, is what I was going to write about.  After all, today is the day of the #WalkOut, it’s Pi Day, Hawking died, and then there’s the din of the perpetual horror machine that is contemporary American politics.  Plenty of people are talking about all of those things, though, and I thought I’d stick my neck out a bit and talk a bit about something a bit different.

So let’s talk about Love, Simon.  This film’s coming out Friday, or maybe tomorrow night if you’re lucky enough to be in a city that has an early release.  The movie is put out by 20th Century Fox, and when I say that I mean 20th Century Fox–not one of their smaller art house subsidiaries.  We’ll get to why that’s important in a minute.  It’s a romantic comedy with more than just a nod to John Hughes in its feel and aesthetic.  It has a diverse cast, and some major names attached.  In short, it’s a typical Hollywood date movie that usually fills the months of March and April, while the movie industry holds its breath waiting for the big tentpole action films to run riot over the summer and fall.

Love, Simon is a love story that seems almost nostalgic in its depiction of high school relationships, imbued with a Technicolor light that renders the hope underscoring the characters infectious.  That hope, that yearning, is palpable despite–perhaps because of–the comedy of horrors and errors that Simon and his friends endure.  It’s the hope all of us have–that we will find a place for ourselves, if we expose our truest, most innermost selves to those we care for.  That home can be whatever and wherever the people we love are, and that there is somebody out there for all of us, waiting to be found.

So Simon’s gay.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t mention that.  He doesn’t either, not at first.  In fact, the entire film is only half a love story in the traditional sense.  The other half is very much Simon Spier coming to love himself enough that he becomes invested in his own happiness.  Now for some spoilers: no one dies, and no one contracts an incurable disease.  This is a rom-com, remember?  I point this out because outside of some art house flicks over the past few years, most of the LGBTQ films put out by the smaller arms of the major studios over the past years have always ended that way.  There are no genuine happy endings, just a flutter of hopeful moments before the inevitable tragic denouement.

Based on Becky Albertalli‘s teen novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Love, Simon is a movie behind its time–and that’s not its fault.  The book itself–and its sequels Upside of Unrequited and Leah on the Offbeat–are heartfelt, relevant explorations of those crucial teen years for LGBTQ youth and their friends and allies.  But even in 2016, when the first book first appeared on the scene, a movie based on it seemed a bit behind the times.  Not because the book doesn’t feel “of the now”, because it certainly does, but because honestly a movie like this should’ve been made 10 years ago.  Hell, 20 years ago if people in Hollywood would’ve seen where the culture was heading with a bit more chutzpah.  But Greg Berlanti (yes, that Greg Berlanti) saw something in those pages he was willing to take a chance on, and here we are.

It’s 2018, and the world is about to get the first LGBTQ romcom about a same-sex romance from any major studio.  ANY.  It’s insane to me that’s true, but there you have it.  20th Century Fox, of all places, has decided America–and the world!–is ready for this, regardless of fear of sales in international markets that might not be open to such a story.  That’s the common excuse by major studios who refuse to allow LGBTQ characters to even exist in their larger franchises, much less have storylines that highlight that particular aspect of their character.  This is a smaller film than Spider-Man or Marvel’s Avengers, but one with the capacity for greater impact.

This film can save and transform lives, and families, and friendships, but it’s going to need your help to do it.  So here we come to why I wrote this post.  As it stands, the movie is supposed to make $15-18 million this weekend, based on current industry projections. It’s budget was $17 million.  I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at here. To have more movies like this, more movies exploring all aspects of the LGBTQ experience in a mainstream, easily accessed format for teens and young adults this movie needs to do well, not just meh.  It needs to surprise, shock and awe hollywood and its establishment with just how well it does, how much we and our allies support them taking a chance on actually showing our stories in the limelight.

I can’t actually imagine what a story like this just existing when I was a teen would’ve meant to me, let alone actually getting to see it in a film.  I grew up in a very white, wealthy upstate New York town, known to many as an art town, but that’s not what it felt like as a teen.  It felt…stultifying.  Filled with so many secrets that I was amazed anyone could look anyone else in the eye.  One of those secrets was my own orientation, and it took years to figure out what that was and what it meant to live openly and authentically.  In the meanwhile, I put on a very brave face and soldiered on, despite the bullying and confusion, despite the self-hatred I was taught and my determination to escape.  It amazes me how many kids just 30 years later don’t have to worry about that.  In many ways, it’s a different world.  The last few generations have made so many leaps forward in acceptance and inclusion.  Kids come out young and in many places, people shrug and simply just accept it as no big deal.

