[sticky post] take a left just past the Twilight Zone

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. (When not working at the day jobs, that is.)

I use gender-neutral pronouns (singular they is fine).

I'm also on Twitter: @Merc_hyn_di

You can find a list of my published fiction here.

Next stop...the Twilight Zone.


  • Current Mood: artistic artistic

busy 'bot

So it has been a very busy week in Mercland. Sunday, I was part of a multi-camera shoot which filmed two performances of the amazing Circus Juventas' show NEVERLAND. (That was pretty awesome. Exhausting, but awesome.)

(Then there were midterms, which eh, you know.)

Tonight, I'm periodically filming the moving of a ginormous 100+ yr old house down the street (it's being moved about a block to a new lot). Very cool, but slow--it's supposedly will take them about 7 hrs to move it a short distance. Also the fact they can pick up a 3-story, century-old house and move it down the street on trucks is in and of itself pretty damn cool.

And then tomorrow I'm making a tiny horror movie called PRANK (about creepy phone calls)! Very excited about that--I have my awesome crew and amazing talent, and my sister-in-law and brother are graciously letting us take over their living room for the day.

So yeah. Busy. But a fulfilling kind of busy. I'm gonna make things, guys, it's really awesome. :D

Draft: "Lonely Robot on a Rocketship in Space"

A few days ago, I was organizing Dropbox files when I came across a mostly-finished draft of a story I'd apparently trunked for being too...I don't know. Too superficial and stupid, I think was the reasoning at the time. The creation date of the file was enough evidence to jog memory that I was in...really fucked-up headspace at the time of writing the story.

Because you know what, it is NOT superficial or stupid. It is IMPORTANT, and necessary, and charming, and something I really needed to write and want to share with people. Yes, it is similar thematically to "How To Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" in that it deals with identity and acceptance and struggle and friendship and depression and hope.

When I reread what I had a few days ago, it made me cry. Then beam by the time I reached the end. It was missing one scene (the hardest scene, which is about the MC coming out to parents), and it took a good week before I could muster the emotional strength and stamina to finish the scene.

Finally did, so I can say the story is drafted. Need to give it a few days to settle before tackling edits, but damn, I am proud of this one.

Title: "Lonely Robot on a Rocketship in Space"
Date: [on the file, start date listed as 9/30/13], finished 8/15/14
Length: 5,000 words
Genre: SF (near future)
Favorite bit: superficially, IM chatlog transcripts, because coming up with usernames is FUN.

It has robots, so many queer characters in positive relationships, and there is art and comics and gaming and chatlogs and lots and lots of Star Wars references.

I hope to be able to share with people in the future.

Movies Watched: July 2014

I finally managed to catch up with some of my movie-watching! Which was great.


Notes: Enjoyed it a lot; a good SF time-loop story, the aliens were cool, and the pace was good. I’m not a fan of the visual execution (a lot of shakycam, although it wasn’t terrible) – I’ve never been overly fond of the in-your-face-in-the-action filming. (Frankly when I watch filmic combat, I usually like to be able to see what the hell is going on.)

Film:  MALIFECENT (2014)
Notes: Ah! I loved, loved, LOVED this movie. It’s dark, gorgeous, thoughtful and subversive. (Really loved the thematic elements similar to Frozen, i.e. “you don’t need a man to save you” and the main relationship being between two women.) I’d expected something much different, and this, to me, was near perfect. Did I mention it’s visually stunning? Because it is. Yes, so much yes.

Notes: Not as terrifying as expected; a decent supernatural thriller. Some really spooky scenes, but overall did not grab me as much as I wanted. (Also I kept expecting the ending to be a complete downer, and it wasn’t. Which…yay I guess? It did seem a little too easy, though.)

Film:  SNOWPIERCER (2013)
Notes: Stunning, intense, evocative and devastating—loved it to pieces. So far the best film I’ve seen in theaters and in close competition to being my favorite SF this year.spoilersCollapse )appreciate how effortlessly diverse the cast is, too. Also Grey? Is the best. This movie also works brilliantly as a dystopian satire; and it works as a straight-up post-apoc action thriller. (The tonal shifts are bizarre, but they work.) I had SO MANY FEELS.

Notes: Lockdown is awesome! The rest of the movie, not so much. (Although the dinobots were, as predicted, awesome; I also liked Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci quite a bit.) I’m all for Transformers 5 being solely about Lockdown’s bounty hunting exploits in spaaaaaace.

Notes: Cractastic stuff shows up in this one (it’s like some weird, Orwellian musical in places); and I guess that’s certainly one way to end a film (blow up the earth).

Film:  BURKE AND HARE (2010)
Notes: An entertaining black comedy about two criminals (Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis are fabulous together).

