There are certain things in life not open to debate: among them, that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the greatest TV shows of all time. For those of you who don’t yet know this, watch and you will see that Buffy’s otherwise idyllic town of Sunnydale happens to sit atop a Hellmouth prone to spewing all manner of netherworld nastiness: vampires, demons, Republican governors, and the like.
Buffy’s town is fictional. But what’s happening in Texas now is all too real.
In the past year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and his minions have unleashed an unprecedented assault on voting rights, trans rights, women’s rights, vaccines, masks, science, facts, and truth. As the Texas population becomes more progressive and diverse, its gerrymandered GOP politicians have opted for the opposite course. I can’t confirm that they watch Handmaid’s Tale before every vote, but it would explain a lot.
When my daughters and I flew home from Alaska in early September (more on that trip soon, I promise!), we shortened our layover in Dallas and deliberately didn’t spend a dime there. But…I love the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriter’s conference because it, unlike Sundance, really celebrates the screenwriter, and in a solitary profession like my own, where most of the time it’s just me and my computer, it’s always good to share stories and support with my fellow scribblers.
I attended every year from 2016-2019, and found myself really missing the conference last year when it was forced for the first time to go virtual. And so, not without misgivings, I bought my badge and booked my flight for late October.
Austin is weird. Austin is wild. Austin has the world’s best donuts. And during my time there, I drank a lot, talked a lot, heard a lot, met a lot, and had a lot…of fun. Highlights included introducing my new friend Stephanie from Vancouver to the conference, meeting a lot of fierce feminist screenwriters, staying out way too late, and eating Voodoo donuts.
Another highlight was debuting my Poe-inspired poem “Island by the Sea” to a packed audience and earning runner-up status in the ghost story contest. I also shared a wonderful BBQ dinner with the celebrated screenwriter Jim Hart (author of Hook and Bram Stoker’s Dracula) where we discussed our mutual love for Mark Twain.
So yes, it was great fun. But the whole time, the State Capitol loomed at the end of Congress Street, just steps from my hotel. And no matter how much I talked, ate, and drank, I couldn’t help the feeling that I was just whistling past a vast GOP graveyard, a vast churning Hellmouth intent on swallowing up all the rights I hold dear.
But hey, at least they haven’t banned donuts.