Welcome to Night Vale

Thoughts and Stories of Lane William Maxfield

I have a theory about human nature. When it comes to the strange, confusing or taboo, we have only three possible responses. We can be disgusted, which prompts us to avoid whatever it is. If that avoidance isn’t allowed, our other options are fear and humor. This makes comedy and horror oddly companionable. Though externally they seem extremely different, they have the potential to explore similar topics, and many stories successfully combine them; the Scream franchise, The Cabin in the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Shaun of the Dead, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and so on. Sometimes the comedy is dominant, sometimes the terror. Where the subject of my final October review falls may be up to the individual.

Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast (and as of a couple weeks ago, a novel) about a small desert community where Lovecraftian terrors are just part of the everyday backdrop. In…

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In October 2014, I left my husband. It was a hard, weird, blurry month. It contained at least two of the worst moments of my life. It was filled with confusion, anger, and fear.

It’s also the month that Greg, Claire, and Galia became my home. They were there for me, immediately and without hesitation. When I didn’t even know what I needed or wanted, they had a warm and safe place for me. Before I could make any decisions about what to do past the current day, they let me nestle into their tiny two-bedroom apartment — originally intended for just two of them to live in — and never for a moment made me feel like I was imposing.

About halfway through October, I decided I wanted a tiny place of my own, a refuge, space to be myself and regroup. With some help I had found one and moved in before the end of the month. I had very little: I slept on an L. L. Bean camp cot, and cooked my breakfast eggs in the one small saucepan I owned.

On October 29, I was walking home at night and came across a couple who were playing with a tiny kitten on the sidewalk. She had been jumping around in the street, they said, and they’d lured her back to the sidewalk. Of course I knelt down and petted her and squealed over her little pink nose and her fuzzy black tail. The couple was on the phone with some local animal authority, who said just to leave her, she probably belonged somewhere nearby. So, after a few minutes, the couple got up and left. I stayed petting her and watching her gambol for a little longer, and when I got up to continue walking home, she pranced alongside me.

We went that way for about three blocks — she would run up ahead to investigate something, and then turn around and wait for me to catch up. I told myself I was NOT going to take her home. My elderly George-cat was just enjoying life as an only cat again, and my brand-new studio was much too small to add a kitten.

black-and-white kitten, hunched down on a bathroom floor looking wary.
First picture!

I got myself over the denial gap by saying, well, at least I should take her in for the night, give her some food and water, and take her to the vet in the morning. That’s the decent and humane thing to do. I brought her home and gave her some water and a little food. At first she seemed unsure about this new thing called “indoors,” but she adjusted quickly. It was already past 11 at night, but I texted a picture to Greg, Claire, and Galia, and within 15 minutes they were all at my place cooing and squeeing. At one point, she was gnawing on Greg’s finger and abruptly fell asleep mid-gnaw. It had been a long day for a kitten.

close-up of black and white kitten looking curiously at something off to the right I’m not sure exactly when I made the decision to keep her, but at the vet next day I named her Sabrina. I bought a book on raising kittens and I made toys out of yarn and cardboard. When she wasn’t a blur of motion, I took as many pictures as I could.

On the face of it, a time of upheaval isn’t a good time to adopt a pet. But she was just what I needed, right then in my life. A thing about codependence is that even when you’ve left your partner for really bad behavior on their part, most of what you feel is guilt — and this sudden unsettling void where all your caregiving energy used to go. Sabrina gave me someone to take care of, someone who needed me in a very uncomplicated way. She gave me a concrete reason to believe I was still a fuzziest ever black and white kitten curled up and sleeping on a denim-clothed lapgood person, I had done something positive in the world, someone was better off because of me. And yet caring for her was hardly martyrdom or sacrifice. Kittens for codependence detox: highly recommended.

Tabby and white cat curled up on a bed, looking a bit scornfully at the black and white kitten sleeping sprawled half-off the mattress.
Judging Sabrina: always a big part of George’s daily life.

We called her the Manic Pixie Dream Kitten because of her effect on George and on Max, Claire’s cat. Both George and Max were male cats who’d been bullied in other multi-cat households. They were sweet and timid and liked cuddling, but were not into chasing and pouncing kinds of games. Sabrina charmed both of them, though. After a few days of wariness, George accepted her as his sometimes-annoying baby sister. He thought her antics were absurd, but one afternoon after watching her chase a piece of danging string for several minutes, he gave the thing some swats himself.

As for Max, we took her over to meet him in early December. The first time she visited, he followed her as she explored all over the apartment, going into all the Black cat sitting up while the kitten, sprawled on her back, swipes at his tail.places she’d just vacated, presumably to make sure she hadn’t messed anything up. I took her over there on a pretty regular basis, and by Christmastime they were buddies, and would chase each other around the house.

Black and white cat sprawling on a fuzzy blanket with her eyes squinched shut.
Or sprawled. Whatever.

Now we live in a bigger place, with stairs that Sabrina loves to tear up and down. Most nights she sleeps curled up at my feet. We still call her “kitten” even though technically I guess she’s an adult now. She rarely meows… mostly she makes little chirping noises. But sometimes when one of us leaves she’ll stand at the door downstairs and meow piteously. I think she loves us.

