Toxic nostalgia edition
Welcome, world, to this, the day before my period. My anxiety, like a furious elemental protogod, has broken through its feeble medication-forged chains on a violent surge of hormone disruption, I’m on the verge of vomit after spending the last hour reading climate change news while eating half a jar of Nutella with a spoon, and the heat index is currently 110 degrees, so strap the fuck in, friends, we’re going for a ride.
Let’s talk some more about this goddamn roller coaster. Months ago, after they’d announced the ride’s closure, I posted a little eulogy here for Fire in the Hole at Silver Dollar City. I rode it one last time this summer, with my daughter, in the front row. Afterward, we bought her a tiny shirt that reads “Fire in the Hole: the Last Ride,” and were more disappointed than we cared to admit that they were out of the adult sizes.
I said goodbye, is what I mean, to an odd little piece of my childhood, and doing so felt nice and made me smile a lot (even if we learned the hard way that my kiddo is not a roller coaster person - sorry kiddo).
But now I know that whole “last ride” thing was a total manipulation. Turns out, they’re closing it because they’re rebuilding it. Bigger! Better! Everything you loved about the first one, but MORE! With an attached souvenir shop and food court! A whole new district - the Fire District - for the park!
And I hate this so much. I hate how they pretended to tear down something a lot of people have fond memories of just so they could over-capitalize on all the nostalgia they deliberately stoked.
And it’s not just the ride that’s making me grouchy, although I recognize that this is the third time I’ve brought Fire in the Hole up on my Substack and it’s probably starting to seem a little obsessive. It’s also the remakes, the reboots, the reunion tours, Halloween advent calendars, the upsetting CGI version of Flounder the fucking fish, et al. The metaphor I think I want involves the zombie fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (capitalism is the fungus, our ability to feel joy is the ant).
Or is it an empire collapse thing? Was some middle-aged Roman lady out there scrawling on a wax tablet and bemoaning the fact that all the latest mosaics were just stale repackagings of the designs everybody liked back when they were kids during Marcus Aurelius’s reign?
[I have done zero research or investigation regarding that claim, so please treat me like someone who’s cornered you at a party and you’re not sure why I’m yelling quite so loudly.]
And in some ways (buckle up, this is going to be more tortured than the ant metaphor), corporate reliance on decades-old IP for easy remixes feels like it’s of a piece with just inviting generative AI right on in to our cultural output. Because where a shortcut can be taken, an entity that solely exists for profit is going to take it. There’s no shortage of artists out there producing excellent ideas, it’s just getting a lot harder for them to get paid for doing so and for them to get access to major platforms with said ideas.
On the other hand though, I know a lot of things are really hard right now and some of them are probably not getting better any time soon, if they get better at all. I like notalgic stuff too (see also: Yellowjackets’ impeccable soundtrack), and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying something from the past that makes you feel cozy and settles your brain for a minute.
Just, you know, we’ve got to work toward a future too, I guess is what I’m saying.
Anyway, I’m sorry for yelling at you.
Before I get started on the second half of this jar of Nutella, though, here are some things I’ve liked recently:
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
Jury Duty on Amazon Prime
Stalking green herons in the park for Instagram photos with an intensity that bordered on Ahabian
Strawberry trifles (house style: strawberries, blueberries, pound cake, Cool Whip, vanilla pudding)
Related: buying some gorgeous origami paper
Favorite quote: “By virtue of its mission to provide the citizenry with access to a wide array of information, viewpoints, and content, the public library is decidedly not the state’s creature; it is the people’s.”
Getting to critique some short stories and a novel excerpt
I really love doing this. Please get with me if you’re looking for a beta reader. It makes me so happy to meet pre-published characters and think of ways to help them shine. I’m in a bit of a writing slump, but getting to work with other people’s stuff really helped me reconnect a bit to that part of my brain.
I love you all and take care of yourselves out there.