Friday, December 17, 2010

Jelly Pants - a play

How often does a writer get to indulge himself enough to write a play called Jelly Pants?

Said play went up as a part of the monthly Shotz! festival in New York City last Monday. I'm thrilled that I got to work with these guys, because let me tell you... they're funny as all hell. They've been doing Shotz! for a while now, and I was more than happy to jump in for their holiday-themed production, 'Twas the Shotz Before Christmas.

Dan from Buffyfest (you know, the guy whose review for #39 made you misty... just me?), Chris Halton (director of the upcoming Creep short), and the woman professionally known as my mom were all in attendance, in addition to a house full of people with incredibly loud and appreciative laughs that made my heart all a-flutter.

Dan Roth, Patrick Shand, Janice Shand, Chris Halton


Rob Hille did a great job directing Jelly Pants. He brought the thing to life, along with the amazing, spot-on cast. Dan Balkin played Darren, and holy FSM he put so much concentrated awesome into the character. He only had a few lines, but he lit up the stage with his appropriately goofy, overjoyed smile every time he and Monica spoke.

Monica was played by an actress who I've written for before, Jennifer Le Blanc. She is much with the awesome. I wrote a full length play, The Misadventures of Olive Sukkin, for her and I still hope that's getting produced (people are attached, we're just waiting for funding) but for now it was refreshing to see her acting in one of my shows again. Her ghostly sister Marjorie was played by Alanna Wilson, who was incredible to say the least. I'm pretentious about my writing, but I believe she added dimensions to the play--both in the funny and weepy realms--that weren't there when I put the pen to the paper. Well, the index fingers to the keyboard, but that sounds less interesting.

Obligatory Prom Picture
Alanna Wilson, Patrick Shand, Jennifer Le Blanc, Chris Halton

Alanna Wilson, Patrick Shand, Jennifer LeBlanc
Dan Balkin was nowhere to be found :(

There was a bit of a miscommunication about the page limit, so a lot had to be cut from the original piece. What I've uploaded above is a sort of Frankenstein monster that I think is made up of the best limbs of each incarnation of Jelly Pants. A lot of jokes were cut from the original play to fit the time limit, and some of them are put back, but some of them are kept out because, in hearing it, it reads better as a ten minute than a fifteen minute play. Also, I tweaked a few things after seeing it because the actors brought out things in the play than I hadn't seen. When I was going through the edits, I thought it was pretty upsetting (cutting nearly a third of the thing out), but now, having seen the show, I'm just glad I got to watch such a talented group of people say my silly, silly words.

Next month, I've got another play in the Shotz! festival. I'm submitting it today and, this time, I'm sticking to five pages. The theme is schadenfreude, and I've got a super-villainous idea, thanks to the brainstorming of one Jeffry Massey.

If you'd like to see my play next month, information will be posted in the following weeks! The date of the show is January 3rd and tickets are $10!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Open Letter to Twilight

Dear Twilight,

I know what you're trying to do. And I don't like it.

You started off fairly innocent. You weren't very well written, but you weren't truly offensive. Your Bella was disturbingly submissive, which is frown-making in a post-Buffy state of genre fiction, but it was excusable. You were what you were. A crappy romance novel aimed at teens. Somewhat humble. You aspired for nothing. You were willing to exist in relative obscurity. There were way worse, way more popular novels out there (Laurell K. Hamilton's abysmal Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, for stinky stinky instance) so I was willing to excuse you. Books like you, Twilight, were a dime a dozen.

And here’s a bit of a secret. I enjoyed you in a roller coaster ride, “this is dumb, but it isn’t even trying to be smart, yay popcorn!” way.

But then, like Vanilla Ice before you, you got famous overnight. I thought I was the only person who’d read this strange sparkly vampire romance novel thing. But then I went on Amazon and saw that there was a sequel. “Wait, people that aren’t named Patrick Shand actually read that book?”

And then… mania.

Tweens dug the shit out of you. Really bizarre grown ladies wanted to fuck Edward. A whole generation of readers began to think that vampires don't kill humans, don't have fangs, and don't burn up in the sun... they sparkle and play baseball in doofy little uniforms.

Things were bad enough then. This, Twilight, is when you took it too far. You came out with three sequels.

New Moon established Bella as the anti-feminist figure. She could barely walk (that's literal) without one of her men--both of which were, of course, super powerful and totally into fighting over her--helping her. One of the dudes forces a kiss on her, bodily forces it, and he's still considered to be a good guy. The other dude, when he isn't stalking her room at night time (again literal), wants to kill himself because he can't be with her. I mean, really? Cheer up, emo kid. It was still roller-coastery… but it had a dark undertone that I didn’t really grasp until I took a hard look at the drivel that I was reading.

And yet, since I'm unable to not finish a series I've started, I read on. Eclipse was offensively bad. Every other paragraph was a description of some vampire's beauty. You hit a new low with Eclipse, Twilight... and I began to hate you. Any of the “This is fine” feelings I had while reading Twilight were gone and replaced with anger.

Then, Breaking Dawn. It was boring, long, rapey, and in the end... I was somewhat amused to see... Bella came to power. She became the strongest of them all. It was JUST LIKE BUFFY. Except not. Yeah, the weakest female protagonist ever is suddenly empowered. On the surface, it sounds good. On the surface, I was actually surprised and sort of happy that it went there. And then, I used the thing in my head that I call a brain, deleted my recurring “this is fine” thoughts, and then really started to think. How is she empowered? Because of a dude infecting her. Awesome message, Twilight.

