Friday, March 6, 2015

How Does One Epic?

My last blog post was all about my epic intentions and that's going about as well as I expected: not great. I'm struggling to get traction in my writing right now. Work is a grind and when I get home I just want to not use my brain for a while. So, I'm desperate to get back on track and continue what I was intending to be an "epic" 2015. I started to think about what that meant and I came to the realization that the word epic has become devalued in this day and age. Phrases like "epic fail" and that was "epic" have become commonplace in our vernacular and I think that's a problem. I blame young people but that's just because I'm transitioning into being the old guy yelling at kids to get off my damn lawn.

I've been thinking a lot about epic, and a by product of that myth, in the past few weeks. Obviously, there is my previous post about trying to be epic in my writing and reading, but other things have me thinking about it as well.

A blogged about how one of my writing projects stalled because as much as I wanted it to be an adventure story, it needed to be more epic than it was. SEASONS is already epic enough and as much I love the contemp I'm writing, I'm having some problems with it, one of which is that I miss writing fantasy. Seriously. It's not the only reason I'm thinking about epic, though.

If you haven't been paying attention to the news for the last three months, we have been in the grips of the longest cold snap that I can remember in my life. If you'll pardon the expression, it's been epic. So much so that it inspired me to start thinking about my own "snowy" epic. (At some point I'm going to blog about my epic space opera I wrote as a 6th grader called "Drift" that was a total rip off of DUNE. If I could only find those notebooks.) It's really quite mythic as I tried to think what someone without the technological trapping that we have would think of all this snow and the storms that brought it. It would be pretty darn epic with all the trappings of a good myth. This has been an epic winter, the kind of winter that will be repeated in tales. Like the Blizzard of 93. I remember that vividly and that was epic. The entire city of Syracuse, along with pretty much the entire eastern seaboard was shut down for several days. There were stories by the dozens and even hundreds of the feats performed by people all over to overcome an almost vengeful act of God. Seriously. Google it. It was awful.

I was fortunate enough to receive and advanced copy of Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings and it got me thinking about what epic means, because it is epic in every way that I've come to understand what epic is. Now, this isn't going to turn into a book review because I haven't finished it, but I've been struck by some of the things Liu is doing with the book that fascinate me as a writer. As I've been reading it, I couldn't help but notice the mythic feel of Liu's style. Now I don't know if that's the way he writes or it was a conscious decision he made as he wrote, but as I tell my students, "No writer worth their salt puts something in their work on accident." (A quote stolen from my friend Andy King.) Liu weaves a lot into his book and a big part of that is what reads the way mythology reads. I think of the old Bullfinch's Mythology or the mythology book that was part of my SUPA classes back in high school...very narrative retellings of the myths. And it works. You all know how much I love a good genre mash-up and in it's own strange way that's what this is, but I'll save that for the formal review when I finish it. Max Gladstone actually articulated my thoughts much clearer and infinitely more articulate than I thought that I could in his blog a few days ago and that also partially inspired this post. It also makes me want to sit down and read The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. That would be epic.

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Epic Intentions for 2015

It's kind of hard to believe that this is my first blog post of 2015. But maybe it's not.

I'm all about best intentions. Jules Winfield is talking to me when he says, "You were saying something about best intentions." The road way of my life is littered with the burnt husks of my best intentions. I am ambitious about my intentions and what I intend to do, even though I frequently fail at meeting my expectations for my intentions. And I'm laying down some intentions for the rest of the year that I would dare say are epic. I'm sure you're confused as to what I'm saying,,,so allow me to explain what I mean.

I write epic fantasy. I love epic fantasy. I cut my teeth on Tolkien then Dragonlance. From Dragonlance I wandered from tie in to tie in for many years. I became engrossed in a space opera series called Deathstalker by Simon Green that I never understood why they weren't bigger. It was brilliant and fun and I learned a lot about writing epic from it. It formed early images of the way to tell a story from multiple POVs.

