Doc Fortnight, our annual international festival of nonfiction film, opens tonight! This year’s selection includes several works by award-winning filmmaker Emiko Omori, as well as an unusual 3-D collaboration between Open-Ended Group’s Paul Kaiser and Marc Downie and acclaimed experimental filmmakers Ken and Flo Jacobs.
Lemondead, a food zine for culinary nobodies, is taking submissions now!
Submit your recipes, food-related fiction and creative nonfiction, art and photography.
What do I mean by ‘culinary nobodies’?
Well, it’s all of us who love food but aren’t well-known in the culinary world.
Look out your window. Do you see any houses? Apartment buildings? Camper vans? Think of all the kitchens! Think of all the people in those kitchens! Think of all the delicious things being made right now, right this second! They’re you and you’re amazing, so I want to hear what you have to say! You can still be a professional chef (hey, I’m one!), but if you’re on the food network or travel channel then…oh never mind, you’re probably not reading this anyway.
All contributors will be given one copy of the zine per accepted piece.
Email jpegs, word docs or google docs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, I’m going to try doing something a little different. Instead of writing a bit of fiction, I want to talk about Touhou, and the art of danmaku. This is something I’ve thought about a lot, but for the uninitiated, I should explain what I’m talking about. Danmaku, also known as ‘bullet curtain’ or 'bullet hell’, is a subgenre of scrolling shooter games. If you haven’t thought about scrolling shooters for a while, you might imagine Gradius or R-Type or various classic arcade fare. But the premise of the danmaku game is to ramp up bullet density and significantly reduce the size of the player’s hitbox to allow for tight, intricate dodging. Touhou is a series of danmaku games, in which the old school scrolling shooter gameplay has morphed into something that looks a bit more like this.
As an avid fan of Touhou for a long time, I’ve come to recognize danmaku as a unique form of art, one that can only be expressed through video games. Although people love to put videos up to show off their accomplishments, and these videos are often quite visually impressive, the true nature of danmaku, as with video games in general, is performative. The experience of dodging and weaving through the pattern is part of the experience of the art, which makes it less accessible than, say, paintings or literature. And the sad thing is, I don’t think danmaku is widely recognized as its own art form. Having played other danmaku games, like Mushihimesama or Deathsmiles, developed by CAVE, I don’t get the same artistic sensibility from their design as I do from Touhou. And before we get into that old chestnut, no, I’m not saying that CAVE games are less good than Touhou, and I’m not interested in the argument over which is 'more difficult’. What I want to get into is my experience of danmaku as art, which is something I’ve really only gotten out of Touhou, and a few games that imitate its style.
I’ve long felt strongly about names and naming things, and this is the first step that Touhou takes that sets it apart from other danmaku games I’ve played. In a typical Touhou stage, you traverse the level, encountering and shooting down normal enemies while dodging their attacks. Then, you reach the boss and engage in a multi-stage battle. I will refer to each of these stages as 'patterns’. There are two types of patterns, those that can be thought of as 'normal’ patterns, and 'spell cards’. Normal patterns are typically similar to each other, using simpler and often (but not always) easier designs. The spell cards are the real attraction, though, and each of them are individually named. You can think of them as the boss’s special attacks, kinda like the way anime heroes have signature moves such as Goku’s Kamehameha Wave or Naruto’s Clone Jutsu. These names, and distinctive designs, tell us that these aren’t simply stuff the character does, but specific, iconic, and unique to that character in some way. The way that these special attacks are foregrounded is important to the aesthetic of the work and the character, and so, too, is it important to the bosses in Touhou.
Take another quick look at the spell card I linked above. If this is your first time ever seeing this character, Utsuho Reiuji, see if you can glean anything about the character purely from watching the scene. If you can, put yourself in the mind of the player, weaving between explosions and stray fireballs. You can probably, at the very least, guess at the powerset and design themes of the character (explosions, fire, nuclear power) and you might even be able to take a few stabs at her temperament. If you were to experience it directly, in context with the rest of Utsuho’s patterns, you might be able to get at some deeper ideas about the character that aren’t made explicit anywhere else. It’s my belief that a good spell card harmonizes with the character and displays its own theme within the mechanics themselves, and a great spell card can even inform the character with its mechanical theme and the experience it creates for the player. Perhaps it’s not true that you can only really know someone by meeting them on the field of battle, but a cohesive spell card design says something about the character, and their personal conception of beauty and power.
