On Stands Now! Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to the Office

This was the magical-rainbow-glitter-unicorn of assignments: one that requires I rewatch hours of a beloved television series in order to write it! (My only regret? No chance to reference one of the greatest cold opens in all of human history.)

The Office, adapted from the UK show of the same name, premiered 15 years ago. So it’s the perfect time time for Entertainment Weekly to give it the Ultimate Guide treatment, to which I contributed a fun overview of the Scranton branch’s various Regional Managers (and the occasional Assistant to the Assistant to the Regional Manager).

Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to the Office is available on Amazon and pretty much wherever you buy magazines, including in Japan, if you’re feeling wanderlusty…

So if you somehow missed the first run (perhaps you were busy being born! 😬) and want a taste of The Office before you make a marathon commitment; or if you simply need a break from TTDT (this, the darkest timeline) and prefer to take one by immersing yourself in some well-earned nostalgia; or if you’re ready to just bang out* a nine season rewatch and would like a handy companion guide as you do so, go on and get yourself a copy of Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to the Office.

*That’s what she said.**
**You had to know that was coming.***
***That’s also what she said.

The Rest of 2019…

I definitely should have stuck with my plan to do quarterly updates. But you probably know how it goes by now and have come to expect (and adore?) this kind of feast-or-famine communication from me. Here’s what I’ve been up to since the Spring 2019 update.
[Updated with new photos!]

StokerCon 2019

StokerCon is always a good time, but this year was especially fun owing to the reading and panels on my schedule. So, without further ado, I present, What I Did at StokerCon 2019…

I did a reading!
I was incredibly honored to share a reading slot with Shirley Jackson Award Winner and StokerCon 2019 Guest of Honor Kaaron Warren. She read from “The First of Many Shudders,” which was recently published in The Unquiet Dreamer: A Tribute to Harlan Ellison (PS Publishing) and which was, of course, so SO good–I still think about it regularly. Also, go check out her new novella, Into Bones Like Oil.

Kaaron Warren.

For my part, I read a horror story inspired by my time working in hotels and in travel publishing…and I didn’t die from nerves. Actually, during this reading, I discovered that I really enjoy doing readings. Who knew! I don’t know if it’s the therapy kicking in (finally) or one of the delightful  zero-f*cks-to-give side effects of aging, but I had a truly wonderful time and I hope the folks in the audience did too (even though, let’s be real, I was the one thing standing between them and a legend).

Photo by Douglas Peyton.

I also moderated two panels!
Kicking off the weekend, Coming-Of-Age Horror In The Era Of Netflix–a full house with my delightful, insightful, and wonderful panelists, Kyla Lee Ward and Tom Deady. I have zero pictures of this one, to my eternal regret. (I’m sorry, all!)

*Unrelated to this panel, Kyla also stepped in as a pinch hitter during Bedlam Hall: An All Female RPG Game, GM’d by Karen Bovenmyer, and featuring Joanna Nelius, Lee Murray, Kaaron Warren, and Kathleen Kaufman. Easily one of my favorite “panels” of StokerCon–and by far the funniest–I would 100% subscribe if these ladies made it a regular event on YouTube (or whatever the kids are watching these days…it’s TicTac, right?).

The Bedlam Hall family: Lee Murray, Kyla Lee Ward, Kathleen Kaufman, Karen Bovenmyer, and Joanna Nelius. Not pictured: Kaaron Warren.

My second panel of the convention, Writing Horror For Kids and Teens, was another standing-room-only event, no doubt because we had Lucy Snyder, Gaby Triana, Daniel Kraus, Jonathan Maberry, and Josh Malerman all on the same stage! Someone posted a great shot of this on FB, but I want to get official blessings before I link to it. Thanks to Mark Matthews, I have a picture proving this dream panel happened (at least in this timeline/dimension). I may be biased, but I thought these peeps packed a lot of great insight and advice into a mere 50 minutes. Also, this was just a whole lot of fun. I don’t think anyone recorded it, but if so, I will add a link.

Photo by Mark Matthews. Left to right: It me! (N.R. Lambert), Josh Malerman, Daniel Kraus, Jonathan Maberry, Gaby Triana, and Lucy Snyder.

Thanks to everyone at StokerCon 2019 for an amazing weekend! Looking ahead, I’m planning to attend StokerCon UK in 2020 and will post my schedule here once I have it.