My own writing languished. I was still in love with the idea of being a writer not actually writing. I was spending hard earned money on writing books not books to read and study as a writer. I was writing an epic fantasy without some of the foundation that I would need to write what I wanted to write. I'd been writing the same basic concept of the epic fantasy novel I would eventually dub THE FALLING DARK. It was an allusion to a line in a Dave Matthews song called "The Dreaming Tree." It had undergone several title changes and I butchered and rebutchered the beginning several times, but after reading Thrones and Greg Keyes' The Briar King, I moved forward on the project, completing the novel in draft form on December 24, 2003. I felt like it was gigantic...epic in every way.  I knew most of it was crap, but I thought I had some interesting concepts and ideas in it...enough not to just throw it out after I printed it out. I workshopped that draft on the old BWB Writer's Group and messed around with a rewrite that I had some people read for kicks. But did nothing else with it. It was a trunk novel. Plain and simple.

For kicks, since my main laptop is down and I have been in a massive slump at the beginning of this year, I went back an messed around with the draft a little. It wasn't as big as I thought it was, about 164k or 551 double spaced pages. Only about 30-50k more than the YA fantasy I've been writing. It was kind disappointing to find that out. The cool thing about this DARK is that I culled some things from it to write my YA fantasy adventure SISTERS OF KHODA. Actually, KHODA is a prequel to DARK. I intended for it to be a lighter story but one of the realizations I had when rewriting it last year was that it needed more epic. So I've resolved to become more epic and these are my intentions for 2015. I'm going to engage in more epic reading and writing. The plan is as follows:

I intend to up my reading of the epic doorstoppers that I love. I'm looking at books that are beyond 600 pages. Here are a few of note:

  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. I was sent a bound MS ARC of the book by Saga Press (my dream imprint) and I am presently reading it. (640 pages)
  • The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. (662 pages)
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. (1007 pages)
  • Books Six through Fourteen of the Wheel of Time (7,925 pages)
  • The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron (640 pages)
I'm going to spend some time reading this year, cutting back on my social networking and really hunkering down on what I want to get done in the reading department. There are other, smaller works that I am going to read too that are considered epic fantasy. I'm in the middle of listening to the audiobook of A Wizard of Earthsea, for example, and there are some omnibuses I'm going to read as well. I'm really going to shore up my epic fantasy reading this year. Study the genre so I can, in fact, make KHODA more epic. If you have any suggestions that aren't Malazan or Bakker, please make them.

I've got some plans for writing. I want to stop dicking around (broken record, I know) and get some words. Here's the layout:

  • LABORS: A contemp YA project I've been puttering around with for the last few years. It's about half way done and needs a good rewrite of the first half to finish the second. While it's not epic fantasy, I think there is some epic in it, especially since I am alluding to Heracles's famous Twelve Labors. 
  • KHODA: As mentioned above. This rewrite stalled ,I talked about it already, and I need to restart it. I came to the realization is that it needs more "epic" in it and that as much as I wanted this to be a fantasy adventure, that's not the story it wants to be. I've come up with a concept and I want to sort of arc it out a bit before moving forward on the rewrite. It'll still be YA as far as I can figure, but I may borrow more from the DARK in tone at least. 
  • FRESH TRACKS: A nostalgia piece that I've hinted at a few times. It's going to be YA in tone and content but take place in 1991ish. What does that have to do with epic? I'm going to write it in a similar fashion as I would my epic books: multi-POV and third person.
  • SEASONS: The rewrite of book two of SEASONS that I just finished, SPRING'S TEMPEST, was such a major departure from what I'd originally wrote that book three is almost going to be completely new and what is written doesn't really apply, for the most part. SPRING still needs a polish/continuity pass that I am going to tackle as soon as freaking IT decides to fix my damned laptop (that's an epic fail). SUMMER __________, I've got about three or four title ideas for book three. Do I go with the Shakespearesque motif? (Discord, Tempest) Or do I go with Sacrifice or Strife? Or something else with a little more finality? Glory? (The original titles, when this was a tetralogy not a trilogy were going to be SUMMER'S SACRIFICE or SUMMER'S STRIFE followed by AUTUMN'S GLORY.)
New Writing/Planning
There are three projects that are clearly in early planning stages in my mind and both will be epic in nature. But I've decided not to rush into them, but instead take some time to build them from the ground up. Do some serious world building for the worlds of these three things and craft the story accordingly:

