At the beginning of the summer, when I started writing the first part of what turned out to be an eleven-part series, I didn’t intend for it to be more than a single flash fiction piece. Inspired by Ray Bradbury and the vintage science fiction artwork from the 60’s time period, I had originally sat down to revisit an old story idea I had conceived during middle school. I remember on my parents’ computer, I had named the original Word document “Dum Hum-Drum,” and I recalled it featured an elderly couple sitting at their kitchen table, coping with the boredom of retirement after having filled their lives with productivity and work-work-work. How would they possibly be able to grapple with “free time”?
While I could have found the original document, I wanted to have a fresh start, not influenced by the fanciful phrasing of my youth or bound by the previous story premise. I nixed the idea of the husband, and created a whole society around the idea of Agnes, an elderly woman at her kitchen table, depressed not to be working on the national holiday of Labor Day. By the end of this new story, I had so enjoyed writing it, that as I read the last line over a few times, I thought, I could keep going with this.
In a lot of ways, “I Fuel the Great Machine” is like Slanted Spines——when I began on this journey, I had no premonition of what it would grow into. When I first created Slanted Spines and decided to post blog entries every Friday, there was no way I thought that 200 Fridays later, I’d still be going with it, and yet, here we are, reader: enjoying my 200th Slanted Spines post together!
As I wrote “I Fuel the Great Machine” each week, I felt closer to the characters, and more like I understood who they were. I remember the first week that I really loved Agnes——for the first couple weeks, I didn’t necessarily like her, but she was an interesting protagonist. It was after the third part, I believe, when I had the thought, “You know, Agnes is a good person; she is just a product of her toxic upbringing, which she’s never learned better than.” That’s when I started realizing I could identify with parts of her, especially the parts of me that are insecure and jealous. I understand why she resents Senga at first, because she’s angry that Senga has the better hand in life; however, as Agnes begins to understand Senga more, she’s able to view her with love and compassion, and changes her perspective. Agnes even rejects Ramona when she first meets her because she’s a soldier of a cause she doesn’t understand but has been taught to fear and hate, yet once she spends time with Ramona, she opens up her heart to her and they are able to form a special friendship, probably the most important relationship of the series.
There are these unexpected lessons in everything, and a lot of times it only takes opening up our hearts to something we want to shut out of our lives. Often, when we don’t relate to others or understand the things we hear, we form a very defensive, habitual reaction. Yet if we do this, we could end up like Agnes, stuck in our box-like thinking, refusing to take a friendly hand that’s inviting us to explore the universe.
Absolutely, Slanted Spines has been one of these lessons for me. It can be terrifying publishing our artwork and stories to share with anyone on the internet who happens upon it, subject to criticism and hatred——but also subject to so much more than that. When we publish the expressions of our souls for others to see, it can give new meaning, inspire others, entertain strangers, and spark a community of readers and viewers. The latter easily makes up for any of the former. And during the artistic process and its aftermath, we learn so much about ourselves.
One of the many things I enjoyed about writing “I Fuel the Great Machine” is how it gave me the opportunity to explore the darker aspects of my imagination——the Slantian regime, the global and cultural destruction of one nation, the strategy of an AI super-computer——while still incorporating my ideas of peace and love——through the intimate emotions Agnes experiences, the friendships she forms with people she has little in common with, the messages of love imparted through dialogue and symbolism. Despite the horrors each character experiences, their souls are not broken by it, and are actually emboldened by it. Even though the world is ending, they can still enjoy their cup of coffee. And that’s what I wanted to focus on.
It wasn’t until I was almost finished writing the series that I realized what a strong meaning this act of drinking coffee has within the story. Throughout the series, it often acts as a means for Agnes to take a moment to herself; many times, she sits and ponders over a cup of coffee, as she does in the beginning, when she isn’t sure what to make of her new retirement, and she does this again towards the end, when she decides she wants to intervene and stop the Slanted soldiers from destroying Earth. Moreover, drinking coffee also acts as an ongoing symbol of friendship and community, as the gang usually dicusses their ideas or plans while partaking in the splendors of this hot, comforting beverage; the team drinks this as they discuss their Day of Action plans, and as Agnes worries over the future, Senga reminds her, “Just enjoy your coffee, sister,” bringing Agnes’s emotions back into the room they are in, instead of letting her fret over what is to come. And perhaps the most stark portrayal of growth is the juxtaposition of the first time Ramona enters Agnes’s house, when Agnes wonders if she should offer coffee to her first house guest in years, to the last scene in the epilogue, when Ramona visits Agnes and she immediately brews a hot pot of coffee for her dear friend.
