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This was supposed to be a steampunk outfit, but it ended up more “1940s train traveler”. Ah well. I love it anyway. And what better to pair it with than this short story? It’s sort of based on Chekhov’s “The Bet”, which I read when I was 10 and which proved very formative to my literary sensibilities.

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Let me first whet your palate with the mention of Dr. Lucius von Schroeder. It is with a bowed head and a mist in mine eye that I recount his fate. Not I, nor the beings ingrained within this volume, shall pass judgment should you choose to turn your dear faint head away.

Von Schroeder was only a boy. I shouldn’t have nursed his whims so. Then again, bravado had thrilled him since his first beard. It was writ epic in his nature. Who was I to stand in his God (or whomever)-given way?

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Von Schroeder craved beginnings and feared their ends terribly. He spoke of new dawns and advances yet unseen with besotted rapture. I don’t think his early days in the seminary had ever really quit him. He spurned the Church too vocally, too frequently, as though expunging whatever kernel of faith yet remained. He swore fidelity to science through and through, but I knew better. One night, when the walls seemed thin as ash and wind whipped our meager quarters, I heard the young man pray.

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How life itself ran riot through him! “Ashes to ashes,” he crowed. “Why, you and I are naught but stardust. Think of all we’d accomplish by truly realizing such infinite life. What is a man but his insistence on his own humanity? O, but what wonders we could channel if we’d stop clinging so.”

Lucius lusted faithfully after the ends of the earth. His need for transcendence, for taxonomy greater than his in creation’s kingdom, seemed to dog him with equal parts arousal and anxiety. Were I an insect, carrying discernment in the pads of my feet, I’d have seen the struggle writ subtle on his keen face. The epic of a man who’d abandoned God wrestling his own desire for holiness.

I watched him grow fevered and fevered further. I heard his prayers that weren’t prayers, whispered below breath as he worked. I didn’t recognize his deities. I did not understand his crosses to bear. In his private moments, he stood at a crux between two worlds I would never know.

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I was blind to what truly lay before me until the day my ward summoned me to his bedside. He was pale, but far from enervated; he was lit, incandescent, by the same godforsaken stardust that gripped him so. It hit me: he’d been a little less man each day. A little more spirit. Lucius was ash and wind and his own corner of Armageddon. He wasn’t meant for this world.

“My boy?”

“Professor Crowe, I’ve long known what I have to do. When you return to work, you’ll find your arsenic depleted. Once I have gone, please replace it with any money my earthly possessions will fetch you. It’s the least I can offer. But in the time I have left, there’s one thing I need.”

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He paused. Theatrics always did run deep in Lucius. “Collect my final breath, Professor. Let it ferment. Let whatever cursed thing called me home finally show its face. I will not live to see what multitudes I truly contain.

But you will.”

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I buried a man half my age with a heart twice as heavy. I drafted notes to his family only to remember he had none. The hastily corked bottle containing his final earthly statement dogged me all the while.

And then, my friend, my dear blameless boy, I let it go.

That little carafe exhaled your remains into a world never meant for them. I felt the air itself recoil. And I hung my head in shame.

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But what else would I have done? For all my dedication to this world’s more sordid wonders, I was cowed by something so ineffable. You see, I hunt the darkness in corners long forgotten. I was not prepared to find it in man.

~

Dress & jacket: vintage, via brick-and-mortar store

Boots: vintage, via eBay

Everything else: thrifted

pie & propaganda

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Another summer, another weekend at my godparents’ cabin. (And holy HELL are this year’s photos better than last year’s or the year before’s. It’s fun to measure my improvement.) I always love playing characters here. This year’s housewife one of my favorites.

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But I’m not quite as toothless as I look. Today I’m releasing a project I’ve been sitting on for some time, and I’m pretty excited about it.

It’s sort of an open secret that I have a writing blog, Beginning Our Dissent. Starting today, though, I’d like to introduce it officially, to see the merging of (two of) my online communities. More than just a side hobby, it will now function as a portfolio of sorts, and I’ll be repping its Facebook page on My Kingdom for a Hat.

