Seduced by the Goblin King: How we fell in love with David Bowie

Almost everyone I know was affected emotionally in some way or other by David Bowie’s passing two months ago. My colleague, case Dr. James Penner, prosthesis had an article published by the LA Review of Books on January 2nd in which he reviewed two books that I understand were released around the same time. You can read it here: David Bowie and the 1970s: Testing the Limits of the Gendered Body

He organized the event (for which the flyer on the left was for), in which he and 3 other professors (myself included) opened a conversation with the public by giving our personal and academic perspectives. This took place at the Richardson Seminar Room, in the College of Humanities, UPR RP.

After thinking it over and over, I decided to talk about Labyrinth, having learned by asking around that it wasn’t as popular with everyone as I imagined. Perhaps I was misled by most of my friends and the entire internet. In this decade, there’s Buzzfeed posts like this one, tumblrs such as Labyrinth Confessions, tumblr theories like this one, along with other virtual shrines across decades, if you dig. It’s not difficult. Because Jareth still constantly pops up in my life, I thought this was true for almost everyone. Well, guess what I found out? It’s not. It’s only so important to a certain group of people (the ones who give a little jump or widen their eyes when you mention it) – the ones who watched it as children and discovered David Bowie first, as Jareth.

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Go beyond the Looking-Glass only if you’re not uncomfortable with getting into Freudian topics. You’ve been warned.

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On the Subject of Alice

I still get questions about it, case and I still love to talk about it. I wrote my MA thesis, “Jacques Lacan Read Through the Looking Glass: Reflections of Subject, Self and Desire in Lewis Carroll’s Alice” in 2010 under the direction of Dr. Michael Sharp (English Department, Humanities, UPR RP). This would be the first time sharing any of it, and it’s only a tiny bit of it, because it’s over 100 pages long, so here’s just a teensy little piece of the shortened version I presented last September (you can read about that here).

If you’re curiouser, then, well, find me. Or find it at the Richardson Seminar Room in the College of Humanities. Or La Lázaro.

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Remembering Alice Through the Ages

Yesterday I gave a talk at the English Department in Humanities, UPR RP, about David Bowie’s character Jareth in Labyrinth. I won’t go too much into it right now, because it will be my next post, but wanting to share that somewhat informal paper led me to want to post about this one. As I was writing about the film’s appeal to a certain group of people, I couldn’t help thinking about the many similar elements between the film and the Alice stories.

In September, I was part of a panel at the Alice Through the Ages conferences in Homerton College, the college of education at the University of Cambridge. Last summer, I only mentioned the possibility in passing, as I was unsure about whether or not I would be able to go, and I really, really wanted to. The funny thing is, I wrote my last post from Cambridge when they posted the Utopística video interview and I didn’t even mention it.

This was 6 months ago, and I still get excited when I talk about it. I met so many wonderful (of course), brilliant people, a handful I am now fortunate to call friends. Homerton was the most appropriate of places, a beautiful garden with fragrant flowers in bloom.  I wanted to attend every conference (as many of us did), but there were too many going on at the same time. In short, it was all perfect and one of the happiest times of my life.

I am about to post an excerpt from the actual paper. Having mentioned this event before, I felt an update on what happened was owed to the imaginary followed of this blog. I’ll exhaust anyone who cares to listen when they ask, I don’t intend to do it all over again to you, imaginary readers. Lots of things happened, all great, and the panels were fascinating. We all hope for an anthology with our essays, because having met, we are so curious to read the papers we missed. So here’s a gallery in place of an enthusiastic re-telling. I’ve left out the ones with other humans in them (except for Mary Galbraith as The Duchess in the mirror… oh, and that little girl), because I didn’t ask for permission to post them outside of social media, which is semi-private.

Looking Glasses and Neverlands I said I wasn’t going to, but I have to share one funny story. In the elevator to our rooms, I complimented a very friendly lady’s violet curls, and we giggled. What I didn’t know at the moment was that she was Karen Coats, whom I used in my research and quoted in my presentation (click the image on the left). A fellow speaker in my panel introduced us, he was friends with her and warned me she would be there, which increased my irrational anxiety.  She hadn’t arrived then, though, but it still made me very nervous. I got to spend time with her the day after the hair incident, along with a few other people I ended up loving on a human level, besides the intellectual admiration/fandom. This was but one of the many, many highlights.

