Walking to Inspiration!

Holmdel Park, New Jersey

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Today, I’m gonna share on where I get my ideas. I’ve written hundreds of gender swap short stories, novels, novellas and now scripts over the years. While they share a common element– someone gets gender swapped– they also are all different and unique in their own ways. Mostly, that does not result from a kind of logical process, but from an imaginative experience.

One of the greatest idea generating activities in my life involves walking. Aside from getting story ideas, I just like to walk. It’s healthy, and for me it’s a form of meditation. When I walk regularly, I just feel better physically, mentally and spiritually.

And, I get ideas. In the case of my current novel, Carrolwood, for example, the voice of the narrator came to me as I walked around my neighborhood after dinner one sweaty summer night. I sort of met this character, and I thought the voice was funny, and I began to think about what kind of story I could tell with that voice. The characters and setting all then just kind of emerged from my subconscious.

Another time I was walking around the beach down at Asbury Park, NJ, where the evil, 19th century clown Tillie still serves as town mascot, and I just started to think about what if Tillie were an evil spirit haunting the town? As I walked around, I took pictures of different locations, and the story ended up being built around that walk.

In addition to getting ideas for stories, I sometimes walk to inspiration while in the middle of a story. Sometimes when I am writing I get in a jam and can’t figure out what the character would or should do, I take a long walk, and the answer a lot of times just comes to me. Sometimes I see the scene in my head, and at those times I am very much inclined to believe in the idea of a muse that is feeding me ideas. It really does feel to me sometimes like I am seeing the story happen and just writing it down rather than “coming up with it.”

There are other ways ideas come to me. Sometimes I create a cover and then write a story to match. I have been inspired sometimes by other authors. For example, I once decided to write a TG story in the style of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Likewise, Forever Mine started out as “forced femme version of YOU (the book and Netflix series). There must be others I can’t think of right now– Oh, yeah– It Girl! What? Just started out as “TG Anime.”

But, I would say, without walking, I think I would write a lot less. There’s just something about walking along a shady, tree-lined path that allows my mind to open itself up and accept the gifts of inspiration!

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U and Me on Amazon

Two teen-agers, a jock and a nerd, switch bodies. So goes the plot summary of U and Me on Amazon Prime. This 1987 gender swap comedy from Asia is particularly interested in gender roles and expectations, and we see both characters suffocating under the expectations of their new genders.

The female in this story has been raised to polite and meek. Once trapped in a male body, the other guys see her as a sissy, and she is subjected to relentless bullying. We also see her suffering extreme discomfort as she finds herself engaging in innapropriate behavior — entering the boys’ bathroom and shower, going to the beach where she is expected to take her shirt off (she doesn’t).

The guy meanwhile finds himself being subjected to the pressures to be a proper young lady. He is urged to watch his language, to be polite. His new mother makes him come shopping with her, telling him he needs to learn how to shop because he is a woman. In the movie’s best scene, he makes a speech in front of the school on how unfair life is for girls, where they are forced to always be polite and lady-like while boys can do “whatever they want.”

It’s a fun and interesting film that also has some of the usual beats– they guy realizing he has boobs he can play with, having his first period. For a time, he settles into his life as a girl, but both of the characters eventually come to feel they can’t live as the opposite sex. It’s well worth the watch. Check it out!

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AFK Series (spoilers!)

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Short Review

Love it! Go watch it right now! https://www.afkwebseries.com/home

Longer Review

AFK starts with the premise that a bunch of people who play an online role-playing game find themselves trapped in the game as their avatars. This, happily, leads to a lot of fun gender exploration that goes a little beyond the things we’ve seen before (TWSB).

In the world of the familiar, we do have a womanizing bro who finds himself trapped as a petite Asian “warrior princess” initially wearing a chain mail bikini. The actress who plays “him” does a great job depicting a guy in a naturalistic way, and the character is well-written– hiding his former gender out of shame, struggling to deal with male attention and sexual assault.

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In addition, we have the less common female trapped as a male– and though she is not explored as fully, there are some very fun scenes dealing with her discomfort over having male anatomy.