I write mostly about politics, activist praxis, religion, and mental illness. From the Facebook description:

I’m Skye. I’m a writer and blogger interested in fairy tales, uncomfortable truths, and the intersection of magic and mundane. I think we should all take greater care to see our ideological opponents as human beings first, and that theme underlies almost all my work.

I write a monthly column for an international writing collective called the Prague Revue, and I blog original photography at My Kingdom for a Hat. My work has appeared sporadically in Elephant Journal, Cowbird, Vogoff, & more. As of 2015, I am working on two short-story collections and an epic poem, which I hope to self-publish as soon as finances allow.

Won’t you join me?
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yellow polka dots & a touch of scandal

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This dress from Lady Jane Vintage is my birthday present to myself. I ordered it on a Thursday and it arrived two days later, cosseted in pink tissue paper. Since then I’ve been wearing it as often as I can get away with, because holy shit – LOVE. How much more perfect can one dress be? I’m really digging the modest silhouette + sheer fabric. “Slutty grandma” is pretty much my favorite aesthetic. Naturally I had to wear my black vintage bra & panties.

My other birthday present to myself, by the way, will be my first major tattoo. I’m talking armpit-to-hip. I’ll be inscribed with it as of this coming Sunday, and I can’t wait to show off its barest outline under my housewife dresses.

And now, have the first few paragraphs of a short story I started writing last night!

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She kept expecting someone else’s face.

Not every day. Not all the time. Not with parts of herself she cared for overmuch. But when the bashful sun crawled away, when dawn first cracked open, when she couldn’t sleep through her husband’s alarm, when the world was one big threshhold, Aurora remembered her.

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Philip kissed her goodbye at seven a.m. She pretended to doze: the better to savor the face she wished she saw, to soften the contrast between the clever one she expected and the blank, lusty one she got.

Not all the time. For most of the day, her mind and her marriage stayed in lockstep. She slapped away hands that pinched her bottom and fantasized about Philip rising up in the name of her honor. She pictured his smile in quiet moments and grew a sly, private smile of her own. She ducked into the bathroom just after dinner and stuffed her panties in her handbag: she loved his hands on her waist as she stood at the sink, roaming down until he found the absence of satin and the skin in its place. She loved that he still played surprised, every time. She loved him.
But she also loved something that lay just beyond her, something less than skin-on-skin but more than a dream. She loved the curious revenant that dogged her in the wee hours, until sleep snuffed her mind’s surface clean. She loved it even as Philip snored beside her: even as her five prosaic senses worked, some archaic sixth was waking up.

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Aurora was nineteen when they met, and Philip was twenty. He was too young for the finance job his uncle had finagled for him. He looked positively silly in shirtsleeves, a babe with a briefcase, and Aurora loved him for it. She poked fun at his white-collar accoutrements, but she was grateful when they bought her an apartment in the city, a kitchen set in the modern style. She worked her stenography job from ten to two and came home to fuss and nest in the afternoons. The rationing was finally over, and she made trays of roasts and butter sweets. She felt modern and loved and glowing with having proved wrong parents and doctors both: she was down to two pills a day, and here she still was! Every day she pinched her hips and felt giddy at their thickening. She curled her hair and marveled that the golden filaments held their own against the heat. With Philip, living in the city, clicking to work in heels she’d bought herself, she felt real.

She wasn’t supposed to bear children, not yet, not without Doctor Crowley’s signature, but she loved Philip and the life he’d given her too much not to try.

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And so she sat at their formica dining set at five o’clock, hair curled, suit pressed, curves curvier every day, and she fought to keep her mind off the liminal. Resisted finding the fabled face in the grain of her walls. This was a day for the flesh.

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housekeeping, lots of pink, & artsy antique-store pictures

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I am deeply saddened to announce that my camera is dead.

Not buried yet, though. I’m still holding out hope for the Lazarus effect. It’s been out of commission ten days now, and today I finally made a truce with my wallet and took it to the repair shop. Apparently the entire works need replacing (I dropped it onto concrete), and it’ll be at least a week before I can see it again.

