Dark Mirror (my PhD dissertation) – preface


The memorial at Bełźec extermination camp in Poland

I’m posting this on kind of a whim, but I just finished writing the preface to my doctoral dissertation, and I think it’s a decent piece of writing about the challenges of working on an unimaginably horrible part of history, so I wanted to slap it up here. Especially since I’m not 100% sure I’ll finish this thing (I think I probably will) so what the hell.

My dissertation in question deals with three Nazi death camps – Bełźec, Sobibór, and Treblinka – and how they can be used to explain the relationship between Foucault’s concept of heterotopia and the dangerous idea of utopia. Basically, I’m looking at the camps as separate spaces in which one reality is destroyed so another one can be created.

It’s not the easiest thing to write about. So my advisor said “okay, write about that.” I did and here it is.


This all began, believe it or not, with mice.

I was in junior high school. I don’t recall now what year it was; what I do recall is that I was a strange and inward-looking kid, ill-suited to an social life for which I had been ill-prepared. Many if not most people recall feelings of awkward isolation as children, but some of us experience it in greater degrees of intensity than others, and my experience was intense. This wasn’t the fault of any person in particular; it’s what you should probably expect when you cross the emotional upheaval of adolescence with burgeoning mental illness. Not long before, I had been diagnosed with both Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (a delightful symptom of which was compulsively gouging wounds in my skin) What happened on this day—which I swear I’m going to return to, the day with the mice—wasn’t a direct result of those things, but to the extent that mental illness shapes the disposition of children as a whole, I have to think it played a part.

Okay. Let’s get back to the mice.

A lot of my classmates spent free time outside. I tended to spend mine in the computer lab—or, even better, in the library. I was attending a private Quaker school by then, and I guess the collection must not have been as closely curated as a public school’s might have been (I found some fairly scandalous stuff now and then in terms of sexual content) because frequently I stumbled on things that a lot of people would likely deem too adult for a kid at the tender age of ten or eleven, not in terms of sexual content so much as in terms of violence. In terms of depictions of just how cruel human beings can be to one another.

So that afternoon, I found Art Spiegelman’s masterwork Maus.

You see it, right? Kid finds comic book (I had no idea what a graphic novel was and if I had known I would have had no idea why the distinction matters), kid has this kid-idea of what comic books are, kid sees anthropomorphic mice on the cover (kid has always loved anthropomorphic animals), kid picks up the book and cracks it open.

Kid’s life is never the same.

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We Are Not Things: Blade Runner’s unwanted children

(note: absolutely massive spoilers for Blade Runner 2049 are within)

When I’m seeing Harrison Ford in anything, it’s hard to miss the fact that most of the time, he’s Harrison Ford playing Harrison Ford. Han Solo is Snarky Space Pirate Harrison Ford. Indiana Jones is Snarky Pulp Hero Harrison Ford. James Marshall is Beset President Get Off My Plane Harrison Ford. Et cetera. So for a long time I kind of assumed that Rick Deckard was merely Jaded And Monotone And Somewhat Depressed Harrison Ford.

After seeing Blade Runner 2049, I’m not so sure that’s true.


I don’t actually want to talk about Harrison Ford here, or indeed Rick Deckard so much, so let’s switch tracks and get into memories and emotions.

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swim inward, flow outward


Sometimes in late summer I won’t touch anything, not
the flower, not the blackberries
brimming in the thickets; I won’t drink
from the pond; I won’t name the birds or the trees;
I won’t whisper my own name.

– Mary Oliver, “October”

Two years ago yesterday I posted the final chapter of what I genuinely believe is the finest thing I’ve ever written. (I actually finished it on August 31st, but I consider both of these days to be equally significant since they sort of form two halves of a whole.)

I’ve mentioned this story before: I’ll Be Yours For a Song – which, by the most ridiculous fluke of life and my own bizarre head, just so happens to be a nearly 400k word piece of The Walking Dead AU fanfiction.

Yeah, I know.

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You Have All The Weapons You Need

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. – St. Augustine of Hippo

Do not let this world cause your steps to falter. – Alex de Campi (x)

You don’t think you’re strong enough? You are. You’re afraid. Don’t be. You have all the weapons you need. Now fight. – Dr. Vera Gorski, Sucker Punch

Not too long ago, I wrote a piece for Tor.com about what it means to tell stories in 2017 – and in particular what it means to tell speculative stories, to be able to engage directly with all forms of the what if.

