Short Hiatus

Hello, faithful readers!

As the end of the school year draws nigh, we the writers are dealing with a lot of transition type things. Some of us are preparing for new teaching jobs in the fall, some of us are focusing on school and some of us (!) are getting married.

Unfortunately, real life has to take priority over our literary endeavors, so the Uncommonplaces will be taking backseat for a while.

There should be a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review coming fairly soon, but until next school year starts, updates will probably be fairly irregular.

Thank you for your patience, and keep an eye on the facebook page for updates!

More to Say

Imagine how it would be
If you were discriminated against
Without a chance to show your inner self,
Without a chance to speak up.
That was my life for a long time
It hurt then.
The discrimination still goes on
It hurts now.
But I decided that I have more to say
Then you might want to listen.

Amy Sequenzia, My Voice, My Life

April has the dual honor of being both National Poetry Month and Autism Acceptance month. Overall, we will be focusing on poets this month, but I thought it would be lovely to kick it off with a spotlight on an autistic poet! Continue reading “More to Say”

Ugly

courtesy of wikimedia commons
Vase with Tulips Andries Daniels and Frans Francken the Younger

“Only he with the hobbled foot knows the beauty of running. Only he with the severed ear can appreciate what the sweetest music must sound like. Our ailments complete us. That we in our sinful souls can ever imagine charity- ‘She can’t go on for a moment. ‘We may not always be able to practice charity, but that in this world we can even imagine it at all! That act of daring requires the greatest challenge,”
Gregory Maguire, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

“…perhaps charity is the kind of beauty that we comprehend the best because we miss it the most.”
Gregory Maguire, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Do you know what it is like to be beautiful?  Continue reading “Ugly”

Anime and The Male Gaze

The Male Gaze is a term from Gaze theory that describes the tendency of works to assume a (straight) male viewpoint even when they do not have a specific narrative Point of View, and in particular the tendency of works to present female characters as subjects of implicitly male visual appreciation.

—TvTropes, Male Gaze

content warning: adult themes

Continue reading “Anime and The Male Gaze”

To Be Known

“When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”
C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

It is perhaps unusually appropriate that my choice for Valentine’s Day is C.S Lewis; he is, after all, my first love.

Not in a romantic sense; it would be better to say he is my first literary love–but that does not quite get at it.

He was the first writer I read that made me think, “Here; I am known, after all.”

With Lucy, I was consumed with jealousy for Susan’s beauty; with Susan, I longed to grow up and felt guilt for leaving my first love. With Edmund I shared the dark petty desires that destroyed me and felt the remorse and cleansing of forgiveness. With Peter I acknowledged my inadequacy and fear of failure.

It is in Orual, however, that I most keenly see myself. The jealousy, grief, longing, the pettiness and pretence. Her self-righteousness masked as hurt and her desire for what she thinks is justice–these are my own sins. Her selfish longing for Psyche, her self-loathing, her mask, her ugliness, within and without–I am Orual.

Now, you may be asking what all of this has to do with love. This is supposed to be a Valentine’s Day post, after all. To answer that, I will pose my own question.

Who knows your darkest secrets?

Who would you share them with?

After all, to be totally known–for the babble at the center of our souls to be revealed–that is a shameful and terrifying thing. We can never truly escape the fear that once we are truly known, those we love–and those who love us–will leave us forever. For “who could love a Beast?”

And yet–

Until we are fully known; until we have a true face, not just another mask; until are seen in our naked ugly truth, it is not we who are loved, but our mask.

Orual spends the entire book protesting her love for her sister, but learns that it was never truly her sister she loved. Orual never thinks that she can be loved, and so she hides herself behind a mask and becomes a terror and a mystery, but it is not till all of her masks are truly stripped away that Love can come to her. To be known is to be vulnerable.

But to be loved, we must be known.

Special Announcement

Hey everyone! Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, we will be changing the formatting a bit. So keep your eyes peeled for some special pieces and enjoy the holiday!

(This post was written by the sole single writer of the Uncommonplaces. Don’t worry, other singles, tomorrow’s pieces will be for you too!)

Protect

Scan Complete
No Threats Detected

but…
i…
Janet.
JANET Relationship at 100%
i feel different.
i feel.