This is even a fact recognized within the fiction of the Touhou universe. The developer of Touhou, ZUN, has written his own book on danmaku through the lens of the character Marisa Kirisame, one of the series protagonists. In The Grimoire of Marisa, she goes into detail about how danmaku is a sort of play fight, where grace and beauty rule over raw strength. It’s clear that danmaku is a form of art in-universe, a way for each character to express themselves and show their power. And I find it endlessly fascinating that every aspect of danmaku, from the visual presentation to the design of the bullet patterns to the experience of being there, in the moment, makes up a unique sort of art that I haven’t really seen anywhere else, or at least never seen made so explicit and important within the design of a game. More than anything, that’s why I want to write about danmaku, and why I most certainly will write more on this topic. I don’t know how many people recognize danmaku as art. I don’t see other people having this conversation, and that’s why I intend to start it. When all’s said and done, I’ve thought about compiling my thoughts on the subject into a book, so we’ll see how that goes! But for now, this blog seems like a good place to articulate my thoughts.
Today we’re joined by Dominique Cyprès. Dominique is a phenomenal writer who has dabbled with various forms including fiction and nonfiction. Their first love is poetry and they have written plenty of different kinds of poetry. They have a story in Unburied Fables, an anthology from Creative Aces. It’s obvious they’re a passionate and dedicated writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about
I’ve dabbled in a lot of different sorts of writing – from
fiction to creative non-fiction, poetry in both verse and prose. As someone
with an overlapping interest in tech, I’ve also experimented a little with
interactive fiction. I’m really interested in what new ground can still be
broken with Infocom-style text adventures.
I’ve also forayed a little into video editing and
stereographic photography. I’m pretty much the prototypical “jack of all
trades” in that I keep trying new media and I don’t often stick with one and
try to master it. In the end, though, everything seems to come back to poetry.
I often find that when I’m working on fiction, or text adventures, or visual
media, I’m compelled to find a way to inject poetry into that medium.
What inspires you?
My primary motivation in making art is a sort of practical
mysticism; my goal is to give voice to the enormous wonder and bewilderment I
feel trying to make sense of both the natural world and interpersonal
interaction. As an autistic person, I often find myself in the sort of
situation that Temple Grandin refers to as being “an anthropologist on Mars.”
The world often seems an altogether foreign place to me, and my art (when I
have the time to make it) acts essentially as fields notes on this inscrutable
What got you
interested in your field? Have you
always wanted to be an artist?
The artistic role models who have most informed the
direction I take in poetry are probably Emily Dickinson, Miyazawa Kenji (whose
work I have read only in English translation), and Charles Simic. Dickinson and
Miyazawa together really pulled me toward poetry as a medium in the first
place, and their biographies and work share certain themes in common. Both were
disabled and regarded as odd by their communities. Both expressed in their work
an immense love of humanity and of nature, but wrote from a perspective of
looking upon these subjects from the outside, and both wrote largely for
themselves and did not manage to sell much of their work to professional publications
during their lifetimes.
Simic’s influence on me comes through his seminal
Pulitzer-prize winning volume The World
Doesn’t End, and largely has to do with his pioneering work on the form of
prose poetry, and his use of ambiguous and discordant sensory images to
cultivate what poets refer to as “negative capability,” the ability to draw art
out of questions that have no answers, out of confusion and non-rational
I tend to think of art as something I am inclined to do, and not as a feature of who I am, perhaps because I’ve long had it
drilled into my head that writing poetry alone is not a viable professional
path for someone who needs to support themself and their family financially.
I’ve heard this even from former U.S. Poet Laureate Mark Strand, who derives
much of his personal income from his work as a college professor.
As a young person I wanted to devote my life to art in some
way professionally. As I neared the end of high school I told my parents I
wanted to study acting full-time in college and choose that as my field. They
asked where I would find the money to feed myself and I didn’t really have an
answer, so I studied psychology instead, and wound up dropping out of college
after three years when I reached a point where my undiagnosed learning
disabilities had started to make it impossible to complete my coursework.