  • SCIONS: We're locked in the midst of Winter here in Syracuse. It's been brutally cold but not very snow. In light of the Snowmaggedon that never came and the flurries we've been struck with today, I have been moved to writing some kind of northern epic. It's sort of based off of something else I'd been conceptualizing for a while. This is the book I want to be a real door stopping fantasy.
  • QUEST: I want to write an old fashioned quest novel. Play with the tropes and put my own spin on it. This is early gestation, but it's out there. 
  • TOURNAMENT: I've talked about this project before and the world building I've done on it. I intend to move forward on this project in the very near future and start writing it probably ahead of the other things on this list. 
So, that's my epic intentions. I'll probably come up short, but it's okay to dream a bit isn't it?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 In Review: Reading and Writing

Here we are, the end of December 2014. Feels like it was just yesterday we were at the End of December 2013. Now we're moving into 2015. The midpoint of the second decade of the 21st century. Let's look at what happened.

WRITING: I don't have much to say about my writing. I wrote a lot. In bits and pieces. Really, this year could have been called the "Year of the Back Burner." Here's a review:

  • WINTER'S DISCORD, YA fantasy, 10th rewrite (131k)
  • THE SEVEN LABORS OF NICK JOBLONSKY, YA contemporary (38K), set aside for a rewrite.
  • SISTERS OF KHODA, YA fantasy, 3rd rewrite (87k written, ~25k left to write). Project backburnered to rethink about what I intend to do with it.
  • Various short works that will lead to bigger projects including a horror idea for kids about a baby monster. (~5k)
  • SPRING'S TEMPEST, YA fantasy, sequel to WINTER, 3rd rewrite (132k).
Based on this, puts me at about 393k for the year. A little more than last year, even though it doesn't seem like it. 

For 2015? Here's what I'm thinking in the immediacy:
  • Finish first draft of LABORS.
  • Complete a super detailed outline of the NEW SUMMER'S GLORY (SACRIFICE?), the last book in the SEASONS series.
  • Write my short (story/novelette) THE OFFICIAL VISIT.
  • Finish FRESH TRACKS.
  • Write some shorter works.
READING: Read 63 books by my count last year. My top five were hard to pick, but here goes:
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith: A book about the monster apocalypse loaded with the realism of being a teenager. Probably my favorite read of the year.  
  • The Riverman by Aaron Starmer: A mythic story combined with the fear of a child's abduction through the eyes of a child. Just brilliant. 
  • The Winner's Curse by Maria Rutkoski: One of the best YA attempts are writing something "Game of Thrones-esque." Brilliant worldbuilding and story.
  • Dare Me by Eric Devine: The tragic tale of male bravado, the dangers of the anonymity of the Internet and the seductive power of easy money. Brilliant and believable. 
  • Frostborn by Lou Anders: This was a tough call. I read Frostborn and Half A King back to back and they were both brilliant, but Lou Anders's debut wins out because it was more "fun" than Once A King. 
Honorable Mentions: Half A King by Joe Abercrombie. Andre The Giant by Box Brown. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. Shield and Crocus by Michael Underwood. Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

No major disappointments this year.

As for 2015...what am I looking forward to?

I'm going to trying picking up Wheel of Time again. I'm going to read the third Sarah J Mass book, The Throne of Fire. As for the rest, I'm going to wing it. I'm aiming for 75 books this year again...however Wheel of Time may hinder that.

Happy New Year everyone! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Legend of Susie Snowflake

I love Christmas.

There, I said it. Feels good.

It's my favorite holiday by far. And not for the reasons you think.

I love the presents. When I was younger I used to get so excited about Christmas when I was younger I would make myself throw up. Seriously. Ask my mom.

And it's because of my mother that I'm writing up this blog post instead of writing or finalizing tomorrow's lesson plans. I felt it was necessary to tell you all the Legend of Susie Snowflake. Like, all legends, there is some nugget of truth but the nugget of truth that my mother is basing her legend upon is in fact a lie. I've decided to tell this legend because it needs to be told properly because my mother isn't telling it right to the world and I've had enough. So thus begins the Legend of Suzy Snowflake.

I was born in Astoria, Queens, New York and lived there for most of my early life. I don't have much of a recollection of having lived there except in tiny flashes here and there. Most of those have more to do with the massive amount of time I spent with my grandparents there than when I actually lived there. My parents were blue collar, working class kinds of people, so we didn't have a lot of money, not that I noticed because I was treated like a prince. I was fortunate enough to go to a very exclusive, private Catholic preschool. I was able to attend because my best friend was the pastor's son and they found a way to keep me at the school. I have vague memories of that school. I remember a water table in the classroom. I remember the pastor's son being named Trevor. I remember a little Mexican boy named Marcello. I don't remember the name of the school, though. I'm sure I could ask my mother, but quite frankly I'm kind of hold a grudge about this Susie Snowflake thing.

