Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The New Gothic Revival

I’m just wondering…anyone else out there noticing a return to the 1980s? It’s about that time, twenty years down the road, where the fashions start making reference to, if not just boldly ripping off, what came before. I’m noticing shirt ruffles, layered textures, sweater dresses, and a return to wicked tight jeans. Designers are saying they’re taking cues from punk and Stephen King. I fear that Dallas and Dynasty will be next.

Which is all kinda freaky, because this is what I remember from high school. High school. I ain’t supposed to remember twenty years ago as an adult, am I? Not yet, surely. If it’s twenty years ago, I should have vague memories of toddling off to kindergarten, but what I remember in Technicolor clarity is toddling off to graduate school. (And twenty years ago this month, Mr. G and I tied the knot. May the next twenty years be as joyful, my love.)

And then there’s the media: it seems we’ve traded in doctor and cop shows for vampires, werewolves, ghosts (and the people who talk to them), time travelers, and people possessed of supernatural powers. Hello, Victorian Gothic? I’m excited about this trend, though. Supernatural fiction is still white hot: my friends Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner just hit the NYT Bestseller list with their anthology, Many Bloody Returns, and they’ll be editing a werewolf anthology next year (and I’ll get to contribute to that book). In this same vein, science fiction seems to be making a comeback, too, at least on TV, and I will be in a state of nervous agitation until Battlestar Galactica comes back next year. I may die, swoon, at least—but I guess that’s pretty gothic, too.

What I like about this is that SF, supernatural fiction, romance, and fantasy, when they’re done right, let people discuss tricky social topics safely through metaphor, a wonderful and constructive and subversive thing. If the first Gothic Revival was a response to politics and technology, characterized by widespread nationalism, I think we can observe that now, too. We need those metaphors, right now.

Musicians are citing The Cure and Killing Joke and Henry Rollins and The Smiths. Again, happy about this. I’m not behind the times, I’m super-retro (snicker).

One problem is, for years my closet resembled Johnny Cash’s. I’ve been trying desperately to add some color to my wardrobe, and frankly, it’s been a struggle even to make it into the jewel tones. Not that I’d go pastels and rainbows, mind you, but something less… “nighted,” as Gertrude called it. This year, my resolve firmer than ever, I promised: no black.

Except black is so in, it’s not even funny.

Okay, I’m happy to capitulate. Pass me my mascara, hand me the big black shirt with the French cuffs. Dig out the Doc Martens and we’ll show the hipsters the meaning of hair wax. Cue the music and make it Disintegration.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A new way to have No Fun

I can only think of last month as “Arrrgh-ust,” not because of some quirk of my Nawtha Bawstin accent, but because it was supposed to be quiet. We’d cleared the decks to get caught up on life maintenance and R&R. Alas, what really happened was that it was crazed and scheduled to a fare-thee-well. Yes, we got all kindsa projects done, but all the catching up came at the expense of the day to day stuff. Closets were cleaned, sorted, and dealt with, but laundry went unattended. The garage and basement were sorted out, but this blog suffered. You get the picture.

One of the nice things was that Mr. G was at home much of the time. We got said projects done, we caught up with friends, we cooked. We went for walks, often ending up at one of our favorite coffee places, The Atomic Café. Now, many of you know that while my character Emma Fielding drinks coffee like a fiend, I do not. If you see me drinking half a cup at a conference, it’s usually because I’m already so wound up that the caffeine actually seems to chill me out. I don’t know if that’s actually true, or if it just sends me into a parallel universe where I think I’m slowing down, and I raise fewer eyebrows than if I kicked back with a whiskey at 7:00AM. What I usually drink most of the time is best characterized as a “warm milky drink,” something that is decaf, nonfat, coffee-and-chocolate-flavored, no whip, thanks. They actually named “the No-Fun Mocha” for me down at Atomic, mostly to save time. Other places use up a whole wax pencil trying to get the equation right.

And now I’ve taken the No Fun to a whole new level: Soy milk.

It’s been raining a lot here, and worried that I’m coming down with a cold, I didn’t want to add dairy to the mix, so Mr. G suggested soy milk. I was skeptical: last time I checked out a soy bean, there was no udder. But I like tofu, even crave it occasionally, and since I wasn’t in the mood for tea or water, in the name of bold experimentation (and believing you can gag down any food if it contains chocolate), I gave it a shot.

“No-Fun with soy milk, please.” The gang at Atomic, coffee purists who are kindly indulgent of me and my eccentricities, gave a collective look askance. I could only shrug. “I’m trying to see how far I can move away from coffee without actually leaving.”

They obliged. Not only was it better than I expected, the soy milk added a nuttiness (somewhere between almond and hazelnut) that went nicely with the chocolate. Score.

Over the years people, hearing my order, have asked “why bother?” The short, perky answer is that it is a way to have something that tastes like ice cream at breakfast. The snarky answer is that I do it because I can. The thoughtful answer is that it allows me to participate in a real-life community with a centuries-old tradition of sociability.