But here’s the thing that probably anyone not LGBTQ doesn’t get: it’s always a big deal.  In many ways, life is a perpetual state of coming out–to ourselves, and to the world around us.  And not just that first time, but every single time you come out.  Your first friend, your first extended family, your first workplace–and every person or situation you find yourself in for the rest of your life.  How are people going to react?  It’s always a choice you have to weigh with every single person you interact with.  It keeps loved ones from holding hands in public is a default, or risking a kiss goodbye or hello.  It keeps people using gender neutral pronouns to cover up the identities of their partners, it keeps us from having the courage to simply be 100% ourselves in the public sphere.  Think about that for a second, if you could.  It requires courage just to hold hands, to do more than a one-armed bro hug hello, to say your partner or spouse’s name.  Yes, it gets better, but.  They always forget the but.  Not every place is safe, not every mind and situation is accepting.  Our media tells us this story, too.  How many of the stories they tell of us feature tragedy, illness, bashing, or death?

This movie, for all that it is most certainly light-hearted, is an opportunity to tell hollywood–and the people you know–that we can have these types of stories, too.  That we can have stories that celebrate us, stories that show us fighting not just battles of social justice but fighting the doubt and self-hatred that so often grows inside us and actually winning.  We can have romcoms and spy stories, fantasies and superhero movies.  We can have these films and not have them be gay movies, but just movies.  Movies who happen to feature people that look and act like us, just like the overwhelming majority of leads depicted as straight without having to be so to the exclusion of all else.  We can have stories that are for us, not just about us.

Every single kid, tween, and teen who sees this movie is going to know there are people who support them, who will love them, and that the required courage is worth the risk. If they invite you to see Love, Simon, they’re already halfway there.  How many conversations will happen this weekend–and into the future–because this film gave people a window to understand themselves and each other?

Will you join me this weekend?  Will you send that message to your son, or nephew, or your student, that you support not just them, but a culture that includes them and others like them?  Don’t let Simon be the only one fighting the Homo Sapiens agenda.

Click the image below to get your tickets.

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Status Update: Winter 2018

So, obviously some time has passed since the Fall Update back in October.  Let me catch you up a bit on my life, and where WelcometoSanKeros and this website stand as we look ahead into the vista of the forthcoming year.

I had some standard health check-ups this fall that raised some cause for alarm, and I’ve spent the last 4 months or so dealing with insurance companies, specialists, tests, and the like.  It’s nothing life threatening at the moment.  My sleep apnea had gotten severe, I had put on a lot of weight, and I’d gotten diagnoses with Type 2 Diabetes.  There were other health issues too, and every new diagnosis seemed to compound, conflate, or complicate every other issue.  In truth, I’m still working all of this out.  Medication is my friend, as is my new cpap machine.  The verdict is out whether I’ll be more Darth Vader or Bane while I sleep.  I’ll leave that to Andy and the cats to judge.

This whole scenario has really forced me to look at just how much I love food (Hint: It’s a lot), and how much that love affair was–if I’m being ruthlessly honest–killing me.  So no more pop or fruit juice, pasta and rice is pretty much a thing of the past, and I’ve been trying to find a way to move forward eating less, and in new ways.  Less red meat and seafood, more lean proteins. Less cheese (because cholesterol is also an issue, and the universe has decided it utterly despises me).  The cheese thing is proving tricky, as is the fact I have a terrible reaction to the most common forms of sugar substitutes.  Also, apparently me not eating fish (it’s a religious thing, as well as a taste aversion) has become kind of a big deal–every diabetic cookbook I encounter is honestly 1/3rd fish based.  It’s difficult, and working retail with its odd schedule shifts doesn’t make it any easier.  Honestly, it kind of sucks.

I DO love a challenge, though, and finding new ways to eat old foods I loved (replace the rice in Syrian stuffed cabbage with riced cauliflower? DELICIOUS!) makes me feel pretty damned mighty.  Soups have become a crucial component of my new diet, as have salads.  Checking the carb content of EVERYTHING has made me aware of just how toxic so much of Western food is, and avoiding problematic foods is easier emotionally than I thought.  I’m taking some classes soon to help me fill some of the voids this new diet creates.  I’ve lost 30 pounds already just by sort of feeling my way through the dark.

Oh, hey, also?  Can’t wait to actually feel RESTED after sleeping for a change thanks to the cpap.  Here’s hoping, anyhow.  Restful sleep will lead to more dreams, and dreams are where San Keros–and many of the other stories I’ve written–often find their nativity.  That well never runs dry, but the last few months it’s been a fairly shallow pool.  Its scary going to sleep wondering if that’s the night you’ll forget to breathe for good.  It sucked I had to wait until today to get some sort of medical help with that.  But now I do, and that should relieve some nightly anxiety (which also kept me up some nights, too).

