Category Archives: writing

Why Does the Billionaire Romance Hero (Still) Exist?

No one needs a billion dollars, no one person needs that much money, starts the viral TikTok song by Chaz Cardigan. It’s a fairly straightforward thesis, and even though the original video has since been taken down, the sound persists and has been used by countless other users, with videos like the one I linked to collectively garnering millions of views. Backing up that initial point, the lyrics continue:

A billion is a thousand million,
That’s twenty-one thousand years of work
At minimum wage to make that money
To hoard like you deserve it.
No one makes a billion dollars
Without exploiting workers.

Although this earworm acts as evidence that a platform predominantly skewed toward Gen Z is cool with vilifying the ultrawealthy, the sobering truth remains that as a culture we worship billionaires. It’s not just people who go far out of their way to simp for Elon Musk, either-

-it’s the constant media attention paid to those who make more in a single day than most of us are able to in an entire year. To be absurdly rich, at least in North America, is to achieve celebrity status, and the news cycle reacts accordingly. While the lavish praise heaped at the feet of such icons as Warren Buffett can often feel like it borders on infatuation, things truly cross that line when we consider the literary genre of billionaire romance. The name really says it all: the category exists to portray fictional billionaires as the desirable objects of our affections. Continue reading

The Greatest Loss in Online Christendom: RIP, The Babylon Bee

I’ve never been ashamed to openly admit that I’m a Christian (or that I was a virgin, for that matter, way back in 2011 when I still updated this blog on the reg). That being said, the truth is that I spend precious little time in faith-related spaces on the internet. I might pause mid-scroll when I spot an interesting thread from /r/christianity, but the majority of my engagement with religious writing online comes from Facebook, where a friend will share a link to a Relevant article or a rebuttal from a Professor of Theology at Wheaton College to a write-up on how his school has become too “woke.” But that wasn’t always the case. There was a point in time, almost exactly six years ago, when the faith-related internet content I read and enjoyed was of a decidedly different bent.

The Babylon Bee, March 17, 2016

The Babylon Bee was launched on March 1st, 2016, and by all accounts was something believers never even knew we wanted: a Christian version of The Onion. In its early days we were treated, and I write this with complete seriousness, to such satiric bangers as “Worship Leader Caught In Infinite Loop Between Bridge And Chorus” and “Witty Church Sign Sparks Revival.” These were articles clearly written with the kind of inside baseball that is so integral to comedy, deftly lampooning the life experiences of countless Christians. And, just like The Onion, The Babylon Bee was an immediate hit on platforms like Facebook, where the headline alone is enough to sell the joke.

As the years went by, however, I noticed that not only were fewer members of my various circles linking to the site, but those that were yielded stories that were less and less focused on (sorry about the alliteration) critiquing contemporary Christian culture and more and more focused on…politics.

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Do People of Colour Belong in Middle-earth?

Bettenridge’s law of headlines dictates that “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” In the case of whether or not J.R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is a fantasy land that has space for people of colour, it’s unfortunately not that simple.

The full title for the television series taking place in the same universe as the critically acclaimed The Lord of the Rings was announced just this past month, with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power acting as a prequel set thousands of years before the original trilogy of films. Soon after followed 23 individual posters featuring the hands of different characters, a startling development for those who hadn’t been closely following casting news for the show.

Screen Shot 2022-02-28 at 8.15.34 PM

As briefly discussed in my first post this year, there’s nothing more emblematic of our present-day culture than division and polarization. With every announcement decisions must be made and opinions cemented, dictating what side of any particular issue you find yourself on. To say that the same is true for the existence of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, [and] People of Colour) in a historically lily-white franchise is putting it lightly. The following tweet made by the amusingly named (at the time of this writing) “guy online” highlights the conflict accordingly:

Knowing this is the case and having these camps laid out in such stark contrast makes it awkward for me to admit that I’ve found myself in a place where I’m also side-eyeing production for casting actors of colour in various roles, a sentiment that on the surface places me in some admittedly unpleasant company. Let me explain- Continue reading

Who Did It Better? Coming Out with J.K. Rowling and Overwatch Lead Writer Michael Chu

It’s the Year of Our Lord 2019 and storytelling is still important. In some cases the stories are the same, like the age-old tale of good triumphing over evil, but they’re being delivered in increasingly more novel ways. Comics are drawn and fan fiction is written and YouTube sketches are filmed, and sometimes the collaborators aren’t even in the same city, let alone country. In other cases the stories, while nothing new, are finally being given the opportunity to be told. The idea of finding yourself isn’t an original one, but the narrative of coming out as gay or lesbian or transgender or any other identity has only recently found a foothold in popular media.

rowlingchuStorytelling and identity are crucial building blocks to our culture, and both are heavily intertwined (as are all things, these days) with the internet (it would be remiss of me not to mention that I chose to do so in a podcast I co-hosted). This is certainly as true for a multi-award-winning online first-person shooter as it is for a series of books that wrapped up a dozen years ago. The Overwatch and Harry Potter universes are like ours in that they are populated by a myriad of different characters, some straight and some LGBT+, but I want to delve into how the similarities, and ultimately the differences, of their respective coming out stories (in both cases the term “coming out” feels accurate, as none of the characters discussed were initially introduced as being anything other than straight).