This post is a sort of colorful introduction for the next, which was what I thought I was writing when I started. “A brief introduction,” I thought, “I’ll confirm that I did get to go and I’ll post an excerpt, done.” I had been meaning to do this earlier… but I rarely have a moment to even wash my hair lately (yes, since September – I do wash my hair, though – which is why I don’t write blog posts) so I’m taking advantage of tonight (hi, Santurce es Ley) to post some content before it’s already been a year since. #adjunctlife

I’m on the Tube…

Last month, Dr. Manuel Almeida,  author and professor at Universidad del Este (who also directs a bunch of  other projects) invited me to Utopística to record me talking about my writing and subVERSE.

He’s had writers I look up to as guests on this web show as well, I’m honored to be among them now.

You might want to see it (it’s in Spanish, just in case): CLICK!


Some nights ago one of my best friends, Susana, had told me she was writing for an online magazine (Hedy Mag) and needed to interview an interesting woman. Because she illustrated a great number of stories in Sparks, she thought she would interview Zuleyka (the author), but as it sometimes happens with writers, she chose me because she’s known me since we were sisters and friends in past lives, making it easier to write up specific questions. NO PROBLEM.

Here’s the fun part – Susana and I, along with a third friend, Teresa (the first to publish any kinds of comments about my first book and whose journal entry is still linked on the right, if it’s still there – hopefully, yes), have never met in person. We first bonded by reading each other’s livejournals over ten years ago, have lost and regained contact over the years, and now speak every whenever because now we have smartphones and social media.  We’ve even spoken to one another recently, a luxury in the decade of dialup and long-distance calls. When we were younger, the three of us would chat on MSN Live Messenger and send each other gifts and letters in the mail, learning about each others’ lives, but mostly, keeping each other company in a way that transcends time and space.

Susana tried to make this interview about my writing and said some very nice and flattering things, but these disembodied memories of one of my most important friendships is the subtext in both her questions and my responses.

Click below to see the whole magazine, it’s lovely and smart and all the things you love if “nonconformist women” sounds good to you.

HEDY

I took a cell phone pic of my computer screen (below) because the layout is gorgeous and I couldn’t capture that on my cell phone.

Sweet mother of WiFi.


I know it’s a daring move, but I also screencapped (further below) the first page of Susana’s interview with me and pasted it below to share it here.
Do go see the whole issue, though!

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There’s more to it than *that* – an interview with Susana

Lineup for what’s left of 2015

The wait for Zuleyka’s book of short stories, Sparks, is finally OVER. Editing this book was my main (to not say only) activity during July, so I appreciate everyone who put up with my cranky scowls, and understood my declining what seemed like really fun invitations. This is the first book I edit that is not one of my own (secrets just keep on popping up, don’t they?), but I treated the project with the same obsessive drive that I would have one of my own, if not more so. (For sure I did, actually.) Our artist friends joined in and provided us with varied, unique styles that make this book absolutely loveable.

Are you interested?

Illustration is one of many by Pamela Katerina

Illustration is one of many by Pamela Katerina

You can now purchase it from the subVERSE site directly by clicking here.

It’s only about $15 including shipping (give or take, US and PR).

I am also hosting a giveaway at Goodreads that anyone can enter, as long as you’re a member.

It will be available at bookstores, eventually, as we gather more funds for printing costs. We need to give copies to our illustrators, which is why those pre-orders meant SO MUCH (thanks again). And regular orders do, too! With one purchase, you allow us to print yours and 1.5 more.

A book presentation is due, I’ll be announcing it everywhere as soon as it’s scheduled.

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About SPARKS

Author, Zuleyka Robles, myself, two illustrators (Pamela and Maricarmen) and Lian, at Tintero 2015. Look at that majestic mergoat.

My eyeballs are burning and, as I told my friend Zuleyka, the author of Sparks, “I’m kind of manic” because I’ve been working on her book for so long and it is ALMOST DONE. Almost. But before I sleep, I want to share my excitement with everyone.

This means you can get your hands on it pretty soon (July? Hopefully.) and it will be absolutely worth it.

Subverse is on facebook now, where I’ll be posting news, as well as on instagram (subversepub), please like or follow if curious.

