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Fantasy and the Immigrant Experience

My main POV character in my Nanowrimo project is Romanian-American, with parents that immigrated to America in the late 1970s. I don't know exactly why I latched onto the idea of Roxie (for that is her name, short for an Americanized version of Ruxana) being from Romania. She's also a magic worker living in 21st century Denver, which makes her white but an ethnic/cultural minority and my story an Urban fantasy book.

 I have a lot of problems with the cultural and ethnic diversity in Urban Fantasy fiction, but Real Published Authors have blogged more eloquently than than I could. I'm not necessarily comfortable writing from a non-white perspective, since I'm a lily-white kid from the suburbs with German and Scottish ancestry and I feel damn hypocritical writing from a non-white perspective. But, one thing I have noticed is that even if you have a white person as a protagonist, he or she is invarioubly of Western European Descent. Or at least have Western European names.

Need a white main character with an "exotic" heritage? Make him Scottish or Irish. I can name half a dozen of these, but I won't. Occasionally you get someone like Harry Dresden, who has German last name that isn't obviously German. If you want to really be brave, you may have an Italian-American supporting cast member, like Michael Cellucci in Tanya Huff's vampire books or Lisa Donatelli from Gael Baudino's Gossomer Axe.  There are a few urban fantasy short stories floating around with either main or supporting cast members of Jewish decent, but I've yet to encounter a full length novel with at least at ethnic Jewish protagonist (if its out there, I'd love to read it.) Even if they have very ethnic last name, like Matthew Szczegielniak of the Proethean Age books by Elizabeth Bear, no one mentions the culture that spawned the name.

And it BUGS me. There's a whole realm of a) characters and ethnicities from Europe that never get mentioned and b) cultural heritage traditions like special holiday food and whatnot that never get mentioned, even as world-building or character-establishing elements. Even in the most prominate WASP American families, you can usually find at least one traditional thing that managed to make it over from the "Old Country," wherever that is. So part of creating the character of Roxie and making her Romanian stemmed from that. She has an icon of a very well known Romanian Orthodox saint in her apartment, even though she is largely agnostic. She speaks fluent Romanian. At some point in time she will probably mention that she occasionally craves Zama, a chicken-and-green-bean soup that's a traditional Romanian dish.

Roxie's parents and family figure highly in her early development, as it does with everyone. And here's where it gets interesting. Her parents fled from Communist Romania sometime in the mid-70s, using the fact that her Grandmother was ethnically Jewish and took advantage of the "Gentleman's Agreement" between Romania and Israel that allowed Jewish families to emigrate to Israel -- for a price.  Essentially Romania sold Jews to Israel, since Israel had to pay Romanian officials to for Jewish Romanian citizens to get their travel certificates.They stopped practicing their Romanian Orthodox faith and pretended to be Jewish for several years to get their travel certificates. From Israel they came to America. The details aren't clear for Roxie on what was involved, since she was born an American citizen and neither of her parents ever talk about what went down before or during their emigration process.

But her status as a second-generation immigrant has a powerful hold for Roxie. She was raised by immigrant parents who really did think that America was the Land of the Free. She has been told over and over again about the opportunities for her in America, which is why she is pushed into a certain career path and disowned when she fails at it. She has no extended family in America, and until she was in elementary school she couldn't even talk to her cousins back home. She is drawn to people with large families, which kicks off a close friendship to two other characters. And because loyalty to what little family she has is hammered into her at an early age, there isn't anything she wouldn't do to protect them -- even if she is very estranged from all but her sister. Her father and mother grew up in devestating poverty, so her obsession with money and her mercenary attitude towards certain shady dealings stem from that. And of course, much of her attitude problem and mistrust of authority figures stem from problems that every immigrant kid has to deal with: the disenchantment with her parents idealized version of America, persecution by her peers for having a funny name and having foreign parents, and everything else a second-generation American immigrant has to deal with.