Most interesting of all, though, is a character who refuses to reveal their real world biological gender, telling anyone who asks “none of your business.” This character does the most to challenge gender steretypes because it is very hard to guess what her identity is– in the game she is biologically female, but her attitude and mannerisms could belong to either a man of a woman– which is true in real life of many people. So, I find her the most fascinating.

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The show is on a budget, but the love and care of the whole crew is evident in the work. In addition, if you have ever played a MORPG, the show is full of really fun little jokes about the gamer life and the culture inside these games. The identity explorations even getting into people discovering there are multiple versions of themselves inside the game (in the form of their other accounts.)

You can watch all episodes online! https://www.afkwebseries.com/home

New Body Swap on Netflix!

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Transfers

French creators continue to produce some great TG media, with the new 6 episode science fiction series Transfers joining the instant classic, The Wild Boys as excellent examples of what can happen in this medium.

In Transfers, we find ourselves in a familiar but futuristic France where the ability to transfer people’s essence from one body to another has been invented and promptly banned.  However, as is usually the case, the banning on transfers does not end the practice but merely drives it into the black market.

The series centers around a fairly ordinary wood worker who finds himself illegally transferred (without his permission) into the body of a cop who specializes in hunting down illegal transfers.  He feels compelled to pretend to be the cop in order to avoid being caught as an illegal transfer, and so that he can be together with his wife and children once more.

So as for body swaps, the whole series centers around a swapped person and gets into all kinds of interesting questions about identity, morality and politics.  How much of behavior is genetic?  How much personality?  Is it possible to be “you” in a new body, or do you become that person?

Now, as you all know, I am all about the gender swaps, and this show has a major gender swap in the form of a ruthless middle-aged crime lord who ends up swapped into the body of an elementary school girl.  In his case, while he remains a ruthless crime lord with a taste for cigars and whisky even as a little girl, he also seems to begin to be adapted by his body.  It’s just little moments, but we see him fussing with his hair, putting it into a pony tail, or having one of his henchman braid it for him.  He also gets girly at times, sometimes mockingly, and sometimes seemingly because his new body demands it.  So, while it isn’t a big part of the show, we do get to see some TG moments that also seem to explore the notion of how much of a person is their “mind” and how much their body.  The young actress does an impressive job embodying the “man inside” and I would say should have gotten an award for her efforts!

Aside even from the body swapping elements, the show is very watchable.  It’s a thriller, a cop show, with a plot that moves and is full of twists and turns, surprises and revelations.  The cast is first rate, working from excellent scripts, and the show looks great, with first rate cinematography and lighting.

My only complaint?  Only 6 episodes!  However, the creators have stated they want to do more seasons, and if the show does well, the season ends with several interesting little cliffhangers for a future season to build on!

Check it out!

Link for NetFlix users in the USA.

I am sorry, my international friends, but I do not know where to find it in your locales.  I do know, given it was a European production, that it should be available in the EU.  The French title is Transferts, so try searching for that term!  If you find links, please share them in comments so other fans can find this amazing show!

 

 

 

 

 

Inside You– the scoop!

Inside You

Watch this movie, people!  Watch it!

It’s right here on Amazon!

As a fan of gender swapping fiction, I have seen and read movie after movie and book after book.   So, it’s pretty rare that I come upon a swap story that offers anything new.  Mostly, they can do something better, or come up with a different voice, tone or manner of presentation.   But most of them, especially if they fall into the more specific “freaky friday” mode, will pretty much just run through a series of the same beats.

Inside You does do that a little, but even when it’s running along the same beats, the writer direction Heather Fink, a student at NYU film school, often manages to find ways to ground the story in contemporary gender-wobbled reality, with behaviors and experiences rooted in the characters.

Wait.  Did I forget to run through the basic story?   Stephanie and Ryan live together and have dated for years.  Their relationship has stagnated.   Then, they switch bodies.   Now, Stephanie was, like many young, modern women, all about wearing comfortable clothes, so when Ryan finds himself in her body, there is no sudden need for him to start wearing stiletto heels and mini-skirts.  However, he does get curious, and since he is trapped in her body anyway, he spends a day playing dress up and giving himself make-overs.  it’s exploration that he now feels free to do, and that sense of exploration does not stop with clothes.