I won’t be able to post as frequently as I’d like (and my first Shaped by Style posts might be delayed), but I keep a backlog of photos on hand for precisely this reason. So I’ll be filling the radio silence, albeit with outdated outfits.

I took these about three weeks ago in one of my favorite antique stores.

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Not having a camera is weird, man. It’s made me realize just how much of my fashion sense is performative. I almost don’t see the point in dressing up if I can’t share my outfit with the internet. The past week has been an exercise in looking cute just for the hell of it. And lemme tell you – I have been wearing some hella cute outfits.

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But it’s also given me more time to write. I’m serious about this short-story-collection thing. I’m thinking a hundred-page chapbook of my ten best stories. Cheap enough to produce while nonetheless conveying my range of ability. I’ll set up a website to sell it, and maybe offer copies to a few local/alternative bookstores. One of my favorite thrift shops even sells customers’ art.

Should I produce a separate one for poetry? Or intersperse the poems in with the prose?

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floral blouse, blue circle skirt, & ~super!artsy~ photos

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Kristina wrote an excellent post yesterday about actual vintage vs. caricatures that have been historically enshrined as vintage. She writes:

Sure, sometimes they wore red lipstick. Sometimes they did victory rolls. Sometimes they had fluffy skirts held out by petticoats. But watching a movie or searching street style from that era, there was so much more. And very few cat-eye looks, I should point out. I feel as though more often, it was pink or orange or even neutral lipsticks, soft brown shadows (or, hello, blue shadow), liner that was pretty subtle (it was all about the lip shape back then), fantastic brows, and hair that was fluffed and curled to glamorous volume.

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I think sometimes the collective-we forgets that the history we slaver over was inhabited by actual people. Narratives are messy and murky and non-linear. And humans have always been human. The way we categorize them after the fact often has nothing to do with how they really lived. For instance – if I had a dime for every rockabilly type who claimed that vintage bikinis were “so much classier” than today’s stringy counterparts! As though they weren’t considered downright scandalous in their own time. We idolize Marilyn Monroe in the 21st century and forget that in her own, she was basically Kim Kardashian meets Monica Lewinsky.

fbIfbIXDitto when the nostalgia-prone sigh for “real” courtship, for the days when “men were gentlemen and women were ladies”. Maybe that’s how we’ve chosen to remember those days, but it was never that simple. There were still drunken hookups. There was gossip and seduction and guys who didn’t call. Let’s not pretend we don’t know what drive-in movies were really about.

All the things we think are newfangled conventions? They’ve always existed. People were terrified to be open about them.

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Here’s to a fuller remembrance of history. To taking the good parts and leaving the bad to rot, but fundamentally understanding all of it. To knowing that truth is stranger than fiction.

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vintage plaid, red accents, & a silly poem

I submitted this to the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. Not gonna lie, 90% of why I did so was just to see “Wergle Flomp” on my resume.

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The sun went down at four-o’clock

on the ev’ning of January first.

In its place, the moon unlocked

the gate, and came to quench its thirst.

 

I took the measure of the sky

a-gleaming in its tar.

I posed a question, asking “Why?”

And lo! Was greeted by a star!

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Along the ridge of Mars and North

my vanguard shone for me.

Holding strong and gleaming forth,

never to cower or flee.

 

A metaphor, my star became,

imbuing me with vim.

How brilliant glowed its well-fanned flame –

how holy boomed its hymn!

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The star became my confidant,

soothing troubles from all corners.

Guarding lovers on a jaunt,

wiping tears from distant mourners.

 

The sun went down at nine-o’clock

when June came ‘round the bend.

Alone beneath the moon, I walked

to find the power to transcend.

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I dropped to my knees, my limbs a-tremble.

The star gazed down, so stern.

I should have guessed it to dissemble:

But I, seeking counsel, just churned.

 

“I’m lost,” I cried, “so soothe me, please.

I’m afraid my bearings have slipped.”

My star hung bright, a comfort, an ease:

A smooth face, white, unpipped.

 

When suddenly my tacit friend –

his face split in a wink!

I watched in bitter discontent

as his wisdom toppled off the brink!

