Episode 455: Elif Shafak!

Episode 455 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

In this week’s show, I talk to the novelist Elif Shafak about the importance of the structure of literary novels, the sublime oddity of the mind, how politics deepen literature (so long as politics don’t drive literature), how research itself generates creativity, and how inclusive literature is the richest literature.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

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TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.


Episode 455 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #105: Peeking Into the Future

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #105 by Drew Barth

Peeking Into the Future

So, the highs of a Senate victory on Tuesday night into the lows of an insurrection on Wednesday afternoon. I’ll rearrange some deckchairs on the Titanic for a bit while I keep talking about comics.

Anyway, DC’s last event, Dark Metal, ended with the multiverse getting a weird upgrade. Instead of the 52 earths we’ve grown accustomed to, we’re back the era of infinite earths and infinite multiverses. What does that mean for the Universe as a whole? More or less, everything is canon again and everything matters. Every episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold? That happened. That time Ted Kord Reagan to drop dead? Canon. John Constantine and Death’s sex-ed PSA comic? The most canon. But with this new well of possibilities, we have the next new event: Future State. For the most part, it’s a look at where the DC Universe is going and what kinds of new stories and characters are emerging from the new multiverse. The first batch of new stories happened last week and the signs are already looking good.

I took a look at two of the new series this past week: Swamp Thing by Ram V, Mike Perkins, and June Chung and Wonder Woman by Jöelle Jones and Jordie Bellaire. Both series give us a glimpse into the worlds of the familiar and the new: Swamp Thing now resides in a world almost devoid of humanity and the new Wonder Woman, Yara Flor, must travel to the Underworld to rescue one of her warrior sisters. While each story does have a sense of the familiar—namely the existential musings of Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman dealing with the Greek pantheon—there still remains something new and interesting at play.

But what makes both series fascinating from just this first issue is how they play with their mythologies. Wonder Woman has always been steeped in myth and this is no different when Yara Flor battles a hydra and takes to the Underworld, but there’s a bit extra here. Mythologies in DC have always all been canon—every pantheon of gods exist next to each other and with this issue, we have the first mention of Tupã, the creator in Guarani mythology. So we’re finally breaking from the Greek and Norse pantheons that many of Wonder Woman’s stories center around into something different.

Likewise with Swamp Thing, we have another side of creation myths. In the past, there have been other characters with similarities to Swamp Thing, the Floronic Man comes to mind, but this is the first time Swamp Thing himself has taken on the role of the creation myth. In his story, every character we see was created by him and his senses border on the omnipotent. He is more than we’ve seen in any other story, which only makes me wonder how long a Swamp God like this can last.

While Future State is only beginning and more stories are coming out every week—the second batch just came out yesterday—these two on their own feel like a solid foundation for even more stories later. They feel like starting points in ways that Rebirth and New52 didn’t years ago, namely since they’re creating these new mythologies with every page. But many of these stories are only going to last for two to four issues, so what happens in our future is still a mystery. I can only hope they can maintain this quality for as long as possible.

Get excited. Get to the Future.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Lost Chords & Serenades Divine #16

Lost Chords & Serenades Divine #16 by Stephen McClurg

Dua Saleh: Rosetta EP  (2020)

The songs on Dua Saleh’s Rosettasurge through rap, pop, and rock–sometimes in the same track. Considering the namesake of the EP is Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Dua Saleh’s Sudanese-American Musilim background, the record expresses the desires, joys, and challenges of a multi-hyphenated existence.

A video of “Umbrellar” has qualities of both ‘90s hip hop and Afrofuturism. It’s a catchy single and evokes a similarly nostalgic, yet uplifting mood as something like Chastity Belt’s “Different Now.”

“Smut” begins as a rap that gets pitched into alien voices and then transforms into an electronic R&B track while holding threads from the opening. Toward the end, a guitar line comes in that would sit comfortably on a Cure album. The unique structure of “Smut” keeps growing on me.

“Windhymn” features organ, percussive sounds, and wailing among several vocal overdubs. There’s an effective whispering voice featured on this track and throughout the record. Here it makes sense as a wind hymn. The track ends not in a whisper, but in a rupturing jazz sample. One of Rosetta’s characteristics is the unexpected noisy qualities at the end of most tracks.

