Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Ask An Author: Dig’s A.S. King [Contributor: Megan Mann]

(Image source: Penguin Random House)

Very rarely do I find an author whose work I look forward to time after time — whose work I literally throw my phone while screaming upon the announcement of their next book. But I am constantly amazed at the work of A.S. King. If you've ever asked me for a book recommendation, the first one I'll suggest is Ask the Passengers.

So you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled on her blog last year and discovered that her new book would be out in 2019. I had a brief Twitter freakout and have been counting down to this day for months. And the newest novel didn't disappoint.

Dig follows a string of characters as they navigate their lives in a suburb outside of Philadelphia. There's something that each character is doing because of their parents. Marla has a secret that she can't share with her kids because they'll know that's why they turned out so strange. Loretta lives by the script she knows she should be playing out because her dad has a temper and her mother won't do anything. CanIHelpYou? sells drugs in the Arby's drive-thru to get away from her racist mother. The Shoveler is tired of moving because his mom can't hold down a job. Malcolm, Gottfried, Jake Marks. They've all been visited by The Freak and she knows what each of them needs. But how? And how do each of the stories intertwine?

I was lucky enough to dig (see what I did there?) through A.S. King's brain to see what she had to say about her newest book.

Dig is finally out! How does it feel?


This book has always felt a bit like I was walking upstream with three full barrels of dirt tied to my waist. So it feels good to finally release it. Maybe that means I can also untie the barrels now.

What was the writing process like for this one?


It was fun and frustrating, exciting and excruciating, just like all other books. But longer. With barrels tied to my waist, walking upstream. I write by the seat of my pants, so the speed and ease of a book’s writing process depends solely on how willing my characters are to cooperate. These characters weren’t so bad, but they were slow. Nearly four years slow. They did cooperate eventually... though The Freak didn’t tell me her secrets until page 350, so that was a bit cheeky of her. But mostly it was fun. And sometimes scary.

Let’s talk potatoes as some might be terrifically perplexed by their place on the cover before picking up Dig. Were they the catalyst for the story or did they simply keep coming up?


Potatoes just showed up. Over and over again, potatoes kept showing up. Then the former farm showed up, then the university showed up. It’s not that simple though. Again, I follow the characters. So once the spuds showed up a few times, I did what anyone would do: I Googled potatoes and potato recipes. They kept showing up, so I read non-fiction and researched more. (I am lucky to have a pretty extensive potato-growing past, so I know the feel and the smell of potato plants and their horticultural details very well. That helped.) So the spud fascination fed itself. It showed up, then it made me want to know more. This is pretty much my process.

I’ve said this to you before, but magical realism is one of my favorite aspects of your writing. But it wasn’t until Dig that it dawned on me how you’re using magical realism in terms of mental health. Astrid is struggling with her sexuality and sends messages to the sky. China has turned herself inside out from PTSD. Vera is seeing her best friend in different scenarios through her haze of grief. Gerald dreams in a different world to escape reality. In Dig, The Freak flickers to new places. Would you say a lot of your work is about the struggles of mental health?


My not-quite-realism/surrealism is certainty all about metaphors. And yes, I use it to connect with the real lives of my readers. That could mean something as serious as mental illness, or as mild as just feeling normal emotions most of the time. That said, The Freak isn’t a great example in this book of someone suffering from mental illness. I’d say the Shoveler probably is. Or Marla. Or Missy and Loretta. But yes, dealing with mental illness is surreal so I feel surrealism lends itself to the stories that my characters tell me.

As for the last question, yes, I’d say my stories are often about people who are struggling, period. Who doesn’t struggle? Sometimes my characters have diagnosable mental issues, sometimes not. But yes, the mental health of human beings has been something I have been interested in for my whole life. Not just because I have dealt with it directly, but because I know too many people who don’t “believe” in teenage mental illness, which leaves struggling teens at a disadvantage to face their issues with the help of professionals or even within their families. My goal is to crack/break/destroy the stigma, open the conversation, and finally get to a place where people can see what’s really going on. Some people don’t respond well to real-talk, so surrealism helps me sew it into their brains through a loophole.

Something else I’ve always immensely enjoyed, and why I think your work stands out to me, is the intense reality of it all. YA is often centered around typical teenage problems. But yours get down to the dirty parts of life — the parts not everyone always wants to explore. Why do you think that that makes you, or someone like Andrew Smith, stand out?


I’m not even sure if I do stand out. I write real because I am real. I know this is probably why Smith and I are great friends. It’s easy to talk to him because we speak the same real-language. Same with many of my writer friends who stand out. I have spent a lot of time in my life surrounded by people who were not living in the real world. People who lie to themselves. People who pretend everything is fine. People who can never be wrong or who make up stories to keep themselves superior. These are adults, mind you. Teenagers? I find them to be a lot more real than adults for the most part. And writers who have that same respect for teenagers, then, stand out to me.

Look, life is dirty. If we don’t start looking at the dirt, we... oh. We’re probably already there. That’s why I write about intense reality — because life is intense reality. Ask any kid who had to cower against a wall in their classroom today during a drill, or the real thing. Life is intense reality.

The formatting of this book is interesting. Was that intentional or did it just happen organically?


The formatting of the Shoveler’s and Marla’s internal rants probably made me the enemy of all typesetters everywhere. I knew it would. But that’s how his thought tunnels look. It’s a visual metaphor. And it was totally intentional.

But you could mean the structure — if so, yes, it was weird, wasn’t it? The blender. The strainer. I really have no idea where those came from. It just happened. So, I’ll claim: organic with revision intension.

Your characters are all so very different, but they all exist within the same place. Their stories don’t always intertwine in a big way, but they’re still aware of each other. Is that a reflection of how we’re absorbed in our own problems and don’t see the problems others are facing or am I simply reading too much into this?


I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t try to do anything in my books, so what happens is organic. And maybe organic things reflect reality. And if that’s true, then yeah, maybe this is true. So you aren’t reading too much into anything. You are educating me about my own book. Thank you. It fits the theme, all right.

But on this topic, I think it’s important to note that the book is about generational differences and, most importantly, the withholding and confusion of familial love and how that affects people in different generations. A lot of people don’t have the ability to love without conditions or without a sort of emotional blackmail. I’m no psychologist, but I’d say the family we read about in Dig is riddled with more approachable issues like anxiety and depression, but also more surreptitious issues like narcissism and sociopathy.

A lot of what happens to us as kids is what shapes the rest of our lives. Malcolm is lost because of his mother and father dying. Marla’s children are cold, distant, and a little unhinged because she was distant. The Freak had a tumultuous upbringing. What is it that drew you to these stories?