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A clown, a mime, a laughing face

hung blankly in the sky.

Where truth once stood was nare a trace –

my lips parted in a cry.

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June had come, rose high,

and the hour was nigh

for my dear friend to depart.

 

The orbit had switched

and the mission was ditched.

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The star I’d wished on every night

turned out to be a satellite.

 

flower crown, peter pan collar, and ~dem boots~

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Sometimes a certain blogger’s aesthetic gets stuck in my head, and I sit around itching until I can emulate it. In this case, it’s Kate of Scathingly Brilliant, specifically this look. She doesn’t post anymore (boo hiss), but her blog was one of my favorites. Say what you will about style ruts, but I admire people who own a certain look and wear the hell out of it. In Kate’s case, super!kawaii pastel Disney princess. It’s not everyone’s thing, but it worked for her.

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Today I’ve also got part of a short story for you. Recently I’ve been editing some of my old stories. I used to think polishing up an old story was “cheating” somehow – that the Skye who wrote it was an entirely different person, someone I’d be somehow ripping off. This just in: I’m so neurotic that I worry about plagiarizing myself. That is not a sign of anything good.

So here you go. It’s a ten-page story, about half of which I’ve rewritten so far. Just an intro to whet your appetite:

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It’s been three years now, to the day, but I still can’t forget how time used to move differently. How three or four or five years ago I wouldn’t have measured in years at all. I moved in seasons and sighs and smoke curling through morning mist. The tensions were high, but the living was grand. We’d be blown to hell soon enough; now was the time for our own hedonic heaven.

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My days poured into the shape of her, bold along her spine or precious in the details of her eyelids. Awash in seconds, hours, days, she glowed. When energy filled her and she brimmed with excitement, with lust, time raged by in bounds. Other days, slow and piecemeal, it was barely there. A meager heartbeat in waxy skin.

“Tell me about her,” my brother asks sometimes. He can tell when she’s glimmering just inside my bones. “Let her out.”

“I can’t,” I tell him, again and again. I never took the time to memorize all of her at once. She wasn’t interesting to me that way; her devilry lay in the details.. She was a smile and a sterling collarbone and a pair of perfect earlobes and a set of hips. I can’t let her out, because that’s all I have. I just need it to stay mine.

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polka dots, purple, & pattern-clashing

clashIclashVII’m a creative nihilist. I capture light and pin words to paper because doing so satisfies some atavistic itch, not because I’ve convinced myself it means anything. It’s strange, watching friends and classmates hunt for meaning in my work. My writing process is a “what if?” exercise writ large. It’s pure exploration. The curtains aren’t blue because I woke up on the wrong side of the bed; they’re blue because I appreciate beauty, and who doesn’t like a nice cobalt in the kitchen?

clashIVI don’t think every work needs a deeper purpose. I think beauty is enough. I’m the sort of person who forgives plot holes for a lovely enough turn of phrase. And twisty turny sock-you-in-the-gut stories are the loveliest to me. Give me stumbling dream sequences and nonlinear plots and shambling, experimental prose. Give me an eldritch abomination in ink and paper.

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Give me inverted mythologies and the fabric of our world rent casually twain, for funsies. If all this is my oyster, I want every last slurp. Does eating oysters need meaning? Do you write theses on the significance of each sea-soaked pearl?

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No. You do it because you can.

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vintage florals, spiderwebs, & watermelon

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There’s a somewhat baffling debate going on right now in my other online community (rationalists/lesswrong expats) about the concept of neoteny. prolonged childhood, which detractors claim is evident in the abundance of children’s media and other whimsical pursuits. By this coin, the blurring of children’s and adults’ interests (cupcakes, novelty prints, Marvel everything) is responsible for the immaturity, peter-pannishness, and general adolescent stridency of my generation. And I…don’t understand this viewpoint at all.

