Defining Fantasy Fiction

Currently I’m going to SFSU for my MA in English w/creative writing, with the intention of not only becoming a better writer, but to become a great teacher! One class that I’m taking to is Teaching Creative Writing, which is probably one of the bet classes I’ve taken. Essentially you’re creating a syllabus for a creative writing class or workshop, and my teacher has been extremely flexible with what kind of class we created. Naturally, I created a class that is basically an Introduction to Fantasy Writing class.

In Teaching Creative Writing, we have a 5, 10, 15, and a 20 minute presentation on the different elements or processes of craft we want to teach. Yesterday was my 20 minute presentation in which I attempted to define fantasy fiction.

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Pictured: Myself prepping for this presentation

Luckily most of my classmates don’t know a lot about fantasy (making them perfect guinea pigs for this presentation) but had some experience with speculative fiction, and one classmate is as knee-deep in fantasy fiction as I am. Before I handed out my handouts, I had asked my classmates to think of an adjective to describe fantasy. After I wrote down “the fantastic,” “portal fantasy,” “immersive fantasy,” “intrusive fantasy,” and “estranged fantasy,” I went down my list of classmates and received a wide variety of adjectives describing fantasy (from “Justin Trudeau” to “silly”). This was a perfect segue to hand out my handouts:

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I talked about the aspect of the fantastic and how Farah Mendlesohn’s essay attempted a taxonomy of fantasy by creating four categories of how the fantastic is incorporated within the story. My main goal was to show why the fantastic element is important in fantasy stories, and that if that fantastic is taken away, the story can either change dramatically or just completely fall apart. This is where William Joyce’s Jack Frost came in handy.Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 4.21.51 PM.png

Spoilers for Jack Frost, btw.

For those who haven’t read the story, Nightlight is a “creature of light” who is sworn to protect the Man in the Moon (MiM). He saves MiM from Pitch, but falls to Earth and is frozen in a comatose state long enough for him to forget his previous life. When he awakes, he’s now changed into Jack Frost, but is lonely and purposeless. MiM helps Jack by helping him remember who he use to be. Jack remembers his oath to protect MiM, but now amends it to protect the children of Earth, and is much happier with renewed purpose.

First, I related his story to the four categories. Jack Frost could be interpreted as a portal fantasy because our protagonist Nightlight falls from the world of the fantastic and into our reality, but it could also be interpreted as an intrusive fantasy because his magic, the magic of the Man in the Moon, and Pitch have also intruded on our reality.

Second, I made sure to point out how the texts guides the story while the art takes Jack’s internal feelings and makes them external. For example, let’s take a look at one of my favorite and most heartbreaking pages in the book:IMG_2667.JPG

Jack is tiny and sitting next to a dead tree, staring out into the nothing of snow blindness. The story guides us by telling us that Jack’s name is now Jack, but the pictures really emphasis Jack’s loneliness and possibly depression (or I could be projecting since this story feels like a fantastical version my life in the past five years):

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Pictured: the Giddy Owl after she finished her BA with high honors.

Thirdly, I explained how the fantastic is necessary for this story about losing one’s purpose, wandering, and regaining that purpose. I feel I didn’t explain myself as clearly as I could have, but I do recall saying that what fantasy does is separate the reader from the problem, and because of that the reader is able to look at the problem differently than they may have done if the story was told straight naturalistically. Here we can see our protagonist physically change from his old life Nighlight to his new life Jack Frost, see his emotions being illustrated by how snowy everything, and most importantly, see how he keeps his purpose once he remembers it, but he changes it to fit his new life.

Anyway, once I finished my presentation, I received feedback and answered questions with my classmates that I’m just going to summarize here. Here’s the crux of the matter with defining fantasy: it’s essentially undefinable and can be applicable to just about anything and everything. In a classroom setting I can apply rules and categories to give students structure and focus to create effective and engaging fantasy. However, attempting to define or even categorize the fantasy genre can lead to generalizations like all magical realism stories would fall under estranged fantasy or portal fantasies are quest stories. Another issue with defining fantasy is that ultimately, the author decides how they want their story to be identified. With my experience in academia, there is still a lot of negative stigma against the term “fantasy” (which I have personally experienced) but not so much with “magical realism” (and that…that is a whole ‘nother rant).