I’m not even vaguely the first person to talk about this, but it’s been something I’ve been wrestling with since November: this question of how I do what I do in a world I barely recognize a lot of the time and most of the time barely understand. First and foremost I’m a storyteller; it’s one of the first things of any kind that I remember doing, and I genuinely don’t think it’s a thing I could not do. But I’m not special in that. We’re all storytelling creatures. It’s one of the primary things that defines us as beings – perhaps the primary thing. We experience reality as a narrative; we remember a past, we experience a present, and we imagine a future (and the lines between those things are blurry and porous, because we don’t experience time as linear at all).

On a level as deep as genes we understand the concepts of beginning and end. Of us. Of all things.

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Happy Birthday, little podcast

Happy late birthday, rather. Gone’s birthday was yesterday. Yeah, episode 1 is now available for listening to. Get it via Apple Podcasts here or Podbean here.

Let’s talk about it for a sec.

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Announcing: Gone

I already unveiled this on Twitter and Tumblr yesterday, but allow me to also do so here: I’ve semi-launched an episodic fiction horror podcast called Gone.

I absolutely love horror/thriller/mystery podcasts – TANIS, The Black Tapes, Alice Isn’t Dead, Limetown, and Rabbits, just to name a few that I’ve been into. I already do a podcast focused on my particular shippy corner of The Walking Dead fandom, but I’ve been wanting to branch out and try some new stuff, learn some new things, and see if I can even vaguely approximate the pleasurable creepy of the podcasts I already adore.

The format is a kind of audio journal (because when you’re one person working by yourself with a cheap mic and Audacity that tends to be easiest) and the premise is simple: Our protagonist awakens one morning to discover that everyone in the immediate area – and perhaps everywhere – has disappeared without any indication as to what happened or where they’ve gone. At first everything – except for the total absence of everyone – appears eerily normal. Then, bit by bit, that changes.

You can hear a very short teaser at the link above, and the premiere will drop next Wednesday the 26th. It’s going to be updating every other Wednesday, with the caveat that, as I said above, I’m one person doing everything myself, and now and then I may simply not be able to keep to the schedule down to the exact day. But I’ll try my best.

As of right now I don’t have a Patreon or a tip jar or anything set up for it, but watch for that at some point soon. Also I’m still waiting on Apple Podcasts to verify it but once they have, you’ll be able to subscribe that way.

I really hope you like this, guys. I’m frankly pretty nervous about it. I care very much about doing it well. Hopefully I will, and you’ll enjoy it. ❤️

New stuff from me

YES, because it’s been a while. And these have actually been out for a while. But I swear, I’m developing an aversion to updating this damn thing.

ANYWAY. Here’s what they are:

Shape Without Form, Shade Without Color (Tor.com)

This is a weird, dreamlike, not very clearly explained piece of darkness. It’s also heavily autobiographical, and really it’s more a look into my particular state of mind during a really rough part of a really rough year. It’s about mental illness more than anything else – and I think that’s one of the reasons why, it seems to me, the reactions to it have been fairly polarized. I don’t usually like to talk about reactions to my own stuff, because I don’t like the possibility that I’m giving the impression that I go after negative reviews. I try to not engage negative reviews at all, ever, because it’s a really really bad idea in addition to being a dickish thing to do. But there are things about some of the reactions I saw that I found both interesting and frankly troubling, and I did talk about it some in a thread on Twitter. Which seemed to strike a nerve with a lot of people, in a good way.

I’ll probably write a longer post about this, assuming I can get my act together, but basically the reactions I saw fell, for the most part, into two categories: “I didn’t understand this/this didn’t make any sense/this wasn’t really a story and therefore I disliked it” and “yes, yes, this is exactly how it feels.

Which, in retrospect, isn’t very surprising. Again, I might – I want to – talk more about this at some point in the future.


eyes I dare not meet in dreams (also Tor.com)

This was originally written for a society and technology blog – Cyborgology – that I used to semi-run with some friends, and it wasn’t even originally a story, per se. It only became clear to me after the fact; it was (and is) an explosion of anger that had been building for a while, about… Well, if you read it, it should be pretty obvious. A particular favorite deceased (or possibly “deceased”) character of mine makes a cameo appearance; those people who know the fandom side of my life will probably spot her.

Y’know, I didn’t even think it was that good at the time. I now think it’s one of the better things I’ve written. Like “Shape Without Form” it isn’t so much an actual story in the traditional sense. As I said, at heart it’s a rant.

I think it’s a fun rant tho.