As a Catholic school, Christmas is a big deal and like most private (and probably public considering this was the late 1970s and political correctness be damned) there was a Christmas pageant. Each class was assigned a song to perform. Now I don't know who was responsible for choosing the songs each class sang, whether it was the teacher or the pastor or the music teacher or whoever is lost to time. Our class's song was "Suzy Snowflake." A cheesy song that had nothing to do with the holiday. Quite frankly, we should've been doing a more religious song, but that wasn't for the little pre-K me to decide. To help you out, here's a YouTube video of said song:

As part of our performance, we were required to dress as Suzy Snowflake herself. The horror. I would love for this to have been for something more symbolic or metaphoric than it was. Being terrified at the prospect of the infinitesimally finite life of the average snowflake or the sheer creepiness of a winter themed creature tapping on a child's window being a nightmare for any child would fit my profile. But nope that's not it.

The five year old me was horrified. Terrified. Mortified. They wanted me...a little dress as a GIRL snowflake. This was the grandest of injustices. In my five year old mind, "playing" Suzy Snowflake was unacceptable. Don't judge me. Obviously 36 years later, I'm slightly more enlightened than I was then but this was perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to me as a five year old boy. I did what any child would do when faced with having to do something that scared them. I pitched a fit.

I obviously don't have any memory of said fit though I have been led to believe that it was epic. It went everywhere: the classroom, the hall, the street, my bedroom, the living room, the get the picture. There were phone calls home, concerned discussions between adults and I'm sure dinner table conversations of my classmates. The Zeleznik boy flipped his lid about being a girl snowflake. It sounds so ludicrous now, but it obviously left an indelible mark that I'm writing this now. I'd write some pieced together extrapolation of what I imagine the fit was like, but, unlike my mother, I don't want to further perpetuate the falsities that my mother gleefully (and, quite frankly, delusionally) has via social network for years.

A compromise was reached in time for the Christmas pageant by the adults in my life at the time. One that was acceptable to all parties and one that is the crux of the argument/grudge I presently have with my mother each and every year at Christmas time. I was moved all the way up to the first grade to be a Silver Bell. A vast improvement. A precious metal. A musical instrument. And, quite frankly, a better song. I mean take a listen:

Now for some reason (probably her advancing years), my mother is perpetually under the impression that I was Suzy Snowflake, as if she weren't there and integral into my metamorphosis from a female snowflake to a silver bell.

But to clarify: I was never Suzy Snowflake. I was a Silver Bell.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Not Quite So Daring

The other night, as I was working on a rewrite of something, I started writing a chapter from the POV of a particular character. He is a new POV for the book but not for the series. He's kind of my Jaime Lannister. Anyway, I established some things about him in previous books and started putting them on their head in this book. Then I came to the chapter I'm working on now. It's a pivotal chapter in a pivotal section. I'm sort of hastening the book a bit and moving things a little faster in this draft. And it's working. But I came to this chapter and it opens with said character in bed with someone else. And in that moment, I stopped writing because I had a thought. I was going to make the person in bed with him another male character. I didn't write another word the rest of the night.

The thing that bothered me was my reaction. Why was I suddenly squeamish about this? He's just another character, why am I struggling with this sudden inspiration to make him gay? Was I afraid to write a gay character because I'm a heterosexual male? Was I just trying to wedge in a gay character because I wanted to force some diversity into a story I felt that had very little? I didn't know what the answer was and it freaked me out a bit. All I knew was that it made me stop writing for the night. The simple words: "...[redacted] stretched and rose from the mess of a bed, trying not to rouse the sleeping form next to him." had ground me to a complete and total stop as I contemplated making this change to the character.

