Monday, July 23, 2012

It happened again.

Panel from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
What do I say?

Some execrably pathetic excuse for a human being walked into a suburban movie theater with a small arsenal and opened fire on a group of people whose only crime was buying a Batman ticket. What do I say?

This problem was supposed to be solved by now, you know that? It’s like those flying cars we were all promised 50 years ago. In the future, we’ll all have flying cars! There are even songs about how baby boomers are still waiting for their flying cars. Well, for my generation, it was mass shootings. We were supposed to be done with those by now.

I still remember sitting on a bus on a middle-school trip and reading about a now-forgotten rampage in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Someone had smuggled a newspaper onto the bus, and all the girls were giggling over pictures of Leonardo diCaprio in the Oscars section. The front page was abandoned on the floor, and I picked it up and read about a couple of teenage boys pulling a fire alarm and picking off their classmates as they ran for safety.

I was a freshman in high school when the Columbine shootings went down. I remember reading over a classmate’s shoulder as she wrote a letter to a friend, saying she was “hearing all about the ‘tragedy’ in Colorado,” and I remember thinking, no, that doesn’t need quotation marks. It’s not a so-called tragedy. It’s a tragedy, full stop.

And the grownups always told us, reassuringly, that in the future we wouldn’t have these problems. All we had to do was put a stop to bullying (ha!), or get these kids on medication (pfft!), or pass stricter gun laws (snrk!). In the future, there will be no mass shootings.

Well, it’s the future. I’m an adult now, more or less. And what is this I wake up to, one fine Friday morning? What do I have to explain to a room full of ten-year-olds when I go to work?

I can tell you one thing I didn’t say. Not once on Friday did I utter the phrase “in the future”. Because this will happen again, and I know it. Congress isn’t passing any gun laws in an election year, and probably not after that, either. More idiots will get their hands on more guns and go to more public places and kill more people. Some of them will be full-on deranged; some of them will just be depressed, or enraged, or sick of the world. Some of them will be trying to get famous, because let’s face it, that’s one way to do it.

I’ve heard a few people say already that the solution is just to take the guns away. Gun control? Don’t make me laugh. Even if we do manage to greatly restrict the sale and ownership of guns, the most that will do is reduce the body count slightly. Anybody remember the headlines from Europe and Asia about “stabbing sprees” and a burgeoning “knife culture”? Unless the future is a place where all of our food comes pre-cut, determined monsters will always have weapons, no farther away than the kitchen drawer. And even if we ban knives, we’ll probably hear about biting sprees. We’re just that kind of species.

No, the more I hear about Aurora—no matter how much I don’t want to hear about yet another public massacre—the more I think about something a very wise man once wrote:

“… sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That's what sin is.”
“It's a lot more complicated than that—”
“No. It ain't. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts.”
“Oh, I'm sure there are worse crimes—”
“But they starts with thinking about people as things...”

That exchange is from Terry Pratchett’s novel Carpe Jugulem, a hilarious little book about vampires and witches and pictsies and a truly ridiculous amount of alcohol. Pratchett’s grammatically challenged speaker is a mountain witch named Granny Weatherwax. Seek out his books about her if you can—I highly recommend them, like I recommend all his work—but watch out for landmines like that one. Pratchett’s a satirist, and satirists wait until you’re laughing and then stab you with a thought.

People as things, that’s where it starts.

I don’t know what motive, if any, the Aurora shooter might have had. It’s possible that none of us will ever know. But I remember an interview with a military sniper I saw once in a documentary, and I remember the man saying that the first thing you notice about a living human target when you look at it through a gunsight is that “the target has eyes, and the eyes move.” It’s a jarring realization, I’m told—that the creature whose life you’re about to end has such human features. And I think about a young man in a gas mask, in a dark theater. You can’t see eyes very well that way. Not enough to see them move.

People as things.

Kids running from a distant school, onto a killing field. People as things. Students huddled under tables in a library, their faces obscured. People as things. Shadowy faces in a movie theater, their features blurred by flickering light from the screen. People as things.

There are so many causes, so many complex explanations, so many justifications and ramifications and otherications that you quickly lose track of them all. But at some point, I’m beginning to suspect, it always comes down to two people, one of them holding a gun and seeing a thing through the sights.

I hear my students talk trash about people who are different from them—people of other races, other creeds and countries, the opposite sex. They laugh about “blowing away” the latest boogeyman on the news sites. And I know it’s just talk, just kidding around. They’ll grow up and realize how problematic those solutions are. They’ll realize that Dr. Seuss was right all along—a person’s a person, no matter how small (or how strange). A person is not a thing.

In the future, we won’t have mass shootings.

People as things.

The future is something we build. We make it ourselves. What kind of future would we make, I wonder, if we taught our children never to think of people as things? If we reminded one another that a person’s a person, no matter how small? If we looked one another in the eye, and saw the eyes move?

The deranged we will always have with us. We will always have weapons, even if they’re only our teeth. This won’t stop the real psychopaths, or the tragic accidents. But could we stop some of the horror this way?

In the future, people will never be things.

It’s a start.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Comic-Con, Ghost Dance, and good news / bad news

Please don’t kill me. I’ve been working on it, honest.

Well, no, actually, I haven’t been working on “Ghost Dance.” I’ve been working on Volume 2, which is more important but less urgent for reasons I’ll explain.

Good news first—“Ghost Dance” will hit the web by Saturday, July 14, during Comic-Con. (I’m going on Sunday this year.) You guys will finally get to meet the Black  Mask and Eagle Eye and thrill to one of their stranger adventures just after the end of World War II. Can I get an excited squee, please?