Sparks consists of microstories (rejoice, commitment-phobic and/or lazy readers) that, in spite of being only a few sentences long, are concise and stab you right in the feels.

Our unexpected bonus was the willingness of our artist friends to collaborate with illustrations for many of the stories – as well as their enthusiasm. So this book will have tons of illustrations in a variety of styles that represent how the artist interpreted the stories. It even inspires me, so I might end up illustrating one or two.

I don’t want to share any of her stories because that will spoil the surprise. Some of the illustrations have already been shared, but there is so much more.

What I don’t mind sharing, however, is a fragment of the foreword I wrote. I’m really hoping to make you curious and want to read Sparks (as well as the rest of this introduction).

Do you remember the last time you lit sparklers? Think about it for a moment. If your memory is a recent one, you were probably in the company of other adults, laughing, cheering and having fun. Maybe you were even inebriated. If your memory is from childhood, you may remember getting accidentally burned by the crackling sparks, or having touched the glowing ember (against your better judgment). Then, lighting your sparklers with respect or apprehension, holding it a safe distance away from your body. The next day or after that special event, you may have had to dispose of the ugly, black wires making a mess on the floor, all with a hint of melancholy, now that the party is over and routine resumes.

Zuleyka’s stories exploit the moments we overlook. While we may reminisce about parties, the fun stories we prefer to tell, the sparks in this book reveal the most private events: the actions and interactions (the initial sparks) that light up fires of passion. The author leaves the fires and explosions to the reader’s imagination, but strategically so, that we may imagine an outcome according to our own values, experiences and individual traumas. Some are fires that melt away the biting cold, others, fires of shame, anger and despair that scorch the flesh and nerves. The most persistent dilemma throughout Sparks is that of love, but from different points of view: parent, small child, adult child, lover, ex-lover, spouse, friend, stranger, enemy, self. Some stories are about the strike of the match, some, about the burning. Some are about picking up the trash the day after the party.
Every story offers insight into hidden parts within our selves, even the most seemingly fantastical or unlikely. When have you not been so affected that you felt as if trapped in fiction? Overwhelmed to hyperbolic proportions, that you knew yourself to have become a beast, or have your soul float out of your body? On the other hand, there is the impossibly real: monsters in the mirror, self-injury, homicidal impulses towards those we love the most. In Sparks is a mirror: we are all neurotic. We have all had a few seconds of psychosis, of paranoid schizophrenia that, with a small change of events, revert us to mental and emotional “stability.” (…)

Just look at that table full of communion, friendship and beauty.

Just look at that table full of communion, friendship and beauty.

We had lots of fun at Tintero (back in March – establishing some continuity from my last post).

We could barely fit all of our stuff on the table, but mission accomplished. We took some emails from visitors interested in Sparks, gave them free stuff like pins, stickers and bookmarks (which seemed to scare most people, as in “why are you giving me things?”)… so if by chance you were one of those folks, expect some goodness coming your way soon.

… and there was subVERSE

subvThe infamous Mergoat has been making rounds since WELIF came out stamped as a subVERSE publication, hospital but no questions were asked and nothing was revealed. Yes, this is my doing. All of it, including the logo design, though it was vastly improved by graphic designer Yellowfiv3 (Daniel Hornbek), without whom this goat would look like a chunky, fluffy little nerd (yes, I mean my original drawing). The website and facebook page  have been around for a while as well, but only recently have I started plugging it, for two reasons:

1 – Ciencia Fricción. A friend of mine (let’s call him Joss Erdbrards) suggested myself and Elijah Snow team up and publish a Science Fiction anthology featuring only Puerto Rican authors. Of course, we didn’t even think about it. subVERSE was my still my little secret, with a pending project left in perpetual hiatus because of my overwhelming amount of work (as in employment), but I obviously took it. subVERSE took it. Hence, Ciencia Fricción will be coming out much later this year as an index of our coolest authors around.

2 – Sparks. IMG_1968.JPGSparks has been a project pending for a little over a year now. THE aforementioned. My friend, Zuleyka Robles-Avilés has written a beautiful collection of micro-stories that I am honored to put together in the form of a book. She came to me with the idea of combining it with illustrations by artist friends. (Ok, we’re all friends, but this buddy system has been extremely productive…) I didn’t have to think about that either. We’ve been adding illustrations by volunteer artists who keep on surprising us with their interpretations. We’re estimating this book to be published around Summer of this year. I’m not revealing names of artists – YET – because the list is rather long, but you will hear all about it soon. Some you may already know (everyone is in this book! Well, not everyone, but the artist nearest and dearest to myself and Zuleyka).