It didn't fundamentally change the character at all. He's still this smarmy, obnoxious jerk but now there was something that made him stand out a bit. It actually made him more interesting to write and may have added some depth to my story and world. But yet, I could not do it because, the more I thought about it, it did change the character in a fundamental change to the character. In the end, I decided not to change the character. I had laid a foundation in the plot of who that person in the bed with him is and it makes more sense for the story for the character to be the female character I intended it to be. However, looking back, I had a perfect opportunity to introduce a gay couple to the story in a meaningful way that actually works for the two characters.

I'm still a little bothered by this, though. I'm still questioning the why and I'm not sure I like the answer. I like to think of myself as daring, especially in my thinking and my writing, but I guess I'm not.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Plans and Plots and Schemes

So, September is almost over, meaning I can finally wake up a little. School is settling down and I'm starting to develop a very vague routine. I'm not going to turn this into another long post about my obsession with the routines of writers and my desire to have a routine that I'll never adhere to. Instead I'm going to make some minor announcements about my plans for the next few weeks, especially concerning my blog.

  1. I've decided to rekindle my reread and analysis of the classic Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I reading about a half a dozen books right now and since it is Autumn, I'm going to kind of work my way through this book. I'm thinking two posting a week (Wednesday and Friday maybe) like the ones I did before. I'll link to the prior episodes when I post it on Wednesday.
  2. I've got a few reviews that I need to write in the coming weeks: Eric Devine's Press Play and Chris Evans's Of Bone and Thunder.
  3. Try to work up to 1-2 entries a month on my sports blog. I have two posts in me that I know I want to write: one on Derek Jeter that will earn the scorn of every Yankee fan I know and another talking about the violence in the NFL. 
  4. Continue working on my own SEASONS OF DESTINY. I've just decided I'm going to polish the hell out of books 2 and 3, just so they are done. The series has had a rough stretch, some so close rejections that sting big time, but I'm really confident that something is going to happen to it. Book Two has changed so much that a rewrite of book three will almost be like writing fresh words. (And beta readers, fret not...SUMMER is just not ready for anyone's eyes. It's a gross skeleton of a novel that needs a ton of work.)
  5. NANOWRIMO. I'm doing this with my students and I have to decide which project I'm going to do. I'm leaning towards the contemporary project I'm calling (actually what Aaron Starmer called) FRESH TRACKS. 
  6. SISTERS OF KHODA needs a thorough working over. I'm seriously thinking about doing a "world guide" for this (I've talked about this before) and then going fresh at the book next year. Either way, KHODA doesn't get attention until 2015 anyway.
Anyway, that's the not so vague plan I have for the next few months. Actually it should take me through December if I adhere to it the way I intend. I won't stick to it, we all know that but sometimes writing it down makes me feel good.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ten Things I Learned While Watching Every Simpsons Episode Ever

To be fair, I didn't watch every episode, but I watched a lot of fact I got my 6 year old daughter hooked on the show to the point that she is angry that it is not on ALL the time like it was. So here's what I learned:

1. It's Still Getting It Done
I don't remember when I stopped watching the show on a regular basis. One of my local stations used to play the syndicated repeats along with "Family Guy" back to back when I first got married and I watched every day, but when they took it off, I stopped watching. But watching the marathon reminded me how funny a show it was and that even in later seasons as the quality diminished some, there was at least one laugh out loud moment in each episode. Whether it was a very smart allusion to a previous episode or some throw away gag that made me laugh (almost always involving Homer), it's still laugh out loud funny. I love Family Guy, but it's mostly background noise to me at this point and isn't nearly as funny.

2. It's Not Necessarily About The Actual Episodes
We were a Simpsons house from the outset. My dad loved the show, my friends loved the show and we talked about the show in school and at work. It was appointment TV at a time when that mattered. The funny thing about the marathon was the sense of nostalgia it stirred in me. I found myself remembering where I was when I saw a particular episode or what I was doing. "Bart Gets An Elephant" reminds me of St. Patrick's Day 1995. "$pringfield" reminds me of going to the casino for the first time. "Cape Feare" was my favorite single episode of a TV show for a long time. For a few days, I was thinking a lot of my early 20s and it was good and bad.

3. It Was A Dark Show
It's hard not to compare "The Simpsons" to "Family Guy" and the two shows took different paths to get where they are going tonally. At the beginning, "The Simpsons" was a dark, dark show. Even Marge was a dark character capable of some real nastiness. As seasons went on, it became more light hearted, though it wasn't afraid to get dark.