Like Dua Saleh, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is difficult to describe. Mostly well-known as a gospel artist, she played gospel in jazz settings and also is considered the Godmother of Rock and Roll. Though she was married a few times, she also had relationships with other women. Check out her record Gospel Trainfrom 1956. The first track “Jericho” is one of my favorite performances, as is this live performance of “Didn’t It Rain” that proves what a goddess she was.

Bandcamp is one of the best ways to support living musicians. Rosetta and other recent singles and EPs are available here.


Stephen McClurg (Episode 24) writes and teaches in Birmingham, Alabama. He co-hosts The Outrider Podcast, writes at Eunoia Solstice, and infrequently blogs. He has contributed music as a solo artist and with the group Necronomikids to past episodes of The Drunken Odyssey.

Episode 454: Sarah Kuhn!

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Episode 454 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

This week, I talk to the novelist and graphic novel writer Sarah Kuhn about writing about Cassandra Cain for a YA audience, the demographics of fandom, the fun of the depth of the character pool of DC Comics, and collaborating with an amazing artist.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile

TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.


Episode 454 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #338: Space 1999 (Season One)

The Curator of Schlock #338 by Jeff Shuster

Space 1999 (Season One)

Lightning strikes twice for Gerry Anderson.

The kangaroo and I are finally getting along. Turns out she loves Fruit Roll Ups. I’ve gone ahead and named her Edwige. Apparently, she must be a professional boxer because she’s wearing baby blue gym shorts and boxing gloves. Hopefully, she’ll aide in my fight against these vampires who are forcing me to write a spec screenplay.

schlock mansion

This week is a bit of a departure for this blog as I am covering a television series. I tend not to do this as I am a movie snob. But I revisited another Gerry Anderson classic over the past year since new entertainment was rather scarce and can now declare the first season of Space 1999 to be utterly brilliant. Originally intended as a followup to Gerry Anderson’s UFO (also brilliant), Space 1999 took on a life of its own and is remembered as a kind of a bridge between the original Star Trek and Star Wars.

The basic premise of the series is that in the year 1999, a huge nuclear explosion occurs on the moon, casting it out of Earth’s orbit into deep space. This is a bit of a catastrophe not only for the Earth, but also for all the hundreds of Moonbase Alpha personnel. You see, someone thought it was a bright idea to store all of the nuclear waste from the Earth on the surface of the moon, not realizing it would create the biggest bomb in human history. And that bomb goes off. The government of Earth is unable to mount a rescue for Moonbase Alpha as the people of Earth are dealing with their own magnitude of natural disasters as a result of the Earth losing the moon!

Moonbase Alpha hurtles through space encountering strange planets and strange alien species. Sometimes these aliens are helpful, but the majority of them are terrifying. Seriously, every time the moon gets near some new planet that the people of Moonbase Alpha want to colonize, the opportunity turns into a disaster. Like there was this one episode where the mushrooms the crew ate drove them mad. Another episode where the planet becomes unlivable after a season change. And still another planet that turns the people of Moonbase Alpha into Cro-Magnons.  Other episodes feature the moon going through a Black Sun, fighting a giant space brain (naturally), and dealing with a future version of the Voyager probe that became a lethal weapon.

Martin Landau plays John Koenig, head of Moonbase Alpha. Barbara Bain plays Dr. Helena Russell, chief medical officer. They are joined by regulars Barry Morse, Zienia Merton, Nick Tate, Anton Phillips, and Clifton Jones. We also get guest stars like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Brian Blessed, and Joan Collins. The special effects are fantastic considering the time it was made with some great model that Gerry Anderson probably pioneered during his Thunderbirds series.

I enjoyed Space 1999 and am looking forward to season 2. Hopefully, it doesn’t go all Buck Rogers-like.


Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444, and episode 450) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #104: New Year, New Deep, Resigned Sigh

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #104 by Drew Barth

New Year, New Deep, Resigned Sigh

New year, new reminder to check up on your friends. Deep breaths. Drink more water.

Also, think about comics. It’s the beginning of a new year after continuously living through a year that felt like a painful, strange epoch, so we deserve to take a small break from the state of everything by looking forward to things. This year is looking like more digital cons and the like, but your local comic shop is likely still trying to survive, so let’s look at some of the series coming later this year they can order for you.