I don't think I'm going to finish the book by the end of Nanowrimo, but I am certainly going to FINISH the book. I think Roxie's a damned interesting character and fills a very specific void in Urban Fantasy. I'm not worried that I can do this well -- the fact that I can do it all, no matter what the skill level, is important to me. Because I can always go back and rewrite the damned thing if I ever want to seriously submit it for publication. It touches on the immigrant experience as not just an interesting facet to a character, but something that deeply shapes her perceptions of the world and motivations. And I think that's a damned important story to write.


Nanowrimo Eve

Well, it's the day before Nanowrimo kicks off, which has me thinking about the story that I've been intending to write this year. So I'm going to have to write a little bit about my Nano project, because I think the story I originally wanted to write is a Very Flawed concept. And writing down my thought process behind these changes will help me figure out where I'm going with this. 

I think I'm going to have to abandon some of my preconcieved notions about the story I'm going to write. Originally, I thought I was going to write about a very morally ambiguous character whose mental disorder actually prevented her from using the part of the brain that determines right from wrong. I'm not so sure this would work anymore, because a basic premise in all stories is fighting against the Big Bad or Monster of the Week. There are very few people out there that can successfully pull off moral ambiguity in their characters, and as much as I would love to write from that perspective -- I am just not wired to think that way. It makes my brain actually hurt to think like that. So, I may have to take my character in the opposite direction -- she tends to be a well-intentioned extremist, but she has to be reigned back by a more pragmatic character. 

Which also changes the role of her best friend, who may or may not become the other viewpoint character. Her best friend is still male, but he is somewhat less idealistic. Not cynical, but he has a much more pragmatic approach. And I pretty much realized that I'm basing this character on a very good friend, who has bailed me out of severe emotional distress, computer-related dillemmas, and other various troubles I get into. Although my main character may not be drawn from life, this guy will be. Unless he surprises me.

The setting definitely remains urban fantasy. I read a lot of high fantasy, and I'm very picky about my urban fantasy because a lot of it is horribly, horribly cliched. While fantasy in general tends to be cliched and overdone, some high fantasy authors sort of go out of their way to turn classic tropes on their ear or the very least be entertaining and consistant. Unfortunately, urban fantasy has some pretty concrete cliches that are almost never broken. For instance, 8 times out of 10 it is told in the first person. 10 out of 10 times the character is a bonafied smartaass, with varying degrees of Anti-Hero or Byronic Hero Syndrome. If female, they are as ungirlie as possible, because We Have to Buck Gender Stereotyping Here. They're almost always some kind of private investigator or cop, and if they aren't there's some kind of Sekrit Society that functions in the same role. There is at least one big skeptical character, and one True Believer. And -- this is the important one -- they are almost always based in worlds where paranormal creatures like vampires, fairies, demons, and such are real. I have read exactly one story where magic was one hundred percent human in origin, without any mention of Mystical Creatures. And that, right there, pisses me off. Because as one of my favorite writers said, "If there was really a giant unknown hominid roaming the Pacific Northwest someone would have hit it with a car or sold it weed by now." Although she was talking about Bigfoot sightings, the same principal applies to vampires, werewolves or the Fae. 

I might still have the Byronic or Anti-Hero syndrome. I may make her a smartass. I may make her a little more girlie than I originally intended, because even though I am deeply unfeminine, I still enjoy "girlie" things like makeup and pretty party dresses. Actually, I really love wearing dresses and skirts. And I may not write this in the first person, but if I do, I'm going to try very hard to have her have a distinct mental voice. So many of these viewpoint characters are so very, very much the same.

So the only hard and fast thing I've figured out about this world is that there are no Mystical Creatures. Her best friend is Important for a number of reasons. I still think I really ought to link magic with mental disorders somehow, I just... I have to figure out how. And of course, I've figured out a good chunk of this characters family back story. I'm a little taken aback by how many of my ideas just aren't going to work, but maybe it's for the better. In all reality I'll probably flail around shrieking  "What the fuck am I writing about! I cannot work under these conditions! ARGH!" But If I'm going to succeed, it may be brilliant and my characters may pleasantly surprise me. Great speculative fiction has been written with less in mind on the onset, I'm sure. 

