It so happens that I know two women who should honestly and for real be as rich as Oprah and renowned as Jane Austen. They are both elusive and reclusive, and they are both astonishing writers. If they ever got around to actually submitting a manuscript, I feel sure they would sell more books than Stephen King and be wreathed in Pulitzer Prizes. As one of these women would likely punch me in the eye for mentioning her name, I will talk about my friend Anna instead.
I swear, and I’m not even lying, that 62 – 76% of everything I like about my life at this moment is due, in some way, to Anna.
Back in the day, I crept into fandom by looking for X-Files episode recaps during the season break after Gethesmane. Basically suffering from X-Files withdrawal, I stumbled upon the motherlode, the one thing that would come to change my life more than four years of college and a stint in AmeriCorps: fanfiction. And when I first started out in X-Files, Anna was one of the first people to stop me in my tracks. Her very first posted story, In A Dark Time, was utterly lush, with magnificent vocabulary, a deadly knack for setting and mood, and sex scenes so intensely incendiary they stole my breath away. We exchanged a few emails, mine full of giddy praise, hers full of… what? Shy wit? Self-deprecating brilliance?
Throughout her writing career, she has written captivating fiction in a series of fandoms, but perhaps her best work so far has been in Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
The Demon Reich is in full social swing, recalling the golden years of the Weimar Republic, and every fog-shrouded night brings with it some new and glittering event: retro fancy-dress balls and formal dinners, elegant casino gambling, chic cabaret parties, top-hat theater premiers with box seats, all attended by dark, uniformed overlords escorting glamorous demon women on their arms. Spike has infiltrated his way into the inner circle, has become a respected intelligence officer whose presence is expected at such functions.
Chip in place, Spike can’t harm humans. His superiors know this, but they still require him to command and witness atrocities. The bloodless distance that comes with leadership renders these acts all the more chilling. Though his own hands remain clean, his notoriety grows into mystique; his reputation for cruelty inspires terror in the unwitting human populace. When he strides onto a scene, his dark uniform cloak sweeping behind him, captured prisoners stiffen with fear. Demon subordinates cower, because he can certainly harm them. He is known for his ruthlessness and his arrogance. Even so, his superiors watch Spike with narrowed eyes, waiting for a moment of weakness, proof of sympathy to humans. His position is more precarious than he realizes. Spike is constantly required to prove himself, and the strain of doing so–of balancing evil for the greater good–rips at the soul he supposedly does not possess.
Spike at the dress ball: clad in close-fitting dress uniform, black with silver insignia, he holds himself aloof as he enters and scans the room. A demon orchestra plays waltzes in the background, vampire lovelies flirt coyly behind their fans, and demon matrons cast sly, approving glances his way. Spike moves through the crowd gracefully, arms folded behind his back, nodding politely when required. His mind is only on Buffy, but when he sees the contessa he is meant to seduce, he turns on the charm with smooth and practiced ease. Asks her to dance, admires her neck, gazes at her boldly, a smoldering gaze that makes her gasp. Later, having been allowed into her parlor for a nightcap, he takes a stolen opportunity to rifle through her husband’s desk, seeking the papers which detail an upcoming assault on the allied resistance…
This is the premise of her series Buffy: Season Noir. Designed as an alternative “season 8″ with everything branching off from “Gone”, episode 11 from season six, Sunnydale gets taken over by demons who aim to follow in Adolf Hitler’s goose-steps.
Every installment of her Buffy Season Noir was absolutely hypnotic, addictive, thrilling, in every sense of the word. Just the sheer amount of time I’ve spent reading and re-reading her stories alone would be enough to say she’s made measurable cheerful improvement to my life.
When I first came to the West Coast, I stayed with her. I met one of my most cherished friends live and in person (the one who would punch me in the eye) because Anna offered to let me stay on her couch. I moved to my beautiful city because Anna let me stay on her couch (again!) while I got a job in town when Northern Washington didn’t work out. Without Anna, it is absolutely certain I would never have met Matt, because without Anna I could never have managed to get on my feet, and would never have been able to stay on here.
All this to say, that while Anna gave me a place to stay, she herself is currently homeless. She is also very proud, and will not say quite where she is. It is likely that she will soon lose her bed at the shelter, and recent unimaginable events have left her physically ill on top of a recent break in her mental health. Even still, she writes about her life with translucent clarity, posting from a library where she has only half an hour at the shared computers, like a woman writing dispatches from the front:
I don’t know if it’s the virus or the Nyquil but for hours I was flooded with memories from my childhood, a confetti storm, some memories incredibly tactile–tough grass that you can’t pull loose from the ground as easily as you thought; the roll of sodden wet swimsuit rolls clinging to your thighs. It was Christmas ornaments, furniture, pets we had, places, the texture and smell of books, of wood, driftwood and rock covered with scrappy moss. My childhood was expansive and beautiful and full of joy, which was odd, because I’d always thought it sucked, but these memories came back to me. It was as if I’d been missing my entire life. I became ten years old again, sitting in bed with the TV playing in the next room, the feel of clean sheets on my knees, floaty, my hands talking to themselves–it was all so strange and I only have eight minutes or so to capture this and get this down.
Anna is waiting to hear about getting into a group home. She has a long road ahead of her: she is currently waiting to really stabilize, and is on a variety of medications. She has been out of work for some time, due to her health, and without medication for longer than that, due to the challenges of keeping steady work. She is a magnificent person with a towering intellect and a true gift for elegant, descriptive prose. And she has a paypal account associated with her email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.