All around though, my classmates and teacher really enjoyed the lesson. My teacher suggested that the four categories would be really great for writing exercises, and I completely agree! I was also told that even though the categories ran the risk of generalizing, they really are a great way to think about how fantasy works and why it is the way it is. So over all a great success, and now I’ve got a syllabus to work on!

Special thanks to William Joyce. Your books make for great presentations!

MLP:FiM Season 6 Ep 1-2: Meet Cute

So, as some of you may know, I absolutely love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. What brings me to write right now when I wasn’t even all that excited about season 6 because I was still bitter about how quickly everyone forgave Starlight Glimmer and how she was going to be apart of the main cast when poor Sunset Shimmer was still stuck at Canterlot High and blah blah blah?

Reunited meet cute happened.

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Well, it starts a bit earlier than that. Here’s the key thing about building a good ship: you get a good crew if you’ve got good captains–er, characters. The audience doesn’t have to relate to the character, but should be able to emphasize with them to some degree. I was so bitter about Starlight and wishing she’s go away forever until Twilight said she’d be meeting with Sunburst. Not only can you see on Starlight’s face how absolutely terrified she is when the idea is brought up, but she quite literally has auditory hallucinations that block Twilight out. I can emphasize with her because she was literally evil last year and now has to tell her best friend who left her behind about it, and she’s terrified that he won’t forgive her (even though everyone else has so quickly). I also sympathize with her because I have a buzzing in my ears when I’m under extreme stress. I’m extremely curious to see if these auditory hallucinations are brought back if Starlight’s put under the right amount of stress, and if the show will ever address it.

I wasn’t completely won over to this plot until Starlight meets Sunburst and…and it’s too cute I can’t

I absolutely love Sunburst’s really unique color scheme, his cloak, his beard, his glasses, and even his tweedy voice. Combine that with the very adult situation of “oh hey we were friends as kids but lost touch now we’re adults WHAT YEAH I’M DOING AWESOME I’M SURE YOU’RE DOING AWESOME AHAHAHA I’M NOT A FAILURE IN LIFE AHAHAHA” just completely won me over with these two. It’s obvious that Sunburst is lying through his teeth, we see that they have way high expectations of each other and they clearly have their own regrets that we know or can easily guess at.

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Bless Spike and Twilight for making this happen.

Predictability is not a bad thing, especially when there’s a little unpredictability mixed into it. Starlight might become angry at Sunburst for leaving her behind for magic school and not even become the great wizard he was supposed to be. Sunburst might be fearful of Starlight’s genuinely terrifying powers and her past evilness, even though she’s on the road to personal redemption. They could have been angry at the end of act 2 only to hastily make up before act 3 ended.

Instead, we get this:

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But Giddy, you benevolent barn owl, I thought you wanted righteous justice against Starlight Glimmer and hated how everyone forgave her so easily. And while this is true, Sunburst forgiving Starlight Glimmer is a lot different than the Our Town ponies and the Mane 6 forgiving her instantly:

  1. He never directly had to fight her as an evil villain, he only knew her as a childhood friend that he was kind of a butt to by leaving her behind and butt-bumping her as he celebrates his cutie-mark.
  2. He even admits that, had he reached out, he could have helped prevent her from going evil. This in no way excuses Starlight’s actions, nor are her previous actions Sunburst’s fault. However, I can sympathize with that feeling of “if I hadn’t been a jerk then, we could have been different now” that I think Sunburst may be feeling.
  3. It’s clear that Sunburst carries a lot of shame for not being the great wizard he and Starlight thought he would become, and carries shame for lying to Starlight. Because she forgave him so quickly and kindly, he’s more likely to return the favor when Starlight reveals her own past and fears.
  4. You could totally tell with that glasses-slide that he now has a crush on Starlight. Yes this is a valid reason to forgive someone shut up.

In the spirit of all this forgiveness, especially on this Easter Sunday, I’ll forgive the season 5 finale’s extremely rushed redemption of Starlight Glimmer. Without it, we wouldn’t have had this episode that gives Starlight Glimmer and Sunburst’s relationship to blossom.