Artist-In-Residence at Fire Island National Seashore

Hot on the heels of StokerCon, I left for a two week residency at Fire Island National Seashore, courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service. I’ve got a detailed post here, but for the tl;dr set: it was an incredible experience, both as a writer and as a human who loves this planet. During my time there I started a new novel, revised a novel-in-progress, and wrote several new short stories. (So productive! Who was that person and how do I get her back?) I also got *really* into bird watching, dabbled in being a morning person, and collected approximately ten million balloons from the beach. (Seriously, #banballoons forever, peeps.)

The folks at FINS were amazing and supportive, and really made sure I enjoyed every minute of my residency. If this sounds intriguing to you, please consider applying for a 2020 residency at Fire Island or check out one of the many other NPS residency programs.

In the bungalow at Watch Hill. Photo by NPS.

Summer Dark Reading

Later in June, literally days after (reluctantly) returning from my residency, I took part in the Summer Dark reading series, hosted by the Horror Writers Association’s New York Chapter. On a lovely New York City summer evening (with requisite 3000% humidity), Steven Van Patten, Carol Gyzander and I read creepy stories in a gorgeous little gem of a garden–the appropriately named, Oasis Community Garden. If this sounds like something you might have enjoyed, fret not! The Summer Dark reading series will be returning in 2020, so keep an eye out for updates from HWA-NY.

Photo by Carol Gyzander.

Short Fiction NEWS

In case you missed it, Fireside Quarterly‘s Winter 2020 issue is shipping now and includes my story, “The Words I Starved For.” I’m in especially excellent company in this issue, so if you’d like a copy, it’s not too late to subscribe!

Cover art by Carlota Suarez

Cover art by Carlota Suarez.

***

New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has a pub date and a new title! Look for Don’t Turn Out the Lights: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark on Tuesday, September 1, 2020, which will include my story, “Tag, You’re It.” I’m guessing we’ll have cover art soon and I’ll do a separate post when we do. Don’t worry, I will never shut up about this anthology. Never.

Other writing news

For my day job, I worked on a few new magazine projects this year, including editing for PBS’s Secrets of the Dead (available now!) and writing for Entertainment Weekly’s The Ultimate Guide to the Office (February 2020). For more news from the freelance realm, visit my other site, wordcenary.com.

Coming Up in 2020…

Plenty of tears, anxiety, and insomnia!
JK, JK!
(Not kidding at allllllll!)

Seriously. Please make sure you are registered to vote.  You can check via vote.org or through your local board of elections.

If you are registered to vote (YAY!), consider volunteering to help others vote in upcoming elections. Rock the Vote, Carpool Vote, and When We All Vote offer lots of ways to volunteer, including by hosting voter registration events or offering rides on election days. There are also opportunities to volunteer with your local election board.

If you are not registered to vote, please register to vote. Do it now.

If you’ll need an absentee ballot, plan ahead.

Generally speaking, let’s just all try to do a better job taking care of each other and the planet we share in the new year (and beyond).

Happy 2020, all!

On Stands Now! Rise of the Superhero: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen

When I began working on my essay, “World War II & Nationalism” (one of several I wrote for LIFE: Rise of the Superhero), the 2016 election was just kicking into high gear and Nazis were primarily relegated to the past. Sure, we all knew pockets of white supremacists/neo-Nazis/alt-whatever-the-f*ck-else-these-guys-call-themselves, existed around the world. But a full-on Nazi rally? On American soil? In 2017? I never would have believed it. Nor that the President of the United States would then tap-dance around denouncing Nazis, or even publicly validate them by trying to create some sort of equivalence between the actions of actual self-identifying, muthereffing Nazis and the actions of the brave Americans protesting the rally.

And yet, here we are, America 2017. Rallies like the one in Charlottesville are on the rise, at home and abroad; seething losers emboldened and encouraged by 45’s victory. It’s a shameful affront against Holocaust survivors and their families, Japanese Internment Camp survivors and their families, and World War II veterans and their families–especially relatives of the murdered, lost, and fallen–that they must now watch the horrific resurgence of these monsters in their own backyards. It’s extra offensive that these alt-holes then hide behind a faux nationalism that reveals an agenda having nothing to do with patriotism and everything to do with hate. How else does one flip from getting one’s Dixie-print briefs all bunched up over athletes “disrespecting” America, veterans, the U.S. military, and idk, maybe golden-lab-puppies-with-bandanas, to being A-OKAY with marching as the very anti-American, anti-freedom groups that their grandparents and great-grandparents risked their lives to fight? Who’s really disrespecting America here? Hint: It’s not the athletes.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for how to end hate or hate groups (though it would be very on-brand for 2017 if I suddenly solved one of humanity’s biggest issues in the void of my deserted blogscape). But I’ll say this: Leading up to WWII, comic publishers created many (many, many) all-American superheroes in part to unify Americans under our country’s best qualities, even if those qualities were, and still are, mainly aspirational. But in this round against the rising tide of hate groups–and here’s where I get a little corny, please bear with me–I don’t think we need to look outside ourselves for inspiration. For those of us who think the country can do better than what hate mongers offer, this is an opportunity to fashion ourselves into our own superheroes.*
*Star-spangled spandex completely optional, but encouraged.

