Dadding: Not All Kids Are Cute

Nobody wants to admit it, but the truth is, not all kids are cute. Let’s be frank here: YOUR kids are cute. And when I say “your,” I don’t necessarily mean only the ones that sprang from your loins. Nieces, nephews, grandchildren, any kid you have a personal connection to is adorable. Until they learn the skills that keep us alive, such as fishing or filing an expense report (neither of which I can do), cuteness is their primary survival trait. But the truth is that for most adults, this benefit is limited when it comes to children not within our immediate sphere of community. The rest of them are a crapshoot, and most of them may as well be an uncooked meatloaf in the cute department. 

If you think I’m exaggerating, I invite you to go to a dance recital some time. The hall will be packed to the gills, but every single person in the audience is there to see exactly one kid. The other kids are just people who may potentially be standing in front of your little darling when the time comes, the asshole. The only people who care about more than one kid are families with multiple children in the show, and these are easily spotted outside the hall begging for gas money once they’ve finished paying for the lessons.

Dance recitals are one of America’s biggest rackets, after insurance companies. Think about this: parents give these studios hundreds of dollars — perfectly good dollars, dollars they could use to buy their children food, or meth. In return, the studio spends the entire school year taking the kid for an hour a week and teaching them the same three dance moves. (Those moves, in order of performance, are the hula hoop, the toe tap, and the walk off the stage waving.) After ten months of intensive training, you get to watch your kid do this for six minutes, then sit for three hours through everybody else’s children doing the same thing. Granted, I am speaking mainly of the younger children here. Older students get more intricate dance moves, such as the alternating toe tap and the gyrating hips of a nature that got Netflix in trouble because eight-year-olds were doing it. Eventually, the ones who don’t quit dancing because a new game came out for the Switch may reach a level of legitimate performance, even of — dare I say it? Art. Unfortunately, by the time these older students take the stage, the audience has seen so many hula hoops and toe taps that they have completely checked out and are thinking about what the score of the game is, because for some damn reason they always do these things during the finals. 

This is not to imply I have any sort of moral superiority here, of course. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I am a complete whore when it comes to talking about my kid, because unlike all these wieners on stage I’ve never even heard of before, my kid is awesome. It’s that survival trait I mentioned before. Parents are biologically predisposed to believing their own children are the most amazing thing that has ever been placed on the Earth, which is fortunate because otherwise we would yeet them out the window the first time they somehow manage to take the bathroom door off its hinges. Parenthood is, in fact, a sexually transmitted disease that carries with it a mild mental disorder: not a dangerous one, just one that inclines you to be more charitable when your child stares at your bowl as if he doesn’t have a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios from the same damn box, so why does he want to shove his filthy hands into yours?

I cannot tell you how many nights I have gazed upon my sleeping child and said to my wife, “He’s beautiful. He’s perfect.” It’s as if I have completely forgotten that two hours ago I was embroiled in a bitter argument with him because he has learned to spell the word “B-L-U-E,” which is great, but now he is taking violent exception to my collection of Blu-Rays for failing to live up to his standards. 

The good news is that this is a social contract most of us have cheerfully agreed to abide by. When a parent shows us a picture of a child who has utterly failed to properly place spaghetti in their mouth instead of all over their face, we smile and say, “Aw, that’s so cute!” instead of what we’re actually thinking, which is “Aw, he’s FOURTEEN.” So as a parent, I would like to publicly thank all other decent human beings for pretending to be interested when I begin to wax poetic about how awesome my kid is, even though I know a large percentage of people could not possibly care less. In exchange, I promise to continue to do the same when you tell me about your kids, and I won’t even bring up the fact that my kid can read The Monster at the End of This Book out loud (he does a great Grover impression, by the way), whereas your husband can’t even do that. This is the way that we will survive as a society. 

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. He had to tell his son to stop climbing the windowsill four times during the composition of this piece. 