AND BOY DOES IT BLOSSOM:

Here’s where I think the writers are setting these characters up for not only a platonic rekindling, but a possible romantic relationship as well: they complement each other and bring out the best in each other. Sunburst has extended knowledge on not only magic spells but magical theory to a point where he can pull up new spells at the drop of a hat. He just don’t have the magical chops to do it, but Starlight Glimmer very much does. Starlight’s aggressive, but without that aggression she wouldn’t have been able to get Sunburst to the castle nor convince the other ponies once he announced he wasn’t really a wizard to give his idea a shot anyway. I actually really like how Starlight’s aggression is shown to be a positive and negative aspect in her life. Her aggression helps her get things done, but you can see when she finally spills her guts to Sunburst (as well as season 5) that she struggles with anger. Hopefully we’ll get to explore that aspect of her character further in the season!

Also, these two are literally made for each other. Just ask that ol’ hippogryph Silver Quill about color theory:

At least Sunburst does have an identity outside of Starlight, and I’m intensely curious to know more about magic school and what happened after magic school. His line about knowing a lot about magic but not really being able to do it really hit the heartstrings, and I want to see more. So hopefully we won’t have to say goodbye to Sunburst anytime soon! In fact, he may be an excuse for Starlight to visit the Crystal Empire, home of the princess and prince of One True Love, wherein the love-powered Crystal Heart lies…

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What with the changeling sighting at the end of the episode, I wouldn’t be surprised by another Canterlot Wedding-esque season 6 finale only with a much more developed relationship I can root for. Keep your claws crossed!

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Three Games for Giddy

So, it’s been a bit of a ghost town considering grad school and poor time management. Seeing as I’m on winter break, I finally have time to play Warcraft, catch up on my fan fiction, and make you all experience the hell that is free online Frozen video games. Let’s start with Elsa Resurrection Emergency.

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Continue reading Three Games for Giddy

A Giddy Halloween: 2015

Happy Halloween everybody!

Now, I’m not dressing up this year because a) grad school and deciding to not have a job this semester = not that much time or money to make a costume, b) Halloween falling on a Saturday didn’t give me much of an incentive since I don’t get to wear it all day at school and c) this guy:

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This is my first wee nephew! He was born on Oct 21st, 2015 at 6:21 p.m., and thus will remain known as McFly for the rest of his life. But yeah, his due date was Oct. 29th so I didn’t plan much in case he was born then or on Halloween.

NEXT YEAR, however, I plan on throwing a Halloween party at my last semester (I’ve decided to do my MA in 1 1/2 years instead of 1 year, I’ll explain later) and the best Halloween costume ever, especially since I’ve been skimping the last couple of years and literally just throwing something together.

Luckily, I was able to celebrate Halloween a little early with the kids I babysit with the gingerbread graveyard. What is the gingerbread graveyard? Three years ago I found a coffin cookie cutter and for a Halloween craft I made little gingerbread coffins for them to decorate. The following year, I got a cake board, grave stone molds, and a lot more candy to make a gingerbread graveyard. THIS year, since I would be 400 miles away at school, we wouldn’t be able to continue the tradition as usual.

So, taking inspiration from the Gravity Falls‘ episode “Summerween,” I decided to have Summerween with the kids! First, I had them make Jack-o-melons (their first Jack-o-lanterns):

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And then we did more than just a gingerbread graveyard, we did a GINGERBREAD HAUNTED HOUSE!

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Let me tell you how…fun…it was getting Halloween stuff in early August. Thankfully I still have the headstone and skeleton chocolate molds, as well as leftover Halloween sprinkles from last year. Candy corn is available year round, as well as gummy worms, Reese’s pieces, and black licorice. I went to Party City and picked up electric green suckers and candy sticks, and orange and black gum balls.  The old dirt is made from ground up graham crackers, while the new dirt is made from ground up chocolate Teddy grahams.

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Now I don’t have a gingerbread house cutter (which I’m going to buy next time I’m at Michaels, since the Christmas stuff should be out), so I basically eye-balled it when I cut out the house pieces. I filled any gaps with icing and candy. Next time I’ll try to remember the technique of refrigerating the cut cookie dough before baking it to keep it from getting too puffy.