This movie delves frankly into sex issues, with some fun role reversal.  For example, Stephanie really want to know what it feels like to get a blow job, and now that Ryan is the girl she wants him to do it.  Ryan is not totally into the idea, and we then get to see play out what happens all the time anyway; the guy pressures the girl for oral sex, and she is not cool with it.  Eventually, Ryan gives in because he feels it will save the relationship, leading to a very funny scene.    Then, he turns the tables insisting that Stephanie pleasure him in return.

It’s this willingness to look at relationship and how they each end up doing things to please the other that allows this movie to stand out from the crowd.  In addition, Fink has some fun and interesting ideas concerning what to do with a camera, and she uses the camera well to tell the story.

Now, this film was made with 30,000 dollars, and there are some limits visible and audible in terms of the production.  However, watch it.  Just watch it.  This movie is all about the story, and it really doesn’t matter if it looks perfect or not, because it has heart!

If you don’t like Amazon, find it at any of these places linked from their blog.

Your Name (spoilers)

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Based on the novel by Makoto Shinkai, Your Name finally came to my local theater after raking up over 300,000,000 dollars at box offices around the world.   The story centers around two teen-agers, a city boy and a country girl, who begin to swap bodies during the night.

The characters do not, initially, know each other, but as they spend time in each other’s bodies and living each other’s lives, they naturally start to get an understanding of each other, communicating by leaving journal entries, and their lives become intertwined as they bicker, commiserate and become inter-twined with each other’s friends and families.

What emerges is a unique and tearful love story with a bunch of plot twists and reversals that challenge the characters and make the audience suffer as we wait to see how, if ever, these characters will get together.

I found Your Name to be one of the most beautiful animated films I have ever seen, including numerous still shots that inform and fill out the world of these characters, as well as stunning scenes of natural beauty.

Despite my warning, I don’t want to reveal much of the plot of the movie.  I will say this is a film that does not spend a lot of time exploring gender.   Aside from one or two moments, especially when they first wake in bodies of the opposite sex, each character just adapts to the life of the body that they wear.   There is a fascinating story line about the girl’s town that is gradually revealed as the story progresses, and a kind of hazy magic to the proceedings, as we discover that in the girl’s town, body swapping is not all that unusual, and it is taken as a matter of course.

I loved every minute of this film, and I will be buying it on DVD to watch again and again.  It is a very moving and traditional story about love, with very non-traditional sci- fi flurishes.

Bring the tissues!

The Assignment (Spoilers)

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First of all, let me say this movie is not so bad.  I have seen the word terrible attached to it many times, but to me I would rate it average as a film in the revenge/payback film noir genre.

The main characters is betrayed.  He then systematically hunts down his betrayer.   Most of that hunting down involves him walking around shooting people without ever being remotely threatened himself or even challenged.  He walks in and shoots.  People die.  There is tension and no struggle.  He shoots.  They die.

There is very little here for fans of TG fiction, especially if you are interested in media that really explores gender identity.  The character is given a forced sex-change, and after initially freaking out when he wakes up to his new face and female body, he just goes right back to acting and dressing the same way as he always did.  He doesn’t seem to really even care all that much, but just throws on some guy clothes and goes back to being a thug.

A few times, he is spoken to in demeaning ways based on his new sex– someone calling him babe or sweetheart, but it seems to have no impact on him at all.   He just shrugs it off like it didn’t happen.  Likewise when he, for no clear reason, decides to dress up in a sexy women’s clothing and heels, even donning a blonde wig.  He acts just like he’d put on his usual leather jacket and hoodie, and doesn’t seem to care at all about how he looks or what it might mean in terms of how he is treated.

In addition, the movie features a framing story where Sigourney Weaver, the doctor who performed the surgery, is being interviewed by Tony Shaloub.  This is mostly just an exercise in lazy writing, with lots of opportunities for exposition dumps and a pointless cat and mouse game where nothing really seems to be at stake.