Oh, Megan, I know I’m a frustrating interviewee. I really do.

What drew me to the stories were the characters who showed up and started talking to me. They started telling me stuff and I started writing. I know that sounds like my brain is made of granola, but that’s really how I write books. I’m the last to know what the hell is going on. So choices, then, are unlikely.

But here’s a story about the day I figured out Dig was a real-live novel versus the weird bits of writing I was trying:

So I’d written the short Marla/Gottfried (note: this is the first mention of potatoes on page two —my brain is messed up!) and Marks brothers chapters first, then I wrote the Shoveler. For maybe eighty pages. He just kept shoveling and he wasn’t telling me much at all. The Freak showed up but she was a mystery (remember: she didn’t tell me squat for 350 pages) and I decided to toss the book. Bye, book! You’re fired!

I started writing another book about a girl named CanIHelpYou? and her job at Arby’s. After a few chapters, she and her friend hang out at the park one night and suddenly, there’s a kid with a snow shovel in the park — but there’s no snow. I thought: OH WOW. IT’S AN A.S. KING NOVEL. I dug out the Shoveler and The Freak, Malcolm showed up, and then I eventually figured out how they all fit together.

Technically, that’s what drew me to these stories. Curiosity. Excitement. And pure weirdness. And trust. I trust the process. I try not to stress when I toss 80 pages of what seemed like a good thing. They will usually wander back. But not without trust.

Okay, let’s change gears. What do you hope readers gain from Dig?


As always, I hope readers get what they need from the book.

But specifically, I hope readers can taste the privilege in their lives and their communities after seeing these examples, and I hope they can see that love is the only important thing. (Dental hygiene is pretty important, too, but love rocks.)

Have the characters from a future novel introduced themselves to you yet? If so, what can you tell us?


YES, THEY HAVE! And I can tell you nothing. Not yet. Sorry. But in the meantime, I do have a middle-grade novel coming out in October (The Year We Fell From Space) and I can tell you that it’s about stars, depression, and a meteorite.

(Megan's note: This bothers me because I WANT TO KNOW.)

What are you reading right now?


I’m reading poems, mostly. All kinds of poems. So many poems.

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten lately?


Breathe. 🡨 best advice ever.

And most importantly, what's your favorite potato dish?


Mashed, with proper homemade gravy.

I want to thank A.S. King so much for letting me getting super deep with her about her latest novel. It was an insightful read that will prove the importance of not only connection, but deep connection — the kind that reminds you that you're okay, that you're safe, and that you have someone to rely on when you need it. It's a book that reminds you to learn from your mistakes and not pass them on from generation to generation. It was, in short, another home-run for one of my favorite authors.


Dig is available to buy today!

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Flash 5x17 Review: "Time Bomb" (Truth Bomb) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Time Bomb”
Original Airdate: March 19, 2019

The Flash is dealing with some particularly good stuff this week, mostly revolving around the power of truth. How important truth is, how important it is to control one’s own truth and when it comes out, and how the reveal of one truth and the reveal of a seemingly similar truth don’t always end in the same way. The good episodes of this show always have tightly interwoven parallels, and “Time Bomb” — while still exhibiting some flaws — has tightly interwoven parallels up the wazoo.

SECRETS, SECRETS ARE NO FUN


Once again starting the episode in 2049, Nora confronts Eobard Thawne about the new Cicada that popped up last episode after the original Cicada was cured of his Cicada-ness. Nora is understandably upset, since Thawne promised he knew what was going on and how to stop Cicada, but now Thawne says he was “very wrong.” Well gee, thanks for that sudden self-awareness, megalomaniacal murderer from the future, but it’s not particularly helpful. Nora begs Thawne to help, but Thawne’s only advice is for her to tell Barry all about her partnership with him and her mission in the past.

Meanwhile, Grace has revealed who she actually is to her uncle Orlin, who doesn’t seem particularly happy about his adopted daughter taking his metahuman hatred and running with it, straight into a life of vengeance and violence. She tells her story, then says she has stuff (read: murderin’) to do, but when she gets back she and Orlin are going to work together to get his Cicada powers back.

During their investigation into why anyone would kidnap Orlin Dwyer after his surgery, the civilian law and order side of Team Flash has hit a brick wall. Dr. Ambres didn’t talk to people at the hospital where she worked and had a reputation for being withdrawn and angry, only really brightening up when dealing with comatose Grace. Considering this and what happens later in the episode, I just don’t get what the handle on Grace’s personality or motivations are meant to be. The writers seem to want to imply that Grace’s brain injury, plus influence from overhearing the people around her — namely, her uncle Orlin and Dr. Ambres — resulted in her deep hatred of metahumans. Like a kind of brainwashing made stronger by the dark matter shrapnel in her skull.

But the fact that Grace kills the people she should be essentially super-brainwashed into wanting to protect just gives me the feeling that the writers don’t have any idea what her emotional motivation should be. They just want her to be a wildcard anti-metahuman force, with no logical movements or a structure to her villainy, and I’m not sure I buy that. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong later and Grace will become an interesting, multifaceted villain. I doubt it, but maybe.

Back to the plot: while Nora still hesitates to tell her father the whole truth, Sherloque is still trying to uncover Nora’s secrets himself by interpreting her diary entries. (Side note: the diary entries we see on screen are some fantastic examples of effects people having fun and include mentions of a 2023 Chicken Plague that puts Chipotle out of business, Subway turning from sandwiches to yoga, and apparently a whole journal entry detailing her crush on Spencer Young from the episode “News Flash.) Since Nora includes no names from the future in her diary, Sherloque finds nothing.

S.T.A.R. Labs gets an alert that something’s been stolen from their archives (“Starchives”) and placed in the woods somewhere. The team splits up, Ralph and Iris going to the actual Starchives to check while Cisco breaches Sherloque and himself to the location in the woods. Both teams find the same thing: Eobard Thawne’s Time Sphere.

When Barry and Iris convene on the Time Sphere in the woods, Cisco and Iris perform “Operation Shazam”: to prove that the Time Sphere in both places is the same, Iris scratches the surface of the one in the Starchives and the same scratch appears on the one in the woods. It’s actually really cool. Fun with time travel! Anyway, Team Flash figures out the Cicada who kidnapped Dwyer must be from the future since there’s no such thing as coincidence when Time Spheres are involved.