I wish I marked down which royal icing recipe I used, but there’s a bunch on the internet, and the good stuff is the stuff with egg whites in it. I also added some cocoa powder to the mix before adding black food coloring to make it look a nice deep black.

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There were two things I needed but were unavailable to me: ghost peeps and candy Jack-o-Lanterns. Since the kids loved these so much, I decided to make my own. The pumpkins are made with Jack-o-lantern chocolate molds, but I was in a bit of a hurry and they didn’t come out as nicely as I wanted. A much bigger hit were the marshmallow ghosts. I used a marshmallow recipe from my Miette cookbook and cut out ghosts with a ghost cookie cutter. Even though they tasted good, they were a bit too floppy, so I’m going to give Alton Brown’s recipe a try to see if it’s a bit firmer.

Anyway, I’ll be baking cookies and cake and doing homework today, so I hope all of you have a happy Halloween!

Millennial Pledge

There was a really bad article in the LA Times written by a baby boomer that is honest to god titled Millennials, you literally cannot call yourself adults until you take this pledge. It is terrible, the bland comedy is terrible, and it is another drop in the bucket of Baby Boomers shouting down Millennials for trying to navigate in a fucked up economy with rapidly changing technology. Of course, the older generation shouting down the younger for not doing things exactly as the older generation did, but then there are articles like this that seem to touch a nerve in a bad way.

So in response to that, here is my own Millennial Pledge written by an actual, honest-to-god Millenial:

  1. I won’t be shamed for living with family. Living with family is a form of financial responsibility, especially when that BA that your parents and grandparents promised would land you a “good job” right out the gate turns up a job barely (if that, and if you can find one) above minimum wage and you have student loans to pay.
  2. I am an adult, with adult fears and adult responsibilities that I am handling the best that I am able.
  3. I am entitled to basic human rights such as a livable wage, healthcare, and education.
  4. I will not laugh at comedians who are not funny, doubly so if they think “political correctness” is why people don’t think they’re funny.
  5. I can laugh and cry at the same time.
  6. I will not shame people for preferring text or social media over talking on the phone.
  7. I will not assume that an inability to find a job means an inability to find a job that pays $100k.
  8. I will not shut up on issues that need addressing, even if certain privileged classes try to sweep it under the rug.
  9. I am worth something.

Hopefully this helps against the ocean of bullshit we’re all wading through. If all these “millennials are awful” think pieces get you down, just think of Skinner:

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Awkward Mr. Darcy Update

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“Um…hi…I’m Adorably Awkward Mr. Darcy and I look like I’ve run in here to tell you I forgot my keys but I’m so embarrassed that I just gawk.”

So, um, we’re just gonna axe the list from my last post because grad school is making me rethink about what I want to spend time writing about and what I don’t.

With that said, I won’t be posting Part 2 of the Nostalgia Critic’s Pop Quiz Hotshot because it’ll just feel redundant and they’ve made several more posts since I wrote Part 1. I haven’t watched Channel Awesome in months anyway since I just follow the producers that I like.

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“I’m sorry about this and don’t really know what else to say so let me stare at you awkwardly like I’m telepathic or some shit.”

The craft stuff I’ll be posting once I actually finish the crafts. I do plan on making and posting about a dinosaur quiet book for future nephew, the Christmas mason jar water globes for my roommates for Christmas, and the handbound children’s books.

Now that I’m getting used to living out of my parents’ house and where I’m at is baking weather all the time, I’ll be getting on the Lovely Little Cupcakes soon. The game seems to be taking more time than expected to make, anyhow, so that worked out!

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“Sitting awkwardly and uncomfortably with this dog that is wondering why I even bothered showing up.”

Right now I’m putting together the baby shower post for tonight, and I’ve recently added three new chapters to my World of Warcraft fan fiction, Twelve Women of Azeroth. Thanks all!

The Epic of Tale-Spin

As I’m working through my MA in Creative Writing, I thought it’d be fun to post some of my writing assignments. Last week’s assignment was to write a two page novel, and I had way too much fun writing this.

