"The World Is No Longer Mysterious": Richard Siken, "Supernatural," And Why They Correlate

"The World Is No Longer Mysterious": Richard Siken, "Supernatural," And Why They Correlate

No, "Crush" wasn't inspired by the show.

In 2005, the first episode of Eric Kripke's "Supernatural" aired on the CW. A year prior, Richard Siken's poetry book "Crush" won the 2004 Yale Series for Younger Poets. At their inceptions, it is doubtful that either Kripke or Siken anticipated the plethora of fans they would attract over the next ten years. However, today both have gathered huge fanbases, in part due to promotion through the blogging website Tumblr.

Of course, fans of the two were bound to overlap. (Guilty as charged.) And it didn’t take long for the people both watching "Supernatural" and reading "Crush" to connect the two works.

"Supernatural" follows the journeys of Sam and Dean Winchester, brothers who travel the United States under their motto, "Saving people. Hunting things. The family business." Basically, they’ve been tracking down and killing monsters their entire lives, ever since their mother was killed by a demon when Sam was a baby and Dean was four.

"Crush" deals with many of the same themes as "Supernatural," including the open road, guns and violence, a pervading sense of danger, and codependent love. Of course, Siken's book was accepted for publication before "Supernatural" even aired, but that has not stopped fans from asserting that "Crush" was inspired by the Winchester boys.

Last winter, to promote the release of his second book of poetry entitled "War of the Foxes," Siken created a Tumblr blog, posting think pieces on the reception of "Crush" over the past ten years and following blogs with a presence in his own fandom. (He hasn't posted in months, but for some reason, his blog is still up. And for some reason, he still follows me. It’s always been a little unnerving.)

In one of his think pieces, Siken spoke in-depth about this movement of fans linking his work to other media, especially "Supernatural." As he puts it, there was "no interaction between poet and show." In an interview discussing this, Siken maintains that both "Crush" and "Supernatural" are "products of a cultural moment, not products of each other."

Through Tumblr, for a brief period of time, Siken was involved with "Sherlock," another fandom that connects to "Crush." The difference between this and "Supernatural" is that "Supernatural" so closely correlates to "Crush's" themes that people all but insist they are the same work. The distinction between poet and show in "Sherlock" is obvious. In Siken's own words, he "can participate in the Sherlock fandom because there's room for [him]. It's impossible to confuse ["Sherlock"] and 'War of the Foxes.'"

But it is not impossible to confuse "Supernatural" and "War of the Foxes." Don't get me wrong here, I in no way believe "War of the Foxes" was inspired by "Supernatural." I think, like was mentioned about "Crush," both works are products of culture, and thus both works mirror each other in theme and emotion. And in terms of emotion, "War of the Foxes" is not dissimilar to "Crush." Maybe it's a little more large-scale, because it lacks "Crush's" constant narrator and specific address, but the same feelings are still evoked: confusion, anger, desperation.

In whatever he writes, from books to blog posts to editorial letters, Siken tackles the rawness of life, buried issues we don't like to think about everyday. Issues we can't think about everyday, or we'd all crack up. But Siken is not afraid to confront matters like love that develops into an inability to exist independently, unromantic suicide, or the monotony of always running away.

"Supernatural" also does not shy away from these matters. Of course, we're not all demon-fighting brothers raised on whiskey instead of baby formula whose only real home is the backseat of an Impala, but the extended metaphor of battling personal monsters and keeping on the run from them is one that definitely resonates, at least for me.

The similarities between "Crush," "War of the Foxes," and "Supernatural," are striking, but not because they were inspired by each other. They are similar because they were inspired by the same aspects of life, and they each describe these aspects more explicitly than most, even though they are shrouded in metaphors.

Maybe a relationship between Siken and "Supernatural" isn't to be made; maybe I'm either, (a) delusional, or (b) grasping at straws. Or maybe art really does reflect life, and both works just so happen to do that in the same vein. Whatever the case, both Siken and Kripke present their own creations, and if you're going to compare the ocean to a blackbird, the least you can say is, they both are exquisitely beautiful.

Buy Richard Siken's "Crush" here and "War of the Foxes" here. Watch "Supernatural" on the CW, Wednesdays at 9/8c or on Netflix.

Cover Image Credit: Home of the Nutty

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5 Simple Ways To Tackle Your Writer's Block

Here are some tips and tricks to help beat writer's block.

Earlier this week, I sat down to begin writing an article. I went through my entire routine. I got coffee, put on some music, grabbed my laptop, opened a Word document, and then nothing. I was completely out of ideas on anything to talk about. The dreaded curse of writer’s block had taken its hold on me. This happens to myself more than I care to admit, but it is something I think all writers and creative people suffer from frequently. Sometimes it occurs before you even start creating, and sometimes you are halfway done with your creation and your mind goes blank. What can one do in this situation? I thought about this, and I thought about what I normally do when I run out of ideas, so I decided to share some of the things I do to help get my creative juices flowing again.

