Past The Town Of Strange

An archive of Ursulav arts, quotes, fan flailings, and other things she may leave lying about.
Warning: Contains Wombats

Confident of a sympathetic ear, a cup of peppermint tea, and possibly some organic oatmeal cookies, disgruntled local wildlife would often visit Sings-to-Trees’s farm to sulk. - Ursula Vernon

I set out to buy a boot. A fairly low black leather boot with a chunky heel. Yes, the stiletto heels are dead sexy, but casts aren’t, except to a certain miniscule percentage of the population, and any attempt on my part to wear such a heel would result in broken limbs and a rapid education in the relationship between surface area and pressure.

There are approximately ten million shoes in this variety. The majority of them are uncomfortable. Some of them are ugly. Most of them are boring. The tiny remainder did not come in my size.

Three hours and six shoe stores later, I had started to see why some women go nuts over shoes. It is so damn hard to find a perfect shoe that it’s like finding a unicorn. If you trip over a unicorn, you do not go “Oh, well, I don’t need a unicorn right now,” you whip out the Virgin-O-Matic 5000 because eventually you WILL need a unicorn and you won’t be able to find one for love or money. Likewise the perfect shoe. I wonder how many perfect boots my eyes have passed over in the last few years? Curses!

—   Ursula Vernon

Readers of my webcomic Digger will probably be familiar with the fact that there are a lot of big stone heads scattered randomly about the landscape, serving as A) signposts and B) opportunities for me to draw a big stone head, damnit. There’s always room for big stone heads! They’re somewhere between the big Olmec stone heads and the Barong masks of Bali (which I collect, because hey, who doesn’t love working with a dozen leering toothy gargoyle heads in lurid colors staring down at you?) and they just…err…show up. No explanation is ever given, and so far, nobody’s asked for one. Thank god.
Anyway, I was doodling cute things and in between hamsters slaying mimes and various oddities involving chickens, I wound up with a stone head. The critter on top is a degu. It’s a type of Chilean rat. I’ve never heard of them either, but they’re cute, and evidentally closer related to guinea pigs than rats, but for my money, they fall into that vague category that my stepmom used to call “rattymouses,” and…err…y’know. If you wanna believe it’s a little brown rat, the Species Nomenclature Police aren’t gonna hear about it from me. - Ursula Vernon
Reverend Mord - Sep 5, 2014

Today we remember the debut of “The Adventures of Blake Boscoe.” It is also the day Andshear was discovered. It is the Feast Day of St. Gallinulo, and in the garden, there are peppers. Be Safe, and Stay Out of Trouble.

“Life is too short for cheap bras, cheap towels, or cheap bacon.”


Lessons Learned

Last night I dreamed that I was trapped in a castle, the doors blocked with thickets of bamboo. My captor gave me three days. “Find the song that was sung when you were born, and find the sword, and then you can face me.”

"Playing by the lunatic’s rules only works in movies," I thought—sensibly—and attempted instead to dig my way out by following the pipes from the toilet—somewhat less sensibly.

After about two days of this, I realized that there was no way I was gonna get dug out by the deadline, and went looking for the song and the sword. I somehow managed to find both of these things—fortunately the sword was buried under some flagstones in the path of the sewage pipes—and manged to slay my captor after a fairly anticlimatic battle.

All of which would have been normal enough, except that I have no idea why I was being held prisoner by Willy Wonka.

—   Ursula Vernon

It’s days like these when I get a deranged urge to make a post to the effect that “first geographically compatible single male to reply to this entry gets lucky.” This lasts for about five seconds, and then my brain drags my libido back from the brink of insanity, smacks it repeatedly about the head and shoulders and yells “Are you out of your ever-lovin’ mind?!”

The Libido apologizes profusely (if somewhat sulkily) and agrees to go back into the basement. The Sense of Humor—whom I always visualize in these little scenes as an androgynous figure wearing the familiar hooded checkerboard robes in pale grey, and juggling hedgehogs, pomegranates, and three live mice—scuffs its foot along the edge of the cliff and says “Bet you’d get a great story out of it, though.”

"Don’t help," says the Brain huffily, flipping up a trapdoor and kicking the Libido down the flight of stairs so revealed. The Brain is a tall, statuesque woman wearing a Greek toga and steel-toed boots. "Some things are NOT worth a good story."

"Sez you," mutters the Sense of Humor, removing the pomegranates and working two machetes and a hard-boiled egg into the pattern.

The Libido, who is wearing a Betty Page T-shirt, an annoyed expression, and not much else, stomps down the stairs to the basement, where the Sanity and the Faith in Humanity are playing cards. The Sanity has not been allowed out of the basement for so long that nobody’s quite sure what it looks like any more, although a Defective Squirrel is the best guess. The Faith in Humanity is let out on weekends for good behavior, and most resembles a baby seal wearing a crash helmet.

"We’ve really got to do something about that…" mutters the Brain.

—   Ursula Vernon

There was a city, which was almost xenophobically self-contained, and ruled by fourteen…err…clans? moieties? Things. The only clan that left were the “lymen” or travelers, who functioned as explorers and diplomats, and were looked down upon by the other clans. I was picked up somehow and adopted by a clan that was mostly made of good-natured misfits and obsessive inventors. Some of the other clans that I can remember were a powerful quasi-Hebrew, intensely political group; a group of powerful courtesans ruled by the “Queen of Night’s Dancing,”; the People of the Veil, who went around clothed in robes from head to toe (the women didn’t speak, and shaved their heads under the veils); a group of gypsy bakers; and the Sokovard, a group of high-tech sadists somewhere between the House of Mandrake and a particularly decadent offshoot of the Romulan Empire.