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The Epic of Tale-Spin

Translated by Astrid Myrna

Translator’s Note: Having newly recovered this rare, completed novel from the small pond created by a soil depression and too much sprinkler water in the lawn of Mesquite Elementary School, we at the Institute of Tiny and Fragile Magical Creature (I.T.F.M.C., pronounced “it fumk”) have learned much about the mysterious culture of the American Fairy.

For one, it seems that fairies seem unable to stay in one place for very long, and for fairies who do stay in one place for some period of time, they are lauded as heroes deserving of praise and stories told about them, even written about them! To be written about appears to be a great honor in American fairy culture, and to have their story written legibly by a scribe who is not rushing to have it written is perhaps the greatest praise. Our story that we recovered was legible at first and became difficult to decipher but not impossible at the midway point in the story, clearly showing the importance of this Tale-Spin. Who he or she was, what he or she did, and if he or she actually existed are topics still hotly debated, but clearly this was a fairy of some worth to have his or her story not only told on its own, but to be mentioned in other fairies’ stories! Tale-Spin was once mentioned in the partial recovery of the Epic of Stag-Farter, which reads:

“…I curse Tale-Spin as I drink my milk…” (Anthologie of the Faerie, Brisker 297)

Of course, as we all know, Stag-Farter is of English origin, so it is very possible that The Epic of Tale-Spin may have been an English import and absorbed into Americana fairy lore. 

I may have been head translator for this precious text, but I must also thank Dr. Maya Gulper and my apprentice Leila Shu for their months-long work on this first translation of The Epic of Tale-Spin, Dr. Rei Miyamoto for referring me for this project, Trader Joe’s for their endless supply of sweet potato tortilla chips and especially those mini Belgian waffle cookies dipped in dark chocolate and covered in crushed peppermint, and most of all, thank coffee. Coffee, coffee, coffee. I guess thank coffee with a bit of vanilla extract, brown sugar, and heavy cream too.

We at I.T.F.M.C. hope that this story will spark an interest in Fairy literature and in our institution, and if you have indeed been sparked please go to http://www.itfmc.wordpress.com to learn how to donate. Hopefully by the time of this publication the social media department would have the web page up, but I’m not holding my breath.

The Epic of Tale-Spin

I stand outside. It rains. It always rains here. Forever raining, like my heart. I stand in the rain. I am still standing in the rain. I have stood in the rain for five minutes. Will I drown in this much rain? I will drown if I continue standing in this rain, but I can’t come inside. I can’t! I will bring mud in the house. I defy you rain! The rain has heard me. The rain has stopped. I declare today a holiday, and we will have parades and punch with my neighbors.

The End

Owl Update: Grad School Edition

So in case you didn’t know, I got into grad school. (yay!)

I also just learned that I got into school housing and just have to walk to classes. (yay!)

In two weeks I’ll be hosting my sister’s baby shower. (yay!)

I’ve been battling with a cat flea infestation (no!) but I think I finally killed those fuckers dead (yay!).

Basically I’m going to be super fucking busy getting everything done and ready to move 400 miles to my new nest, so I’m going to be neglecting the blog for a little bit to work on fanfic and until everything is settled and I’m not so fucking overwhelmed. To tide you over, here’s plans for future blog posts by month:

LATE AUGUST:

– Classic Pooh Baby Shower, including decoration ideas and recipes

– Part 2 of Pop Quiz Hot Shot: Bat Nipples

SEPTEMBER:

– Lovely Little Thieves: Jay’s Cupcake

– Lovely Little Thieves: Dani’s Cupcake

OCTOBER:

– Lovely Little Thieves: Dawn’s Cupcake

– Gingerbread Graveyard: 2015

– Halloween Treat Box

– Hoo Hoo Hoo: The Giddy Owl Plans for Christmas

NOVEMBER:

– Lovely Little Thieves Review

– Hoo Hoo Hoo: Home-made Snow Globes

– Hoo Hoo Hoo: Dinosaur Quiet Book

– Hoo Hoo Hoo: Hand-bound Note Books

– Fuck Black Friday

DECEMBER

– Hoo Hoo Hoo: Hand-bound The Adventures of Elsa and Jack Frost (and other stories)

– The Frozen Rant

– New Year’s Resolutions

Here’s my ff.net account, and here’s my AO3. You can also follow me on twitter @thegiddyowl.

Thanks all!