Tomorrow, we'll see what happens. 


No post today

No post today, except this little political vid. Busy with family/weekend stuff, then going to celebrate Halloween a bit.

Why You Don't Argue About Punk With Me

I know, I promised that I would post about Mercedes Lackey and why I like her so much even though my tastes in fantasy have matured and she is a very flawed writer. However, I got into an argument about punk rock on Facebook. Anyone who knows me well or reads this journal can discern that I like punk rock. A lot. Arguing with me from a stance based on misinformation about punk will get you nowhere, because I have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the genre as well as being a fan for almost half my life. I will bury you in information. This argument got me thinking about some of the most common misconceptions about punk, though, and I decided to use this forum to clear things up a little bit. So we'll talk about some of the things I've heard people say about punk:

1) Punk rock started in Britain.

Anyone who says this has just earned themselves an eyeroll and exasperated sigh. Possibly a sarcastic comment. Punk has its roots in garage rock, which originated in the United States and Canada in the early 1960s and the louder, faster revival of the genre in the early 70s. Through this musical style, some very specific bands like the Kingsmen and Question Mark and the Mysterians emerged -- in fact, the first use of the term punk rock was used by Dave Marsh in 1971 to describe Question Mark and the Mysterians. Out of this genre, a heavier sound based on a two or three chord structure that placed a lot of emphasis on raw, aggressive lyrics and intentionally crude musicianship heralded the precursor to true punk. Some proto-punk bands that would be influential were MC5, the Stooges and the New York Dolls. Please note that all of these bands were based in the United States.

In June of 1974, Patti Smith, a New York spoken word performer and musician, would release what is widely considered to be the first punk record with her single "Hey Joe/Piss Factory." Meanwhile, four musicians adopted the same stage surname and began playing the harder-louder-faster style that would come to epitomize punk. The Ramones played at the now famous CBGB club in August of 1974, became regular performers there and dropped their first record in May of 1976. In May 1975, Richard Hell left protopunk band Television and Johnny Thunder left the New York Dolls, forming the Heartbreakers a mere week later and raising the profile of the early punk scene. Although punk spread to other areas in the U.S., such as the Suicide Commandos in Minneapolis and Death in Cleveland, the primary stage of punk was centered in New York and CBGB.

It was was seeing a Ramones gig and fascination with the Richard Hell's studded clothes and spikey hair that inspired Malcolm McLaren, a British band manager and clothing store owner who lived briefly in NYC. When he returned to London in mid-1975, started managing a band called The Strand, whose members consisted of Paul Cook, Glen Matlock, and Steve Jones. He urged them to make several changes. First, he asked, drop the lead singer. Second, hire John Lyndon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten, to sing. Third, change the name. Fourth, use the clothing from my shop to send the world a message. Viola! The Sex Pistols were born. They played their first gig in 1975 and dropped the now-famous single, "Anarchy in the U.K." in November of 1976. This was AFTER the punk scene was already going strong in New York.

Granted, punk in Britain didn't get started until the Sex Pistols started playing in London. Souxsie and the Banshees formed in 1976, as did the Clash and Billy Idol's band Generation X. The Buzzcocks, X-Rey Spex and the Slits soon followed suit. This is also when punk became very political, as McClaren was heavily interested in French arnarchist and Marxist groups during the 1950s and introduced their philosphies to Rotten. But the fact remains the same that punk's earliest roots and the first true punk groups were unequivocably American.

2) Real punk died at the end of 1970s.

I've heard many people say this, most notably in the "Punk died when the Pistols broke up" variation. Saying this won't earn you an eyeroll, it will earn that person a smackdown. If they're lucky, it will be verbal. I have, however, physically whupped someone upside the head for saying this, and I probably will again. Punk didn't die when the Pistols broke up, it got better.