Starting off since the first couple issues of this came out yesterday is DC’s new event: Future State. Yes, it is another event that will “change the DC Universe forever” like the past dozen. But, honestly, I do enjoy these massive canon changes and reboots since new writers—Ram V, Becky Cloonan, John Ridley, Stephanie Phillips, Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, Leila del Duca, and a host of others—can get their hands on characters and a slate of new miniseries gives new readers an easy entry-point into the universe. What’s most fun here isn’t just the new series, but the new anthologies of stories that can help create a much broader sense of where these characters are going in the future. It should be fun.

Next we have Guerrilla Green by Cookie Kalkair and Ophélie Damblé from Boom! Studios in April. This graphic novel centers around an unnamed woman and her efforts to bring more greenery to her city. The story itself is already sounding fun, but when I found out it was based on the concept of guerrilla gardening—gardening without limits on abandoned and private property—I knew I had to get it as soon as possible. From what we know about it so far, it’ll be a story that also leads into a manual about how to garden guerrilla-style in your own city. It’s time to drag the 21stcentury kicking and screaming into solarpunk.

How much are you into sentai and giant robots? If you’ve been reading long enough, you’ll know I am. So James Harren and James Stewart will be bringing us their new series in March from Image: Ultramega. Not only is this going to be a culmination of everything we love about kaiju and series like Ultraman, but it’s going to be working with comics in a fun way as well. Instead of the standard monthly thirty-ish pages, we’ll be getting nearly double that every couple months. It’s providing a nice in-between from the standard monthly model and what November is doing with its releases.

A new graphic novel from Fantagraphics is always good news, and Stone Fruit from Lee Lai looks like it’s going to be the kind of book that I’ll cry multiple times over. Centered on Bron and Ray, a couple that gravitate back and forth from one another as they attempt to repair their broken family bonds while also playing the weird aunts to Ray’s niece. It is the kind of story that already looks like it’s going to be some of the most emotionally resonant work of the year and we still have to wait until May to read it.

Speaking of waiting, we’ll have to wait until June for Pascal Girard’s new graphic novel from Drwan & Quarterly: Rebecca and Lucie In the Case of the Missing Neighbor. After witnessing two men carrying something into a van and hearing that a home health worker in her neighborhood has gone missing, Rebecca puts her eight month-old daughter, Lucie, in her carrier and begins investigating. This looks like it’s going to be one of the more humorous books of the year as we have some hard-boiled detective work coupled with diaper-change stake-outs.

Another Drawn & Quarterly release that’s likely going to be another favorite, Guy Delisle returns with his summer job saga, Factory Summers. This is Delisle’s chronicle of his time working in a paper plant as a sixteen year-old as the industry was increasingly outsourced overseas. He deals with the ire of factory workers as he was able to get his job through his dad as well as a toxic culture that permeated nearly everything in the factory. A different kind of coming of age, this looks like it’s going to be an interesting take on what a summer job looks like.

And finally we have Celestia, the new graphic novel from Manuele Fior published by Fantagraphics. A futurist tale that focuses on the past clinging so desperately to the past that it becomes like a prison and the new generation that will have to lead people in a new way. It’s the kind of graphic novel that feels most pertinent in a time like this. But it is still the story of two characters, Dora and Pierrot, as they leave their home and hopefully push their world in the right direction.

And actually finally, maybe Saga will return this year? It’s less a prediction and more of a hope.

The beginning of the year always brings some new comics into our minds and this year is no exception. We’re likely going to see the results of lockdown free time and stress bubbling up into our stories this year. And next year. And the year after that. And likely for the next decade or two. But now is the time for new comics and hope.

Get excited. Get back to your local shops.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #87: All is True (2018)

87. Kenneth Branagh’s All is True, 2018.

I have a fraught relationship with Kenneth Branagh’s cinematic Shakespeare work. As an actor, he perhaps has no equal, certainly among his own generation. As a director, his indiscriminate courting of Hollywood has led to so many embarrassments. He has made more Shakespeare films than Olivier, yet as a director he hasn’t lived up to his potential. Someone would need to be so intimidated by his acting not to see the flaws in his direction. His shortcomings anger me because of how much I love him in Henry Vand in Oliver Parker’s Othello, which are compelling, perfect films.