And why is Cicada II traveling through time? A little investigation leads Barry, Cisco, and Nora to an ATM that was part of a metahuman crime scene back in 2017. Although the ATM and the surrounding wall were destroyed in the initial explosion, Cisco vibes a scorched hunk of concrete and confirms in-universe what the audience has known for ages: Cicada II is Grace Gibbons from the future and she’s targeting the meta who killed her parents.

Unlike most non-Team Flash metas on this show, though, said metahuman (Vickie Bolen) isn’t a thief or a criminal or even bad at all — she’s just a meta whose powers triggered on at the wrong moment. Vickie didn’t even know she was the cause of the ATM explosion, since her powers affected the machine and only exploded after she’d gone. Even when Joe clarifies the situation for her, Vickie refuses to go into police custody or tell her family about her powers — a decision that Barry, having experienced something similar in the past, vehemently disagrees with.

This little plot point about keeping secrets connects with the secret Nora’s keeping, of course, but Nora’s connection to Cicada II goes beyond just emotion implications. She apparently has a psychic connection to Grace, probably thanks to her trip into Grace’s brain earlier in the season, and can predict when Cicada II attacks at a birthday party for Vickie’s daughter. Vickie attempts to stop Cicada II by using her powers, but the little girl gets caught in the crossfire and has to be taken to the hospital, where Cicada II attacks yet again.

Even Orlin (whose rage might have been enhanced by the dark matter in his system, come to think of it — he seems weirdly rational now) can’t get through to Grace and stop her rampage. She ends up killing her uncle, so there’s that other half of the “what’s her point?” question I raised earlier in this review.

After Cicada II is (temporarily) stopped and the Bolen family is put into protective custody, Team Flash still has some stuff to deal with. Nora is partially inspired by the reconciliation between Vickie and her family after the latter had a poor reaction to her powers. She’s still struggling with how, but Sherloque takes it out of her hands and tells the rest of the team she’s been working with Eobard Thawne this whole time.

The reaction is... significantly more poor than the truth coming out in the Bolen family. Barry straight-up locks Nora in one of the metahuman holding cells, where she breaks down crying — alone.

Other Things:
  • While I kind of like that the whole “distract Sherloque with a new girlfriend” plot from a while back completely backfired just because it’s amusing how little it changed, it really highlights the pointlessness of that episode.
  • Shout out to the physical comedy going on with Ralph dodging a broom-wielding Sherloque.
  • [Everyone blabbers in Time Travel Nonsense] Joe: “It makes sense... I can’t even believe I just said that.”
  • My favorite scenes are the ones that get the closed captioning “[irreverent pizzicato music]”.
  • “You don’t think she’d make a good Spider-Person?” The improvement of the Ralph Dibny character is by far the most impressive thing this show has ever accomplished.
  • Next week: Nothin’. See you on April 16th.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Grey’s Anatomy 15x18 Review: “Add it Up” (Parts of a Whole) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Add it Up”
Original Airdate: March 21, 2019

The format of many stories playing out at the same time continues on the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and it’s starting to get difficult to keep track of all the moving parts of the show. It’s becoming more complicated to remember each character’s season-long story, even though each tends to play out every week. This episode seems to kick off the beginning of the end of the season, as it appears many storylines are going to be sprinting toward the finish line.

ADAPTATION


This is the first time in a while that I don’t feel that there was a main plot in an episode. Instead, there are three stories that get equal screen time, along with some minor offshoots that connect to each. The most relevant plot centers on a mother and her adult child getting treated for severe injuries from a snowmobile accident. Amelia and Link are called in to work on the mother, who suffered two spinal injuries while Richard, Jackson, and Helm help their genderqueer patient. Richard has a difficult time understanding the pronouns that his patient prefers to be called and gets a lesson in proper terminology from Jackson and Helm. Richard tries to explain that he is trying to adapt to the current times, but it isn’t easy for him — even though he understands what it is like to be called something you aren’t. Jackson and Helm don’t seem to grasp what Richard says, which is the real downfall of the story.

The good news is that they are able to surgically fix their patient’s problems, but the mother isn’t so lucky. Amelia and Link think that their surgery is going well when they are able to easily repair their patient’s cervical spine fractures. However, when they move on to her lumbar spinal injury, things quickly go south. The patient’s spinal cord swells and leaves her permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

Even though Amelia and Link have tried to stay away from each other throughout the day and forget about their one-time “alternative pain relief” session in San Diego, the two wind up consoling each other after the surgery. They refill their pain relief prescription and give in to their budding feelings. It’s safe to say that we all knew that San Diego wasn’t a one-time thing for these two, and it will be interesting to see what the rest of the season has in store for them.

SELF-SABOTAGE


The next plot has many moving parts and is made up of several smaller stories. DeLuca is still brooding a week after his father packed up and left town and doesn’t want to be bothered by anyone. His attitude is bad throughout the episode, which shows everyone — including Meredith — his immaturity. Alex takes DeLuca on his service for the day and decides to throw him a bone by allowing him to be the hero doctor for their tween patient. The child has been suffering from pancreatitis for many years and is finally eligible to have her pancreas removed to ease her pain.

But it turns out that the kid is a math whiz — and smart in more ways than one. When her mom tells her that the surgery will allow her to lead a normal life again and go back to school, the patient sabotages her test results by drinking apple juice to raise her blood sugar. High blood sugar equals no surgery, and the doctors are quite perplexed as to how the number spiked. Intern Qadri finds the hidden juice box and tells Alex and DeLuca that their patient purposely rigged the test. While the patient is receiving an insulin drip to lower her glucose, Qadri asks the other interns to help beat her patient at math problems. The other interns were helping Maggie test a new project: three different rooms that each have stimulus to lower blood pressure. Maggie and Bailey, who was testing the video game room, decide to jump in on the math bowl because none of the doctors can resist a challenge.

The young patient defeats all of the doctors and admits to sabotaging her test results earlier because she doesn’t want to go back to school. She hates being bullied for being smart, which is something the room full of doctors can relate to. She doesn’t want the surgery, and her mother isn’t sure whether she should push her 11-year-old into something she doesn’t want to do. DeLuca pressures the mother to force her daughter to get the surgery that she needs. Alex is stunned at DeLuca’s behavior and takes him off the case. DeLuca will not relent and talks to the patient behind Alex’s back; he winds up convincing her to have the surgery.

