Five Things I Learned from Guillermo del Toro ~ Outside the Margins with Atom Yang

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On my brother’s Instagram, I saw that he went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s exhibit, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters. We both share a love of horror movies and are fans of del Toro’s work (even if we don’t like a particular film he makes, we can still appreciate the imagination behind it and the stunning visuals—something we became connoisseurs of while enjoying indie horror movies in the 80’s to 90’s), so I decided to make the trek to the museum, too.

Here are five things I learned:

  1. Don’t give up what you love, even if your grandmother tries to exorcise it out of you. (No joke, this happened to del Toro.) My mom didn’t get an exorcist for me, but she did ask me one time when I showed her a very cool drawing I did for Halloween in sixth grade if I was possessed. (No joke.) I didn’t let that stop me from loving myths, monsters, and magic!
  2. You need a rain room. The director wanted to have a place where he could be put in the mood to create the stories he loved, so he had a room designed to have a thunderstorm soundtrack, lightning flashes, and beads of rain (silicone gel) on the windows and this never turns off. Your rain room may not be as fancy, but it’s got to be what John Cleese described as a “tortoise enclosure,” a place or state of mind where you can be undisturbed and supported to be creative.
  3. It’s alive! Joseph Campbell offered the famous suggestion, “follow your bliss,” as part of reaching enlightenment. In Hinduism there is the concept of Sat-Chit-Ananda or Being-Consciousness-Bliss, and if you get those three going, you’re headed toward getting the whole shebang—not the so-called meaning of life, but the experience of being alive. He stated that he didn’t know his being or understand his consciousness, but he knew what made him feel happy, so he figured following that would lead him to the other two. What would you follow? What makes you feel alive? Mr. del Toro followed his kinship to Frankenstein’s Creature—an outsider both vulnerable and monstrous, yet ultimately human—and his fascination with insects—beautiful and grotesque, adapted to survival and ubiquitous.
  4. You’re a sponge—soak and squeeze. Creative types seem like they create something from nothing, but I don’t believe that’s true—we gather and collect from the world around us, put it through the wringer, and then deliver it back into the world as art. Assuming that’s true, so much goes on inside and outside of our heads it’s impossible to keep track with just our mortal minds alone, so write, scribble, doodle, tape, pin, photograph, buy—in short, do anything you have to do—to catch those fleeting ideas that could be nurtured into your next delicious meal, delightful story, or de-lovely painting.
  5. Turn the projector on. When we commit creativity and share it, we give others permission to commit creativity, too. Even the solitary act of writing is not truly done alone when we consider the books we read before, during, and after we complete our work. Going to this exhibit, I did not feel merely encouraged, but reminded of what it means to be creative and to act creatively in a world. I find that when I am dispirited or confused, seeking the light of others helps guide me and makes my own light shine brighter for those who may need it. Like love and happiness, it is imperative to share creativity for you to feel its full effect.

~Atom Yang


Title: Herc & Pyotr
Author: Atom Yang
Publisher: MLR Press
Publication Date: 03/24/2016
Cover Artist: Kris Jacen
Genre: Action/Adventure, Apocalyptic/dystopian, Contemporary, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Gay Romance, Humor/Comedy, Romance, Science Fiction


Herc thought he had the perfect life: a great partner and a meaningful career as a psychotherapist—until his partner left him a week ago and Herc became too depressed to see his clients. When a random meteorite punched a tidy hole in his car’s engine, it seemed like the world had it in for him, but bumping into Pyotr, the handsome older man who’s moved in a couple of doors down and happens to study things like falling stars, life might be looking up for Herc—and more may be falling than the skies in this light-hearted, apocalyptic romance.


Chapter One

I took care of my car.

Regular maintenance, oil changes, carwashes–the works. I figured I’d sell it one day, and I didn’t want it to have a scratch or a sticker to drop its value, let alone anything wrong mechanically. Everything worked on it–the power windows, radio, CD player…until today.

“Great,” I said, staring at the fist-sized hole in the hood. I clicked my key fob and turned off the alarm. A few of the neighbors came out and turned off their car alarms, too, that had been set off by the very loud boom that shook all of our windows early this spring morning.

“Jeez, Herc, what happened?” Nestori, my friend and neighbor down the way, stood there with his blond bed head, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He wore a rumpled white tee, sweatpants, and socks–we were dressed alike except I had slippers. Maybe I appeared as lost as he did. Or worse, since I hadn’t changed my clothes since the beginning of the week.