Screw It, Let’s See What Happens

There is a school of thought that says writers (fiction writers, at least) fall into two categories: the architects and the gardeners. The architects must plan everything meticulously. Every plot point, every character beat, every theme and turn must be prepared and calculated ahead of time, and when the actual writing starts all that’s left to do is the installation. The gardeners, on the other hand, don’t plan much more than where they’re planting the seeds and what they hope to reap from the crop in the end. Gardeners tend to the ideas like flowers or vegetables, nurturing them, coaxing them out of the ground, but often not actually knowing exactly what the final garden will look like. Plants are alive, you see, and difficult to conquer. It’s better to simply help them find their most beautiful form.

I’m a gardener. I tend to start with a concept (what if a reporter found out that the superheroes he wrote about were frauds?) or an idea that won’t get out of my head (there’s a little bald guy in my closet holding an ice pick and I don’t know who he is but he is FREAKING ME OUT). I’ll add in some characters I find interesting, and I’ll think about where the characters and the concept might end up if I put them together. And then I start. 

Now to be fair, very often the answer to where they might end up is “nowhere.” Sometimes the combination doesn’t work, the marriage doesn’t last, and I end up with yet another orphaned story opening. (So many orphans. I’m really quite ashamed of myself. Lucien from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman could have an entire damn wing of his library devoted to me.) But when it DOES work, and it DOES come together, this storytelling alchemy frequently brings me to a place that leaves me unable to imagine it any other way.

This feeling is at its most powerful when I hit a point I refer to as “Screw it, let’s see what happens.” You see, sometimes it feels like something in a story is not right, like a character is fighting against your plan, like you’re trying to find flimsy justifications to make them do something (or stop them from doing something) that they don’t want. And often, it turns out the reason for this is because the characters are smarter than you are and realize that your plan is actually wrong, and you should just let them do what they so clearly want to do, and figure out how it’s all supposed to fit together later. That’s when, as a writer, you should say, “Screw it, let’s see what happens.” And damn if that can’t be great.

I’m going to give an example that spoils several of the more recent chapters of Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, so if you’re not up to date, you may want to go catch up and come back. (I mean, you should do that anyway. It’s a good time.) 

When I started the Meta-Crisis arc, you may notice that Keriyon Hall does not appear at first. In fact, he hadn’t appeared for quite some time, which was making me sad because he’s become one of my favorite characters in the story (even though he wasn’t in the original outline – he’s that flower that you didn’t actually plant in your garden but that turns out to be the loveliest one). So I thought, “Well, the crisis is affecting the entire city. I should just check in on him and see how he’s dealing with it.”

As it turned out, the way he was dealing with it was trying to figure out what Andi and Tony would do in his situation, and do that same thing. Which was perfect, it’s exactly the way Keriyon thinks, but that led me to a problem. He was SO good at predicting what Andi and Tony would do that he wound up arriving at the same hideout as they did, even though he wasn’t supposed to be there.

Well, screw it. Let’s see what happens.

And as he’s there and starts to meet some of the other characters in the story, I realize that Andi is having a very difficult time talking to Keriyon, because she’s dancing around the fact that Keriyon didn’t know about Tony and Vic’s powers. And while they were dancing, Andi kind of informed me that she likes Keriyon, she trusts Keriyon, and considering all the crazy shit that was happening all around them, keeping her friends’ powers a secret wasn’t even ON her list of priorities, let alone at the top.

Screw it. Let’s see what happens.

So she told him the truth and Keriyon, being the unshakably loyal and positive person that he is, not only took it in stride, but decided to gear up and join them on the quest. And when we got to the end of the arc, and the “Young LightCorps” was revealed to the world, all of a sudden Keriyon Hall was in the picture with them. A character who was never supposed to be th– no, wait, that’s not right. He was never intended to be there. But he was most certainly supposed to be there.The stuff I’ve written since then (that you haven’t read yet) has convinced me of that. 

“Screw it, let’s see what happens” is recommended by eight out of nine muses. Ask Oneiros if “Screw it, let’s see what happens” is right for you. 