Film:  WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2013)
Notes: Visually it’s gorgeous, and has good acting from everyone. I mostly liked it, until the sudden tonal shift at the end, wspoilersCollapse )

Film:  SHARKNADO (2013)
Notes: You can’t un-see it.

Notes: Fantastic overall; visually gorgeous, outstanding performances by the mocap actors, and ends up being a deeply unsettling and sad dystopia (like pretty much all the films in this franchise). Really loved it.

Notes: This was painful to watch.

Film:  THE PURGE: ANARCHY (2014)
Notes: Really, really liked this one! It has a fantastic, diverse cast; it’s dark but not hyperviolent; there’s lots of women and there is no rape or blatant sexualization or exploitation going on with the female characters (SO refreshing); Frank Grillo is THE BEST and should be in all the things; it respects the audience and the characters and there is a minimal of stupid-for-plot-convenience going on. It’s solid, and while there’s an annoyance of shakycam and some clunky dialogue at times, it’s very watchable and entertaining. I was impressed.

Film:  HERCULES (2014)
Notes: Dumb, campy, pretty entertaining. Reminds me of a mix of Conan and The Scorpion King. Although the trailers are highly deceiving, within the first ten minutes the movie sets its tone and focus, so I didn’t have a problem with it. (Also, it has The Rock, and you can't go wrong with The Rock.)

Film:  THE PURGE (2013)
Notes: Not bad; rather formulaic for a home break-in horror film, but I liked moments of it. (Sequel is much better, though.) This makes me hope future Purge movies will continue to explore the concept.

Notes: This movie was lots of fun. Groot is entirely worth the 2 hrs of other things going on, because Groot is the BEST. (I found the plot/story rather confusing and convoluted to the point I just tuned out of Plot and enjoyed Groot; I do have some background knowledge of the whole Thanos thing, but that didn’t much help me follow most of it. Although it was also midnight after being at school all day, so I was not braining very well. On the bright side, if you can follow ‘Lee Pace, who is COVERING HIS FACE WITH TERRIBLE MAKE-UP WHY ARE YOU COVERING LEE PACE’S FACE AT ALL, is out to destroy a world because Reasons, so the Guardians want to save it because Reasons, and also Groot’ then it’s a lot of fun. The action, humor, or general pacing carry the film even if the plot details get obscured in way too much backstory and tie-ins to other films.)

Really, just watch it for Groot. Groot is the best.

on anger

I've never had trouble writing characters who are angry. I've noticed that, of the few emotions I think I can reliably translate in fiction, anger is the dominant one.

Most of the time IRL, I present as very calm and collected, very easygoing. (Which is oftentimes the case; because I get easily stressed out, having the 'cool and calm' act together is a way of coping and influencing other people to stay calm so we don't get sucked into an endless stress loop that escalates beyond control. Also because I have a limited number of energon cubes per day, I had to teach myself how not to care and how to detach, because many small things are not worth the investment.)

Being calm and collected does not negate being angry about things.

It took one of those self-realization moments to I acknowledged that yes, I have a lot of suppressed/repressed anger. It encompasses many things. It's very real.

It's also one of the things I was taught early on, overtly and subversively, I wasn't "allowed" to have. So I tended to bury it all and act like nothing bothered me, or act like things that constantly pissed me off (being called the wrong name, for example) were "okay," since getting mad was considered an inappropriate response; and yes, Hulking out would probably not be productive most of the time, but the key difference is Hulk is allowed to be mad (he is a cis, straight, white male, after all--even when green).  If I got mad, it was dismissed, disapproved of, shut down.

(There is a verbal/non-verbal component to this, too--I'm not good at verbals, I don't _like_ communicating verbally most of the time, as it takes a lot of effort and energon cubes; but in physical interactions with people, there is a decided preference and prevalence of verbal as king. Growing up, I couldn't articulate things; now, at least, written communication on the internet is a Thing and makes my life much easier.)

It's not that I wanted to get into fights or arguments (arguments = major stress); what I really wanted was to be able to acknolwedge and express being angry from time to time (even if, consciously, I did not have a way to articulate that until recently), and that was not considered acceptable, so I repressed it all out of self-defense.

(And also, having other people dismiss actual feelings, especially negative ones, was a thing--and when it happens enough, you start to realize that it's better to be fake all the time rather than actually have feelings.)

But you know what? Fuck this internalized oppression. I'm allowed to acknowledge the anger and feel it and say "there are things that make me angry" and "I am angry and I don't owe anyone an essay response as to why if I don't feel like it." It's not easy to openly acknowledge this (yet), and so writing this post was hard. I do think it's necessary to say, however.