The motivation for the sex-change is thin and unconvincing, and in the end the biggest problem for me is that I didn’t care about any of the characters.   If anything, the villain Honest John  was more charismatic and likeable than the hero, Frank Kitchen, so I didn’t much care whether he got his or not.

Still and all, I would say it’s an okay movie, the kind you watch on a rainy day.   It’s okay, but just okay.

Legion: (Spoilers)

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So, I know a lot of us heard about the body swap element in the new FX show, Legion.  In fact, it served as a central element in one of the promos for the show. I haven’t been so excited for a show’s premiere in a long, long time and even raced home from a social engagement to make sure I got to watch it live.

The TG element of the first was promising, but not awesome.  I love the girl that he gets placed inside, and the whole thing was set up nicely because he is in love with her, and they have a relationship, and then he suddenly becomes her, and he is just kind of freaked out and wanders off into the city.

We get to see him check himself out in a mirror, touch his new boobs, but not much else. There is a trippy scene where he has all these flashbacks to being a boy, and his mom calling him her little boy, and it contrasts nicely with him now this pretty blonde woman, and sugggests ways in which the switch may be impacting his sense of self. However, before really having to deal with his new body and gender at all, her just suddenly pops back into his own body and goes on with his life.

As for the series, the body swapping character, Syd Barret, remains in the show, and the two of them continue to have a relationship.  It seems very likely there could be further explorations between the two, and that as she learns to control her power she may do swaps with other people.  As it is, she projects into his mind and influences his thoughts and memory, and we get a nice role-reversal where she comes and rescues him after he has been captured.

In addition, Aubrey Plaza plays a very butch character named Lenny who seems like she may have some gender issues of her own.

So, I think this show is going to have lots more to say about gender fluidity, and will have additional body swaps as well.  Best of all, it is a really interesting show in its own right, and is great to watch, so it isn’t like one of these TV shows or movies where you have to suffer between the TG moments.

It should be interesting, and I can’t wait for the fanfic to get going!

 

 

 

 

The Swap Versus The Swap (Spoilers)

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In this corner, Meghan Shull’s young adult novel, The Swap.  In that corner, Disney Channel’s movie length adaptation.  Which will emerge as the true champion?  Ring the bell and let the battle begin.

Both the book and the film are PG, and both of them artfully dodge anything that a family or young person might find creepy or weird.  For example, in the book Jack, in Ellie’s body, refuses to undress for his physical because he knows it would be wrong for a boy to see a girl naked.  In the movie, when Ellie’s mother induces him to take a bubble bath, he wears a bathing suit.

The story focuses mainly on the characters and their relationships.  Jack has a strict, military father and three rough-housing older brothers.  The father is cold and distant, and he pushed his sons to extreme physical fitness and competitiveness.   When Ellie finds herself suddenly in his body and life, she has to adjust to being yelled at, wrestled with by half-naked boys (all of whom she finds very attractive, something she must hide since she is in the body of a boy and a younger brother.)  She also has to experience other embarrassing moments, like waking up with morning wood.  We learn that one reason for this testosterone driven dude life is that his mother died a year ago.

Jack, on the other hand, finds himself living a life of luxury and ease as a girl.  He has a big, fluffy, comfortable bed, a loving mom who is full of hugs, encouragement and understanding, and even makes pancakes for him just about ever morning.  Jack, though, shies away from this mother’s attempts to be close, and his further horrified when both his mother and his doctor want to talk to him about his impending menstrual cycles and graduation into womanhood.  In addition, he now finds himself mystified by the female politics of the all-girl world he finds himself in, and as a shy boy who never could talk to girls, it is an extra terrible struggle as he finds himself a girl in a girl’s world.  In the book, remember, Jack is now a 12-year old girl, so the all girl social  makes sense.  It is a little harder to believe in the Disney movie, where they are both sophomores in high-school, but this is a Disney Movie, where even adults never do more than offer each other innocent little pecks.