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The main thing they’re missing, I think, is the idea that personality isn’t a package deal. There’s a significant difference between entertainment/aesthetic geared toward children and actual developmental delay, and I don’t see evidence that one leads to the other. It seems like the people making this argument are reaching for connections among traits they personally dislike in an attempt to pin their distaste on a single profile. And it doesn’t work like that. I’m the first to admit that immaturity, slacktivism, and a general shit-flinging sensibility are significant problems in media right now, but I don’t think that’s caused by ukeleles and cupcakes.

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The decoupling of neutral traits from the associations they’ve developed is a good thing, I think. It frees up more people to dabble in interesting aesthetics and hobbies without the baggage of an entire lifestyle. Vintage is a great example: there’s nothing inherently socially regressive about pin curls and full skirts. They were popular in a restrictive time, sure, but not to unpack that association would be an insult to a perfectly lovely style.

And I think the blurring of age distinctions is great. Age categories are fluid and socially constructed, not immutable. I’ve never been a fan of segregating media by age, anyway. Art is art. Why restrict your enjoyment?

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I’m all for mix-and-match identities. I don’t think the way you dress or the books you read have to say anything about you other than…you like those things. I know humans pattern-match and profile. It frustrates our lizard brains when we can’t put things into boxes. Given, though, that we’re no longer swinging from trees, I think there’s something to be said for consciously rising above those primitive impulses.

By some standards, I’m hella neotenous. I’m mired in neoteny. I like bright colors and balloons and flowers and omg!hyperbole. I wear Peter Pan collars and saddle shoes. I’m also a pinup, a published author, a student of comparative religion, and a horror fanatic. Someone who didn’t like me might attempt to solidify their distaste by pinning those traits into a “type”, but you’d have a hell of a time with that. People aren’t statistics.

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gingham, spring fluorescence, & freshly dyed hair

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From the delightful chancre on the backside of public discourse that is get-off-my-internets dot net:

“[T]he thing that drives me consistently crazy about [the bloggers we criticize] is that they think because we’re nasty or explicit that they can write us off as haters. Gurl this ain’t Vindication of the Rights of Women, we’re not going to be careful and eloquent. It’s a goddamn internet forum about dull as shit bloggers and none of us have the time or inclination to triple-check our phrasing. You can decide if GOMI’s a negative place or not but what do you expect, polite suggestions for improvement?

…yes, as a matter of fact. I do.

Your nastiness doesn’t make your statement wrong (actually a common fallacy!), but it makes it hella likely that I won’t want to stick around long enough to fully understand it. You cannot bombard someone with harassment and then sneer at them because they decided it wasn’t worth their time to stick around and find the gem in the pile of shit.

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GOMI users are big on personal responsibility – at least, for anyone who isn’t them. When called out for body snarking/name calling/needless speculation about bloggers’ private lives, the defense is invariably “well, she shouldn’t have posted that picture if she couldn’t handle being called ugly.” Which is a pretty impressive goalpost shift. Of course we know you have the RIGHT to say awful things. The point is that perhaps you shouldn’t. If you want to be vicious, then own it. But don’t act as though it’s the natural course of things and you ~just couldn’t help yourself~.

And if your party line is “once you put it out there, you deserve any response you get”, you really don’t get to complain that someone was too put off by your meanness to continue engaging with you. You put the malice out there. You got what was coming to you.

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I am afraid every day that I do not have the stones to be a storyteller. I want to change the world, but I want to do it gently. I’m so out of touch with the shouty self-righteous discourse that seems en vogue these days, and I have no desire to get in deeper touch. I’m not aggressive, I’m not militant, I’m not a radical of any kind, and I fundamentally disbelieve that any cause, any message, is worth abandoning kindness and empathy for.

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Writing is all I’ve ever really wanted to do. But I am deeply, truly afraid of becoming the next Laci Green, Justine Sacco, Matt Taylor, Dan Savage, or Iggy Azalea. Yes, I know I’ll get a dozen messages explaining why the aforementioned public figures are problematic, and no, that’s not the goddamn point. Of course I don’t endorse everything they do or say. But here’s the thing: driving them underground won’t change a thing. Flawed ideas and flawed people won’t go away because you shouted them down. Belittle a person, and they’ll come back in force. Present a reasoned critique, and you just might change a few minds.

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