[sticky post] This is the dimension of imagination.

Welcome to my sandbox!

I'm Merc Rustad, a robot velociraptor in disguise. I write things, attend college (film major),  watch lots and lots of movies, read stuff, and play video games.

My pronouns are they/them/their.

I'm on Twitter: @Merc_Rustad

And you can find a list of my published fiction here.

Next stop...the Twilight Zone.
  • Current Mood: artistic artistic

"To the Knife-Cold Stars" is up on Escape Pod!

Delighted to share my SF story, "To the Knife-Cold Stars," which is about cyborgs and wirepunk and learning to live again. It just went live on Escape Pod! You can read the text version or listen to the audio, which is guest-hosted by Rachel K. Jones and narrated by Matt Weller.

To the Knife-Cold Stars

This is part of Escape Pod's Artemis Rising special, a month of stories featuring non-binary and women authors. :) I hope you enjoy!


GYWO: January update

I checked in with the GYWO community post already, but! I thought in interests of general updatery and, you know, writing progress, this would be fun.

In January, all told, I wrote 17,186 words. (To which my response is: HOLY CRAP WHAT o.o )

This was a mix of short stories (finished all of 1), script work, outlines, tiny bit of fanfic, some prep/planning work, and a very few secret novel words.

I repeat: HOLY WHAT.

I thought January was a slow month. I have had many days where I struggled to do anything, let alone write. (And then there were days where all I did was play Dragon Age: Inquisition, because, well, DAI.)

Apparently I did some words, guys! This is remarkably encouraging, when I have persistent, constant doubtroaches living in my brain that constantly whisper about how I get nothing done and am never productive.

Frankly, fuck the doubtroaches.

I think I did AWESOME last month on the productivity level. A little bit every few days, even if not in a row, does add up. ^_^ Homework may be languishing somewhere in the mines (let's not discuss how unmotivated I am about classwork this quarter) but dammit, Jim, WORDS HAPPENED.

a meme

When you see this, share 3 random lines from 3 WIPs.

(which...I may not have paid exact attention to the number of lines, but whatever)

1. A dozen soldiers with blue-white braiding on their uniforms trotted about the dragon, checking the harness. The dragon snorted and the force of its breath shot freshly-mounded dirt scattering in all directions. Its double heartbeats were like thunder, and all the metal in the carriages and chains keened.
[a short story WIP]

2. Enough of blood, love, the gold murmured, warm and languid. Let me show you what trinkets our pets have brought from beyond mountain and sea.
[from a novel WIP, same world as #1]

3. Food is her great joy—preparing and savoring, equally. Until the clinic and her wife’s illness prompted her to see patients again, she worked with her sister-in-law at the Falcon’s Tryst, a fine eatery and wine-shop. She was chef and delighted in inspecting the food products for the day’s menu. She accepted only the best ingredients. A raptor’s nose, even cased in human skin, can pick out signs of rot or fermentation before it shows.
[a different short story WIP--with, yes, SHAPESHIFTING MEGARAPTORS.]

Draft: SMILE (short script)

I hate dolls. I find them absolutely disturbing and creepy, and maybe it was fostered early by watching "Talking Tina" on The Twilight Zone when I was a tiny!Merc, or more likely it was watching The Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy at an even younger age (6?) and being SCARRED FOR LIFE. Because that is seriously the scariest movie I have ever seen. Ever. (And I like, and watch, lots of horror.)

So of course it makes perfect sense I choose to make my final cinematography project about...creepy dolls. (Or not.)

Regardless, I wrote a script and freaked myself out. Either that suggests the finished product will be effective as horror, or else I just won't sleep ever again, or maybe both.

Title: "Smile"
Date: 1/19/15
Genre: horror
Words: short script (2 pages)
Shiny: ummmmm...

(Estimated release: end of March, when it's due.)

/goes on to question their life choices because WTF, self
  • Current Mood: scared scared
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Draft: "Beneath Seas Bright and Dark"

First story written/finished in 2015! It flowed out in a rush (water analogies being fitting) after a single line of description popped into my brain while eating breakfast.