The movie did a better job creating suspense. In the book, the characters believe they just have to make it through the weekend, so that can find the nurse that switched their bodies and get turned back.  The movie made a better choice; the characters have a limited amount of time to earn the right to return to their own bodies, or they will be trapped forever in their new lives.  And how can they earn the right to get their own bodies back?  Well, Jack has to perform rhythmic gymnastics, wearing full make-up, body glitter and tiny little outfit, gracefully dancing around while twirling a ribbon.  Ellie has to dominate other boys in hockey, though she finds a way to use some of her gymnastics skills along the way.

In the end, and stop now to avoid the ultimate spoilers, the book just stops.  The characters do what they need to do, and then they just pop back into their bodies.  The whole thing about the nurse and getting through the weekend vanishes.  In the movie, we get the traditional false ending.  The characters fulfill their quests, and then… they don’t change back.  They think they have failed, and they both seem resigned to their new lives.  Ellie turns to Jack as he stands there in his gymnastics costume, and says, “I am sorry Ellie.”  He looks at her in her hockey gear and says, “I am sorry, too, Jack.”   I would have liked for more of this section of the film, where the two characters are facing their futures and boy and girl, but it turns out they really needed to deal with their unresolved parental issues.   Jack opens up to “his” mom, and they have an emotional moment together, while Ellie stands up to “her” father– and then they are restored.

In the end– sorry– do both.  Read the book.  See the movie.  Both argue for a more genderfluid sense of identity as Jack in some ways makes a better girl than Ellie, and Ellie makes a better guy. Meanwhile, both of them learn that they can indulge in activities that defy norms and actually not only enjoy them but get stronger as Jack learns to enjoy bubble baths, for example, and Ellie starts to thrive in bro-culture.

One regret for me comes from the casting of the movie.  Peyton List is taller and actually looks more muscular and athletic than the scrawny actor who plays Jack.  List looks like she lifts weights, and has a bigger bicep bulge when she challenges another girl to a fight than we see from Jack, who in the book is very muscular — it would have been interesting for me to see Jack react to the realization that as a girl he actually has more of some of the things guys want–  height, muscle– but  maybe I will just have to write that book myself!

 

 

 

The Winchester Sisters!

So, fans all over the Internet are creating videos that feature the Winchester Brothers from Supernatural being transformed into women.  These videos have caught on, and there is even some Winchester sisters cosplay.  Here is a video I especially like because of the voice melding and the showing of the transformation:

 

The above video, like the others, is fascinating to me as much as anything else because simply by implying that the footage of the two gorgeous women features characters who used to be men, the creators are able to create a TG effect that makes all the action fascinating in a specific way.

Here is another one:

This is actually a full episode shot with two actresses playing the gender swapped brothers. It is really fun in that we seem them subtly embracing their womanhood as the show progresses, dressing more and more feminine, doing their hair, and being very much okay with it.

There is also a podcast, where they have redone entire episodes with the brothers genderswapped into sisters:

http://foolsgoldtheatre.podbean.com/p/supernatural-genderswap/

There are even a bunch of tutorials on how to do FemDean makeup and costume, as gender swapped Winchester cosplay is a thing:

It’s all great and fun, especially because I feel like a lot of folks who aren’t part of the TG fiction world are doing TG fiction in a very open, mainstream way.  However, I am curious myself as to why this particular show, and why these characters?

My guess is that the relationship between the brothers reads as or reminds many viewers of more a sisterly relationship, at least as portrayed in the media.  In addition, the viewership of the show tends to skew female, so they are identifying with these male characters, imagining themselves in the roles, and in turn enjoying the idea of the Winchester boys being turned into very sexy girls.  One of the most common, to the point of being almost universal, is the swap of Dean into Amber Heard, and many of the images tend to be very sexy and feminine while at the same time aggressive:

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So, the boys are usually imagine as being dressed in cute outfits, pretty but also strong and aggressive and probably all the things the viewers want to see in themselves, but of course it is fun for them to imagine these two guys in tight, low cut tops and short shorts, but still sporting guns.

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Of course, it is great for people to explore ideas of gender, and what it would mean for a couple of guys to turn into a couple of girls.  One of the great things about these videos is that in a very modern way, none of them in any way sees the characters as diminished or weakened by their sex change.  In all the videos, they are just as tough and capable as always, just doing what they always did a women instead of men.

I like that!