Even though Alex is glad the kid is finally on board, he doesn’t allow DeLuca to participate in the surgery. After the procedure, Alex has a stern talk with DeLuca and tells him that he needs to check his attitude before he pushes everyone that cares about him away. He tells DeLuca that he had the same problem for years and it only brought him unhappiness. Alex gets through ti DeLuca and makes him realize that he hasn’t been treating Meredith well either. Meredith shows up at DeLuca’s house later that night to discuss what has been going on. She tells him that she doesn’t have time to be dating someone who is distant and can’t get their act together, which prompts DeLuca to fully realize the extent of his actions. He promises that he has gotten over the number his father did on him and goes back to being his old self.

The new couple makes up, but this isn’t going to be the last time that his problems will come up. Meredith has opened her eyes and witnessed that her much younger boyfriend isn’t on the same level as her. I’m not quite sure how long their fling will last, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they break up by the end of the season.

BABY DRAMA


The final story of the episode depicts the ongoing drama between Teddy, Owen, and Koracick. Owen has cleared his schedule to attend birthing class with Teddy and isn’t happy when Koracick also shows up. Teddy doesn’t make it to the class and winds up on bed rest all day due to some minor contractions. She has Carina page Owen, who quickly comes to her aid without telling Koracick what is going on. Owen hangs out with Teddy all day and makes several pitiful attempts to talk to the unborn baby, at Carina’s suggestion. Watching Owen try to talk to the baby is as painful for the audience as it is for Teddy and will make you wonder how Leo is such a happy baby around him.

Teddy is increasingly stressed that the baby will come early, but the bed rest helps. Things get more stressful when Koracick finds them in the same hospital room and learns what has been going on. He asks Owen to step outside and talk, which neither guy really wants to do. Koracick is beyond mad that Owen didn’t tell him that Teddy was having problems and asks if he would have even been paged if the baby was coming. Owen has been rude to Koracick ever since he started dating Teddy, and Koracick finally slams Owen for his behavior. Koracick gives a good speech about how Owen has had his many chances with Teddy and always lets her down and shouldn’t be mad that she now has someone in her life who is completely committed to her and loves her.

Hopefully this is the wake-up call that Owen needs because Koracick plans to stick around, and the two are going to have to learn to at least be civil.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Ask An Author: Night Music's Jenn Marie Thorne [Contributor: Megan Mann]


New York is a magical place. It's considered one of the most important food cities in America, it's home to Broadway, an inordinate amount of books, movies, and television series have been set there, it's a worldwide fashion capital and girls from around the world vie for a chance to be part of the city's illustrious ballet companies. It's also known as a city that embraces dreams and offers up a world of possibilities both large and small. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

However, Cartier and caviar aren't the only things that New York is known for. As a mecca of American and global culture, New York is home to one of the most famous halls of classical music: Lincoln Center. Famed musicians and singers from around the world have graced its stage and wowed audiences for decades. But I bet you wouldn't expect that to be the subject of a YA novel, right?

The worlds of New York and classical music is, in fact, at the epicenter of Jenn Marie Thorne's newest release Night Music. Ruby Chertok is classical music royalty. Or at least her family is. Her mother is a world-renowned pianist, her dad is one of the most notable composers and conductors in modern classical music, her sister is a first chair violinist, her brother is a conductor and composer, and her oldest brother has always been incredibly gifted in terms of music. No matter how hard she tries, Ruby just doesn't feel like she belongs. She can play piano, but not as well as the rest of her family and she can't really compose. So where does this leave her?

In the summer of her contemplation — and eventual liberation from bottom of the totem pole to forging her own path — Ruby meets Oscar. He's an internet phenomenon that her father has personally brought to the Amberley School of Music to make his mentee. He sees potential for Oscar, but he also sees dollar signs and donations. Of course, Oscar doesn't know that he's being used as a pawn as he creates his first symphony because he's under so much pressure to succeed.

The pressure to find yourself not only in the classical music world, but in the world itself is at the heart of Night Music. Ruby is desperate to find her purpose while Oscar just wants to find his place in a world that doesn't accept who he is or who he loves. It's a dual coming-of-age story that explores the steps we need to take to figure out who we are and what we want out of life.

Luckily, I was able to talk to Jenn Marie Thorne about her lovely new novel.

Congratulations! Night Music is finally out there! How does it feel?


Jenn: It’s a little surreal! Night Music has had a long journey from initial idea to publication. My totally unscientific theory is that the longer you’ve worked on a book, the harder it is to let it go and hand it over to readers. But at the same time, the response has been really positive so far, and of course I’m proud to have it out there.

Classical music, whether it be through composing or performance, is an interesting choice for a YA story. What inspired that?


The first spark of the idea was actually for a fantasy novel, if you can believe it. I was interested in the idea of a non-magical person in a magical world with a sort of failed birthright falling for a very powerful magician. The idea kind of got stuck there until I realized why I’d come up with it in the first place, as a way of processing my own disappointment over not pursuing a career in music.

I’ve always loved classical music and studied classical voice for many years; but deep down, I always knew I didn’t have the natural ability that would enable me to really make a go of it. It’s hard to accept that the thing you love doesn’t fully love you back — but it does help to write a whole book about it!

What was the research like for this project? Did you go and experience the magic firsthand?


When I lived in New York, I spent a lot of time at Lincoln Center. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my friends and I used to buy really cheap seats for the Metropolitan Opera, then sneak into empty seats in the front row during the first intermission. I did, of course, research the music world in more detail with the help of a few friends who are professional musicians. I must say, I’m desperate to get back to New York after spending so much time there in my imagination over the course of writing the book.

(Megan's note: I, too, have bought cheap seats and moved down during multiple Broadway shows. Broke, but cultured, you know?)

Music is also a huge part of NYC culture, especially the Met Opera and Lincoln Center, but are very rarely the center of the NYC story. Why do you feel that is?


Well, there’s a lot going on in New York, right? And much of it is probably more accessible than the classical music world. I think to people who aren’t avid fans, Lincoln Center can feel a little insular and off-putting. Another reason I think you don’t see music as a central theme as much as, say, ballet is that it’s really hard to write! There’s that old expression, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” and I do think it presents a daunting challenge.

Something that's clear throughout the story is the difference between Ruby, Oscar, and Jules. Ruby has it all while Jules is struggling, but Jules is much more confident than Ruby. Oscar has all of the talent and charisma, while Ruby's family is a classical music legacy and she's extremely shy. Did you want to create those differences between the characters or was it organic?


I would love to say that I carefully planned and outlined each character to serve as a useful counterpoint to each other, but it was a happy accident in this case.

Funnily enough, Jules was the first fully-formed character that I got my head around, then the adult characters, then Oscar, and Ruby arrived last — probably because she’s the character who’s closest to myself and I’ve always found it excruciating to write about myself.

