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Behold! The creepy cuteness born out of the mind of artist Ashley Love. Prepare for much gushing over her work.

I think the concept of cute nihilism is brilliant, and there’s an entire section of Ashley’s online store categorized as “Nihilism + Existential” with adorable designs and soul-crushing text that says what we’re all thinking—or maybe it’s just me?

I mean, just take a look at these cute nihilist stickers:

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If you’ve never been to PAX, it can be tough getting your bearings. There are lots of weird little things that you wouldn’t know unless you’ve been before (or you’ve read a post like this one). Here are the tips I wish I’d known before attending for the first time:

Don’t Forget Your DS

You’ll be floored by the number of people ready to go toe-to-toe in multiplayer Nintendo DS and 3DS games. It’s a great way to pass the time in long lines or while you’re waiting for a panel to start.

Wander Outside the Convention

Some of the coolest stuff is outside of the convention center. Last year, HTC showed Vive demos in a little trailer, and it was one of the highlights. You’ll also want to wander outside the convention for parties, game meetups, and amazing photo ops like this one:

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PAX West is just around the corner! My nerdy heart goes pitter-patter just thinking about it. At PAX, I love walking the floor, attending panels, and playing games—but I also love taking advantage of the beautiful host city. Last year, I had so much fun spending a couple of extra days in Seattle, exploring like crazy. Because it’s so massive, the options can be a little overwhelming, so here are my top recommendations for what to do while you’re there.

1. Make Friends with a Bridge Troll

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This friendly troll resides at 4505 North Troll Avenue in Fremont, under the north end of the Aurora bridge. Getting to this troll’s abode means taking a 15-minute Uber from downtown, but it’s worth it. Not only do you get the unique experience of coming face-to-face with this massive monster (which will put a smile on your face), but there are lots of other cool things in the Fremont area—it’s my favorite neighborhood in Seattle.

2. Visit Add-A-Ball in Fremont

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Pinball, arcade cabinets, booze, and an insane Patrick Swayze mural reside in this cozy underground gaming space. Bonus: there’s a nice patio out front with seating if you need to get some air between heated matches of Bubble Bobble. Add-A-Ball is located at 315 N 36th Street, Seattle—just an 8-minute walk from the bridge troll.

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I’m excited to share that I contributed a chapter to the book The Gothic Tradition in Supernatural: Essays on the Television Series, edited by the brilliant professor Melissa Edmundson and published by McFarland. Hands down, my favorite part of Supernatural is Charlie Bradbury, so I wrote about her awesomeness and Gothic heroism. It’s easily the best thing I’ve ever written (thanks to some amazing editors), and I can’t tell you how much fun I had on the project. I even worked a swear word into my title, because I’m a professional!

Take a look:

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If you’re interested in Supernatural, badass female characters, or Gothic themes, the book is available on Amazon, and the Kindle edition is a pretty good deal. If you’re not into any of those things, it’s cool. We can still be friends.

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Guillermo del Toro is a master filmmaker, whose films explore the unknown, the fantastical, and the supernatural. Many of his films defend the outcasts and the bizarre, undermining commonly-held expectations of good vs. evil and appearances vs. reality, ultimately deconstructing binaries and playing with genre tropes. Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak share similar themes, both in terms of writing and visual cues, imparting the same moral at the end of each story.

Pan’s Labyrinth

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One of my all-time favorite films, Pan’s Labyrinth, complicates popular fairy tale tropes—specifically, undermining characters’ face-value. In Marvelous Geometry: Narrative and Metafiction in Modern Fairy Tale, scholar Jessica Tiffin notes, “Lack of physical or circumstantial detail in the fairy tale thus goes hand-in-hand with a more profound effect, the simplification of morals and principles to the point where any conflict is dealt with in terms of absolutes—the hero, heroine, magical helper opposed to the villain, monster, or competing hero” (14).

Because fairy tales simplify people, the tales can then simplify morals. Tiffin says, “Unlike other forms of prose narrative, the fairy tale has no real interest in human subjectivity or psychological characterization of the individual. Like the events of fairy-tale narrative, characters are rendered down to essentials, described in terms of one or two defining characteristics” (14). By essentializing characters in terms of good and evil, fairy tale characters (and by extension, readers of fairy tales) know who’s good and who’s evil. The heroes and villains are readily apparent as such in both description of their attributes and appearance. Typically, good characters are beautiful, charming, and charismatic, while villains often have physical flaws, sometimes driven by jealousy of the more “beautiful” hero/heroine. It is this pattern within the fairy tale genre that del Toro critiques. While del Toro heavily prescribes to a good/evil binary, the good and evil characters are not readily identifiable by appearance.

One instance in which Pan’s Labyrinth overtly places itself in conversation with fairy tales is when Ofelia tries to determine if she has, in fact, encountered a fairy. A strange-looking insect follows Ofelia home and Ofelia asks it, “Are you a fairy?” Skeptical, she holds up one of her fairy tale books that showcases a dainty, humanoid fairy with wings, wearing delicate clothes made out of leaves. Ofelia points to the picture she says, “Look. This is a fairy.” Upon viewing the illustration, the brown, strange-looking insect transforms into a traditional-looking fairy, like the one in Ofelia’s book. When Ofelia first sees the insect, she’s frightened, but once she sees the fairy transform she realizes that the fairy’s form, whether humanoid or insect-like, is arbitrary. Ofelia decides to trust the fairy based on its actions instead of its appearances, seeing the value in withholding judgments based on physical cues.

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With each passing year, we add a little more sugar, spice, and geekiness to our Christmas tree, and I love it a little more. Because we’ve had Star Wars on the brain, we’ve made several additions in that vein, including the best nutcracker ever conceived. And after much searching, contemplation, and meditation, we finally added a tree topper for the first time. Jeff found the perfect one. Praise Cthulhu!

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Supernatural wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for Charlie Bradbury. Not only is she one of the few fully-fledged characters, she facilitates emotional communication between the Winchester brothers, enabling them to reconcile their feminine-gendered traits. Arguably, Dean and Sam both exhibit femininity throughout the show, despite their cookie-cutter emulation of American blue-collar, heteronormative masculinity. However, in the first six seasons, the brothers only show outward emotion in certain contexts—a pattern that Charlie disrupts.

In the first six seasons, even though Dean regularly denounces things like yoga and chick-flick moments, Tanya Michaels compares Dean to a soccer mom, who sees himself as the protector, nurturer, and upbringer. Michaels says, “In Mary’s absence, can there be any doubt that Dean was the most nurturing influence in Sam’s early life?” (82). Even in Sam’s adulthood, Dean watches over him and would give his life to protect him. There’s no question that female-gendered qualities abound before Charlie enters the scene; however, they seem to only surface in specific contexts.

Through most of the show, Dean would rather keep his feelings to himself and pound a few beers (or a fifth of whiskey) before talking to Sam about his feelings. The exceptions to this rule usually involve a heart-to-heart in the Impala, what Melissa Bruce notes as “visual space that is typically masculine, yet the series uses it as a device through which to filter the more intensely emotional moments” (154). In other words, the Impala renders the feminine show of emotion as acceptably masculine. In the rare instances where the boys do express emotion outside of the Impala, Lorna Jowett notes: “Dean and Sam sit […] facing straight ahead. (Typically, the characters do not look at each other while expressing emotion)” (45). Meaning, in the first six seasons, the Winchester brothers express emotion in specific contexts to uphold their carefully-guarded masculine personae.

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