“I don’t know.” I gawked at the smoking hole. “Lightning?” I pieced together the evidence I had, and only came up with a timeline that started with a crash, followed by my car alarm, then a couple of minutes later the aforementioned boom, and finally the other cars being triggered. “A frozen turd from an airplane?”

“Are you serious? Holy shit.”

“Ha ha.”

“What?” His golden eyebrows crinkled together, and then he grinned. “Oh.”

“To be fair, it did fall from the sky.” Everybody huddled closer to peer into the puncture. “I don’t know. I don’t even know who I should call about this.”

“What about Jason?”

Nestori’s innocent question should’ve felt like a sucker punch, but the numbness from seeing my killed car protected me. “He left last week. We’re not together anymore.”

“Bro. Why didn’t you say anything?”

Because you would’ve wanted to get me drunk and laid.

“I would’ve totally come over with a bottle of Jack and helped you get some D, man.”

“So that’s why I haven’t seen him jogging for a while.” Pihla, the widow who lived across the street, had the perkiest personality–and breasts–in our neighborhood. “I thought he left on a business trip.” She wore a pink satin robe over a pink nightie with matching pink slippers. A small, thin, gold cross on a gold chain stuck out sideways from her cleavage and wobbled back and forth, unable to rest flat. Her son, Sami, clung to her leg, his head just above her knee, avoiding eye contact like some toddlers do. This suburban Madonna in pink held a mug of expensive coffee I could smell and envy from where I stood, and rested her French manicured hand on her shy boy’s head. By the way she had batted her eyes at Jason during block parties, or how she happened to pick up the morning paper from her driveway when he’d jog past, I always thought she had a crush on my partner.

Ex. I meant ex-partner.

“Yeah, he didn’t leave on a business trip. He just left me.” I wondered if I died inside my home from choking on a chicken bone while eating, single and alone, how long it would take for my neighbors to notice my dead, bachelor body. I thought I smelled something funny, one would say a week later. Jeez, what happened? another would ask. Who the hell cares? my ghost would spell out on a Ouija board, life sucks.

“Meteorite,” said a faintly accented voice from the crowd. Slavic, I would guess.

“Whoa! You think a meteor hit Herc’s car?” Nestori asked. “How do you know?”

“Meteorite,” the voice gently corrected. “It’s a meteorite when it lands. I saw everything as I was jogging this morning.”

“Meteorite,” I mumbled. My geek brain fetched a personal wiki page from when I wrote a report in sixth grade about asteroids crashing into Earth and destroying all life, because I’ve always been a cheery person. The word “disaster” comes from the Italian disastro, meaning “ill-starred event.”

Why couldn’t it have been a pretty shooting star that vaporized all sparkly in the atmosphere, so I could make a wish? Instead, it’d dropped a deuce on my perfectly maintained car.

The hole in the hood gaped back at me, and I thought about the day Jason left. He had requested I park on the street instead of in the garage, so he’d be able to get his things out of the house without too much trouble.

I should make a wish anyway.

Something realistic, not like true love and a happy-ever-after ending with a handsome, emotionally intelligent man, because that obviously doesn’t happen. How about a nice pair of shoes? Good shoes are more reliable than men.

“I’m sorry this happened,” the voice said, this time to my left. “There have been worldwide reports of meteor strikes over the past few weeks.”

I turned and came eye to eye with the concerned face of a middle-aged man only slightly taller than me. He wore a red baseball cap and his black hair, lined with a few strands of gray, escaped his hat around his ears and a little over his forehead. His color-coordinated stubble, speckled with silver, defined a square jaw and framed full lips. Perspiration darkened his loose, gray shirt, forming something like a Rorschach inkblot in the center of his defined chest. Despite the smell of engine oil and gasoline coming from my mortally wounded car, the scent of his clean sweat cut through and woke me from my daze.

“Hi, I’m Pyotr. I moved here last week.” He offered me a firm handshake and a smile, and returned to surveying the damage to my car, his hands on his hips. “You should probably call your insurance and not your ex. I work from home a few days a week, so if you need a ride, let me know? I live down the street.” He started running lightly in place. His feet were bare, which I hadn’t noticed.

“Thanks for the offer…Pee-yo-ter. I may take you up on it.”

“Please do.” Pyotr smiled again, nodded a succinct farewell, and trotted off.
“Yeah, if you need a ride…” Nestori and a few neighbors offered, but I didn’t pay attention.

I was busy making an unrealistic wish. And it wasn’t for shoes.


Herc & Pyotr on Goodreads
MLR Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About Atom Yang

AtomYangPicApril292016Atom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it’d be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too–so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He’s named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character, in case you were wondering.

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