(Breakfast is usually good for something, I'm told.)

So we can now really kick off 2015 with the first of 'finished a draft YAY' posts. :)

Title: "Beneath Seas Bright and Dark"
Date: 1/5/15 (written in about 4 hrs)
Genre: fantasy
Words: 2,200
Shiny: Sea life! Squid-ship! Music and painting and dancing and did I mention most of it takes place in various oceans full of stories and mythology and critters. (There are no crabs yet. I WILL FIX THIS. Because crabs are awesome.)

This story features a trans* protagonist, his genderfluid new BFF who travels the oceans, a trio of pretty awesome sisters (one is a lesbian scientist off to marry her astronomer girlfriend who is building the world's equivalent of the Hubble telescope), and various themes of language and speech and relationships. 

I'll take it as a good start to the new year. :)

diversity and lack of grim

So I started a new high fantasy short story tonight. Copy/paste from twitter as intro:

@Merc_Rustad: 1500 new words on a new story w/ a trans* ace MC who's super good at metallurgy. Super excited abt this one. #amwriting #gywo2015

@Merc_Rustad: It also has positive sibling relationships, other trans & queer characters and everyone being cool w/ everyone else's gender & sexuality.

@Merc_Rustad: Also, you know, high fantasy and shiny stuff like living dams and gearwork dragons and airships. #amwriting #gywo2015

@Merc_Rustad: (I realized I was so exhausted with recent SF/F I was reading that had so much grim & oppression and I just want some positivity, y'know?)


Tagging off that last bit:

I'm all for drama and conflict and excitement and adventure and whatnot. What I'm not all for is the misogyny, the bigotry, the ever-present exhaustive cis/heteronormativity in SFF. I'm just so tired.


I had two separate stories I'd begun drafting last year. I thought both had good elements; they had plots; they had queer and trans protagonists; there was shiny worldbuilding stuff to play with.

They were both irreparably stuck and I could not finish writing them. And for months (months, sigh) I banged my head against the problem going, "But there's all these things I approve of, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?"

The problem, see, was that both stories also had an oppressive grimdark atmosphere and a reliance on violence towards protagonists and their companions/partners/friends as motivation and source of plot. People the protagonists cared about were brutalized to forward plot mechanics.

I didn't see it at first because this trope (often a female character being the victim) is so ingrained into our narratives, so omnipresent, that it sometimes gets taken for granted that it will show up, that you have to incorporate it for your tale to function. And because none of the victims, in these stories' cases, were women, it made it harder to pick out at first.

Well, for one thing, the necessity? Is bullshit.

And for another, I found it is actively painful for me to try and write this way.

Yes, I liked a lot about the stories--but the centralization on the brutality and loss was not okay with me. I do not want to write grimdark fantasy where the protags go through all this hardship only to find more grief and pain at the end, even if there is a set-up for future semi-positive resolution.

I quietly trunked both unfinished drafts and started over on a new thing, which took some of the shiny, and both protags, and dumped them in an entirely different plot.

The words flowed. The plot appeared. I'm suddenly really happy and excited about this new thing, and a lot of the reason is that while there is still lots of drama and action and conflict and sword fights, it is also positive. Protagonists don't have family or loved ones or partners or friends hurt / threatened / killed to forward the plot or motivate them. There are other motivations.

Of course there are stakes involved, and risks--everyone is essentially trying to stop angry sea monsters from bursting through a dam and chomping on a couple of cities. They can do that without the draining, grimdark tropes and narrative devices.

I can write this and not feel constantly depressed and sick about what I'm writing. It's very freeing; I'm glad I can finally see where the problem lies.


So yeah. I wrote 1,500 words of a shiny new thing (aiming for maybe 7.5k?), a story that is making me happy, and I want this trend to continue. I am going to write more optimistic, positive-themed fantasy. I think it's worth doing.
  • Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

that whole 'new year resolutions' thing people do

(I am a robot, but I still require organization points and lists, and so--this.)

