News & Blog

Reading on Sunday, May 4th in New York City

Hey, everyone! I’m going to be doing a reading on Sunday, May 4th, along with Chandler Klang Smith and Karen Heuler! (Aside from being amazing authors, Chandler and Karen have also been published by ChiZine Publications, the same folks who published my novella Chasing the Dragon. We’re CZP family!)

Where: The HiFi Bar, 169 Avenue A, at 11th Street. We’ll be in the back room, unless lots of people show up, in which case we’ll take over the bar. Please help us take over the bar!

When: Sunday, May 4th, from 5pm to 7pm.

Admission is free! Drinks will be cheap and plentiful!

Copies of our books will be available for purchase and signing at the reading. Or bring your own and we’ll sign those, too. We’re not picky.

Hope to see you there!

What Went Wrong With the Finale of “How I Met Your Mother”

[No spoilers here, although some will undoubtedly appear in the comments.]

I’m not a big sitcom guy these days. I can count on one hand how many sitcoms I tune in for. How I Met Your Mother was one of them. I didn’t start watching it from the beginning. In fact, I was barely aware of the show until I started catching cable reruns on the weekends in 2011. I fell in love with the characters and found myself watching it more and more, catching up on everything I missed on Netflix. I found Ted, Barney, Lily, Marshall, and Robin all relatable in their own ways, and even when an episode’s plot would go off the rails, the emotions at its core would remain authentic. And while I’ll admit that Ted’s plotline quickly faded to the background for me in favor of all things Barney, the show’s conceit, that future Ted (inexplicably voiced by Bob Saget) is telling the story to his children of how he met their mother, and its inherent mystery remained compelling to me on some level. With every new woman Ted dated, I wondered if this, finally, would be the woman he winds up with. She never was.

Then, at last, the mother appeared briefly at the end of season 8, although really she didn’t become a character until season 9. We were shown the mother meeting each of the gang separately, all leading up to the big moment when she and Ted would meet. In between, we were treated to flash-forwards, Lost-style, to their courtship and life together. It built an expectation that the last episode, maybe even the final scene of the last episode, would bring it all together in the sitcom equivalent of a harmonic convergence.

And then the final episode came, a two-parter called “Last Forever,” and it was seriously disappointing. Some people liked it. Most hated it. A few, like author Chuck Wendig, seemed personally offended by it. It’s not hard to see why. The finale is wildly problematic, but its biggest narrative fumble is that it marginalizes the mother completely and makes her irrelevant to the story.

This marginalization is demonstrated perfectly in a scene at MacLaren’s, the bar that has been the characters’  home away from home for nine seasons, where the gang asks the mother to take a photo of them all in their favorite booth. So they all sit together for the picture, and the mother stands away from them and takes the photo. I kept waiting for one of the characters — and really, it should have been Ted, her fucking fiancé — to say, “Hold on a moment, you should be in this picture too,” and get someone else to take it. But the writers obviously cannot imagine such a thing, and so the photo is taken to commemorate the moment without the mother even in it. Later in that same scene, the gang makes a toast that’s all about Ted and how it’s been a long, hard trip to this moment of lasting coupledom, which is sweet, except nowhere in the toast do they even mention the mother…or even say her fucking name! IN A TOAST TO THE HAPPY COUPLE! AND SHE’S SITTING RIGHT THERE!

It is clear that to the writers the mother literally does not matter, except as the source of Ted’s children. This irrelevance is further borne out in the final minutes of the episode, which succeed not only in negating everything the show was building toward, but also nine seasons’ worth of character development. I really liked in the episode before the two-part finale when Robin wonders if she should be marrying Ted instead of Barney, and Ted tells her, “I’m not that guy anymore.” No, scratch that, I loved that scene. It was character development at its finest. Ted has moved on. Emotionally, he’s ready for what’s coming next. Bravo, writers! And then they fuck it up at the end of the finale with the most tone-deaf few minutes the show has ever, ever had. Ted hasn’t changed or grown or learned, the writers seem to be saying. Ted is pretty much exactly the same as he was from the start. Mother? What mother? Thanks for watching.

This is what happens when you plot out your finale nine years before and then rigidly adhere to it without allowing room for spontaneity, character development, or the ability to change your mind when you realize something else might work better. In the end, How I Met Your Mother, which I had been very close to calling one of the my favorite TV comedies ever because of its intricate and clever plotting, closed out its story with a lazy contrivance that left a bad taste in my mouth. One that’s very hard to forgive.

Edited to add: Some kind soul on the Internet has edited their own version of how the finale should have ended, and it’s a thousand times more perfect than what we got.

“Hardboiled Horror” at Nightmare Magazine

My article “Hardboiled Horror,” about the intersection of horror and noir, is featured in the April issue of Nightmare Magazine, the fabulous online horror and dark fantasy magazine edited by John Joseph Adams. Those of you with a subscription can read it now. Those of you without a subscription will have to wait until April 16th to read it online for free. For now, though, here’s a taste:

Consider the works of Poe, who saw nothing but the inevitability of death and decay in all human relationships. Or Lovecraft, who watched the frantic hubbub of our daily lives with the icy gaze of a disinterested spectator and told us nothing we did mattered. (“Life is a hideous thing,” Lovecraft wrote as the very first line of “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family,” and if that’s not a noir sentiment, I don’t know what is.) In Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creature is the ultimate outsider. Everywhere he goes he is greeted with only hatred and fear, until finally he accepts this as the true dark, seething heart beneath society’s friendly façade. Once he embraces it by murdering Victor Frankenstein’s brother William, friend Henry Clerval, and wife Elizabeth, the creature becomes the very monster everyone thought him to be, and thus becomes an equal at last.

This issue also features stories by Dale Bailey, Nancy Etchemendy, Martin Cahill, and the mysteriously named Bones; Julia Sevin’s art showcase on digital artist Federico Bebber; and Lisa Morton’s author interview with Darren Shan. So if you haven’t subscribed yet, what are you waiting for? Nightmare Magazine is where it’s at!