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. If you haven’t read it yet… well, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself for the spoilers. 

Free Comic Book Day: The Return

My favorite day of the year hasn’t really happened since 2019.

I know, favorite days are supposed to happen annually, but if you think about what the state of the world has been since March of 2020, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what exactly has gone wrong. Among the many, many things that we lost because of Covidpalooza was a day I look forward to every year, a day that makes me tingle with anticipation, tremble with excitement, and quiver with bodily reactions I should probably stop referring to metaphorically. But it’s back. It’s here. It’s Saturday.

It’s Free Comic Book Day 2022!

For many years now, the comic book publishers, distributors, and shops of North America have celebrated the first Saturday in May as Free Comic Book Day, an event where special free comics are given out at stores across the land. The better stores (such as my local shop, BSI Comics in Metairie, Louisiana) have gone even further, expanding from simply handing out books to turning the event into something of a mini-convention full of games, cosplay, and sales, as well as hosting writers and artists hoping to sell some of their wares and meet the fans. In 2020, when the pandemic was still fresh, the event was canceled entirely, with the books (most of which had already been printed) given out piecemeal through a “Free Comic Book Summer” which didn’t really scratch the same itch. You see, it’s not just about the freebies, it’s about the EXPERIENCE. It was like getting a late Christmas present in mid-January… it’s not really the same, is it? Then in 2021, a new wave pushed the event back from its usual May home to August, and another wave – at least in my area – curtailed the event dramatically.

Saturday, it’s back in full force.

For a long time now – first as a podcaster and now as a writer – I’ve manned a table at BSI Comics for FCBD, and I couldn’t look forward to it more. It’s not about the free stuff (although let’s face it, we all love free stuff), but it’s about a chance to celebrate an art form I love dearly. Comic books are a unique form of entertainment, and while they’re finally starting to garner a little bit of the respect they deserve from the public at large, for too many people they’re still looked upon as disposable entertainment, kids’ stuff (as if there’s something wrong with that) or just an IP to be exploited for movies.And yeah, they can be all of those things, but they can also be so much more. Comics are an art form, and a unique one. They’re a blend of words and pictures that doesn’t exist in the same way in any other form of storytelling, and that’s a kind of magic. I love FCBD as a chance to show off to people who maybe don’t view comics this way, or who don’t know where to find them, or who have incorrect assumptions about the art form – take these people and show them what comics are capable of.

But that’s not the only thing. As I said, I’ve been sitting at my table at BSI for several years now, and in that time I’ve befriended a lot of people – local fans, other local creators, people whose work I respect and admire and whose company I enjoy. But, like those relatives you only get a chance to see at Christmas and Thanksgiving, a lot of these are people I don’t often get to hang around with except at comic book conventions and FCBD. This isn’t just a chance to peddle a couple of books or get a couple of free comics — it’s a chance to hang out with some friends. 

Free Comic Book Day is a chance – a sadly rare chance for me – to spend a day around people I like, to meet new people who like the things that I do, and to celebrate those wonderful, beautiful, gloriously geeky things we have in common. And if I happen to sell a few books in the process, even better. Quick sales pitch: I’ll be there selling copies of all four of my novels as well as my humor book, Everything You Need to Know to Survive English Class. I’ve also unearthed a box of my first (and to date only) comic book credit, the short story “Ryan and Radar,” with art by Matt Weldon and published in Tales From the Plex #4, so there’ll be copies of that as well. Plus I’ll be giving out free bookmarks and fist bumps all day long. I also know local writer Kurt Amacker and comic creator and children’s book author Vernon Smith will be there too, among other confirmed guests. 

So if you’re in the New Orleans area, come down to BSI and say hello. If you’re not in New Orleans, go to www.freecomicbookday.com and look for a local participating shop. And while you’re there, remember, the comics are free to YOU, but not to the store – so shop around and see if there’s anything you’d like to pick up while you’re there. 

See you in the shop!