What wound up informing the confidence levels of each of the characters was their histories. Jules is essentially a foundling with a fantastic guardian, and as a result, she’s been able to bolster her confidence in a way that’s often a bit defensive. Oscar comes from a loving and supportive home, whereas Ruby’s upbringing has been extremely haphazard and left her feeling like an add-on who should just be grateful to be along for the ride.

Another thing I found interesting was Oscar pointing out that his talent, his love of classical music, and desire to be a composer made him the odd one out even more than his ethnicity did. Why do you think that is? Do you think there's a sort of racial bias in terms of classical music?


There’s an absolute racial bias in the classical music world, despite the prevalence of blind auditions today, and the problem starts early. Nonprofits like the Sphinx Organization and Castle of our Skins provide music education for Black and Latinx children and promote the work of Black musicians and composers, respectively. There’s a lot left to be done on a systemic level to acknowledge and address the diversity issue within classical music. That being said, I think anyone being raised outside of the classical music bubble with Oscar’s level of genius would feel like the odd man out.

There's a lot of mental struggle throughout the book. Ruby is constantly wondering what she can do to have an impact as she navigates moving out of her family's spotlight, while Oscar starts having dark days filled with panic attacks. I would say that most people in the arts are often riddled with anxiety. Did you want to highlight that for any particular reason?


Maybe this is my own personal lens, but it seems to me that anxiety is a huge issue for a lot of teens and adults that often isn’t explicitly portrayed in fiction, so in Night Music, I wanted Oscar and Ruby to deal with the pressures that have been placed on them in a way that to me felt authentic.

Okay! Now to the fun questions! If this were to become a movie, who would be in your dream cast?


I’m so bad at casting my main characters, because they are so particularly themselves in my brain that I have a hard time picturing someone new in the role. I’ve got some adults, though, for the supporting cast: Bryce Dallas Howard for Nora and Mandy Patinkin is Marty Chertok. This doesn’t often happen, but he was head-canon as Marty before I even started writing the book!

(Megan's note: Oh my GOD. I cannot unseen Mandy Patinkin as Marty. It's the most flawless casting.)

What was the writing process like?


Epic. I wrote a very quick rough draft before I moved to England, then almost completely rewrote it after moving to England. There was a lot of back and forth and incredible beta reader input and then one day, magically, it was in ARCs!

What did you listen to when you were writing this? (I think it would be hilarious if you had to write a novel entirely about music in complete silence!)


You’re not far off! I listened to classical music constantly while I wasn’t writing, especially the pieces featured in the story, but I am an extremely distractible person, so while I was doing the actual work, I needed silence or I would just, like, start singing opera and two hours would have passed with zero words written.

What would you like readers to take away from Night Music?


Your life is your own and it’s your one true art. Your worth is inherent, whether you’re gifted or not. Be kind, be brave, love wildly, and enjoy yourself.

And finally, what are you reading right now?


I’m finally reading Circe by Madeline Miller (who I went to high school with!) and it’s as incredible an achievement as everybody said.

Night Music (from Penguin Teen) hit shelves today! Make sure to pick up a copy for your spring break reading or for a lovely love story to devour in a weekend!  
Happy reading, friends!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Flash 5x16 Review: "Failure is an Orphan" (Things Happen!) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


 "Failure is an Orphan"
Original Airdate: March 12, 2019

The main plot is back on The Flash, which means no more silly episodes about disappointing shark/gorilla battles that barely happen. Instead: Cicada! Dr. Ambres! Barry making questionable, but kind of nice, decisions! West-Allen Family Stuff!

Let’s go.

PERPETUAL CICADA


The episode begins with Nora in the future, where the still-caged Eobard Thawne is freaking out about timeline changes related to Cicada. Thawne pulls up a newspaper article on a confrontation between Cicada and Barry, assumed to be the last chance for Barry to use the cure on his foe. Nora claims she’s been trying to “engineer” such a moment the whole time she’s been in her past, which makes no sense since the cure’s only just been formulated. What would have been the point in getting Barry and Cicada to meet up without the cure? But whatever — turns out, a new timeline is trying to manifest, and the unpredictability of said timeline could ruin Thawne and Nora’s plans. Nora must ensure that Cicada is found before this new timeline comes along, and we have ourselves a ticking clock for the episode.

Nora is all-engines-go on the Cicada front, much to the annoyance of the rest of Team Flash — and the pride of Barry (which is adorable), until she turns on him and asks if he has his “convince Cicada to take the Metahuman Cure” speech down. Hey, Barry’s been ad-libbing inspiring speeches for five seasons now, I think he’s good. With the fun of watching his daughter organize the rest of the team thoroughly run out, Iris distracts Nora with a fake emergency at Jitters. Instead of a metahuman attack, it’s the reveal of an XS-themed coffee drink.

I’m actually really charmed by this little moment. It’s just a super cute West-Allen family moment without any drama or angst or secrets. Barry and Iris are just happy, proud parents who are thrilled to see their kid excited about something. The proud parents have also apparently been keeping a list of things they want to do as a family with Nora, including road trips, karaoke, teaching Nora to drive, and a Star Wars movie marathon. Adorable!

The adorable-ness is interrupted by an actual, not-a-distraction metahuman emergency, however. An acid-based meta is drinking chemicals in a college classroom. Weird, but we all have our quirks. After Barry uses his science knowledge to briefly neutralize the acid man, Nora notices the acid burn patterns and recognizes them as the same ones in the future picture of Barry battling Cicada. Surprisingly, Nora doesn’t withhold this information and just straight-up tells Barry that he’s going to confront Cicada later.

This knowledge puts Nora even further into a frenzy over the Cicada thing. Since Barry’s still trying to figure out how he’s going to talk Cicada into taking the metahuman cure, Nora tries inspiring him with some direct quotes from his history of big, heartfelt speeches to villains. The sticking point in the case of Cicada, though, is the fact that Orlin Dwyer doesn’t actually care if he lives or dies, and Barry doesn’t know how to appeal to that kind of mindset.

Whether Barry is ready or not, the time to meet with Cicada has come. Killer Frost helps pull a little switcheroo when Cicada chases the acid meta from earlier into an alley, safely depositing Acid Master into a cell while she freezes Cicada’s dagger to a wall and uses a breaching device to skedaddle. I think it probably would’ve been a wiser plan to breach the knife out with you, KF, but you go ahead. The Flash shows up to talk Cicada into taking the cure, but since we’re only twenty minutes into the episode at this point, it goes poorly.

