Futurepast Summer 2022
With notes on heatwaves, sequels, side projects, and vaporwave
It’s now over the halfway mark of 2022 and into the depths of summer. Well, the kind of summers we have now, I suppose. Summers have always been both my favorite and most dreaded time of the year. I have fond memories of the long, dry brittle Texas summers as a kid. Afternoons spent lying on the carpet in my room with the windows open, my face pressed to the squishy fibers under an oscillating fan and listening to the cicadas hiss like snakes in the trees outside.
Back then, I would dedicate my summers to doing whatever creative thing little kid me was up to at the time, be it making comic books out of printer paper or writing (what I thought to be) books on the family computer. The heatwaves outside were dangerous even then, but I always felt my most energized, my most excited to make things.
Now, in my adult home of Florida, summer is a nightmare. It’s hurricane season, too, and every year we’re told we’re due for A Big One. Long, sticky days of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, nights that feel like 90 if you’re lucky. The air is heavy enough to cut with a machete when I step out of my apartment and into the not-at-all air-conditioned hallway. It rains every day, but it never cools off. Here, I spend my time indoors with closed curtains and our ancient air conditioner rattling and coughing day and night, hoping the apartment doesn’t get so hot that I can’t think.
So, why talk about summer if it’s so miserable?
Because, like child me with her face pressed to the carpet thinking about books, I’m using my time indoors to write.
Well, write, revise, plan, dissect, and start over.
2022 has just been that kind of a year so far, and the summer is no different.
Let’s talk about sequels
Black Diamond, the sequel to my last book Leather and Lace and the next entry in the Southern Gothic Series, is currently in…pieces. I make it sound more dramatic than it is, but that’s essentially what it is. By the time this appears in your inbox, I will have written three drafts of the book over the last year and some change. Now, after a great deal of deliberations about what needs to stay, what needs to go, and what the overall shape of this book will be, I’m working out the final version.
This Black Diamond will be a much tighter, more swaggering version of what came before. Here we will follow Dorian and Cash while they to enjoy the newfound romance they have stumbled into since we last saw them, even as chaos descends upon quiet city Devereux. Chaos, in this case, takes the form of a vampire/human cult in the middle of a recruitment spree that draws negative attention to their peaceful(?) dreams of human/monster cohabitation. Cash’s nosey family appears on his doorstep when their case becomes his case, and his overprotective mother finds out that the partner they’ve heard so much about is both Cash’s boyfriend and a vampire. Most perplexingly of all, a werebear responsible for a series of maulings causes a ruckus at the local rodeo, which Dorian and Cash are still trying to find while dodging in-laws and cultists.
Remember what I said last time about being stuck and the book not coming together? Well, the reason was that the book just wasn’t…fun? Panic-writing a book in a fit of existential despair to force yourself to feel something lends itself to a generally unfun book, both as a writer and as a reader. The thing about Leather and Lace, and the other Southern Gothic stories in general, is that they are fun. These characters? Their relationship? The trouble they get into? They way they complement each other? It’s fun to read. It’s fun to write. Or, rather, it’s supposed to be. I’ve been working on getting the book back to a place where it’s enjoyable to work on again.
And, finally, I feel like that will come through when you read it.
I don’t have a release date yet. A much dumber version of me had the inane idea of putting this book out by Christmas of this year, but she is a fool and should be disregarded. Let’s shoot for Summer 2023? Fall 2023? When I figure all that out, rest easy in the fact that I will never shut up about it.
Let’s talk about rediscovering the joy of writing
Because summers are my most productive time of the year, naturally, I took on a side project. I have some other novellas and things on the backburner (which I may talk about more in the future), but what I’m currently working on is a novella serial called A Coffin for Sparrows. You probably know it by it’s more common name on social media, #AssassinFamilyWIP. One part Spy X Family, one part The Professional, one part This Is Us (yes, that’s what I said), A Coffin for Sparrows is an intergenerational family story with a messy romance at its heart.
A series of novellas follow ex-assassin Lautaro Shina as he navigates his failing marriage to spy Alyena Tatarinova, life as a single father to their daughter Hazel, and his begrudging return to life in a dynasty of professional killers. His distant mother Valentina hasn’t forgiven him for the way he left the family, his baby brother Liandro is taking his first proper stab at both adulthood and unclehood, his uncle Thiago is likely going to get them all arrested or killed, and his grandfather Renato – the family patriarch and iron-fisted head of the agency – is going to make his life hell for putting love before blood.
And, just maybe, Lautaro will climb out of the shadow of his wayward father Keijiro, whose abandonment of the family made him so afraid of becoming his father that he didn’t see the hurt he was causing his own wife and child in the process.