(My god! I thought, as I started to wake up. This is complicated! I’ve got to write it all down while I still remember it! And indeed, I did write it all down. My notes were a thing of beauty. Had I simply taken them in reality, instead of in another goddamn dream, they would doubtless prove illuminating.)

The city itself was built on some kind of real or artificial canyon, both sides built extensively with bridges spanning the middle. There were doors outside, and into back rooms and attics full of junk. I spent a lot of time in one of those back rooms with a large blue statue of Ganesh. A childhood friend of mine, whom I NEVER dream about, was hanging around there as well.

Somehow in this jumble of clans, I wound up being ordered to present myself to the courtesan queen during a seriously crazed party, with an eye to adoption into her clan. (Hey, it’s money.) I was given a very bizarre outfit (the costume of the dragon queen, which everybody seemed to think was dead sexy, but which I would have liked much better did it not have a giant stuffed dragon for a headdress, and if it had not been in cotton candy pink) and wandered through the streets, which were madder than Mardi Gras. Avoiding a presidential convoy (his daughter was the actual power, the president having gone mad some years earlier) I wound up in the appropriate area, but before I could have more than the start of a conversation with the courtesan queen, I wound up having to drag off my male counterpart, who was wearing an equally stupid outfit, but had run afoul of the leader of the Sokovard and was in desperate need of medical attention. (By “run afoul” I mean “attracted the interest of.”) Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one’s predelictions) I then encountered this gentleman, who was pretty damn freaky, and there was a really weird sequence that I only vaguely remember involving a machine that made you think your brains were being pulled out of your ears. He decided he wanted to adopt me…(curse that high pain tolerance!) and for some reason I agreed to this (anything to get out of the pink stuffed dragon suit!) Unfortunately the costume of Sokovard was just as bad, being mostly head-to-toe grey fur. I looked like a Jawa on the way to discover the north pole. (Lotta costuming in this dream.) “Be careful,” my childhood friend told me glumly, as she took the statue of Ganesh and headed off to become one of the travellers. “He’s not the leader of Sokovard by right. No good ever comes of an upside-down beheading on the bridge.”

So there I was, in the parking lot of Staples, bending over to shove my purchases into the back of my faithful Nissan, when it happened.

The ripping sound. The jagged tear of denim. The sudden sense of my hind end being rather better ventilated than before.

The sensation was both horrifying and immediately familiar, despite the fact that I’ve only had it happen a few times in my life. The seat of my pants had just ripped.

"Son of a bitch," I thought, groping frantically behind me, and discovering a truly spectacular tear. The jeans hadn’t just ripped, they’d practically committed suicide. "I just bought these two months ago, they’re not even tight, goddamn shoddy craftsmansh—"

A second, rather more desperate thought intruded, as my brain brought it to my attention that I was, in fact, wearing thong underwear.* For a minute, all I could think of was the Calvin and Hobbes where Calvin tears his pants and thinks “Of all the days to wear the underwear with the little rocket ships on them…” This was cathartic, but not particular helpful.

—   Ursula Vernon
Reverend Mord - Sep 3, 2014

Today a peculiar weed grew in the Royal Botanical Gardens. It is also Keith’s Birthday. It is the Feast Day of St. Almondia, and in the garden, it is hot. Be Safe, and Stay Out of Trouble.

So “Black Dogs,” my first novel, was on sale at Anthrocon, and I gave a copy to my mother since I happened to be up there, and awhile later she called me and uttered a phrase that I suspect no author on earth wants to hear—“This is you, isn’t it?”

I love my mother dearly. I am sure her intent was not to make me cringe in my chair or weakly say “Well…not really…I mean…it’s not…quite…uh…”


This is particularly awkward when you know that book two has sex, bondage, and prolonged and grisly torture, and that your mother’s going to be reading it with you in mind as the main character. Ouch. If they ever had an Afterschool Special to cover this situation, I must’ve missed it. Mom’s deeply cool, but one still feels a little…exposed.

The thing is, she’s not wrong, precisely. All characters get dredged up out of what you are, or what you want to be, or what you’re afraid of, or at the very least, who you can pretend to be. (Well, all my characters. I can’t presume to speak for other authors.) The esteemable shatterstripes once pointed out that my comics have a distinct tendency towards a stocky heroine with no pants who is unrelentingly rational in the face of madness, and yeah, that’s me, even if I don’t qualify as stocky these days, and I’m pretty good about the pants. But I’m everybody else in there, too. Boneclaw Mother is the dirty old woman I hope to someday become, and Jhalm is that burning sense of condescending self-righteousness that I attempt to squelch,* and if I was ever going to be a villain, I would be a pleasant, efficient, ruthless one, like Vade, and Sadrao is every dog I ever loved, walking upright and carrying a sword.

This fuzzy fellow is a Schiuan takin, an Asiatic beast somewhere between a muskox and a mountain goat. They’re yellow. The legendary “golden fleece” may be from one. They have ‘em at the Minnesota zoo, which is where I took all the photos for this guy. It’s acrylic, 18 x 24, and was intended as a follow up to the camel painting, but I find I’m less pleased with it—part of it, of course, lies with my rendering skills, but I think part of it is with the subject—camels have almost sculptural fur, what with the dreads and matts and all, as opposed to the smoother fleece of the takin. And further, the choice of a headshot kind of worked against me—while I can paint a camel’s head and everyone KNOWS what the rest of the camel looks like, I think the sheer obscurity of the takin means that there isn’t the same sense of an animal behind the portrait, and while I know that there’s a shaggy, thick-legged, grey-dagged body with a bear-like tail stub, there’s no way to infer that if you’re not familiar with takin kind. But oh, well—live and learn, eh? - Ursula Vernon