You’re crazy. Delusional. Mad. Insane. Nuts. Psychotic. Loony. Off your meds. Around the twist. Freak. Psycho. Weirdo. Schizo. Mental.
We like to think we’ve progressed as a society. In centuries past, humanity liked to just lock away anyone who deviated from the norm, preferring to pretend they didn’t exist. Insane asylums and travelling circuses were where you’d find the humans too “delusional” for regular society. The Nazis aimed to eradicate who they perceived as deplorable and below the rest of humanity, with Josef Mengele, among many in his rank, attempting to normalise eugenics and wipe out what they perceived as defective human beings.
Creative spheres are typically full of progressive people, and literary awards are chock-full of stories about struggle in the human condition, about overcoming adversity and beating the odds. BookTube, BookTok and all the other literature-focused parts of the internet, are always sharing books and entertainment that attempt to fix some of the frankly shocking portrayals of mental illness. In the last few decades, a wealth of literature has come out trying to help with the dismal public awareness of both physical and mental health. Far from the days of WWI vets hiding their PTSD in a locked box and suppressing their emotions, newer generations (millennials and Gen Z) are supposedly more open with mental health and mental illness, proudly proclaiming their diagnoses in their Twitter bios and claiming to be all about empathy and compassion.
Are you an aspiring writer who has never picked up a book since you pretended to read the pictures in There’s a Hippopotamus on my Roof Eating Cake way back in first grade?
Back then, you decided you would write a classic epic about a hungry grey creature with a dessert problem, and once the Big Five publishers—yes, all of them—contacted you en masse for a trillion dollar book deal, you would savour the taste of all the cakes while lounging in your money pool, and promise to never look at another book again. But the pandemic hit you hard. Now you need to *gasp* write again. As an aspiring writer who runs to the grocery store wearing your trench coat and vaping, clasping your MacBook in one hand and vape pen in the other, you need more ideas. You need a story. You need to remove the ‘aspiring’ out of your authoryness once and for all. You need to be the bestest of all the writingers and authorydoos.
As someone who first got into the franchise over twenty years ago with The Sims (no numbers) on Windows 98, each new incarnation of The Sims has been more inclusive of telling stories while also escaping from the real world by making your Sim a corrupt detective with six lovers and seventeen kids and a secret side-business drowning work rivals in his underground basement pool…or alternatively, a dedicated single mother who’s just doing her best while changing the world building rockets and rocketing off into space in her spare time.
It was a lot harder back in 2001 to keep the storytelling alive—mostly I was trying to keep my Sims alive with their thrice-daily showers and constant bad moods. However, over time, the sequels have made it easier to keep your Sims, well, alive, contrary to Will Wright’s original goal of making Budget Simulator 2000, it’s become an immersive storytelling tool. I’m not about to wax poetic about how amazing the later games are. Sims 3 no longer has the appeal it did back in 2009—it’s a laggy, bloated mess with empty lots and a map screen filled with Steve Jablonsky’s ‘Expansive Vistas‘ that will give even the cheeriest of folks a traumatising case of crippling existential dread at 5am they never even asked for. Don’t even get me started on the current brouhaha over the latest Sims 4 game pack. We’re here to talk about The Sims from a writer’s perspective. That’s what this blog tends to be about. Writing. Writing accessories. I hope you weren’t expecting a list of songs from Sims 3 designed to give you maximum existential dread. Or a list of reticulating splines. Not today, reader. Not today.
The name Clarice Starling is iconic thanks to Jodie Foster’s portrayal of the whip-smart young FBI Academy student, pitted against charismatic serial killer Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ Lecter, in the Academy Award winning film from 1991. But her roots begin, as always, in the original book. Starling is a trainee at the FBI Academy, one of the brightest students in her class, and that’s how she draws the attention of the one and only Jack Crawford. Crawford knows imprisoned cannibal Dr Hannibal Lecter knows more than he’s telling the Feds about the string of murders happening around the U.S. by a killer the press have dubbed Buffalo Bill. Since he lost his previous protégé, Will Graham, after the events of Red Dragon, he turns his sights on pretty, intelligent, female student Starling as his last resort.
The Silence of the Lambsby Thomas Harris is a 1988 psychological horror novel, and the sequel to Red Dragon. I both listened to the audiobook narrated by Frank Muller and read the physical book borrowed from the library. I had this book in my possession for a few many months, and it was only when it reached overdue status at the library that I finally pulled it out and read it in a couple of sittings. It’s been over a decade since I watched the Jodie Foster film, and basically nothing stuck except the basics, which made the book an exciting, fresh reading experience. Back then, I didn’t appreciate the film and was basically, like, “Oh, it’s just a lot of talking”. Over a decade on, I definitely appreciate the psychological element more.
2021 is finally over, and I know there’s more than a few of you thrilled to see the back of 2020: Part II. 2020’s sequel. Not like we were ever going to escape from that dreaded year.