The first reason is because a lot of really influential bands that we associate with punk today didn't come onto the scene, or matured musically, until the 1980s. The first example is Black Flag, which formed in the late 70s but didn't drop their first record, Damaged, until 1980. They went on to become one of the biggest names in punk music, peaking during the 1984-1985 period when they released very diverse albums and played over 170 gigs in one year. Another example is London punks the Clash, whose third and best-beloved album London Calling hit U.S. stores in 1980. Other bands that formed or reached their biggest influence during the 1980s are: Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Subhumans, the Exploited, The Germs, Social Distortion, The Misfits (who actually became more influential after their 1983 breakup), Husker Du, G.B.H., Fugazi, Fear, X, The Exploited, The Vandals, The Descendants, The Dead Milkmen, Dag Nasty, Circle Jerks, Bad Religion, Agent Orange, The Adicts, the Cockney Rejects, The Pogues, and The Violent Femmes. These bands are firmly 80s punk bands and indelibly left their mark in music history.

The second reason is because punk became such a musically diverse genre during this time period. The hardcore movement, fathered by Black Flag and Dead Kennedys, had a wide influence over punk. Over the pond in Britain, Oi bands like the Exploited gained a major foothold. Anarcho-punks like Conflict and Subhumans rose to prominance during this era, eventually spinning off to d-beat and crust punk. Skate punk took early Ramones influences to heart, combining hardcore edge with sarcastic lyrics and melodic songwriting. The Cramps jump-started the psychobilly subgenre, while bands like Social Distortion and the Meateaters practically invented cowpunk. Celt-punk was started by the Pogues, and the Violent Femmes became the face of the folk punk subgenre in the U.S. Classic punk bands from the 70s like the Clash and the Ramones were also still going strong. That's nine different subgenres that were all going strong during the 1980s, though there were subgenres that were more prominent than others.

Punk during this era was hugely influential on later musical movements like alternative rock and indie rock. Bands like Nirvana, the Pixies, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, and Sonic Youth have all cited several 80s punk bands as heavily influential to their music. Anarcho-punk and hardcore punk heavily influenced heavy metal subgenres like thrash and grindcore. Punk, particular skate punk, was heavily influential to the third wave of punk in the 90s and 2000s. Subgenres that got started during this time period were riotgrrrl and queercore, pop punk, and emocore bands. It's still an evolving genre over 35 years since Patti Smith dropped that crucial single, even if the commercialization and higher visibility of punk has become highly controversial.

3) Punks are always left-wing liberals with anarchist tendancies, white, dress a certain way and promote violence.

I love stereotypes like the this, because they are so easy to refute!

First off, there are several punk rockers that are associated with both the Republican Party and Libertarian Party in the U.S., notably Johnny Ramone and Michaele Graves of the Misfits. Secondly, the Bad Brains was exclusively composed of African American members and both the Germs and Das Nasty had African American or mixed-race members. Chicano punk are an entire movement in the Latino subculture. And even if the subculture is predominantly Caucasion, the subculture also adopts a primarily anti-racist attitude (although there are some exceptions due to the neo-nazi movement, but they are a minority).

Thirdly, while many punks do adopt a certain fashion style, there's a whole anti-fashion subset that feel that punk should be defined by music and ideology rather than clothing. I tend to dress pretty conservatively myself, since my everyday wear consists of jeans or nice slacks, a nice blouse or plain teeshirt, and "sensible" shoes. Just because someone doesn't wear a bunch of ripped up clothing or wear a mohawk, it doesn't mean they aren't part of the punk culture.

Lastly, while punk culture is generally defined by a history of violence, not everyone in punk culture think violence is the answer. For instance, Crass were firmly anarcho-pacifists, adhering to the philosophy that violence is authoritarian and coercive, and so its use does contradict anarchist principles. There was a whole peace punk thing in the Bay Area during the height of the hardcore movement that believed direct action was more about nonviolent means of social change. A lot of punk rockers still follow these philosophies in their day to day activities. It's not a subculture that promotes violence for violence's sake by any stretch of the imagination.

There's a lot more misconceptions and ignorance about punk floating around out there, but I think we've covered my three major hot button statements. My personal philisophies tend toward an anti-fashion aesthetic, a peace-punk inspired philosophy and and a listening habit that mostly encompasses skate punk, third-wave punk, and classic punk with a generous sprinkling of hardcore. Many people don't think I'm a "real" punk and that I don't know squat about the genre. Obviously, these jerks are WRONG. 