1. Take A Walk.

Einstein, among many others, was famous for taking walks when he needed to work out complex problems in his head. He would take long walks on the beach to just think about his work up to that point and try to find solutions to his problems. I like this idea a lot, especially for people who are creative. Inspiration can come from anywhere and taking a walk can help open your mind to new possibilities.

2. Play a Game, read a book, etc.

All of my ideas are inspired by something, and a lot of times the things that inspire me are the things I like, such as, video games, comics, movies, etc. If you are stuck with writer’s block, taking a break and doing something else you enjoy can help get your gears turning. You may see something in a book or film that sparks your creative fire and pushes you past your dilemma.

3. Writer More.

There are times when I am writing that I have a good idea set up. This could be a scene for a film, a character, or a setting, but I don’t have any way to continue past that initial idea. Sometimes I am filled with, what I think are, dumb ideas for ways to continue this story, but I can’t think of any good ideas. However, sometimes just writing those dumb ideas down can help turn them into a good story. Things usually sound better in your head, but occasionally getting them down on paper can help you make better sense of it all. Also, this can help get your brain off of the ideas you don’t like, and it can now focus on different ideas.

4. Have a Conversation.

The old saying is still true today, two heads are better than one. It never hurts to run your idea or story by another person to get their take on it. They can usually offer some great feedback and having another opinion other than your own can help you better understand what direction to take. Also, that person may have the answer to the problem that is hindering your writing. It can never hurt to ask for some advice.

5. Take a Nap.

I think most of us would agree that naps are great, but they can help with writers block too. In my opinion, a nap (or just sleeping in general) allows for a reset on the creative process. Taking a nap can help reboot your system and get rid of the cumbersome ideas blocking creativity. Also, a brilliant idea could come to you in a dream and propel your writing forward. Dreams can help craft extremely interesting stories.

These are just some things I do to help with my writer’s block. I am sure there are dozens and dozens of other tips to check out, and there are probably a lot here that sound peculiar to people. The fact is, everyone is different and have different methods for tackling writer’s block, but maybe this will aid in someone’s struggle.

Cover Image Credit: Stanley Dai

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Generation 4 Of Pokemon Changed The Franchise Forever

And it was not a bad thing.

For the few people who do not know what Pokemon is, it is a long-running video game series. Players travel across regions and try to be the best there ever was by catching special creatures called Pokemon or pocket monsters. Though in earlier games the idea was to catch them all, there are currently seven generations of Pokemon and that has become an extraordinarily difficult task considering the sheer number. As of this writing, there are 807 total Pokemon and 18 of those are only available through certain events or hacking the games to obtain them.

One of the major aspects of the Pokemon series is that it is constantly advertised for children. Even Pokemon Go which has helped see a new resurgence in the franchise's popularity continually pushes the child and family-friendly narrative. But dig a little deeper into the games and one will find a lot of horror contained within these games.

Generation 4, known as the Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum Games are when this child-friendly facade was taken away in the main story. It was this set of games that decided to more openly showcase how dark the Pokemon series is. The Pokedex entries that describe Pokemon have always been a little freaky but the main stories were fairly tame by video game standards. For example, a Pokemon called Cubone is orphaned from the moment it is born and wears the skull of its mother on its head in remembrance. However, the plots rarely went beyond a child going on an adventure to be the best trainer ever. Sure there was always an evil organization that would get in the way. Team Rocket in Generations 1 and 2, as well as Teams Magma and Aqua in Generation 3.

Before I continue, I do want to bring up one exception to the rules of the series before Generation 4. I speak of course about Pokemon Colosseum. This game came out in Generation 3 and involved gang wars and towns filled with thugs. Main characters would get mugged, including the player. But that is not so bad on its own. The evil organization in this game is called Cipher and any mention of them on the internet is usually enough to take the discussion to a dark place.

The reason for this is because Cipher kidnaps Pokemon and then horrifically psychologically tortures them until all their happy thoughts are stripped away. This transforms these poor Pokemon into Shadow Pokemon. Shadow Pokemon will attack trainers without hesitation and exist to be nothing more than killing machines. To push the narrative further with how nasty Cipher is, the protagonist runs around the world stealing these Shadow Pokemon from other trainers. Yes, even the protagonist is a criminal in this game. But with its higher difficulty, Pokemon Colosseum was meant for an older audience.

Anyway, back to Generation 4 which does not have Colosseum's difficulty. Few talks about this part of the series are possible without mentioning Team Galactic. This is no coincidence because Team Galactic is the reason that the story in Generation 4 takes a nasty turn.