At that point, in 2012, my self-esteem just bottomed out
entirely, and one thing to I did in an effort to pull it back up was to take a
bunch of poetry I had been working on while I was at school (where I was
pursuing a creative writing minor) and build on that work, flesh out its themes
a little bit, and compile it into a book I could have printed through a major
self-publishing-platform. That was Dogs
from your childhood & other unrealities. I had neither the money nor
the energy to engage in any serious promotion for it at the time, but being
able to share my work with some appreciative friends in that manner was the
kind of encouragement I needed.
Now I’m working on a new volume of poems. It’s necessarily
very different from my last book, because I’ve changed a lot since 2012. It’s
in verse, whereas my last book was entirely in prose. It’s much more concerned
with overtly political questions, with the relationships between the wage
worker and their work, with the struggles of a young and growing family. I
hardly find time to work on it, as a full-time retail worker, part-time
student, and parent, but I’m excited to share the personal growth I’ve
experienced in this form.
you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you
include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
I often feel that I’m walking a metaphorical tightrope in my
work, attempting to balance impulses toward self-deprecation, disillusionment,
and cynicism on one hand and an irrepressible sense of naïve wonder on the
other. That’s a feature of my everyday life, too, but I expect it comes out a
lot in what I make.
What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?
My advice would be to try to hold on to your art, to what
you do that moves you on a deep level, even when it doesn’t pay the bills. And
if you have to step aside from making art because you’re depressed or just too
busy struggling to survive for a while, you need not be ashamed. Go back to
your art when you’re ready and let it accept you with open arms.
Where on the spectrum
do you identify?
I’m asexual, and I’ve identified myself as such since age 20
when I first heard about other asexual people. I’m quoiromantic. I’m married
now; I have two spouses and a child, and the fact that I’m asexual doesn’t come
up very often in my day-to-day life. But if I had never identified myself as
asexual in the first place, I probably wouldn’t be married now, because it was
identifying as asexual that allowed me first to accept myself for who I am, and
then to find people who understood and accepted me enough to start a family
Have you encountered
any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
There’s a strong push for writers of creative non-fiction
and poetry today to candidly confess intimate details of their personal lives,
and that very often includes one’s sex life and sexuality. That can be an
uncomfortable demand for an asexual writer and I encourage other writers to
share only what they can share confidently. As it happens, though, I have made very
few connections “in my field”, so I don’t yet have any direct
experience with ignorance around ace issues directed at me as a writer.
What’s the most
common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
As much as you can insist to people that asexuality is your
sexual orientation, some people will be determined to see it as a medical
symptom that you should somehow be treating, or as an ideological position.
There’s only so much myth-dispelling educational material you can provide to
someone before it becomes a waste of time.
What advice would you
give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their
The decision to reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet, and not
as a proper planet, was an arbitrary taxonomic exercise, motivated by mounting
discoveries of Pluto-sized objects in our solar system. Essentially, if we
continued to count Pluto as a planet, there would be so many newly-found
planets of similar size that we could never hope to make elementary school children
memorize all their names. But Pluto is still out there in the Kuiper belt, and
it’s still an important target for scientific research.
Similarly, your experiences as an asexual person are real
and an important part of your life even when other people find it inconvenient
to acknowledge them.
Finally, where can
people find out more about your work?
Dogs from your
childhood & other unrealities is still available in print and as a free
e-book via my blog. My next book, tentatively titled dead monochrome doggerel, is still in
the works and I’ll be sure to announce it on my blog when it’s ready.
Thank you, Dominique, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.
Final round: What I used! And how to find more info.
e.l.f. Eyeshadow palette
Sonia Kashuk tinted moisturizer
e.l.f. Lipgloss, color “Michael”
e.l.f. Mineral mascara
The brushes are an eyeshadow blender and a blusher. Mine are from The Body Shop, but e.l.f. has similar brushes for less money. All of these are available at Target!
For more information, check Pinterest. Seriously, Pinterest is your makeup BFF. Also, check the nonfiction art section of your library. I’ve found some books by makeup artists (Bobbi Brown and Kevyn Aucoin’s are both very good).
I need you like an insomniac needs black coffee with three extra espresso shots at 6am.