You probably don’t care about any of this, though.  You want to know where the stories are, what the hell happened to Hrothgar and Beth, and Mason and Evan and Seth, and Colin and Kevin…

Good news on that front.  I have a few small stories, some of which I’ll launch around Valentine’s Day, that I mentioned in the Fall Update, but then I’ll be working hard on the next major San Keros cycle of tales.  Who do you want to see again the most? I’d love to hear from you!  Write me at: scott.havens@welcometosankeros.com.

I plan on waking this site up a bit as well, after last year’s redesign.  So expect more slice-of-life info here, as well as non-San Keros fiction, music, book, and film recommendations.  I want to get to know you, and I want you to get to know me.  We’re on this adventure together, after all.

 

Status Update: Fall 2017

This summer and fall have been a bit of a whirlwind, both at work and in life in general.  The boyfriend and I took a once in a lifetime trip to New York City and tried our best to cram in the city’s highlights in just shy of 4 days–and managed to see Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen before he left the show.  We’ve dodged health issues, the relative failure of both our mini Apple Orchard and our summer garden, but also an amazing visit with my Mom, too.

The result is that things for the website, and the actual writing of fiction took a backseat for a while.  The sage words of a dear friend have been ringing in my ears recently, who warned me before I launched WelcometoSanKeros.com  that eventually I would probably run out of immediately accessible content and that lags like what has happened were the kiss of death for fiction projects like this.  Well, he was right that it was bound to happen–but I refuse to let that be the end of things.

I’ve got a handful of pieces–some in the universe of San Keros, others just short forays into other projects that’ve been placed on even further back burners–that are in various editing stages.  I’m going to try to get those out as quickly as my process and life allow.  But I also am getting back to writing in general–and I plan on making it a bit more of a priority.

There’s more of a story here, really.  I was really struggling this summer to feel like I had anything really meaningful to contribute creatively.  I felt like the world didn’t need another middle-aged white dude spewing out more middle-aged white dude fantasy.  I was worried I was trying to force myself onto a stage that was already filled with the trampled voices of people of color and across the spectrum of faith and gender.  I felt like I didn’t want to be part of any sort of system which made those voices less likely to be heard.  I still feel that way.  It’s the same reason I’m slowly finding myself slowly peeling away from the world of comics, too.  It’s so much of the same, not enough of the new, of the unheard and underheard.

But then I met a rat in New York City, and got a surprise call at work.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve lost friends to time and distance, lost hobbies due to lack of funds, lost my sense of self-value in the wake of this profound feeling of helplessness that came unbidden and crashed through my life like a tsunami.

But you know what I haven’t lost? San Keros.  It’s beats inside me, like a second heart.  It’s winding streets and moonlit parks are where I wander when I can’t sleep at 3am.  I ache for Seth to find the love he needs, for Hrothgar to be whole and for Beth to believe in something more than herself.  I want Jessye Corman to continue building her neighborhood in the image of what she’d imagined it always could be.  And I want to share all of that with the world.  All of them, every street and every smile and every heartbreak.

I might not be worthy to tell these stories.  But they sing in me, and the longer I ignore them the louder they beg to be set free.  So that’s what I’ve decided to do.  I’ll do my best to do justice to their stories, and to those of you out there who’ve connected to this wild, fey city that lurks beneath my ribcage.  Like the worlds outside our doors, San Keros isn’t perfect.  It can be an ugly, unfair place, but it’s filled with more hope than our own, I think.  That city that straddles the uncanny and the uncaring shimmers with more possibility than most can see.  Magic gives us that chance.

Hell, maybe that’s what magic is in the first place.

 

 

 

 

21 Days of Pride

So, I’ve become the official guardian of the Pride display at work again this year, and I’ve gotten a much more diverse group of titles rotating on and off every week.  This is good stuff, people! For adults, teens, and tweens!  But I want to better educate myself regarding these titles, so I’m going to try to read as many of the 30 titles I have on display, and post reviews here and on Goodreads (you ARE following me on Goodreads, right? And posting reviews of my stuff there? Yeah? AWESOME!) of the books that really stand out.

Yesterday I read Get it Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough.  I enjoyed it 100%, though my American sensibilities cringed a bit at the basic premise of the book, I found the characters compelling and truly worthy of caring about.  That’s my definition of a decent Summer LGBTQIA Beach Read.

So what all are you reading?