In his latest film adaptation of Shakespeare back in 2006, As You Like It, Branagh-as-director refrained from acting, and managed to render something wonderful from this comedy. There were some Hollywood actors in the cast, but they weren’t struggling to seem natural in Shakespeare’s world. For some reason, this film wasn’t marketed well, and it didn’t get the love it deserved.

In All is True, Branagh returns to acting and directing. Penning the script is Ben Elton, who played a minor role in Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, a writer with credits for Black Adder.

All is True imagines William Shakespeare’s brief life after the Globe Theatre burned to the ground, which the film suggests led Shakespeare to retire from writing rather than rebuild his business venture to try to mount new plays. He retires to Stratford-Upon-Avon to try to put his house back in order, to cultivate his own garden.

In some ways, dear readers, this is how I feel reviewing Shakespeare films. I have perhaps experienced too much Shakespeare media. Oh, there’s a new Hamlet to watch? I’d rather watch cat videos on Youtube. The new Hamlet is amazing, you say? That will not affect my plans or desires. Let me know when there is a compelling Troilus and Cressida and then I can muster some excitement. Maybe.

But All is True is not an adaptation of a theatrical work. Imagine Shakespeare in Love, but in which Shakespeare is old rather than young, and with fewer metatextual games. In some ways, All is True could be seen as fan service for those who worship the bard. You will be rewarded if you thrill to a story that knows the details of Shakespeare’s life. You will be rewarded if you are a relative newcomer wanting more details about Shakespeare’s life. Since this was in part what my M.A. thesis was about, I am less enamored of this historical feature getting its facts right.

The core of this story imagines Shakespeare trying to put his house in order, trying to re-establish a family life, and struggling mightily at that. The running time is short, which makes a big difference. Ben Elton’s script shows real conflict between people whose hurts arise out of love and passion. This is a way to spend an hour and a half with Kenneth Branagh as Shakespeare himself.

The night scenes are especially evocative, as the lights from candles and fireplaces still leave most indoor spaces in the dark. In that negative space, confessions take on new meanings.

All is True tells a basic story exceedingly well. Watching Branagh, Judy Dench (as Anne Shakespeare), Ian McKellan (briefly, as the Earl of Southampton), and frankly the entire cast was a joy, a sorrowful joy as Shakespeare imagines how to live quietly, in harmony with a family he didn’t know he didn’t understand.

Branagh’s voice is such a delicious instrument.

All is True is a little sad, but it is precisely the way I want to spend time with Kenneth Branagh: charming, vulnerable, unforgettable.


John King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.

453: Carolyn Forché!

Episode 453 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

This week, I talk to the poet and memoirist Carolyn Forché about her latest collection, In the Lateness of the World.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile

  • TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.
  • Check out Netflix’s film adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s Good Morning, Midnight.


Episode 453 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #337: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

The Curator of Schlock #337 by Jeff Shuster

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

The Bond everyone forgets.

Okay.  I got a little tipsy last night on too much of the bubbly. I wake up wearing nothing, but a pair of red polkadot boxer shorts. My right arm has a bloody gash. No doubt someone in the house was doing some late night snacking. Oh, and there’s a kangaroo sleeping at the foot of my bed. I dare not wake her. Help!

schlock mansion

We’re going to ring in the new year with 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a much maligned James Bond movie that I found holds up better than you’d think. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the first in the mainline Bond movies to feature a James Bond not played by Sean Connery. This time around, Australian model George Lazenby takes on the role of Britain’s top gentleman spy. It was distinct from the Bond movies of the era as it supposedly follows the novel quite closely.

Why is this movie worth your time? I think it’s the closest I’ve ever seen to a James Bond epic. The movie begins with 007 rescuing a beautiful young woman from drowning herself in the ocean. Her name is Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), but she goes by Tracy. Her father is Marc-Ange Draco, head of a vast European crime syndicate. Draco offers Bond a deal: court his daughter and he’ll give Bond a clue to the whereabouts to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, leader of SPECTRE and Bond’s arch nemesis. Also, if Bond decides to marry her, Draco will give him a dowry of one million pounds.