So yes, there is anger. I have a lot of it. Sometimes it makes me feel like the Hulk, only without the physical manifestation into a giant green wrecking-ball. (I also prefer to channel anger into more productive and creative pursuits, like writing or cleaning the house, because I'm pretty sure punching buildings hurts your knuckles unless you ARE the Hulk.)

Having emotions is okay, and the things I feel are VALID, including the anger. This is something I have struggled most of my life to understand and accept about myself.

I consider this post a step forward. 
  • Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

Draft: "RIVEN -- pilot"

Today, I finished the pilot of my space opera spec script. It clocks in at 50 pages without any camera direction, and all that's missing is some description and minor bits of exposition. (It's obviously just a first draft. But it's a COMPLETED first draft.)

It has space ships and explosions and more space ships and cyborgs and alternate realities and more space ships (did I mention space ships) and intrigue and mad science and awesome ladies and queer characters and GIANT ROBOT TENTACLE ALIENS OUT TO DESTROY REALITY AND THE SPACE TIME CONTINUUM and also space ships.

Have I told you guys how much I adore alternate reality versions of characters in SF? (as a trope) It makes me so happy, and now I'm writing a series in which that's half the plot. <3


Title: RIVEN [working title] -- pilot
Date: started 7/7-14, finished 7/11/14
Length: 50 pages (script format)
Genre: SF (space opera)
Favorite bit: Ending reveal of alternate reality mash-ups.


What's next? Rest of the season. (Between 10 and 13 episodes.) BRING IT.

pilot writing

So at the last minute (two weeks ago), I signed up to do the Clarion West Write-a-Thon. I set a very sane, doable goal of about 100 words a day. I fully expected to skip and miss days. It's cool. This is just something to remind me I can write words, and it's okay.

I picked working on my urban fantasy novel and a handful of shorts. (The novel has gotten some words. The shorts are non-existent.) It went okay. I forced myself to remember it was a no-pressure, for-fun endeavor, and to make it even more informal, I only kept track of words written on a scrap of paper by my desk.

Summer break had been devoted to reading comics, watching TV and movies, and generally trying to stay offline as much as possible to avoid stress. It worked decently. I feel like maybe, after three weeks, I might have the first few glimmers of brain.


Today, I wrote about 23 pages of script (about 5k words) for a space opera TV pilot, and you know what's even better? I like it! The pages are not all sequential. There are a ton of brackets, and bunches of scenes just outlined in the Celtx file, but it's there. Pages. Words. Productivity.

This is basically the halfway point of a one-hour dramatic narrative (if you go by the 50 minute runtime for a lot of hour-long cable programs). Half a script. In a day. It's rather exhilarating. :D

So far, I've been summing up the pilot as "Babylon 5 meets Arrow meets Captain America: The Winter Soldier, only with lots more cyborgs and queer characters."

It doesn't have a title. It does have a plot. (Or most of one, anyway.) There are spaceships and explosions and fight scenes and robots and more spaceships. It's the kind of show I want to see.

I'm really looking forward to finishing this.

Movies Watched: May and June 2014

(The shortness of this list makes me want to hide in shame, because WOW. Although I did watch a bunch of short films, read tons of comics, and binged on several TV series?)

Film:  BLUE RUIN (2013)
Notes: Unsettling, sad, very well-made. Shows how revenge destroys everyone.

Notes: Very strange and confusing movie. (Ambiguous whether things actually happened of if Jim hallucinated it all due to being sick.) I’m not entirely sure what it was trying to do?

Film:  GODZILLA (2014)
Notes: I really liked it! It kept the camp-feel of the old movies in places, and had just enough monster-battle going on, and was gorgeously shot.

Notes: I liked this one more than the first; it’s nicely creepy and explores the mythology of the movies in more detail. Also I adore Tucker and Specs.

Notes:  Saw it three times in theaters (within one weekend). LOVED it. (Bishop!)

Notes: beautifully made, some problems, but lovely to watch and I really liked it (especially Valka & her dragon). This is also one I saw three times (happily—I took kids to see it twice).

Film:  22 JUMP STREET (2014)
Notes: Not quite as delightful as the first one, but I really enjoyed it, it’s funny as hell in lots of places, and the credit sequence alone is worth admission price. That was BRILLIANT.

Notes: Liked the end dance; the lighting kept really distracting me for most of it (so high key, so weirdly bright). The choreography all around was fabulous.

Film:  RANGO (2011)
Notes: Adorable. :D Loved the parade of tropes; the animation is gorgeous, the voice acting is fabulous, and it’s so much fun.