Earlier I mentioned how there are evil teams in every Pokemon Game. However, Team Rocket in Generation 1 and 2 is nothing more than a stereotypical mafia in it solely for the money. While this sounds pretty dark, compared to even the next entry in Generation 3, this group is nothing. The teams in the third game consist of two groups. Team Magma and Team Aqua who both are eco-terrorist groups. Team Magma wants to expand the landmass while Team Aqua wants to increase the amount of ocean.

Both groups manage to awaken a Legendary Pokemon capable of making these dreams reality. However, both the teams realize immediately how terrible this is when Groudon or Kyogre, the legends they awoke, do their thing. One summons permanent sun while the other summons endless rain. Both will cause the world's destruction due to the seasons being thrown out of whack. In the end, the rampaging legends are stopped, and both leaders aspire to make amends for the damage they have caused for the rest of their lives.

These are good lessons to impart to children. There are forces in the world that should not be tampered with, and interfering with them can have untold consequences. Even with the idea of the world being destroyed being an intense, albeit overused idea in fiction, the message is still child-friendly. This all stops come Generation 4.

Generation 4 features Team Galactic. The grunts who do the dirty work are completely ineffective. This is normal for Pokemon, and yet as I will point out in a moment, even red shirts, the expendable troops can do something right (wrong) from time to time. However, there is something strange about this organization. Notably, the regular members do not know what Team Galactic's mission is. All the other Team Grunts would proudly declare their purpose. The average Grunt just shrugs their arms in Team Galactic. What does become apparent when the player encounters the Administrators who help lead the Grunts, is that Team Galactic is lead by an incredibly charismatic individual who knows all the plans and constantly promises great rewards for the rest of the group.

That's right! Team Galactic is a Cult! Something that is sadly all too common in real life. Brainwashed individuals can cause incredible damage in the name of a person they do not fully understand. And damage does Team Galactic cause. For most of the game, the player will write the grunts off as an annoyance. That attitude vanishes with a literal bang when Team Galactic sets off a bomb at a major park within the game. The reason for this act of terrorism? To capture a Legendary Pokemon. And not just one. Three of them.

The player storms the villain's hideout as heroes tend to, and even though this area had been entered previously, the music changes to reflect the heightened threat that Team Galactic now poses. But things only get worse when the player makes it to the end and discovers a secret laboratory. Taking a page from Cipher's playbook in Pokemon Colosseum, it turns out that Team Galactic has the three legendary Pokemon trapped in cells and is horrifically torturing them to force them to create an item called a Red Chain. The Pokemon are crying out in pain too. A point that the scientists are glad to tell you if you ask them while storming the area.

But what does the Red Chain do? Well at this point, the player finally comes face to face with Team Galactic's Leader. His name is Cyrus and is one of the most infamous characters in the Pokemon franchise. The reason for this is because the main is an empty shell sociopath who has deemed emotion to be the greatest problem in the world. He hates spirit and emotion so much that he wishes to use the Red Chain to summon more Legendary Pokemon. In this case, the ones that control time and space itself! He also reveals that it is highly unlikely that the universe will survive being completely destroyed. This man is planning to kill everything in the entire universe just to remove the spirit from the world.

Cyrus reveals that he needs the Red Chain to also control these Legendary Pokemon. As it turns out, capturing them in a Pokeball takes their powers over time and space away. Not only does this solve a massive plot hole in the series, but shows just how far Cyrus is willing to go to achieve his dream. Cyrus flees after talking to the player. They are forced to chase him to the top of the game's tallest mountain.

At the peak, Cyrus manages to summon the Pokemon who control time and space, and it's only because of one simple factor that he does not obliterate the entire universe right there and then. As it turns out, there is a third legendary Pokemon and this one controls Anti Matter. It is not happy to see Cyrus tampering with the space-time continuum. Pulling him into an anti world, it stops the massive reconstructing of the entire universe.

The player once again gives chase. In the end, despite being defeated once again by the player, Cyrus does not leave this distortion world. This is a realm where gravity does not work, and up and down are just guidelines. But most importantly, this realm has no emotion or spirit. The Leader of Team Galactic chooses to remain in this place.

In the post-game, the player learns that the reason that Cyrus turned out how he did was a result of parental neglect and abuse. His own dive into despair and watching the people he trusted continually fail him led to the man going down such a dark road. Once again, there are many Cults with a charismatic leader in the real world that had this backstory. It goes without saying that this Pokemon Game set the trend for the nastier stories that would occur in Generations 5, 6 and 7. I may choose to write a future article on Generation 5 as this is my favorite game in the series.

Oh and one final thing. The biggest reason that these games are not as child-friendly is because of the life lesson. Cyrus is still alive, sitting in an eldritch location that ignores the laws of physics. The man has not been punished in any way for what he did. And he declares as you leave that he will find another way to realize his dream: A world without spirit. The man is still out there, and even being trapped in another universe, in complete isolation will not stop him. Sweet dreams...

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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