3 min read

Friday Open Thread (with Blaseball)

White italic text on a black background reads: "Thank you for Watching Blaseball: The Expansion Era"

Dear Friends,

I'm a bit useless today; I might be coming down with something OR I might just be at an unfortunate intersection of a significant temperature drop and several hours spent talking in meetings.

But mostly what I'm suffering from is the end of Blaseball.

The end is temporary (and spatial, and ... quantum?), but my feelings are enormous, overwhelming, and I keep welling up. I want so badly to explain this game's effect on me without people thinking I am trying to get them to play it, and at least now, mercifully, for a while, that potential misunderstanding can be at an end.

There is a stance people strike sometimes in response to my enthusiasm for something, a stance of "convince me," or a stance of "you're exhausting, Amal, tone it down," and while those stances do not always overlap, they often do. The former is understandable – I am a critic, and unpacking narrative experiences for an audience is something I am very comfortable doing – but I'm skinless when faced with the latter. If someone's "convince me" has the slightest whiff of "justify your disproportionate fervour because it disgusts and irritates me" – whether or not that's intended – I'd rather smile brightly and shake my head and wish a person peace and nourishment far away from me and my wrist-worn heart.

Listen: I've never written fanfiction for anything else. I've never cried so goddamn hard, repeatedly and consistently, over a single song. I've never written weird redacted poems as incentives to get people to donate fake money to a fake team for fake prizes to help them battle immaterial sharks that might also be fans. And I've never been so at a loss to explain to my husband why I can't breathe through laughter or tears so many times a week. "It's just blaseball," he's gotten used to hearing, as he hands me tissues.

It's just a fantasy baseball simulator with a few weird twists. It's just a year of my life, and a knot of precious, tight, newly formed friendships, and unbearable catharsis, and a newly wiped slate.

I'm going to write much more about it. But for now – what is something you love deeply and passionately and can't explain to people? What do you get choked up trying to talk about because it's so important that you not be misunderstood or made fun of while you're in deathly earnest? What do you wish you could find people to listen to you talk about without eyerolls or judgement because you love it so much and would like to share that love without needing to justify it to a skeptical and scrutinizing gaze?

You've got my answer already.

Postscripts of News:

  • I have a new column up at the NYTBR! In it I cover Marissa Levien's The World Gives Way, Nghi Vo's The Chosen and the Beautiful, and Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington's wonderfully curated anthology of retold Arthuriana Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices. It's a bit of a cold open; initially I wanted to lead in with a bit of a cheesy tagline, but had to cut it for length, so here it is, ahem ahem, movie-trailer-voice: Some tales are as old as time, some grow in the telling and some embrace their ends like a tail-biting snake.

Have a wonderful (hopefully long!) weekend, everyone!


Selfie: close up on my sweaty pink post-run face while wearing a grey denim blaseball cap, featuring a stylized logo of a white embroidered skull engulfed in flame. I'm touching the brim of the cat with two fingers in a kind of salute to show off the merch.