(July already looks better as I've got Deliver Us From Evil and Snowpiercer lined up back to back. :D)

4th Street Fantasy -- the con experiance

So, as program notes may show, I went to 4th Street Fantasy convention over the weekend. It was my first con ever, and it took a big effort to sign up and attend, so I thought I would write-up some of the experience (inspired in part by Fran Wilde’s tweets that weekend about #NoFear).

Let me start out with saying that everyone I met and interacted with at 4th Street was super nice, friendly, and helpful. That went a long way towards making it very welcoming and accessible as a newbie con-goer. I also liked the set-up of having a one track panel, so you didn’t have to make decisions on which panels to attend while missing others. The con was well organized, the Con Suite had food & drinks (I did not know this happened!), the volunteers were all lovely, and the general atmosphere was friendly and non-threatening.

There’s a couple things about me, specifically, that need to be put up so there’s some context:

-          I don’t do well in crowds.
-          Live performances*, especially unscripted ones, stress me out because I get caught in an anxious loop of thinking ‘someone is going to fail/mess up/be awkward’ and it freaks me out. (I don’t go to a lot of stage performances or concerts. It’s really hard to make myself attend in that kind of environment, even when it’s a professional set-up.)
-          Social anxiety is a thing, so socializing with lots of new people is absolutely exhausting and hard.
-          I also just finished finals at school literally the day before the con, so I had zero brain or spoons going in.
-          Oh yeah, and also ALLERGIES. Rah. (not)

Okay, so with that said, overall I thought the con was a very…interesting performance, and I did enjoy parts of it.

-          I met a bunch of really cool people. :D *waves at awesome people!*
-          I found out when you get really good panelists interacting with each other, it can be hilarious and entertaining.
-          There were interesting topics (mostly) during the panels, so while taking notes I had some stuff to think about.
-          Also there was food! (Once I got the fact that the Con Suite = craft services, it made much more sense and also was super nice to have snacks and drinks available.) So I did not, in fact, crash from not eating, which was good (usually I forget, and have to have someone remind me when I’m in new or stressful scenarios).
-          Also there were breaks between panels and long meal periods, and also the hotel we were in was lovely and spacious and best of all, I knew how to get there. (Yay! Since I drove, it meant one less layer of stress.)
-          Oh! And there was this awesome feature at the con where they had an ambassador for each meal period, so that people who either didn’t know the area, didn’t know anyone there, or just wanted people to have food with could all meet up and go to one of the nearby restaurants. It was really great.

Overall, I cannot in all honesty say I liked the con experience. I don’t think it’s my sort of thing. The crowds, the unscripted nature of panels** stressing me out, socialization for three days, and sensory overload***. If I did do it again, I would want to get a room at the hotel so I had a private & quiet spot to retreat to when needed. Also remember my headphones.

By the third day, I knew some people there so that was cool.  Like I said, everyone I interacted with was very nice and welcoming. I thought, objectively, the con was great and successful. It’s just not my thing. But I’m glad I went and tried it out. It was an experience, and as I said, I met a bunch of cool people and also met some LJ friends in-person, and that was great. :)

(And now it is official Summer Break and I am catching up on sleep! And comics! And TV shows! Whoo!)

So yeah, that was by 4th Street Fantasy experience. A big thank you to all the con organizers, panelists, and people who made it work!

*I tried to explain this to my sister yesterday, and she was somewhat confused. I’m like, “Well, it’s stressful!” And she was like, “But you love movies? You go to movie theaters all the time.” And I’m like, “Well YES, because it’s scripted and planned and the theater is dark and usually there is no interacting with people and also I know the protocols for going to a movie.” [Addendum to this: presentations/speeches, when done professionally, do not bother me. So lectures are cool. I think because it is usually one person, with pre-planned material, and in a specific type of setting that makes it tolerable.]

**I cannot watch debate of any sort. Any sign of argument, I’m done. Debate stresses me out to the point of non-functional, so I avoid it like hell. [But as I tried unsuccessfully to explain to my sister, scripted argument is fine. I can watch film and TV in which people argue with great enjoyment, because there are entirely different parameters involved in narrative vs. real life.]

***it’s noisy, part of the difficulty I have with crowds. I also forgot my headphones, and earbuds aren’t sufficient. The con did have a ‘retreat room’ set aside for people who needed somewhere quiet—which I thought was very nice—but it was not a private spot, and so I didn’t use it, and because I didn’t have a room at the hotel (I only live half an hour away so drove back and forth each day) I didn’t have anywhere to go be entirely alone and quiet to recover. I ended up going outside during breaks I wasn’t having meals with people, but it wasn’t the best solution (we did have gorgeous weather, however) because again, there were people present. So. Having to wait until I got home to unwind was difficult.