4. Speaking of Family Guy
I marvel at HOW much "Family Guy" just blatantly stole from "The Simpsons" early on. I've seen just about every episode of FG and about two thirds of "The Simpsons" and a lot of early FG episodes look like they just did a Replace All for each of the characters and slapped "Family Guy" on the cover. To be fair, I know that both shows are pastiches of family sitcoms in general, but the jokes are almost word for word in some cases.

5. Treehouse of Meh
I remember the Treehouse episodes being hit or miss with me when they were first on and I discovered that my opinion hadn't changed.

6. Flanders and Homer Are Best Friends
I like Flanders as a character and I think he's maybe the most important character in the show not named Simpson. I know that TV Tropes has an entire entry on his Flanderization as the seasons went on, but aside from the Simpson family, has there been a more dynamic and rounded character on the show (or even TV I'd argue). Flanders wouldn't be Flanders if it weren't for Homer and vice versa. Their relationship is one of the most complex on all of television and it has been fleshed out on so many levels that it's not unlike most friendships in the real world.

7. World Building and Canon Wobbliness
You say world building and you think instantly of epic fantasy, but world building is just important in any genre that you write. I discovered that this summer when I was writing my YA contemporary book. These characters occupy my version of our world and I need to build that world accordingly (I started a series of world building posts that I'll get back to). Like all animated shows, "The Simpsons" has created a vivid and vibrant world for their characters to occupy. Springfield is as significant and important as a world as Middle Earth, Westeros or the Four Nations of Avatar with as much development and backstory as those worlds. The thing a show like The Simpsons has to do (25 seasons) is be flexible with their world and "canon" when they need to be. Every episode is almost a retcon in and of it self...and that works. That being said, there are still little bits that thread the show over the course of 25 seasons.

8. I'm A Sideshowmaniac.
Through some weird cosmic convergence I managed to see every Sideshow Bob episode in the series. I did this without intent (I did DVR "Cape Feare" because it's one of my favorite episodes of all time) or planning. My daughter (who watched almost every episode with me) recognizes Sideshow Bob on sight now. He's my favorite character on the show. There may not be a more complex villain in the history of TV. Seriously. He rivals Zuko from Avatar. And he changes (an important motif of the show actually) from year to year.

9. It's About Characters
Obviously the members of the Simpson family are the focus, but "The Simpsons" rivals my beloved A Song of Ice and Fire for named characters...and not just named characters, but characters that are fully developed and even more real than some characters on most sitcoms today...I'm looking at you "Modern Family." From obvious characters like Moe and Barney to Duffman and Moleman, these are well rounded characters that even in minor moments get to shine. As a writer of big, sweeping epic fantasies, there's a lot to learn from what they do. I've talked about Ned Flanders earlier, but characters like Nelson, who evolved from a simple bully into a template to writing the complex bully that led to characters like Buford (Phineas & Ferb) and David Karofsky (Glee), Millhouse, the toede and lickspittle that was given ample opportunity to shine when the light was cast upon him, the aforementioned Moe, perhaps the most tragic character and maybe the show's moral compass, the codependent Principal Skinner, the acerbic Edna Krabapple and the underrated, apathetic Ms. Hoover just pop into my mind. As a writer, there's plenty to study while watching "The Simpsons."

10. Complex Character Relationships
Man, there were a ton and too many to list. From the familial relationship of the Simpsons to the dynamic friendships and interactions between the Simpson family to the external relationships between the denizens of Springfield. The first time through I never noticed how integral a part of the show they were, but as I watched as a writer, especially one that writes a lot about relationship dynamics, I noticed they were a major motif the writers played with. There were a few that struck me. Nelson (who became one of my favorite characters on the show) and Lisa's remarkably complex relationship is fascinating and well fleshed out on several levels and maintained consistently. Homer's relationship with Monty Burns always stands out. There are countless others that Burns could interact with, but their constant interplay often drives the plot of episodes. Lisa's solitude and isolation is done in varying degrees of success but it's never better than when she makes friends for an episode only to have them disappear. It's a nice touch that this mirror's Marge's own isolation and solitude and done in the same manner.  And there's an entire essay to be written about Carl and Lenny.

So, there it is. I'm sure that the Internet has done the whole Every Simpsons Ever thing to death and you know me, I'm a sheep, I follow the crowd.