Less-good news—Volume 2 is running behind schedule, and will be delayed until September. Sorry, guys. It’s turning out a bit more complex than I expected, and life is interfering. More bloggage on that later.

Good news again—I have bookmarks! Two kinds! Here is the artwork for both of them—one featuring Rae and one featuring Trevor. And heeeeeeeere is the text that goes on the back of them, to whet your appetite for Volume 2:

On the Rae bookmark:

There are capes—heroes with powers. There are masks—wannabes with a few tricks. Everyone knows who the real heroes are.

Until now.

Rae Masterson, a.k.a. Merlin, doesn’t let her lack of powers stop her from fighting the good fight. At 17, she’s already saved her city, built a superhero team, and fallen in love with her crimefighting partner, Peregrine. But everyone knows masks live fast, die young, and leave anonymous corpses. Rae’s time is running out.

When Peregrine’s bloody past comes back to haunt him and a long-dead hero suddenly returns to life, Rae must choose between love and survival. To save the world, she must confront her own death. To save Peregrine, she must make a deal with the devil. Can she do it?

And if she does, who will save her?

On the Trevor bookmark:

There are capes—heroes with powers. There are masks—wannabes with a few tricks. Everyone knows who the real heroes are.

Until now.

Trevor Gray, a.k.a. Peregrine, was born to be a hero. Raised as a sidekick, he took up the colors of his missing mentor and now fights on in his name. At 17, he’s built a team of young heroes and fallen in love with his masked partner, Merlin. But death is never far from any mask, and now it’s paid Trevor a visit.

When a last message from his teacher upends his life and a long-lost hero returns from the dead, Trevor must choose between duty and love. To save the world, he must confront his demons. To save Merlin, he must break her heart. Can he do it?

And if he does, who will save him?

Are you excited? I am!

Further good news—I have the most adorable Pocket Coyote buttons known to man. Here’s a photo:

And finally, less-good news—I am not totally sure there’s going to be a blog entry next Monday, because my schedule for next week is absolutely psychotic. I will probably be spending a lot of time on the road for work-related stuff—teaching classes in another city, having meetings, etc. If I can blog from God-knows-where, I will. If I can’t, I won’t. It might not be on Monday, either, because I expect to be completely exhausted from Comic-Con. I will try to get con photos up on this blog and on Pocket Coyote sometime next week for everyone to enjoy, but I won’t be seeing much of my house and you may hear zombie-like groans coming from the depths of the internet. Bear with me, guys.

And while you’re at it, be sure to keep submitting names for our contest to name the coyote!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Name that pup!

I’m feeling lazy. Let’s have a contest!

You guys might remember Rae has a bit of a thing about coyotes—if by “thing” I can mean “massive childhood trauma.” Rae lost her childhood friend, Sam, when her abusive family put her in a car and drove off with her, and Rae was unable to stop the car because she ran into a menacing coyote in the woods that blocked her from cutting off the car’s path. Rae has been creeped out by coyotes ever since, and really doesn’t like them. Late in the first volume of Masks, however, she had to face her fear in the form of her own memories—a spectral coyote that forced her to answer a question in order to rescue Trevor.

Now, I’m not dropping too many spoilers here, but the adorable little coyote at the top of this blog entry will play a small but important role in Volume 2, helping Rae deal with some of that trauma (and providing much-needed cuteness). But I’m having a devil of a time naming him! So whoever can come up with the right name—the one that clicks in my brain and helps me figure him out—will win a signed copy of Masks Volume 1, in either paper or in finished-soon-I-promise ebook form. (Yes, I can sign an ebook. Win the contest and find out how.) The winner will also receive a limited-edition (because I don’t have them made very often) Masks button or two, including the design above—and a handmade Pocket Coyote of your very own, to be named whatever you like. You’ll also be mentioned, by name, in the acknowledgments of Volume 2.

Now, here’s how to enter! Simply leave your suggested coyote pup name in a comment on this blog entry. You may enter as many times as you like, but each name counts as only one entry; if ten people enter the name “Spot” and I choose that name, the first one to suggest it gets the prize. Except I’ve just suggested “Spot,” so that one’s taken now.

Ground rules (also known as “things I won’t even consider, so don’t bother suggesting”):

1. No naughty words. This is a PG-13 site, so the pup won’t be named anything you can’t say twice in a PG-13 movie. Naughty-word suggestions will not make it past the comment moderator to be entered in the contest, so you’d basically be wasting your time.

2. No Wile E. Coyote references. So no Wiley, no Whylee, none of that. In the unlikely event Masks gets famous enough to attract the attention of lawyers, I don’t need Warner Bros. suing me for copyright infringement.

3. No Cervantes jokes (unless they’re really unusually clever). There’s already been a Don Coyote cartoon, so this pup will not be named Don or Dawn or anything of the kind.

4. The pup cannot be named Kirby, or any variation thereof. Sorry, but Amadeus Cho’s coyote pup was named Kerberos, shortened to Kirby, and because I enjoyed the adventures of Kirby and Amadeus, I consider the name permanently taken.

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! I can tell you so far that the coyote is male, and basically orphaned as a pup; Rae will name him, somewhat unwillingly; he will really like eating black licorice; and he will, of course, be more than he appears, including just a bit magical (in the manner of the Masked Rider … whatever manner that is). He’ll also be a bit bitey when he first shows up, with a habit of gnawing on people’s fingers, as young canines tend to do.

I will announce the winner … ehh, pretty much when I’ve got one. But the sooner you suggest your name, the sooner you can win all that lovely loot!