These delightful little details are one of the greatest joys of writing——sewing all the words and ideas together with smaller, complementary threads in order to create one cohesive masterpiece. As an English scholar, I love discovering the creative writing devices in my work after I’ve finished: “Oh look, I’m foreshadowing here! And there’s a nod to the motif.” I love to craft stories with the tenderest care I can. (Ironically, even after all my studying, I believe that words are ultimately hollow placeholders for life’s miracles, but) I derive my fun from playing with them, and illustrating life with words as best I can.
Which is why I love Slanted Spines so much——because I get to do that, every week, and share it with people.
So although I’ve concluded “I Fuel the Great Machine” on SlantedSpines.com, I don’t think it will rest for long; I have plans to edit it as a whole, including adding more content, tweaking existent content, and creating illustrations. I am not sure how long this will take me nor when I am going to being this process, but if all goes according to my vision, I may be listing it on Amazon for purchase to help fund Slanted Spines and gain more readers. For now, however, I have compiled all the existing parts as they are now into one cohesive PDF file, which you can read online or print out here:
One of my goals with Slanted Spines is to gain a prominent readership so that one day, I may be able to live solely off my writing and the Slanted Spines business, allowing me to focus more of my energy on creative endeavors to enrich the minds and lives of my readers. In order to do this, I tell everybody I can about Slanted Spines and encourage them to follow me on WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! It’s important to me that my loved ones and my readers show their support online because the more traffic Slanted Spines gets, the more other people will find out about it. That’s why it means a lot to me when others share my posts, like my pictures, or retweet my messages. This is the cheapest and easiest way to boost my cause, although there are certainly monetary options for supporting me, if that interests you!
In an effort to better serve my readers and increase my readership, I would like to know what do you most enjoy reading? Please comment with your thoughts! Are you mostly drawn to comics, short stories, poetry? Or maybe you prefer blog posts with a very personal voice, or inspirational opinion pieces? Basically, I would like to know how I can gain your continued readership—-and if I already have that, how I can keep it! All feedback is appreciated!
The Life of Slanted Spines
If you follow Slanted Spines on social media, then you may already have an idea of what I’ve been up to over the summer; for those who exclusively visit SlantedSpines.com or follow on WordPress, I’d like to share some personal updates!
Probably the most major change to happen in the past few months is that I moved in with Bryant! That fact alone is exciting, but what’s even more thrilling is that I have my very own Slanted Spines room in the new place! I’m constantly shuffling furniture around and tweaking decorations, but here are some photos of the Office of Slanted Spines from the past month—and a couple pictures of us!
As you may see, the cats love hanging out in the Slanted Spines room, since it’s basically the coolest room in the house. This is nice for the company, but also the cats being in here often can be a pain, too, especially when Juliet starts vomiting… But anyway, together, Bryant and I have two cats: Juliet and Karma. (If there is interest, I will happily share photos of these cuties.) And amazingly they have been getting along great! They are really good at being co-habitants——no cuddling yet though!
So far, I’m utterly in love with our new home. Living with Bryant has been great because we make a solid team; he often helps me brainstorm ideas for Slanted Spines and his support encourages me to keep going, even when I’m feeling a little defeated.
Also, perhaps you remember my “Reaching Lotus” illustration from the beginning of the summer, which featured a skeleton reaching upwards towards a lotus. A couple weeks ago, I had the lotus from that image tattooed on me, making it my first tattoo based off my own artwork!
This is my tenth tattoo (I think?) and I will capture a better photograph once it heals all the way! If any of my readers are interested in discussing tattoos, I’m always willing! I’ve been slowly accumulating tattoos over the past five years, and I’m trying to slow down a little, but… I just enjoy them. The funny thing is, I really only made the appointment for the tattoo because my little brother is getting another tattoo and wanted me to give him a ride. I thought, “Might as well, while I’m here.”
Yesterday, I finished up illustrating the cover art for my friend Jeff’s new album, “Summertime in Tree City”! He is releasing it today under his rapper name BiggzFromDaKidds and it will be available on Spotify and Apple Music. I will update this post with a link after he drops it.
The art features scenes from Kent with summertime vibes. Bryant, Jeff, and several of my friends are a part of a local music label called Tree City Records. If you enjoy rap and hip-hop, look them up!
In addition to Tree City Records, there is also an off-shoot of that, Tree City Gaming, which is a similar group of my friends who stream Destiny 2 on Twitch.
The last thing I’ll mention is that I’m constantly doing updates to the Slanted Spines website, so make sure you check back every week and peruse the pages. I’ve recently added an “Affirmations” page, which contain messages of love and emotional growth. Every week I design one on Procreate and post it to my Instagram, and I also add it to the website so that readers can visit it and have a little dosage of inspiration!
Thanks so much for reading! Happy 200 Slanted Spines posts! Don’t forget to comment with what content you’d like to see more from Slanted Spines!