With the failure to get through to Cicada weighing on Barry, it’s time for Joe to provide a classic pep talk that basically boils down to “appeal to Cicada as Barry Allen, not as the Flash, since Cicada hates the Flash and stuff.” Good advice, Joe. In exchange for this good advice, Barry gives some advice of his own to Joe regarding his little subplot with Cecile stealing his thunder with her lie-detector powers during the interrogation of Dr. Ambres. Man, this episode is really nailing the West-Allen family interactions. Case in point: the next scene’s little moment between Iris and Nora, in which Iris confesses she’s pushing that whole list thing on Nora because she wants to get as much out of her time with her daughter as she can. Aww!

Bolstered by his chat with Barry, Joe apologizes to Cecile and they tackle the case of Dr. Ambres together. They manage to figure out a motivation for siding with Cicada (the doctor’s fiancé was killed by metahumans during the Zoom season) but even the Joe-Cecile interrogation tag-team isn’t enough to jar Ambres from her hesitation to help. She says that CCPD’s two choices are “kill [Orlin]” or “put [Orlin] in jail” and… uh, does the good doc not realize that murder, regardless of the murderer’s feelings on dark matter, is a jailable offense?

Bizarrely, neither Joe nor Cecile bring this up, instead choosing to reveal the creation of a metahuman cure as a way to “save” Orlin’s life. After Ambres agrees she’ll try to get Orlin to cooperate, Cecile senses she’s hiding something else, and Dr. Ambres reveals that Orlin’s niece, Grace, is a meta! Dun dun duuu— wait, the audience already knew that.

After a brief meeting with Team Flash, Barry reiterates that he’ll be confronting Cicada as Barry instead of the Flash. When the time comes, I gotta admit — as stupid as the whole “just talk to the maniacal serial killer” plan sounds on paper, Barry delivers a pretty fine speech. Mostly, it’s about how Orlin’s choices, should he continue his vendetta as Cicada, are limited: he can adhere to his anti-meta plan and kill Grace, who is a meta, or he can let her live and force her to grow up in a world where she’s terrified of the murderer killing people like her. Barry draws on his (admittedly strange) experience as a father to relate to Orlin on a human level, even unmasking to show how serious he is about just wanting Orlin to try the cure. I notice the continued failure to mention that Orlin has to go to jail.

Oh hey, I spoke too soon. During Orlin’s agreed neutralization/surgery (on account of his sucking chest wound opening up when his powers are gone) Joe mentions he’s going to jail for a long, long time. Thank goodness someone on this show is finally being logical. Unfortunately, before Orlin can be sutured up by Dr. Ambres and shipped off to jail, the power goes out and a new Cicada leaps through the S.T.A.R. Labs window. Caitlin quickly freezes Orlin’s wound (not sure that’d work, but fine) and Dr. Ambres skedaddles with her patient while Team Flash confronts Cicada II: Destructive Boogaloo.

The power outage means Dr. Ambres is too slow to get out out of dodge, so when Cicada II shows up to steal the still-unconscious Orlin, things do not go well. The doctor begs for her life, but Cicada II stabs her with the newly-empowered Cicada dagger anyway. It’s revealed at the end of the episode that this new Cicada is a future version of Grace (which pretty much everyone saw coming), but I don’t really get why Grace would stab the only friend and ally her uncle had throughout the whole Cicada ordeal. Maybe the glowing head wound made her crazy?

Other Things:

  • “You two did this.” “You made her.” “You’re responsible.” Hee.
  • Hey, if Team Flash spritzed the meta-tech devices like Cicada’s dagger with the cure, would it neutralize the dark matter?

Grey’s Anatomy 15x17 Review: “And Dream of Sheep” (Erratic Behavior) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“And Dream of Sheep”
Original Airdate: March 14, 2019

This episode is brought to you by a delusional doctor and his nowhere near approved baby in a bag idea. Dr. DeLuca Sr. is off the rails and causing problems left and right, yet his own son is still blind to the truth. Things quickly go from bad to worse, leading to bad blood between family members. Mental illness is at the forefront at the episode, including looking at Helen Karev and Bailey’s statuses. Elsewhere, could romance be budding for two doctors who have both experienced loss?

BREACH OF PROTOCOL


A majority of the episode is dedicated to the DeLuca family science project of growing fetal lambs in bags. Yes, you read that right. If this sounds crazy to you, make sure you go rewatch the previous episode before watching this one. DeLuca Sr. is moving at a fast and furious pace to show that his idea is functional. Carina still doesn’t believe that her father is mentally stable enough to be running the research project and continues to voice her concerns to whoever is willing to listen. DeLuca Sr. proves his daughter’s point when he verbally attacks her after they lose one of their two baby lambs just a few days into the study. It is clear that DeLuca Sr.’s emotions change abruptly and that he is outwardly displaying signs of bipolar disorder, but Andrew won’t open his eyes to the truth and protects his father.

DeLuca Sr. kicks Carina off the study and goes back to work like nothing ever happened. Elsewhere in the hospital, a married couple is brought to the ER with injuries from a car accident. The woman is five months pregnant and happens to be Teddy’s patient. Owen tells Teddy that he is willing to work on the woman and she can take the man since the case might get tough. Teddy denies Owen’s cautions and runs full steam ahead on her patient, who is suffering from bleeding in her abdomen. Tests show that one of the woman’s uterine arteries is bleeding, and Teddy knows that there is a possibility that the baby might not survive. News travels around the hospital quickly, and Andrew accidentally spills the beans to his father, who quickly makes his way to the woman’s bedside.

Alex, Carina, and Andrew arrive right as DeLuca Sr. finishes his pitch to the parents-to-be to let him save their baby with his revolutionary sack, which is nowhere near being ready for human trials, let alone FDA approval. All of the doctors involved are beyond upset that DeLuca Sr. is giving the couple false hope when he knows that they cannot legally or ethically experiment on the baby. DeLuca Sr. begs Alex to let him save the life of the baby, and Alex does the right thing by shutting him down and not allowing him to play mad scientist with a fetus. The woman continues to go downhill and loses the baby when surgery becomes the only option.

DeLuca Sr. can’t believe that Alex wouldn’t give him the chance to save the baby and goes into another verbal attack. Alex shuts down the study, and DeLuca Sr. decides to leave and take his work back to Italy. Through all the chaos, Andrew finally sees how unstable and unhinged his father has become. He realizes that he should have stuck by his sister and believed her claims. It’s a little late for Andrew to come to the obvious conclusions, as he has strained his relationships with his father, sister, and Meredith in the process. Andrew’s behavior about the study and his father has left Meredith with a stale taste in her mouth, and this new relationship may be coming to a close before it even begins. Honestly, it’s good that Meredith is seeing that Andrew isn’t mature enough to handle a relationship with her now before they get too serious, because there’s no way that it could ever work out long term.