I tried posting an entry twice on this thing. It was gorgeous. Livejournal ate it. Twice. I'll retype the whole thing tomorrow, I guess, because it's 1:30 in the morning here and I've got a headache from staring at the computer all evening. 

Mental Health Issues

 A few weeks ago I noticed that about 90% of the ideas I've been having lately for fiction, whether sci-fi, fantasy or just various projects, seemed to include some character that suffers from a mental health issue. For instance, the last three story ideas have involved a high-fantasy story featuring mage who suffers from chronic night terrors and paranoia, a deconstruction of the superhero genre starring a former hero who's got PTSD and agoraphobia, and urban fantasy story about a former corrupt law enforcement consultant in a world where magic exists but magic-use is also a side-effect of a degenerative mental disorder. 

Oh, I've got ideas for several stories that have no characters with specific mental disorders, or if they do crop up, it's not a thematically important element. On the other hand, those stories feature themes revolving around learned helplessness versus proactive living, the choice to not use innate talents for greatness and fame, and that ruthlessness does not necessarily lead to success. It would be really, really easy to slip in something about mental health into any one of these stories. And I'm not sure it wouldn't happen, because apparently writing about mental health issues is sort of a Thing I Do. 

It's probably a result of my own background that leads me to write these kinds of stories. I grew up in a family full of crazies and badly wired brains. My mother has major depressive disorder, my father probably had undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and certainly had substance abuse problems, and the whole family on both sides have textbook Attention Deficit Disorder. I have two learning disorders (ADD and Sensory Integration Dysfunction) and also suffer from one, possibly two, depression disorders. I was seeing shrinks and occupational therapists from the time I was in first grade and became fascinated with psychology in high school. To this day I regret not switching my major to psychology instead of only taking a couple of college courses in it, because even if I never used it professionally, it would have lead to a much better understanding of my own issues. 

So I write about mental health issues as a way to help out. Because I think we've got a lot of really bad atttitudes, as a society, towards those that are "sick in the head" or "crazy." We blame the person, instead of genetics or other factors that lead to mental health problems. It's their fault for being crazy, or at least it makes them an undesirable person to be around. When we (as a society) focus on mental health disorders at all, we focus on the disruptive symptom and not their causes, treatments or coping skills to deal with them. And we tend to focus on the biggest, flashiest, scariest or most "glamorous" of mental disorders. For instance, a lot of media attention is focused on sociopaths, psychopaths (which are not the same thing, thank you), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder. Occasionally there is a mention of PTSD, but it's generally treated as something you "suck up" and "get over." The only reasonable treatment of PTSD I've seen in the last ten years in popular media is on the medical drama "Grey's Anatomy," which treats it like an ongoing disorder that never goes away and actually changes the brain structure in subtle ways. 

When's the last time you heard of a character in a television show, movie or novel that had something like Sensory Integration Disorder? Or an anxiety disorder not brought on by traumatic events? Or someone who successfully learned to manage their schizophrenia or bipolar disorder? Or gee, when has there ever been a character with narcolepsy outside of a medical drama? Or any type of learning disorder that wasn't ADD/ADHD or dyslexia?

And the fact is that there is rarely any mention of treatment, or any stories about people who have successfully managed their mental disorders. It's always about the symptoms or failures of a treatment's ability to actually help, not about how to live with a mental disorder without it being Living in Crazy Town, All The Time.  And granted, these kinds of stories tend to be more interesting or dramatic, but it doesn't lend any depth to the character going through this kind of thing. And then, because our society are avid media consumers, we get a skewed idea of what it means to have a mental disorder -- which leads to all kinds of problems in the real world. 