Happy Adoptiversary, Sabrina. You’ve been making my home happier for a year now, and I’m so thankful for you. Here’s to many more years together.Black and white cat curled up and sleeping on a bed.

Babadook and Dark Water

Thoughts and Stories of Lane William Maxfield

Supernatural horror is a massive subgenre, and many excellent works have been made simply using ghosts and demons as scary monsters. They let us all indulge the little parts of our mind that, in the middle of the night, goes back to our ancestors in caves and wonders “what if there really is something out there?” Then there are those that try using the supernatural as symbols of a real world terror. Not all of those work as well as simple chillers, but when the writers have a good understanding of the issue they are talking about, and a good grasp of the art of subtlety, the results can be wonderful. In fact, they can be used to talk about issues that are hard to portray directly.

Because nobody is more vulnerable than a child, and a few billion years of evolution compel us to protect them, horror loves to…

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Thoughts and Stories of Lane William Maxfield

Absentia is one of my absolute favorite horror films. I don’t measure my enjoyment of horror films quite the way I do others. Normally I look at both my enjoyment the first time around and how it holds up after a few rewatches. With horror, I don’t want to watch it too often. I want to forget the jumps and the twists, so that I’ll still get tense when the lights go out and nothing has gone wrong in almost three minutes. So, instead, I pick favorites based on how much they haunt me. Despite not seeing Absentia for two years before I watched it for this review, I’ve thought of it more than any other horror film I’ve seen. It’s damn good.

Absentia Callie

The title comes from the legal term “in absentia,” meaning that legal proceedings are going on despite the absence of something. In this case, Daniel Riley disappeared…

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Side Effects; A Missed Opportunity

Another review from my October theme of scary movies, with a nice wide undefined definition of scary. Enjoy!

Thoughts and Stories of Lane William Maxfield

Horror and action are genres that both frequently deal with dangerous situations, and yet it’s fairly rare that they get mixed up. Action is about the point where danger is active, and can be battled out in the open. There are clear boundaries between danger and safety, good and evil. It typically stars someone highly capable of handling the threat. Indiana Jones, Batman and Imperator Furiosa may have the odds stacked against them, but they are still trained and resourceful in exactly the ways the crisis demands. Horror, on the other hand, tends to focus on dangers that are lurking, liminal, or hidden just out of sight, and they involve protagonists who are completely unprepared to deal with the threat when it will finally come out of the dark. Action lets us escape to a world where we can take on our greatest foes; horror tells us what to do…

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I Am Not a Serial Killer

Thoughts and Stories of Lane William Maxfield

Typically I write my reviews on movies, not novels, for two reasons. One is that it is less of a commitment of time and effort to rewatch a movie with notepad in hand to make my overthinking extra overthinky. The other is that I’ve heard from several authors that it’s a good idea to leave the bad reviews to the professional reviewers. I often get a lot out of analyzing stories that I think did something poorly, and when I do that I always go for Hollywood. However, for my first idea-rich horror review, I am breaking that trend. There’s no need to reread I Am Not a Serial Killer, because all the relevant details are stuck quite firmly in my mind, and there will certainly be no need to say anything negative.

I Am Not a Serial Killer is the first book in a series by Dan Wells…

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Everyday Feminism! And other news

Hi all! I’ve been absent from here for a while, sorry about that. These days, I seem to periodically go into a hole where I am wrestling with a lot of my personal shit, and staying on top of my part-time job is about all the productivity I can muster. I’m learning to be at peace with that… I’ve survived some rough experiences and it’s okay that my brain sometimes needs to take some time off from doing anything but processing them and coping with life.

But I have some super-exciting news! I’m now officially a contributing writer for Everyday Feminism, one of the smartest and most effective sites of feminist writing I’ve ever encountered. I’ve been honored to write a couple of guest pieces for them before, and I’m over the moon that they invited me to join their regular team! I’ll be posting there about bi-weekly, and I’ll try to remember to link from here. Here, I’ll get started right now! My first article, on mindfulness, body awareness, and sex. (This, like many posts to come, will include some personal sharing that might be TMI for people related to me. Or might not! But wanted to mention it.)

Also, NaNoWriMo. I first did NaNo in 2002 I think? And I did it almost every year until grad school sounded the knell of doom on that and basically all fiction writing. And then last fall was pretty much entirely consumed with processing the dissolution of my marriage, so. I promised myself that this year I’d jump back on the train, because I miss fiction and I miss writing with that hands-in-the-air, free-for-all communal feeling that NaNo gives you. And then I forgot all about it, and I committed to writing two articles a month for Everyday Feminism, and was feeling like I’d given myself just enough of a project load that I’d need to stay on top of it but could manage, and then someone I know tweeted about NaNoWriMo, and I went “…dammit.”

Well, I’m going to give it a go anyway; my actual job and EF will come first, but if I even crank out 15,000 words of fiction during November, that’ll be more than I’ve written in the last three years combined, and I’ll feel great about it. Needless to say, I’m not pre-plotting… the next couple of weeks will be spent in idly thinking of concepts that would be fun to write about, and maybe building a character name bank because otherwise I’ll continually be stalling out on new characters and what to call them.

And I’m gonna try to blog more. I haven’t even talked about how I’m training to be a doula, or how I took up running and am doing a 5k this weekend! So I have lots to talk about. Until next time!