As soon as March!

Festival Tintero  We will be at Festival Tintero with all the artists who make it. Our artists will be exhibiting their artwork and selling their goodies. We will also have proof copies of Sparks that you can flip through and special guest authors and artists that are subVERSE allies and family.

I am excited about all this and spending sleepless nights plotting, scheming, stitching, sketching and work, work, working.

The only downside is I’ve had to pause the plans I had for my own projects and publications, but only for the moment.

This is going to be delicious!

About that day I presented Daniel’s book…

In March I was invited by my friends, Daniel Pommers and Miguel Pruné (associated with their individual books, collaborations, nd tons of other publications) also known as Gato Malo Editores, to present Daniel’s book of poetry, Que Así Sea (which you can google to read lots more about it, or check it out locally at bookstores – or HERE).

This picture is just for fun:

This is the first time I present a book (surely not the last), and my experience was both intimate and alienating. Mostly alienating at first… repeatedly I asked Daniel, “Me? Are you sure…?” because our styles and backgrounds are somewhat different. Then the doubts, “what if I’m getting this all wrong…?” – which is fine, when you don’t personally know the author, or if the author is dead in a literal sense. But then, inclusive… reconstruction of a person and his literary work through deconstruction.

I read this is front of a crowd of mostly his friends and family, whose expressions were quite difficult to read. But he smiled the entire time, so I suppose my analysis wasn’t too off.

Considering this will otherwise be lost forever in a sea of digital documents, I’m sharing a shortened version of it here… and perhaps, to awaken some curiosity in you and motivate you to go look for it and read it!

It’s in Spanish, by the way. I suppose you’ll notice that… (Also: No accents on account of not understanding shortcuts on Windows8. I suppose you’ll notice that, but I do know my rules, please don’t be mistaken.)

You can read more about the event on this link.

Links related to the boys:

Photo by Abram Fuentes. I missed the joke.

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Featured on Naelle Devannah’s blog!

Naelle Devannah is a long time friend whom I met about a decade ago on deviantART. (Well, here she found me.)

She an all-around loveable person, anyone can confirm it. But we became friends immediately because of our mutual admiration. This is how I first started getting to know her, her visual art. I felt a kinship with her because of our similar circumstances (isolated goth girls from “the country,” creatures of the web) and our love for the aesthetic contrast of darkness and bold, bold color. (A tropical symptom, I suppose).

Visit her site, there’s lots to love that will keep your eyes busy for days.

I asked for her feedback on Stars Like Fish (which is printed on the back of the book) because I knew she would understand. Our imaginations are neighboring lands.

We plug each other often, but yet, I was beyond flattered to have a space in her blog (which is quote popular!)

This is part of her series “Getting to Know…” – where she asks personalized questions to artists of all kinds, giving an in-depth look into their intentions, motivations and personality.

READ IT HERE!

Photo by Naelle Devannah.

She also took some really fabulous photos of the insides of my books.

Here’s an excerpt:

 

You work with a combination of painterly words, photography and illustration. What’s your perception of the term visual art? What can you foresee in future creative generations?

Maybe my “painterly words” are my frustration… I know my writing is very visual. When I discovered photo editing, I got the same satisfaction as I did describing scenes. Illustration, you flatter me so, but yes, I like to doodle.
My perception of visual art is something arcane and academic that I am only vaguely familiar with and learn about through people like you and observing what they do… perhaps it shouldn’t be, but having spent so many years in academia can make you a little insecure before talking about something without a theoretical background. However, and this is a total contradiction, visual art is, at the same time, something so accessible to absolutely anyone with properly functioning eyes… we can interpret images as signs, in a manner that they should say something, or ask us something, but then again, we can also just enjoy something beautiful or ugly for what it is. So I guess I shift from one starting point to the other, depending on what’s comfortable at the moment. You can either have a long conversation about a piece of art, or write a long paper about it, or just like it. And I guess the same goes for the creation of visual art… you might transmit, transgress, transcend, or just make something.