Since every time I've attempted to specify writing-related goals it collapses into a gravity well of a black hole, I do not have specific things planned. I do have general milestones in mind, which perhaps will work?

2015 Writing

- continue to write poetry.
- do not panic about writing poetry.
- continue to fully draft short stories.
- do not panic if every story is not finished, or perfect, or exactly how planned.
- resume a warm-up writing notebook a la Tony's class.
- finish, refine, submit.
- have some FUN.

2015 Reading

- more comics!
- more books (novel & nonfic)
- more poetry
- keep a list of short stories in the 'really liked' category for reference.

2015 Life

- Borrowed from Charlotte Ashley, spend at least 1 hr per day (that is not work/commute/school) disconnected from the internet. That means phone off, iPad out of reach, laptop closed. Time can be spent reading (paper books), or writing longhand, or doing other things (hey, cleaning is good!).

- Relatedly, at least 1 hr per day of no screen time. All devices, TV, screens, etc must be off.

- Make sure all screens are off at least 30 mins before bedtime, to help with sleep patterns.

- Take a walk at least once a day. (Yes, even in the cold. Except in cases of dangerous-cold weather or windchill.) It does not have to be long, and no, walking to/from the bus/school does not count. A walk should be:
- not in a rush to catch the bus
- not carrying a fucking ton of stuff in backpack
- slow-paced to enjoy the scenery
- changed up every few days so the route is not boring. (Especially when out in the country.)

- Take one planned, focused photo a day. (Preferably on camera vs cell phone.) Consider composition, space, color, etc--all that cool stuff.
- bonus! post a cool photo on social media.


And that's it. Am I tempted to add a zillion more things? Yes. Would it be a good idea? No. Small, simple, steady goals. I'll be entering my senior year at college in the summer. I'll be working on a capstone film. I'll be doing a lot of other stuff. (Costuming. Possibly Convergance. Possibly a film fest.)

None of that needs to be regulated with resolutions.

I want 2015 to be a good year.
  • Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
  • Current Music: Hilf Mir by Rammstein
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What I Did in 2014: A List of Lists

Writing Things
- I wrote 10 new short stories, 3 short film scripts, and 1 pilot-length TV script.
- I did not write very much novel, and that is okay.
- I had several stories published.
- I discovered poetry! (It’s awesome.)
- ...And then I saw poetry debut in Liminality Magazine!
- Got interviewed (coming 2015).
- Had my favorite story featured in a Year’s Best list. (OMG)
- Sold a couple stories that will be coming out in 2015.

Film Things
- I made four (!) short films (Natural (not finished yet), River, Leaves and Butterflies, Prank, and Don’t Look Now).
- I began preparation (finished a script, in particular) for my senior film which begins next year.
- I got to DP (director of photography) on a comedic short film written and directed by Jaclyn Tyler.
- Worked on several other productions (filming Neverland performed by Circus Juventas, filming a dance recital at the U of M), and working with a client (Infinity Drumworks) to make promotional videos.
- I finished editing my very first film, Click.

I also
- Read some books.
- Watched some movies and TV shows.
- Went to my first convention (4th Street).
- Read a lot of comics.
- Made a Deadpool costume for Halloween. (Next up: ZENpool.)
- Did some cosplay.
- Played Dragon Age: Inquisition. A lot. (It’s soooo good.) And finished a first play-through!
- Took steps to make self-care a priority at times so I could be here and manage.
- Accomplished homework on a (mostly) regular basis so I could keep up my grades. Also, you know, college.
- Met all sorts of awesome people & made many new friends, all of whom I am deeply grateful for.

Lots of stuff happened. I didn’t record it (or share it) all. But these are some highlights, and almost all positive, because I feel it is very important to highlight the good things that happened when this time of year is the darkest.

What is in mind for 2015? Have a list!

In 2015 I Will…
- Be making my senior film (a 15-20 min. dark fantasy about women and family and monsters).
- Continue to write things.
- Continue to read things.
- Continue to watch things.
- Continue to put self-care as a priority.
- Be awesome.

Make it so.
  • Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
  • Current Music: Ashes to the Stars by Tarot