It’s been a year. COVID-19 continued its dreaded wave of destruction. I commemorated getting out of two lockdowns by getting tattooed each time. Anne Rice died and, as a not-so-secret lover of vampire media (my hot take: Dangerous Girls by R.L Stine is the best vampire novel), it was definitely not the news we needed to hear. I watched a really good Netflix TV series, Perfume, this week, and Dexter: New Blood‘s surpassed all my expectations so far. I was surprised that I enjoyed the Chris Rock Saw movie. I stopped consuming news for the most part, and my mental health has improved considerably. Probably a good thing, since Australian Prime Minister Scott “Scummo” Morrison’s trying his damndest to censor the internet under the guise of “protecting children” from “internet trolls”, which is code for “only allowing his pre-approved legacy media hacks to bleat his propaganda without any criticism whatsoever”. But enough of that.
In the mid-1990s, in Claremont, Western Australia, three young women went missing after visiting local nightclubs, and two of them turned up dead. Despite a massive public outrage and an unprecedented police investigation, no killer was arrested as the so-dubbed Claremont Serial Killer until December 2016.
So goes the tale in Bret Christian’s true crime nonfiction Stalking Claremont: Inside the hunt for a serial killer. It’s not the first book to tell the story of the elusive, threatening Claremont Killer who haunted Australia for two decades, but this January 2021 release is the first to tell the full story now the killer, Bradley Edwards, is behind bars.
I first took notice of the Claremont Serial Killings probably around 2015, somewhere around the time of a report on the case on current affair TV, and spent much time poring through the news articles and Websleuths/Big Footy forums (which it was later revealed the killer himself had an account), and had heard about the many details from Debi Marshall’s ‘The Devil’s Garden‘ recited to me by someone else interested in the then-unsolved case, before the big news was announced in late-2016. Bret Christian is a local journalist in Western Australia, and his story is the first full, respectful, comprehensive account of everything surrounding the case, dispelling myth and portraying the facts.
In what’s supposed to be a slightly alternate 1983, Susan Arkshaw is about to start university, but first she wants to find her biological father. Before she can even begin to start her new life in London, Susan’s life is turned upside down. She meets up with a man who may know something about her dad, crime boss Frank Thringley, but before anything can happen, Frank is dead at the hands of Merlin, a left-handed bookseller, and her life will never be the same again.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is a 2020 fantasy novel by Australian author Garth Nix. I’m not much of a fantasy reader, that stage passing me in my early teens after the Harry Potter urban fantasy trend died down. But I was on Borrowbox, which is like Libby, and this audiobook rekindled something in me. I’m certain I read Nix as a child, so I decided ‘Why not? Why not read his fiction again?’ Left-Handed Booksellers, in its plot, sounded similar to Pages & Co by Anna James, and while it wasn’t that similar once I got into it, I still surprisingly enjoyed this 11-hour audiobook.
Ellen Saint, by pure chance, sees a man on top of The Heights, a fancy, exclusive apartment building in London. He’s subtly different, older now, but she’d recognise him anywhere. Which doesn’t make sense. Because he’s been dead for over two years. She knows this because she’s the one who had him killed.
The Heights by Louise Candlish is a 2021 psychological thriller about an unlikeable protagonist—aren’t they all?—called Ellen Saint who devolves into madness and hate after the death of her son Lucas Gordon at the hands of the aforementioned man at The Heights, Kieran Watts. Most of the story is told through the lens of Ellen, in excerpts of her book ‘Saint or Sinner’, but interspersed in the middle and at the end with third-person narrative of her ex-partner Vic Gordon, and in parts a review by Sunday Times Magazine journalist Michaela Ross.
Everything is trying to take away our precious time.
The internet and social media. Family and friends. Dishes. Lunch. Bills. That delicious tub of boysenberry ice cream in the freezer. The book that just arrived in your mailbox. The books in your bookshelf, calling your name, begging Read me! Read me! in an insolently nasal accent. Work. Zoom sessions. Grocery shopping. Perusing the latest news that You Season 3 will be out in October and predicting what will happen on Twitter and Reddit and random messageboards and to the neighbourhood bin chicken. When our time is all we’ve got, what happens when we’ve got none left to spare?
Back in May, I blogged about our deteriorating ability to focus in the current attention economy. The attention economy being “the business model of keeping our eyes glued to the specific apps and sites maintained by those with vested interests who do not care about our health and wellbeing” is one of the many things in life distracting us from using our time the way we want to, in our best interests.
Can you guess which audiobook I listened to this month?
Mark Manson and his million billion incarnates (read: copycats) have it right, even if their message is too crass and gross for innocent or petulant ears. You’ve got to stop giving a fuck.
This doesn’t mean becoming a sociopath, superficially adopting the traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder crossed with extreme nihilism until you inevitably crash your stolen Mercedes Benz down a ravine after a thirteen hour police chase. It doesn’t mean dressing in trench-coats and fulfilling every media stereotype as you slowly withdraw from society, before your final evolution into a dormant sentient boulder.
It’s about giving a fuck about what matters most to you and giving the finger—at least metaphorically—to everything else. If you’re on this blog, that’s probably related to writing and writing accessories. You’re a writer, poet, novelist, aspiring author. Writing matters to us. Other things matter, naturally: only the sociopath of the last paragraph would sacrifice their second child for their work-in-progress (WIP). But this isn’t an either/or. Life isn’t black-and-white like a lot of extremists on the internet would have you think. What you give a fuck about is on a sliding scale, some more important than others, but still important enough to give more than a single fuck about.