So I wind up writing stories about characters that are crazy, because I am crazy. I write about these characters who get stigmatized for being crazy (and in one case, her mental disorder is manipulated to be made worse, and given a host of other mental problems), or actually have or get a handle on their problems. They recognize that they're going to have to deal with these issues the rest of their lives. Some recognize that they, in fact, can get better. And one recognizes, very briefly, that she is too far gone for treatment. These people are "victims" of their own brains. They understand that it's not, inherently, something that they did or could have prevented -- these are things that they were born with or just happened, and it doesn't mean that they are weak or tainted. At least one recognizes that pharmaceuticals aren't his or her best treatment option. They aren't passive victims to their craziness.

I just want to point out that the attitudes of these people are extremely rare to find in any kind of fiction, because here's the crux -- our society blames us for being crazy, so we are taught that being crazy is sort of our fault. Or that we deserve it, because we are Bad People in other ways. And while some mental disorders are preventable, most are a direct response to some kind of bad brain wiring.  I want to write fiction that empowers people to not accept that attitude. Because I am tired of being avoided when people learn about the chronic depression. I'm tired of people telling me that I can really learn how to control how my brain processes sensory information if I just try hard enough. And I'm tired of being told that ADD is a "made up" disorder. Maybe my stories will never, ever get read or published, but at least I know that I spoke up about it. 

Tomorrow I am going to write about Mercedes Lackey and why I still like her books. 

Favorite Fantasy Villains Pt. 3

 As I said in an early entry, most fantasy villains tend to be cliched. When choosing a third one, I had a lot of trouble picking out a really memorable one. I wracked my brain all day today and last night, I beseeched my friends for suggestions, I even googled "Favorite Fantasy Villains" for inspiration. And then I realized that not all villains, major or minor, need to have a lot of page-time to be interesting. There's a lot of a clever writer can do through implication and foreshadowing to build up a bad guy before we even meet him, and a lot we can derive about the villain from pure context. So, my next villain is Sabra, who shows up in the fourth book of Jennifer Roberson's acclaimed Tiger and Del series. 

Spoilers Ahead!Collapse )


Favorite Fantasy Villians Pt. 2

Ok, so a few days late (we had a few setbacks in my personal life) I'm getting to part two of my series on my favorite villains in fantasy fiction. Last time we covered Delores Umbridge from the Harry Potter universe. Today I want to discuss Petyr Baelish, called "Littlefinger", from the door-stopper fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire from George R. R. Martin.

Spoilers AheadCollapse )


Villians in Fantasy Fiction Part 1

I read that villains should be the most interesting character that you create. Unfortunately, this is not always, or even often, the case.  In the types of fiction that I read, like science fiction, fantasy and mysteries, the villains tend to be rather boring. Most villains suffer from very little character development, predictable motive for their actions, and a flair for melodrama which is all out of proportion to their actual actions. They're cheap plot devices to move the action forward, instead of the antagonist that drives the conflict and action in any book. Granted, there are some exceptions. These tend to wind up the narrators or point-of-view characters, or the driving force behind a lot of politics and intrigue rather than attempts at straight-out conquest, murder or torture. Occasionally you get a really creepy villain in horror-fantasy stories, or but for the most part they're very, very dull.  I had to really think back about some really memorable villains. So today's entry is the beginning of a three part series explaining whom my favorites are. 

Spoilers AheadCollapse )




I promised myself I wouldn't post really personal things unrelated to writing, politics, music, books or fandom here. However, this morning I found out that a very close friend of mine was in a collision with a semi-truck (he drives a delivery truck for a windshield company for a living, graveyard shift) and is in the hospital with a broken leg and a punctured pelvis. He's been through five hours of surgery and his condition beyond that is unknown. I'm fretting. I moved out of state and four hours from where he lives, and I can't go SEE for myself that he's alive and stable. Some mutual friends of ours have been informed that they are to notify me of his condition and send my well-wishes along when they visit him at the hospital today. So, since I've nothing better to do, I'm going to write a little about Ed.