ADMITTING ONE'S PROBLEMS


Mental illness is discussed thoroughly throughout the episode not only with DeLuca Sr., but also with Helen and Bailey. Helen has been staying with Alex and Jo for a week now and extended her trip to stay longer. Alex is very happy that his mother has been doing so well, given that she is in a strange place and outside of her normal routine. He truly believes that she has made a lot of progress and has gotten better. Bailey runs into Helen in the hospital cafeteria and has a conversation with her about her trip. Helen admits that even though she is having a great time in Seattle, she is very nervous about her return trip home. She isn’t sure whether she can do the reverse trip, which is why she has extended her trip without setting a date to leave.

Bailey tells Alex about her conversation with his mother to let him know that she isn’t comfortable asking for help. Alex takes the news the wrong way and accuses Bailey of being prejudiced towards mentally ill people. Bailey firmly reminds Alex that she is a person living with mental illness and that even though one may seem all together, it can be very difficult to ask for and accept help from others. Bailey rips him a new one until Alex understands her point. At the end of the episode, Alex asks Bailey to take back the chief job for two days, that way he can travel to Iowa with his mom. Bailey accepts and is happy that they are on the same page again.

FINDING YOUR ROOTS


While Alex struggles to understand his mother, Jo wants to dig deeper into her family tree. The results from her genetic testing are in, and Jo asks Maggie for support since they are both adopted. Maggie is happy to lend a hand to Jo and reads the DNA report for her. Jo is happy that she has nothing scary hidden in her genes, and Maggie tells her that she should continue to look for more if she really wants to. Jo asks intern Parker if he would be able to find her potential cousin, who is listed on the genetic testing report as a near-certain match, and he is more than happy to look into it for her.

The search leads Jo to wonder whether she should try and find out who her birth mother is. She takes it as a sign that she should find the truth when she encounters Maggie taping a segment for a local TV morning news show about how she came to learn about her famous surgeon parents. Jackson tells Jo not to be fooled by the process because it might not be all sunshine and rainbows. He tells her about how he met his birth father a few years ago and how much of a disaster that was. His warning seems to sink in, but Jo decides to ask Parker to widen the search to find her birth mother. Parker tells her that he was curious on his own and already found her. It turns out that Jo’s mother is living in Pittsburgh, so the Karevs might be taking a trip to Pennsylvania in the near future.

MEDICAL CONFERENCE GETAWAY


In the comedic relief side plot, Amelia and Link find themselves continuously bumping into each other when they attend the same medical conference on alternate pain relief. The chemistry that first started to appear a few episodes back during the opioid overdose crisis takes center stage, with both characters realizing their awkward tension quickly. Amelia tries to avoid Link, yet fate keeps pushing them together. She eventually gives up and decides to go to Link’s lecture, which he tells her might not be the best idea. He was right, as Amelia leaves quickly when she hears him talk about prescribing opioids to a teen athlete years ago, who later died from a car accident while under the influence.

Link catches up with her later to fully explain that she missed the good part of the lecture and didn’t hear him talk about how he has been fighting since then for better opioid reform to prevent addiction and death. Amelia is surprised to hear Link’s views and decides that he isn’t so bad after all. Link proposes that they tackle the problem together, since they both have a personal stake in it. They start their partnership by engaging in some “alternative pain relief” with no strings attached, but I think we all know that this isn’t a one-time fling.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Flash 5x15 Review: "King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd" (All Talk, No Versus) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd"
Original Airdate: March 5, 2019

Anyone who’s read my reviews knows that I love when The Flash goes Comic Book Stupid. Regular stupid, where the characters act like idiots or the plot makes no sense? Bad. Comic Book Stupid, where angry man-sharks battle it out with psychic genius gorillas? Excellent. This is the kind of nonsense I watch for, so you can guess how thrilled I was to read the title of this week’s episode.

And you can guess how disappointed I was when the episode actually aired. Honestly, The Flash, what is it with you getting my hopes up with cool episode titles and then dashing them? First “Gorilla Warfare” and now this.

SOMETHING’S FISHY


Team Flash officially has a metahuman cure. All they need to finalize their breakthrough is a volunteer to test whether it works or not, but of course most metahumans they’ve encountered in Central City would have no interest in getting rid of their powers. But, uh... really? No villains in Iron Heights who might want to be able to transfer to a regular prison rather than spending life in a cell for bank robbery and jewel heists? Just thinking back to the villains on the show, I’m sure some of them wouldn’t mind getting rid of dark matter. Did you ask Norvock? ‘Cause that guy has a snake in his head and I know if I had a snake inside my head I’d want to get rid of it.

But alas, the only person Barry has in mind is King Shark. I guess that makes sense. Not many people want to be a giant angry fish. So Team Flash plays a visit to Lyla (still bitter about that time Barry erased her baby, by the way) and Lyla directs them to the ARGUS-sponsored King Shark rehabilitation lagoon run by Tanya, the wife of King Shark’s former human self, Shay Lamden. Well. One of them is from a different Earth, so they’re not technically married, but I guess Tanya and Shay are similar enough that there are still feelings there. She communicates with King Shark via a mental amplification system like the one Team Flash developed to help Cecile with her psychic powers and help Caitlin communicate with Killer Frost.

That connection between the Lamdens despite one being a fish man is, by the way, the primary emotional weight of the episode. That’s right: the title promised me Megashark vs. Super-Gorilla and delivered The Shape of Water. Which is fine if you’re into romantic dramas between a woman and a fish man, but I’m into ridiculous comic book monsters punching and/or biting each other, dag nabbit, so I’m miffed.

Anyway, King Shark gets turned back into Shay fifteen minutes into the episode. Barry stabs him with the antidote to save Cisco from being eaten, which causes something of a rift between Cisco, Caitlin, and Barry since they promised the antidote would only ever be used on people who volunteer.

Okay, let me rant about this “the antidote can only be voluntary” deal real quick. First, Barry’s decision to use the antidote against King Shark was correct. It just was. The show trying to frame Barry as anything other than correct makes Cisco and Caitlin look comically naive. King Shark was rampaging (for reasons we’ll get into later), he was hardly in a state to be reasoned with, and Cisco was about to get eaten. Barry couldn’t use his powers against King Shark without putting Cisco at risk and he couldn’t let King Shark eat his best friend, but there wasn’t enough time to think up something clever to subdue the enemy and get Cisco out of danger. So he used the antidote. He was right.