I want you like an alcoholic wants 12 glasses of wine in one single sitting.
I crave you like one craves summer after 6 months of unbearable winter.
I long for you like I long for air after jumping off of the poolside and taking forever to float back up;
long for the taste of your lips, pressed against mine, to feel the warm electricity of your body plunging from you, onto me; captivating, paralyzing me in the moment.
Loving you is like trying to explain what water tastes like; trying to teach a blind person what the color blue looks like…
Loving you is simply indescribable.
There’s no way to explain how much I WANT you, how much I NEED you, how much I CRAVE you… no string of words is deserving enough of you.
This feeling, it’s like cold coffee in the morning, and late night drives, and everything wonderful all packed together into one, and even then, it’s never enough to describe the feeling of love.
What I feel for you is deep, bone chilling, chest heaving, head over heels, LOVE.
More breathtaking than anything I’ve ever felt before.
Who knew something so lovely could be so painful
This comic was an assignment given by Matt Bors. The goal was to make a nonfictional comic and interview at least two different people about the subject we were working on. You can check the nonfictional comics my classmates did here.
Do Your Own Dishes is a feminist zine created to promote South Asian/South Asian Diaspora artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers and photographers from across the globe. The zine is published quarterly.
We take submissions in four categories: music, visual art (painting,photography, film making etc), Fiction: (poetry, short stories etc), non-fiction (articles and narrative nonfiction).
- Please include a short bio (60-100 words) and the word count in your cover letter
- Please include a high resolution photograph of yourself to go along with your work.
- Label your attached Microsoft Word Files “Your Name_DYOD Category”. For example:
“Ahmed Pervez_DYOD Poetry”
- Please make sure your submission is relevant to our zine’s mission, objective and audience
- Please send all submissions as attached files
We accept nonfiction of the following genres: narrative, creative, micro, travelogue, essay etc.
- Kindly keep submissions between 800 - 2500 words
We accept fiction piece and poems of all forms. Preference is given to works that follow our theme (are feminist in nature) and demonstrate originality.
- Kindly keep submissions between 800- 1500 words
- For poet, please submit a maximum of three poems in an attached word file.
We accept artwork of all kinds: paintings, doodles, comic strips, illustrations, digital photography and film etc.
- Please make sure you submit your artwork and photography in high resolution (300 dpi file format)
- For digital photographers: kindly submit up to 10 high resolution photographs explaining the theme of your work.
-For film makers: kindly submit a 2-3 minute trailer of your film. If you wish to submit a short film, kindly make sure it is below 10 minutes.
We are currently experimenting in this category. We are open to innovative submissions. Some examples may include: interviews, photo diary, album art, discography, lyrics etc
- if you/ your band wish to be interviewed, kindly send us a 150 word pitch of how your music fits our zine’s vision.
Although the zine is published quarterly, submissions are open throughout the year.
British artist Andy Goldsworthy works in the fields and forests near his home in Scotland using natural elements as his media. His pieces have a tendency to collapse, decay and melt, but, as he tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “It’s not about art. It’s just about life and the need to understand that a lot of things in life do not last.”
The list of elements Goldsworthy has worked with includes ice, snow, mud, wind and the rising tide. In one piece, he used twigs to fashion a giant spider web hanging from a tree. In another, he decorated a stone wall with sheets of ice. He has also lain in the rain to create “rain shadows” in the shape of his body on city streets.
Goldsworthy refers to his creations as “ephemeral works.” He says, “When I make an ephemeral work, when it’s finished, that’s the moment that it ends, in a way.”
But Goldsworthy’s ephemeral creations aren’t completely lost to audiences upon completion; a new book,Andy Goldsworthy: Ephemeral Works: 2004-2014, presents a collection of photographs of his work. There’s also an exhibition of Goldsworthy’s photos opening Oct. 22 at the Galerie Lelong in New York.
What is clear is that there are powerful unconscious evocative effects in reading books that one loves. There’s something about these books that we want to go on thinking about, that matters to us. They’re not just fetishes that we use to fill gaps. They are like recurring dreams we can’t help thinking about.
Adam Phillips, “The Art of Nonfiction No. 7,” the Paris Review.