Open Sorcery, a text game (Link)

Boundaries are funny things. Often, the only reason they exist is because humans decided this is one thing and this is another.

For instance, the boundary between science fiction and fantasy. Sometimes, it seems obvious. (Star Trek is scifi; The Hobbit is fantasy.) The more you delve into either world, though, the closer you come to that wide fuzzy space between them.

Is Star Wars scifi? or is it fantasy? Is the Mistborn series fantasy or scifi? And what about superheroes? Where do they fall? Batman exists in the same universe as Zatanna, and Steven Strange is in the same universe as Tony Stark.

Another boundary: The line between games and literature. Is a detective novel just literature? or is it a game, where you try to deduce answers and uncover mysteries before the main character? Is an adventure video game solely about fighting, or is it also about the progression of your character and the story that he or she lives?

At the intersection of these four boundaries lives Open Sorcery, a text game that is itself about the boundary between awareness (a soul) and intelligence.

With as few spoilers as possible, you start the game as a ‘spiritual’ firewall, an entity that protects certain areas from spiritual viruses and dangers. As the game blurs the lines between AI and the magician’s familiar, you make choices about how best to protect and preserve your charges–and those choices are the difference between life and death. There is more than one happy ending and more than one sad ending–and once a decision is made, it cannot be changed.

I have long had a fondness for these sorts of text games, and in a world overflowing with options both for stories and games, it can be easy to overlook them–they are not as flashy as their video game counterparts, nor as time-tested as books. But they are worthwhile literature. By forcing the reader to interact with and affect the story, they also force the player to examine why she makes the choices she does. Did I make that decision because it was right? Or because it is what I think the game wants me to do?

Do I make my own decisions because they are right, or because they are what others want me to do?

I hope I have piqued your interest, and you decide to try out other text games for yourself. I also hope you give Open Sorcery a try, and remember that even in the fuzzy boundaries of life, there is still sharp line between right and wrong.

 

Happy New Year!

We’re back, after our two-month (much-needed) hiatus. Over the holiday season, we have both partaken (partook? partooken? partaked?) in lots of excellent literature and media, as well as restored our writing skills and had a good rest. Our first Uncommonplace of the New Year will be going up tomorrow night, and we will be resuming our Tuesday-Friday posting schedule.

Thank you for your patience, and enjoy 2017!

Dystopia: fear of the future

DOMIN: What do you think? From a practical standpoint, what is the best kind of worker?
HELENA: The best? Probably one who —who—who is honest—and dedicated.
DOMIN: No, it’s the one that’s the cheapest. The one with the fewest needs.

–Rossum’s Universal Robots, Karel Capek (prologue.92)

We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.

— The Giver, Lois Lowry

Destroying things is much easier than making them.

–The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

–Animal Farm, George Orwell

This month at The UncommonPlaces, we will be exploring scary stories–from Frankenstein, to monsters, to ghosts–partly in honor of Halloween and partly in honor of the real horror story that is America right now.

In a reversal of the usual flow of time, I am starting with the dystopia–the novel set in a horrifying future.

The dystopia is horrifying precisely because of how plausible it is. Not to say that all dystopias are realistic fiction–for instance, Animal Farm is about talking animals–but that all good dystopias have a very believable flow of cause and effect. Obviously, if people could erase memories, many if not all would choose to erase the bad ones (as in The Giver). And obviously something would need to be done to make sure no-one could remind anyone of those forgotten memories. And obviously from there it follows that the best way to protect people from those memories is to send the ones who remember away…

And just like that, you have fallen into a horrific world where that-which-is-wrong is taken as part of normal life.

Dystopian fiction has several recurring tropes that are worth mentioning.

First, there is the controlling class. In Animal Farm, the pigs claim they are more equal than the other animals–an obvious contradiction, but one that serves them well.

Second, there is a tendency for people to be treated as less than human.

Third, there is a tendency to pretend that it is a utopia–a perfect world.

But there can be no perfect world without removing the imperfections–and in this post-fall world, you either must redefine perfect (and that way lies horror) or you must destroy everything (and that way lies the void).

Dystopian fiction works so well because we have all dreamed of how the world would be if we controlled it, and we need to be reminded about all the ramifications of each change we make.