Second — and I’ve raised this before — how is it better to throw metahuman villains in jail forever than it is to give them the antidote and allow them to serve out a basic prison sentence? Because the metahumans who go into Iron Heights do not come out. They can’t come out. There’s no rehabilitation program for them and they’re too unpredictable and difficult to re-capture, so once they’ve behind power-dampening bars, they have to be there forever. The argument that keeping their powers is more morally just than simply dosing them and letting them live their lives outside of a prison cell is ridiculous and the only reason the show keeps bringing it up is to sow manufactured drama where there just isn’t any.

Rant over. Moving on, Barry’s (unnecessary) apology to Caitlin and Cisco about giving King Shark the cure is interrupted when the two suddenly turn on him. Cisco gets zipped into a holding cell, which give Caitlin time to hand the Lamdens’ mental amplifier over to — dun, dun, DUN! — Gorilla Grodd! And, uh, if Gorilla Grodd’s sudden presence in Central City was ever explained this season, I’ve forgotten it. He’s just here now.

Gorilla Grodd uses the psychic crown device to stretch his mind control powers across Central City, thus becoming a near-unstoppable villain. But wait! After some reconciliation between Shay and Tanya, now’s the perfect time for Shay to do a typical self-sacrifice and turn back into King Shark. Grodd can’t control King Shark. Yes, he caused King Shark to go berserk at the beginning of the episode, but that was due to the psychic crown (probably). Shay will just turn back into a shark, somehow keep his human consciousness despite not having the crown that helped him control his animal impulses, and give the audience the King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd battle the episode’s title promised. It’s... fine? It lasts like a minute or two. The CGI is cool.

Once the battle is done, King Shark is stuck as a shark but I think he and Tanya are still a thing? Uh... anyway, Team Flash doesn’t even try to use the antidote on him again because, somehow, Caitlin knows that the antidote only works once despite never using it on anyone before. Hey, aren’t these people supposed to be scientists? Doesn’t some level of trial and error come with that label? The etymological root of trial is TO TRY, people.

Whatever. Barry, feeling (unwarranted) guilt over his (totally warranted) decision to give King Shark the antidote, comes up with the team’s next outrageous plan: offer the metahuman cure up to Cicada. The insane serial killer, Cicada.

Sigh. Yeah, remember in the first paragraph of this review where I outlined the difference between regular stupid and Comic Book Stupid? We’re in the former more than the latter.

Other Things:

  • Holy moly, Iris was so separated from the main plot that I just realized I didn’t mention her at all. Here we go: Iris is scared of going to her office because of the horror stories she heard from Nora about Cicada killing her, or friends and family, over and over again during last episode’s time loop. Jesse L. Martin is (thankfully!) back, so the episode uses this as an opportunity for Iris and Joe to get father/daughter bonding in. I love the both of them. I wish they’d gotten to do more.
  • Did anyone else think it was really bizarre when Tanya made up a bunch of stuff to get King Shark to take the antidote at the start of the episode? Like implying the antidote would work especially well on fish people?
  • Who made King Shark’s giant cargo pants?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Remembering Luke Perry: How The 90s Heartthrob’s Final Television Role Epitomized Who He Was [Contributor: Araceli Aviles]


The world is mourning the loss of one of the most recognizable faces of the 1990s. Actor Luke Perry died yesterday in Burbank, California after suffering a massive stroke last week. He was just 52. To say that his death has been a shock to the world is an understatement. The loss of an idol isn’t something one is ever prepared for, but the loss of a man so many people in Hollywood could call a friend...well, let’s just say shock is the only word I could come up with.

Luke Perry will always be known for his iconic role as Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210. His James Dean-esque swagger coupled with his heart of gold catapulted him to stardom almost overnight in the early 90s. Fans of Perry and his bad boy alter ego still yearned to see what would have become of his character more than 30 years after he inhabited the role. (Note that three decades later, the Brenda vs. Kelly debate is still raging.)

And as grateful as Perry was to have had that experience, you’ll find over 90 onscreen credits to his repertoire. That level of stardom tempered down a bit as Perry found numerous other projects to spread his wings on. No doubt his fans are consuming as much of his work as they can in the hours since his death.

One of his last roles was as Fred Andrews on the hit CW series Riverdale. If you’ve been to Comic-Con recently, you’ll know that Riverdale has reached a level of cult-fandom all its own — success which Perry was very familiar with. This time however, he got to play a role which most closely resembled who he truly was: a dad. And not just any dad, but the most humble, down-to-earth parent.

I was lucky enough to meet Perry at a Wondercon roundtable two years ago. Here’s the thing about working your way through Hollywood — whether it’s on camera or behind-the-scenes in whatever capacity — you start at the bottom, work your way up for years building connections, and fully prepare for your experiences with big stars to pass quickly and without too much impact. You get in, do your job, and five minutes later, the experience is over. But occasionally you will meet someone who leaves a lasting impression, someone who doesn’t give generic answers to your questions. Someone who is honest and humble and takes the time to shake hands with everyone at the table, even when you’re on a time crunch.

That was Luke Perry.


My immediate impression upon meeting Perry was that this was a guy who had quickly built bonds with the younger generation on Riverdale. In my joint interview with him and his on-screen son KJ Apa (who plays Archie Andrews of the original Archie Comics), you could see the relationship they’d built as friends. At that time, Perry had this to say about his relationship with his "son":

“A lot of times when we’re playing the scenes, we’re not necessarily father and son. We’re just a couple of guys. Depending on what the issues are, I have to step in and be the father. But I also think, I learn from my son. He teaches me stuff along the way. As a father, you look back and it makes you proud to realize that your son is someone you can lean on. I feel like he’s got my back.”

That was Luke Perry talking about playing Fred Andrews, but also about being himself. And so when it comes to this role, was Luke really playing anything? Or was he just being who he was? A father figure to these young kids thrust into stardom, an experience he was quite familiar with. A friend to co-stars young and experienced, sharing stories and talking about their day-to-day lives. How much of Fred was Luke, and how much of Luke was Fred?

When you realize that Perry’s final teen show role was more close to who he really was, it makes the heartbreak that much more raw. Because we’re not mourning a teen icon or a superstar or a fabled legend. We’re mourning a man who was as humble and kind as you’ve heard.

So to Luke Perry, from a working writer who met you for six minutes one March afternoon, thank you for your courtesy, your honesty, and your generosity in sharing a laugh or two.

Gone but never forgotten.