“Yer a Gay Man, Dumbledore”

Before touching on her approach to revealing one of her characters’ sexual orientations, it’s worth making note of how the billionaire author has reentered our collective conversation. Two years ago a BuzzFeed writer was one of the first to report on a shocking revelation found on Pottermore, a site Rowling created for her legion of fans to learn more about the Wizarding World. Most people online will have come across this by now, but the page in question was about the Chamber of Secrets, and explained that wizards once vanished their excrement in lieu of using toilets. It resulted in one of my favourite Tumblr posts:

brooke

The user has since deleted their blog, so no direct link, sorry!

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The 2017 Evan Yeong Literary Awards

As laid out in the first-ever Evan Yeong Literary Awards, the purpose of these blog posts has been to provide a retrospective of the books read in the past year. Typically these have been written and published in January, but here we are. Better late than never, as I always say.

2017

This is the first of these awards to be written during my relatively new career in publishing. While I wouldn’t say I have a strong understanding of the ins and outs of what’s hot in the industry, I certainly have a healthier grasp of things, especially compared to past years when I had none whatsoever.

The other notable difference is that the list of books read has been censored in part, due to a number of the books having been unsolicited manuscripts that I was asked to read during my time as an Editorial Intern at Penguin Random House Canada. A handful were also unpublished manuscripts or ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and have been marked as such. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.


zealot

ALMOST AS COMPLEX AS THEIR NAMESAKE

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
Published 2013

Those who aren’t as familiar with the works of C.S. Lewis should know that “Aslan” is the name of the Judeo-Christian-God-stand-in of that author’s Narnia series. The lion is a complex figure, embodying a dichotomy of a being that is “isn’t safe” while also “good”. Aslan himself is a likewise complicated man, having been raised Muslim, converted to Christianity in his teens, then back to Islam, a faith he continues to practice, and did during the writing of this book. A fascinating fact for both believers and nonbelievers alike is his statement that whether or not he was the son of God, the Nazarene definitively performed miracles.

brother

SHOULD HAVE WON THE 2017 GILLER PRIZE

Brother by David Chariandy
Published 2017

One of many short, powerful works of fiction that I read this year, Brother is as unpretentious and beautiful a novel as you’re likely to find, and a worthy contender for Canada’s loftiest and most coveted literary prize. Shining a spotlight on Scarborough in the 90s, an area that I have (recently) shamefully joked about only “technically being Toronto”, this book would have served as a reminder of the real life stories that are overlooked and underheard.

The actual winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize was Michael Redhill’s Bellevue Square, which I read the ARC of. Brother was longlisted. Continue reading

Creating Mum: Director Anne-Marie O’Connor and Actor Kate O’Donnell on Their Award-Winning Short Film

To say that the relationship between a child and parent is fraught with emotions, most of them far from easy to put into words, is putting it lightly. Yet this is the subject of Mum, a short film that captures a visit from a trans woman to her aging mother. Having already won a handful of accolades, it began screening as part of New Irish Shorts 3 at the Galway Film Fleadh just this past Thursday, July 13th.

Mum is the creation of many talented individuals, chief among them being director Anne-Marie O’Connor and actor and star Kate O’Donnell. In addition to being able to review the short film I was also offered an interview with the two of them that allowed me to gain a better understanding of how this particular work came to be.


First off, congratulations to the both of you on the awards that Mum has won so far, at both the London Independent Film Festival and Global Shorts. To springboard off of that into our first question, as it’s screened as part of “New Irish Shorts 3” at the Galway Film Fleadh, what helps to make this an Irish film outside of the talent involved?

O’Connor: The song that is played and sung throughout the short is Black Velvet Band. It was important to me for this to link the film as it was a song that Kate’s mum used to sing to her and a song that my dad used to sing to me as a child. And although geographically it isn’t set in Ireland, the relationship between Kate and her mum feels very Irish to me and in writing this I felt that Linda was second-generation Irish and that Kate was a product of that upbringing.

I noticed in the credits that Mum was created by the two of you, but that it was only written by Anne-Marie. Could you both go into some detail regarding the creative process?

O’Connor: Kate and I are good friends and have been for years, and as she’s a leading trans actor and activist I’ve always wanted to work with her creatively. We often discuss the way that transgender people are portrayed in film and TV (the fascination with the transition, the no-one-will-ever-love-me storyline, sex workers or outsiders) and wanted to make a short that didn’t fall into those familiar tropes, to have a transgender central character in a universal story.

So I met with Kate and I asked her what story she would tell if she could and it simply came from her saying she’d love to go home and paint her mum’s nails; something she used to do when she was younger but is impossible to do because her stepfather makes life difficult (he’s always been difficult, way before Kate transitioned!). And so we built the story around her own story. It was very important for both of us that Kate was acknowledged in the creative process. So that is why it is created by both of us.

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