We have the tools, the platforms, and the connections we need to motivate and activate each other, and as of now, we still have the freedom to utilize them. But we’ve all seen how quickly the status-quo can change, abroad and at home, so it’s important that we exercise those freedoms. Because, as much as we still love them (or huh? them), it wasn’t Captain America (or Spy Smasher) that defeated the Nazis in World War II, it was the real-life people that inspired those superheroes to be created in the first place. To that end, I encourage you to find an anti-hate organization in your community, or online, and put your voice, your time, and if possible, your money into supporting them.

LIFE Rise of the Superhero: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen features an exclusive introduction by the legendary Stan Lee. In addition to “WWII & Nationalism,” I wrote a couple of other pieces for this special issue, including “Super Spoofs and Satire.” If you’d like to read more, LIFE Rise of the Superhero is available at magazine stands, in bookstores, and online.

On Stands Now! Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman

My Princesses Were Warriors

There’s a pattern to the characters that I gravitated toward in childhood. My princesses—Leia, She-Ra, and Wonder Woman—were all warriors. (My princes were the Goblin King and Dr. Frank-N-Furter*—I liked my men in glitter and my women in charge. But that’s a post for another day.) No shade on swooning, dancing, enchanted-sleeping princesses, they had their place and time. But my princesses, the ones I idolized, the ones I pretended to be, aspired to be—they didn’t wait to be rescued, they did the rescuing. They were smart, strong, and yes, occasionally rocked some bitchin’ sparkly headwear. First among these, both in time and in my heart, is Wonder Woman. (Having grown up with the 70s television show, for me, Wonder Woman was, is, and forever shall be, Lynda Carter. Amen.)

Carter’s Wonder Woman was both kind and fierce; and often that kindness would nearly lead to her undoing. But she never let the fight break her humanity—she stayed true to herself. As a kid, especially as a girl, that was a powerful message. You can be strong, fight back, push up, and still have compassion for others, even your enemies, and especially yourself. It was a bit of a My First nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

That ain't no filter, I am as old as the brown linoleum beneath me.

These pictures capture my complete adoration of Wonder Woman. Look at my face! I’ve spent decades trying to regain this girl’s pure, fearless, unabashed confidence.

All this to say, you can imagine how quickly I jumped at the opportunity to write about Wonder Woman for Entertainment Weekly’s The Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman. If the internet was actually a series of tubes (remember the halcyon days when that was the dumbest thing a senator might say?), my email reply would have left burning tire tracks à la Back to the Future.

Re-watching the old Wonder Woman episodes for these pieces was a trip. Let’s talk about how hour-long episodes of television in the 70s were pretty much a FULL HOUR of programming. Gather round kiddos while I boggle your mind with my tales of a time before commercials gobbled up 1/3 of any given time slot. Also, the pacing on the old episodes was so much slower than the non-stop, quick-cut action scenes we get today. Long shots lazily panning over miles of landscape, extended close-ups of characters thinking. It was jarring to jump back in to modern television pacing after spending a couple of weeks back in the 70s.

Some of the plots were completely bonkers (I got to rank a few of them in this issue). Season 1 was set in the 40s, so lots of WWII themes. But seasons 2 and 3 were polyester-packed and disco-riffic in all their 70s glory. Diana Prince’s wardrobe? Amazing. I still aspire to rock a sleek ponytail and big glasses the way she did.

Despite the many ways the show is dated, Carter’s Wonder Woman still stands up and I’m so grateful I had her as a childhood hero. I hope the new movie can bring that same inspiration to a whole new generation of kids.

*Forever bless the babysitter who let me watch RHPS when I was nine—most of it went right over my head; Tim Curry did not.

Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman is available at magazine stands, in bookstores, and online.