But that isn't even why I hate you.

It's why I think you're annoying.

But this, Twilight? This is personal.

Let's take a trip back to 2005. I had an idea for a series. The Continuity. A series of young adult novels concerning vampires. Only, these vampires do this strange thing called killing people. I know, crazy right? But the series was more than just a sequence of vampire books. It, as pretentious as this might sound, has pretty much everything I've wanted to say about... well, life in it. At the core of it's, it's a twist on the whole prophecy trope. A girl finds out there's a prophecy that she's supposed to kill this evil dude, and pretty much the world depends on it. And she says, "Fuck that." She cares about the world, for sure. But why does she have to believe in fate because some pretentious pseudo-poetic prophecy thing tell her she's destined to do something? It gets into religion and it's a really humanist book and has some ideas that I was toying with then and have since become really passionate about, but... on the surface, the plot has a lot of vampires fucking shit up. And maybe even a vampire who might eventually start fucking shit up for the good guys for his or her own ends, because there's no such thing as black and white evil. There's a whole mess of grey, and I wanted to write everything from that grey.

I also wanted to make sure I wasn't stealing anyone's ideas unintentionally. So, instead of ignoring all other books in my genre, I read a lot. I watched a lot. I saw how other folks approached the vampire myth, and I tweaked my mythology to keep it fresh, new, and relevant. And different. One of the books I read during this period of time was you, Twilight. Thankfully, my vampires were actual vampires and not--as my girlfriend once texted me--"sparkle fairies", so I didn't have to worry about stealing from you. (I also got reacquainted re-obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel during this period of time, so for that I'm grateful).

But then.

Twilight, you became famous. You changed and essentially shat upon the two genres I was appealing to. Vampire fic and YA Lit. Now, both of these have such bad connotations to serious readers. Which sucks, considering how many awesome books come from both genres. But now? Both markets are flooded with Twilight wannabes. People with good taste in books are rightfully skeptical of both genres. Shit, I know I am. For every John Green and Barry Lyga writing YA Lit, there are twenty Stephenie Meyers. For every Buffy or Fray, there is a shitload more Twilight.

I’m ashamed that I once thought you were roller-coastery.

Vampires are in vogue, and it sucks. So fuck you very much, Twilight.


Your empire is on its way down. Why? There are folks out there skewering the shit out of you, and it's working. There are more and more people who are realizing that you're lame. How?

One, True Blood. True Blood is essentially what would happen if Meyer had been imaginative, stranger (well, no, GOOD stranger, not Meyerstranger), smarter (I mean, fucking Alan Ball does it, what do you expect), and didn't have an anti-feminist agenda. And you know what? It's popular as shit. Maybe for the wrong reasons. A lot of folks are tuning in for the sex. A lot of folks, probably the Twilight crowd, are tuning in, because ooooh hot vampires OMG. And while that does suck... the stories are still getting out there. And folks are seeing how much better stories are when they don't... you know, suck. They're seeing that this romantic figure they're swooning over doesn't go home and gel his hair like Edward Cullen does. He goes home, goes to his basement... wait, no, he doesn't have a basement because he's a vampire, he has a fucking dungeon, and tears rednecks in two with his bare hands. Because he's a vampire and he's behaving like vampires are supposed to.

Two, Buffy: Season Eight. In Joss Whedon's comic, the follow-up to the TV show, the plot is simple. Vampires have become popular due to a masked villain named... any guesses? Twilight. Subtle, right? Twilight's crusade gets a whole bunch of innocent people murdered, and it's done in a way that makes the popularity of vampires look rather silly. Is it a timely coincidence? Nah. Twilight, consider yourself parodied by a series that does what you did, only way better, way smarter, and, oh, over a decade ago.

And three, I'm still writing. I've changed my book in light of the state of YA Lit, post-Twilight. The Continuity is harsher. It may be an adult novel. Not sure yet. But... well, it opens with a punch in the face to anyone thinking that Twilight is still relevant in vampire fiction.

Not that you ever were, Twilight. Because these?

They ain't vampires.

So to end this letter, here is the opening chapter of The Continuity. SUCK ON THAT (and this terrible pun), TWILIGHT!

The Continuity- Chapter One

The human and the vampire kissed passionately.

As the human’s heart rate skyrocketed, the vampire ran her cold hands from his hips, to his warm chest, to his neck, feeling his pulse pounding. The human pulled the vampire closer to his body, feeling her powerful frame against his. In that moment, he was in love. In fiery, romantic, forever-love.

However, unfortunately for him, vampires don’t love humans. They kill them.

The vampire tightened her hands on his throat and, with one quick movement, she snapped his neck. She drained him, dropped him, and watched his head flop around comically as he sprawled on the ground.

Winter wiped the blood off her lips, careful not to stain the cuff of her custom-made leather jacket. She stepped out of the dark alley and into the busy nightlight of New York City. The streets were bustling with people with pulsing veins in their necks who, thanks to a recent trend, thought that vampires were the epitome of romance. Winter smiled, baring red, bloodstained teeth.

“This just might be epic.”



Pat Shand.

PS: You smell.