All while making sure he gets to Hazel’s kindergarten graduation on time, of course.
Oh, and this takes places in an alternate history 1990s, where the 20th century didn’t shake out the way we know it. Maps have been redrawn, world leaders are at each other’s throats, and everyone settles their grievances with a little assassination. There’s sex, violence, intrigue, secrets, lies, long-lost brothers, and a guy trying to get his life together so he can be the man his family needs him to be.
When will it be finished? I don’t know. At time of writing, I’m in the middle of the second novella. How many novellas are there? I have planned six in all for the first volume. Yes, I said volumes. This is the first volume of two I want to write. The first is Lautaro and Alyena’s story, the second is an adult Hazel entering the family business under the guidance of her dipshit uncle Liandro. She’s turning 21, he’s turning 40, and they’re going to go on so many adventures.
Now the real question is…why? Why a family drama and action-adventure-romance novella serial chronicling a bunch of dysfunctional assassins? What about gorgon romances? What about sexy werewolves?
And the answer to that is this has been the most fun I’ve had writing anything in at least a year. The characters are charming, their drama is engaging, and their dynamics are fun to watch play out on the page. Divorced assassin single dad trying to get his wife back is the mood of 2022.
You can read about the Shina family whenever I damn well say you can. Let’s say 2023 and see what happens.
Let’s talk about media
Something I really appreciate about vaporwave and its seemingly infinite subgenres and mutations is its embrace of the ephemeral. I think it’s fair to say that, at whatever stage of capitalism this is, that it feels like nothing means anything. Art is content dictated by social media algorithms and market testing. Artists are vending machines expected to keep people level and sane so that they don’t notice the world is on fire. Everything is a flat digital projection. We rent files rather than own media.
You know, old man yells at the sky, et cetera, et cetera.
Recently, I was at a thrift store in Del Rey Beach looking at used books. There’s something really humbling about books at a thrift store. The ragged spines, the tea-stained pages. Books (hopefully) loved and enjoyed by somebody’s grandmother in 1994, and then given second life on a shelf, culturally and contextually separated from the world that originally produced it.
It’s all so fleeting.
That’s what I like about vaporwave. It evokes the same feeling as that thrift store book shopping experience. The desire to excavate the endless stream of junk culture we’re surrounded by for song samples, movie scenes, commercial jingles, weather reports broadcasted on Japanese television in 1997. Artists cultivate and curate these meaningless things, totally divorced from their place in time and space to create new meaning. To engineer something new out of the refuse.
You can talk about the aesthetic conformity of some artists and genres. You can talk about the limitations of the same few dozen people chopping and screwing the same few dozen samples for a while in isolation. I think the general internet’s surface level understanding of vaporwave as marble statues, anime girls, and 80s Miami cocaine chic is vaguely annoying but also not entirely incorrect. Like anything, there is a wealth of variety in the exploration of a genre and scene.
At the end of the day, I appreciate vaporwave because I’m also part of the junk culture. My books exist as digital files that none of us truly own because what does it mean to own a file? The files will exist as long as some website is around to host them. Eventually, all of this will decay. The paperbacks I have floating around out there in the world will live a second life on a thrift store shelf before making their way to the landfill with everything else.
As artists, I think it’s natural that many of us, to some degree or another, want to make monuments out of art. We don’t want to think about decay. We expect our work to be treasured and live on as art objects, sacred in their act of having been produced. Maybe they will be loved for a few years before they make their way to a storage unit or a box in the closet. Maybe they will be honored before being dropped off at the Salvation Army. We can hope so, you know?
I guess I just like the idea of embracing that sense of time and space dripping between our fingers. Time and space are always changing. Time and space are always racing away from us. I hear people say all the time that the reason we’re excavating the past is because we think we have no future, and I don’t think I entirely agree with that, even if I get it. (Hi, Mark Fisher.) I’m just a person living in a junk culture, having corporate-owned content blasted into my eyes 24 hours a day, having my social media feeds dictated by algorithms designed to keep me angry and scared. I think I get a sense of relief in embracing the transience of text and image, the impermanence of art in time. I’m not building monuments with my art, and this will all disappear before I know it.
If all art is artists throughout time and space having conversations with one another through the mediums of their art, I don’t think what I’m doing is any different than vaporwave.
Anyway, the real point of this section was to share Late Night Lights Volume 2, a recent two-day vaporwave and lo-fi festival hosted and streamed by the good people at Utopia District. This was a massive undertaking, showcasing dozens of producers, projects, and visual artists. Some of my personal favorites were there like bl00dwave, Computer Dreams, and luxury elite, and I found a whole host of other artists to check out as well.
Even if you’re not into vaporwave, it’s still a really cool showcase and something worth checking out.
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