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night in the woods

Years ago, I played a game demo at the Pop Culture Museum. It included a scene with a talking cat and a fox who get sugar-high off donuts until their paws shake and they swear they can see through space and time. I was sold.

I had to wait an agonizing couple of years before Night in the Woods was complete. I bought this beauty the day it came out, and I tried to savor it, but I finished the game in a week. Here are just a few reasons to love it:

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As much as I love all horror with reckless abandon, women in the genre often fall into clear-cut tropes: the whore, the virgin, the Final Girl. However, we’re starting to see women slip into more sophisticated and complex horror roles. Do yourself a favor and add these films to your watch list, and be in awe of some of horror’s best badass women.

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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:

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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.

guillermo del toro

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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