Tracey is furious when she becomes aware of her father’s arrangements with Bond and forces Draco to give up the information on Blofeld and let Bond leave, but Bond is intrigued by Tracey enough to see her for a time. Anyway, turns out Blofeld is keen on getting recognized as a count and is seeking the aid of genealogist Sir Hilary Bray (George Baker). Blofeld requests Bray meet him at his allergy clinic in the Swiss Alps to finalize his claim to the title of Count Balthazar de Bleuchamp. Bond goes in impersonating Bray and discovers that Blofeld has sinister plans for the world.

Let’s get out of the way what doesn’t work in this movie. There are too many callbacks to earlier Bond movies in the first act. We see clips from the first five Bond movies during the credit sequence. Later, we see Bond cleaning out his desk after giving M his resignation from MI6 and we hear music cues from Dr. NoFrom Russia With Love, and Thunderball with each item he removes from his office. This makes me nostalgic for Connery which is a huge mistake when introducing a new actor as James Bond. Also, when Bond is disguised as Sir Hilary Bray, they overdub Lazenby with George Baker. That wasn’t clever and it undermines your new actor.

But when the ruse is discovered and Bond is face to face with Blofeld, this is where the movie hits its stride. It’s here that Lazenby is James Bond. And then the movie turns into one prolonged chase scene and it doesn’t let up. Bond skis down the Swiss Alps pursued by agents of SPECTRE gunning for him. When he gets to Swiss village below, he hides among the citizens enjoying Christmas festivities, but the bad guys are closing in and this will be the end for Bond, but then Tracey shows up in his darkest hour and rescues him. This is the love of James Bond’s life, the woman that he’ll marry, and the woman that will change him forever. You get all this from a movie made over fifty years ago. Not a bad way to spend your time.


Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444, and episode 450) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #103: Crossing Into Reality

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #103 by Drew Barth

Crossing Into Reality

When a comic starts off with a quote from Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent, you know it’s going to be fun. When you couple that quote with an event in which every superhero suddenly lands in Denver in a fight so massive they have to bubble the entire city to keep the mayhem from getting out, you have a different kind of fun. That kind of fun is Crossover by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Dee Cunniffe, and John J. Hill. I’ve talked about first issues at length in the past, but it’s always nice to jump into a new series that is doing so many things well right from the start.

Okay, so what the actual hell is Crossover? For the most part, like I said in the beginning, it’s superheroes landing in Denver and having it out. But what happens after that? As this story is set in the real world, akin to DC’s Earth-Prime, casualties and widespread carnage the likes of which no one has seen before. The explosion of superheroes eventually causes one of them to shut off the whole of Colorado from the rest of the world while their crossover event takes place. From here, we’re introduced to Ellipses—a woman whose parents were in Denver when the crossover event happened and who still dresses in a domino mask and yellow trench coat despite the new stigma against superheroes. The world has taken a turn for the weird with a pre-Comics Code fervor against comics complete with religious protests and a firebombing.

What is really interesting in this first issue is how far Cates, Shaw, Cunniffe, and Hill go when asking about the reality of comics. This first issue outright asks if we the readers or Superman is more real in our reality. It’s a Morrison-esque analysis on our perceptions of reality intertwined with comics. And with a first issue, the creative team is here looking to see where they can bend that reality as this is our world, more or less. People carry around issues of Hulk, Rawhide Kid, and Supermanin Provo, Utah and feel incredibly ordinary. But then there’s a looming threat somewhere out of sight that has the entire world on edge. Wait, no, that’s ordinary too. What isn’t ordinary is the idea of crossing over, of the comic characters coming through the veil of reality into our own world. As this is the first issue, that hasn’t been explained just yet, but it also doesn’t feel like it needs explaining as much as it needs examining.

From some of the creative team’s previous endeavors with God Country, it’s hard to resist the hooks dragging you deeper into this first issue. It wants to show so much more, but knows that it needs to keep something hidden just outside of the panel to draw you into the rest of the series. Outside of world-building, those hooks are the most important thing to begin a series with, and this one has so many to bring you in.

Get excited. Get real.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.