I met Ed through a freshman journalism class in high school, and we discovered that we knew some of the same people that I played D&D with on lunch break. Our initial acquaintanceship wasn't a close one and it wasn't until well into my junior year, after I has transferred schools, that I got to know him better. Our friends hung out at a coffee shop called the Crystal Pheonix during their Friday all-ages goth nights, which provided tasty coffee beverages and dancing to a DJ to local young people. It was during this time that we got reacquainted and become somewhat closer friends, although I rarely saw him outside of the Pheonix or parties. We parted ways when he went to separate colleges, but within two years he was back in town and rooming with two some good of mine. And we became very close friends. 

Physically Ed isn't most impressive of specimens. He's a couple of inches short of six feet in height and he's distinctly overweight. He has a goatee that can range from well-groomed to scruffy, a middling Caucasian complexion and blue eyes beneath wire-rimmed glasses. He started shaving his head when he realized that male pattern baldness was beginning to set in by his early 20s. If he has hair, it would be a mousy brown color, since that's the color of his eyebrows and facial hair. He has a labret piercing, but no obvious tattoos. He has a predisposition to wearing worn leather jackets and funky caps. Several friends have pointed out that he looks like a brunette, younger version of Jamie Hydeman from Mythbusters.  For some inexplicable reason, he isn't very pleased by the comparison.

It's not Ed's physical appearance that makes you sit up and take notice, it's his personality. Ed has one of the biggest, loudest personalities that I've ever encountered. He's prone to ranting from every topic covering the finer points of science fiction and fantasy fandom, European versus American values and culture (his mother is Spanish), the mental health industry, religion, education standards at both the college and primary levels, gender, dating, civil rights, government policies, history, the sciences, domestic issues like parenting or domestic abuse, sex, food and wine, pop culture and music. He has strong opinions, and he will proclaim them, loudly and in great detail. Many people find this obnoxious, but he also has a very strong sense of humor that creeps into his diatribes and generally keeps me in stitches. I have listened to him talk about a subject, and less than five minutes later my sides are sore from laughing and I am in grave danger of losing control of my bladder. He may be one of the more outspoken people I have ever encountered, but he is also one of the funniest. It should be noted here that the more alcoholic beverages he consumes, the louder and funnier he becomes.

He's also one of the kindest and most thoughtful men I have had the pleasure to know. There have been many instances where he has come to my rescue. There have been countless instances where he has pried me from self-imposed hermitage during a depressive period, usually by showing up at my doorstep and hauling my butt to the nearest bar.  When I had to put down a beloved pet and had spent the entire day crying hysterically, he surprised me with tickets to Coraline in 3-D during it's opening weekend. When he found out I lost my job last year, he took me to his favorite Mediteranean restaurant and sprang for the bill, despite the fact that he was broke himself.  When he found out I was moving, he downloaded my favorite childhood cartoon show onto a zip drive and installed it, and a better media player than I currently had, onto my computer. He's put up with my whining about boys, work, school, my health, my body issues, my daddy issues, drama with friends, and just generalized anxiety -- then gently pointed out that maybe I was overreacting and gave me some practical advice on how to handle the situation. And there is never an ulterior motive or a sense that he's doing me a favor. He feels this is just what friends DO for each other. He may not be a white knight in shining armor, but he's some kind of hero.

The thing about Ed is that he also has terrible, terrible luck. Granted, sometimes his bad luck is actually his own fault. Like when the belts on his car engine went out all at once because he hadn't gotten around to replacing them -- while he's speeding down the highway at seventy miles per hour. Sometimes they are bizarre accidents, like when the fuel tank of his diesel-powered work truck fell off and he was stuck on the side of the road for three hours. Sometimes it's a series of mundane-but-annoying things, like getting all of the really tough professors all in one semester and then discovering that the requirements for his teaching degree (yes, he's in Elementary Education major) has changed for the third time in as many years. We jokingly call it Ed's Anti-Kharma, because it just seems like really shitty things happen to him all the time. But this accident? This accident is nothing less than tragedy.

I hope Ed is able to survive this accident. He is, as I said, a dear friend whom I've known and treasured for nearly half my life. I couldn't imagine a world without Ed -- insane bad luck, hilarious and angry rants, the little acts of kindness.